Socio-political conflict in New York City during the Civil War mirrored the larger divide between North and South; New York City represented a complicated mix of agendas along racial, economic and class lines. Initially, the city's major, fiscal players (Wall Street, merchants and shipping magnates) supported the war because trading...
Socio-political conflict in New York City during the Civil War mirrored the larger divide between North and South; New York City represented a complicated mix of agendas along racial, economic and class lines. Initially, the city's major, fiscal players (Wall Street, merchants and shipping magnates) supported the war because trading in Southern cotton was fueling the city's economy, which in turn inspired loyalty to the Confederacy. However, after the 1863 conscription law, the increase in wartime casualties, and the near collapse of the city's economy, marked opposition to the war increased exponentially in New York City.
At the time, New York City was the country's most populated city, so it served as a natural source of war supplies, equipment, manpower and troops for the Union Army. Furthermore, as an immigrant port, New York also became a recruiting site for the army as Europeans with little money and resources were offered employment and certain guarantees shortly after making the trans-Atlantic crossing. New York City also had the media resources to serve as an effective, Union propaganda machine through the various politicians and newspapers that espoused President Lincoln's policies.
However, a major catalyst for internal violence and unrest in New York City occurred after Congress passed a conscription law necessitating military enrollment for men between twenty and forty five years old. This law provoked the Draft Riots of 1863, during which racially and economically charged violence was perpetrated against blacks by immigrants; since wealthier New Yorkers were able to buy an exclusion from the draft and blacks were automatically excluded because they weren't considered citizens, it fell to immigrants to swell army ranks. Naturally, this prompted tremendous resentment from the lower class -- primarily immigrant -- population, who caused havoc and destruction in protest.
Thus, New York City's involvement in the Civil War was complicated because of conflicting socio-economic interests among the various social strata of its population.