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 leader ship 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.
How does war change a society?
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