A Multiplicity of Grievances
On Friday, July 17, 1863, the last day of the draft riots, Peace Democrat Congressman and newspaper editor James Brooks published a brief article entitled "The Riot--Its History." By the 17th, New Yorkers had developed their own versions of the riot-week events and interpretations of the rioters' motives.1 But Brooks, a popular uptown figure intimately familiar with the attitudes of his constituents, was one of the few observers to draw up a calendar of the rioters' activities:
Sunday--A day of leisure, thousands of Workingmen pondering upon the draft of Saturday.
Monday--The Conscription Riot, developed in attacks upon the Provost Marshals and their places, etc.
Tuesday--The Riot of Thieves, not only from New York--but from Philadelphia, Boston, and all quarters, who rushed here to steal.
Wednesday--Not a Conscription Riot nor a Thief Riot--but the consequences of the collisions of the military and the mob.2
Brooks's calendar discriminated among the rioters' targets and chronicled the day-to-day progression of the violence. He did not figure the riot's various forms of racial violence into his account and his notion that rioters who looted were marauders from other cities seems farfetched--he doubtless wished to rehabilitate the event as a pure revolt against Republican Party centralization. But his observation that the insurrection went through phases and that each phase reflected the prominence of different rioters and targets is supported by much of the available evidence. The draft riots involved diverse groups of workers and a multiplicity of grievances against Republican rule. Each group had its own understanding of what the strike against conscription meant.