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Civil War

Historical Context
New York State's contribution to the Union cause in the Civil War was extraordinary, despite deep divisions among the state's populace.  The state enlisted 448,000 troops, suffered 46,534 casualties, and raised 150 million dollars for the Union war effort.  All exceeded the contributions of any other state.  More than 200 New York infantry, cavalry, and artillery units served in the war and collectively saw action in nearly every campaign.  A host of New Yorkers distinguished themselves through military and public service during the war.  While the state's leadership pulled together to raise enormous levels of volunteers and funds for the cause, longstanding divisions rendered this process very difficult at times.

In New York as in the rest of the Union, support for the policies of President Lincoln and even the war itself rose and fell with the fortunes of the Union army.  New Yorkers disagreed over what they felt was the true purpose of the war.  Support for the Emancipation Proclamation was far from unanimous and the conscription act passed by Congress in March of 1863 caused deep resentment in the state.  Desertions were not at all uncommon.
Class, ethnic, and racial tensions, as well as opposition to the draft came to a head with the New York City draft riots of July 1863.  The riots resulted in the deaths of 119 and the wounding of over 300 persons.  Property damage was estimated at roughly one million dollars.  Still in the end, the state raised twenty-three ethnic regiments, dominated by individuals of German and Irish descent, as well as three regiments of African American troops.

Despite the outcome of the Civil War, social conflicts and inequities that existed within New York prior to the war endured well into the future.  Still, New York's economy grew, industrialization of the state proceeded, wages increased, and the city of New York assumed its place as the financial center of the nation.

Essential Question
How does civil war impact a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the impact of the American Civil War on citizens, soldiers, and support staff.

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Lesson Topic:


     Civil War. Wounding of General Sickles at Gettysburg
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_8425
Document Description
Bronze relief depicting the wounding of General Daniel Sickles at the Battle of Gettysburg. Sickles was shot in the leg, which later had to be amputated. The artist was Caspar Burberl, who created this image for a New York State monument in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

     Application of Late Army Nurse
New York State Archives, NYSA_A0710-80_ClaytonAmelia_01
Document Description
Application of Civil War nurse Amelia Clayton to the New York State Veterans' Home, 1901. Clayton, an Irish immigrant and resident of Brooklyn, served as a nurse during the Civil War, which entitled her to admission at the home for veterans.

     Descriptive List of Substitute Deserters
New York State Archives, NYSA_A4111-78_B4_F2_1863_10_01
Document Description
Descriptive list of substitute deserters enlisted at Oswego, NY, 1863. The list contains names of soldiers who were hired to enlist in the Union Army as substitutes for men who had been drafted. Some substitutes never showed up for duty even though they had been paid beforehand.

     Proclamation by Major General Charles W. San[d]ford
New York State Archives, NYSA_B0462-84_1861_05_25
Document Description
Proclamation by Major General Charles W. San[d]ford of the New York State Militia, shortly after the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. The proclamation guaranteed that while Fairfax County, Virginia, was occupied by the militia (in the service of the United States Army), no harm would come to the person or property of Virginia citizens.

     Abstract of muster roll, James C. Spry
New York State Archives, NYSA_B0807-85_USCT26_SpryJamesC
Document Description
Muster roll abstract for Civil War soldier James C. Spry of the U.S. Colored Troops. Spry was promoted to Second Lieutenant during his service, and was killed in action in 1864.