Teaching Civil War Union Politics: Draft Riots in the Midwest

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Arts and Humanities | Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Higher Education | History | Military History | United States History


This article details antidraft and antiblack rioting in the upper Midwest in the second year of the American Civil War—long before the more infamous New York draft riots of 1863. White rioters in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois feared that emancipation would lead to increased black migration and job competition, and that white men might be drafted to fight for the freedom of their perceived competitors. The early Civil War riots demonstrated white hostilities toward the draft before there was a draft, and anxieties about emancipation before the Emancipation Proclamation. Teaching about these riots helps students to understand that the violence of the battlefield often pervaded the home front, and that social change itself can be disorderly. Most importantly, such rioting was evidence that not everyone in the North supported the Union cause, emancipation, or equal rights for African Americans.


DOI: 10.1093/oahmag/oat005

This article appears in the special issue Civil War at 150: Turning Points.