"The Fight Between Rioters and the Military," Harper's Weekly, August 1, 1863. Collection New-York Historical Society.
During the Civil War, New York State supplied the largest number of troops, provided the most money, arms, and food, and suffered the greatest casualties of any state, North or South. But New York's Civil War was not confined to battlefields in Virginia or Mississippi. The city was itself contested ground. Government contracts enriched manufacturers, but working families suffered from inflation, homelessness, and bereavement.

As emancipation became an official war goal, the city's divisions exploded. The draft riots of July 1863 constituted the worst civil disorder in American history. But once allowed to serve, black New Yorkers helped bring Union victory and the final destruction of slavery in the United States.

Black soldiers during the Civil War were paid less than whites, denied the chance of commissions, and usually assigned to support functions. If captured by the Confederacy, they faced slavery or death. Nonetheless, more than 70% of the eligible black men in the northern states, aged 18 to 45, joined the Union forces.

As soon as the government would take me I came to fight not for my country, for I never had any, but to gain one.

— A New York soldier, 1865

Unidentified Civil War soldier. Courtesy the Gilder Lehrman Collection, on deposit at the New-York Historical Society.