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American History Stories, Volume IV by  Mara L. Pratt


 

 

"DRAFTING"

[132] How many Northern men had already fallen on the battlefield, do you suppose? I am sure I don't know; and you would have no idea of what the number meant, if I could give it to you. More men, than all the people you ever saw in all your lives, children. If you were to count every man and every woman, every boy and every girl in your city, all the people you ever saw on the cars, all the people you ever saw in the stores at Christmas time, or at the beach in the summer time—if you were to count them every one, even then you wouldn't have, I think, more than a handful compared with the thousands and thousands of Northern men who had gone to join the army.

And for two long years they had been fighting, with no success of much importance until the taking of Vicksburg and the driving back of Lee from Gettysburg.

Do you wonder, then, that at the beginning of this third year of the war, there were so few men left in the North and many of those so discouraged that Lincoln could no longer depend upon volunteers. Do not forget, children, that up to this time, all these brave men had joined the army of their own free will. They need not have gone had they not wanted to—nobody had made them go. They had gone bravely, because they thought it was right, and [133] because they so loved their country that they were willing to give up friends, home, family—everything, and die, if need be for their Flag.

But now, in this third year of the war, the President was forced to "draft" these northern men—that is, he had to say to each town, you must send so many men.

This draft was made as mild as possible. No men over forty-five years of age were drafted, and no boys under eighteen. No son who had a widowed mother depending upon him, nor a father who had motherless children. You see, every attempt was made not to be unjust or cruel in this drafting.

There was in the North, at this time, a party who called themselves the peace party. They were tired of the war, had lost their courage by these two long years of defeat, and said the best thing that could be done was to declare peace, and let the Confederate States do as they pleased. This sounds all very well; but I am sure even you children can see that it was too late to talk that way then, and it was by far too early to say to the South, "You have beaten us; we give up the struggle."

These "peace-party" men, managed to stir up a good deal of anger among the low, ignorant classes in the city of New York, and a terrible riot followed. On the day the "drafting" began in that city these low people formed themselves into a mob—as they had done once before per- [134] haps you remember—and, half drunk, armed with clubs and knives, they surged up and down the streets, killing policemen, stabbing and trampling upon black men and women and children, burning their bodies, or dragging them through the streets. Houses were entered, stores were robbed, and buildings burned.

For three whole days, this horrible riot went on—till, at last, a band of soldiers arrived. Then the mob, cowards, as such people are, slunk away to their dens and their grog-shops, and the riot, one of the most terrible and most disgraceful events of the war, was at an end.


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