New York City, July 13th 1863, Thus began the largest civil and racial disturbance in American History to date; the Draft Riots. With the Civil war going strong and the troops dwindling as a result, President Lincoln enacted a draft, calling up able bodies from the low parts of NYC around the Bowery and the Five Points. Those of means could simply buy their way out for the sum of $300. The fires so stoked, the draft began with bloody rioting hot on its heels. As riots often go, this one soon devolved into looting and a simple excuse for any violence and thus became a race riot… The English sought to rout the Irish, the Irish fought the Germans and sadly all set their sights on the African Americans. While the city burned, troops from the recent fighting at Gettysburg were called to the city to quell the battles. For four days, the recently drafted fought the undraftable from their own neighborhoods. Black leather Shako helmets gleamed in the summer sun under smoke blackened skies and marched double time with Howitzers full of grape shot. Massive guns fired indiscriminately down streets and alleys where fighting occurred until on the 16th of July, order was restored to a charred, bloodied, bruised and still smoldering city. New York’s own 12th Excelsior brigade was one of the units called back from war torn Pennsylvania to fight in their own streets against their own neighbors and to shoot down the faces of the insurrection, the faces of brothers and friends, strangers and enemies. This is the emblem from one of those soldier’s helmets, passed down through generations and recently landed in our laps. Sadly the tales of life at street level through the eyes of the man under this badge are lost to history… Lost to a violent history that too oft repeats itself be it in Watts, Atlanta or Chicago, be it about Race, Politics or workers rights, perhaps a history too dark and painful to recall.