Excerpt from letter asking for receipt of commutation payment, 1864

Westchester County
Conscription and the Draft Riots

The New York State Legislature passed the state's first conscription act in March 1863. This law ushered in the draft, which was begun in New York City on July 11 of that year. The conscription act stated that all men between the ages of 20 and 45 were subject to the draft, but that service could be avoided by paying a fee of $300 or finding a substitute. This hit poorer men, who could not pay their way out, particularly hard. In addition, many held the fear that Southern blacks freed by the Emancipation Proclamation would come north and take the jobs of white men.

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