Mapping the Union Civil War Draft Riots

For my final project in Digital Humanities (HUM 502), I am going to put together exhibits for some of the research I have been doing on my history dissertation.  I am working on a series of riots that occurred as a result of the military draft in the Union during the American Civil War.  I have had a long-term interest in the U.S. Civil War, and I discovered that these riots are an understudied and nearly forgotten episode of U.S. history.  Many people have heard or know something about the New York City Draft Riots that occurred over the course of five days during mid-July of 1863.  Over 100 people were killed, and the destruction of property was tremendous.  The NYC Draft Riots are known because this was the “biggest and baddest” of the riots.  It has since become the entire focus for interpreting all the Civil War draft riots.  What has become overlooked and forgotten was that there were numerous other riots in the Union that were triggered by the drafts.  The NYC riot “spread out”.  In the days after it started, riots subsequently erupted on Staten Island, Jersey City and Newark, New Jersey.  Riots even erupted 160 miles to the north in Troy, New York and 220 miles to the east in Boston, Massachusetts.   These other riots were shorter in duration (most lasting a day), the loss of lives was much lower, and the extent of property damage was less significant.  Additionally, draft riots happened earlier during the war in places out west such as Illinois and Wisconsin.  A prolonged, armed anti-war resistance occurred later during the war in the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania, which fortunately did not result in much bloodshed.  Most of these smaller scale riots have been overlooked or forgotten in recounting and remembering Civil War history.  The time is past due for an examination of these riots within our overall understanding and explanation of the Civil War.

I plan to incorporate exhibits that highlight the draft riots in specific Union cities.  I will create one exhibit for the Troy, NY draft riot, one for the Boston, MA draft riot and one for the Staten Island, NY draft riot.  I have sufficient research completed that I could manage putting these exhibits together.  If time permits, I will begin exhibits for the other ones as well.  In terms of images, I plan to use some period maps of these cities to illustrate where and how the riots progressed throughout the cities.  I have found some excellent historic maps available on online archives and library sites.  I will need to secure permission to use these for longer term use.  Additionally, I have several newspaper clippings on file that I can use as needed.  I would very much like to have some period specific photographs if at all possible.  I have one of Union Square in Boston that was taken in the aftermath of the riot.  But as of yet, I have not found any live action photographs of the draft riots – these probably were not taken so likely they do not exist!  There are some print images of the NYC draft riots from newspapers and magazines like Harper’s Weekly that I could potentially use as well.  I need to do some searching and digging around and see if I can find more relevant images.  In the end, I want to create an online website component that will serve as a compliment to the dissertation.