The Devil's Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America

The Devil's Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America

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by Barnet Schecter

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The Devil's Own Work sheds new light on the Civil War era and on the history of protest and reform in America.See more details below


The Devil's Own Work sheds new light on the Civil War era and on the history of protest and reform in America.

Editorial Reviews

Alison McCulloch
Schecter throws a wide net in his detailed account of the riots, setting the violence amid the racism, political corruption and brutal inequities of the time, looking not only at what inspired the rebellion, but also at what it left in its wake: a seven-year exodus of black residents and a political climate ripe for the "ongoing counterrevolution against Reconstruction."
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The 1863 draft riots in New York City, the bloodiest in the nation's history, emerge as a microcosm of the convoluted and contradictory politics of the Civil War era in this absorbing study. Historian Schecter (The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution) pens with a gripping account of the five days of rioting. But he also probes beneath the turmoil to examine the ethnic, religious and class conflicts that made the confrontation so explosive. The rioters, largely working-class Irish Catholics, vented their fury at a draft law that exempted those who could pay $300, at the city's WASP Republican business elite and, inflamed by racist demagoguery, at African-Americans with whom they competed for low-wage jobs and status in America's racial hierarchy. Schecter contends that these dynamics played out nationally in the gradual demise of Reconstruction, thus setting the stage for racial and labor conflict in the century to come. Copiously researched and highlighted with a wealth of period commentary, his lucid narrative colorfully recreates a historical watershed and offers a rich exploration of the Civil War's unfinished business. 40 b&w photos, maps, not seen by PW. Agent, Sabine Hrechdakian. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
For several days in mid-July 1863 New York City, white working-class, mainly Irish Catholic mobs rebelled against the government's first military draft, which allowed those capable of paying the $300 exemption to avoid conscription. Before being brutally suppressed, rioters caused great destruction in the city, battling police and soldiers, torching rich Republican Protestants' homes, and seeking ethnic cleansing of the city's African Americans. Like historian Iver Bernstein's The New York City Draft Riots, independent scholar Schecter's (The Battle for New York) book explores immediate antebellum and postbellum economic and social relationships that buttressed antidraft riots in New York and other cities. But building upon more recent scholarship and his own archival research, Schecter presents a gripping story, clearly and accurately centering the riots in the context of political power relationships: New York City Democratic Party leaders, with pro-Confederate sympathies, played upon class, ethnic, and religious animosities and antiblack racism to mobilize white working people in support of their party's objectives in reshaping the national agenda, first for the Civil War and later for Reconstruction. An appendix offers a walking tour of Civil War New York, for which additional details are provided via the book's eponymous web site. Highly recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.-Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Bloomsbury USA
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