Russ's Reviews > The Devil's Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America

The Devil's Own Work by Barnet Schecter
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Oct 30, 11

bookshelves: 2011, academic, historical, new-york, nonfiction
Read from October 14 to 29, 2011, read count: 1

I first learned about the New York Draft Riots of 1863 in the movie Gangs of New York. I found the topic interesting and wanted to learn more, so years later I have read this book about the event. As expected, there was a whole lot more going on than what was portrayed in the movie.

I have also recently been learning more about the U.S. Civil War, so reading about the Draft Riots is timely. The book approaches the War from a social and political point of view. I learned a lot about the social conditions during the War, and how the average working man felt about things. Just like today, the Civil War era was a time of great change, and society needed to figure out what direction was best to take.

I enjoyed all the background information about the politics of the time and how the Republicans and Democrats fought each other in the newspapers and halls of government just as the soldiers were fighting each other on the battlefields.

This book really let me in on how much racism there was during the Civil War period. As much as we like to think that the Confederacy was pro-slavery and union was abolitionist, things were much more complicated in reality. Abolitionists were seen as radical by some and were routinely criticized.

As for the riots themselves, there are heroes and villains, and many acts of vicious cruelty. Once again, things aren't as easy as Irish vs. African. The rioters were actually only a small segment of the overall Irish population, and in many cases were misled by inaccurate information from those who would use them for their own gain.

The draft riots were very important in U.S. history and had far-reaching implications. I found it enjoyable to learn more about them and how they fit in with everything else that was going on in the late 1800s in America.
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