by Barnet Schecter
New York: Walker, 2005. Pp. xiii, 434.
Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $28.00. ISBN:0-8027-1439-0
The Devil?s Own
Work is a comprehensive treatment of
the New York ?Draft Riots? within the framework of American political and
social life before, during, and following the Civil War.
Schecter, author of the well-received The Battle for New York: The City at the
Heart of the American Revolution (New York: Walker, 2002), rightly points
out that the draft was only the spark that ignited an explosive mixture of
?race, class, and religion? that was exacerbated by political manipulation and
ineptitude in high places. Schecter?s
sympathies clearly lie with the victimized black citizens of New York, and the
other northern cities in which draft resistance erupted into rioting. He also explores the grievances of the
city?s Irish immigrants, who suffered under religious and racial bigotry as
well, with ample evidence of the vicious anti-Catholicism of some of the
notable figures of the abolitionist movement and the state?s Republican
establishment, such as the Beechers, Samuel Morse, George Templeton Strong,
Horace Greeley, and Thomas Nast.
As part of his investigation of the riots, Schecter
examines at the role of supposed agitators and Copperheads, concluding that
their influence was exaggerated by both sides for their own ends.
While his discussion of the riots is excellent, his
account of events in the war is often characterized by outdated interpretations
or mythic events (e.g., Longstreet?s
?slows,? Grant?s ?excessive? casualties during the Overland Campaign, Edmund
Ruffin?s ?first shot? at Sumter). But
these are minor errors in an otherwise excellent work.