New York contributed more soldiers to the Union than any other Northern state. With the exception of cotton, its manufacturing, alone, dwarfed all the Southern states combined.
According to the 1860 U.S. census, New York had a total population of 3,880,735, including 49,005 free colored persons. The state's population had been transformed by extensive immigration from the 1840s, particularly from Ireland and Germany. Shortly before the Civil War, 25 percent of New York City's population was born in Germany.
During the Civil War, nearly 400,000 New Yorkers joined the Union Army, and, according to Phisterer (1890), more than 53,000 New York soldiers died in service, or roughly 1 of every 7 who served. Of the total enlistment, more than 120,000 were foreign-born, but it is impossible to arrive at very accurate figures as to the nativity of the individual soldiers from the state, but Phisterer has arrived at the "conclusion that of the 400,000 individuals, 279,040 were natives of the United States, and 120,960 or 30.24 percent, of foreign birth. The latter were divided according to nationality as follows: 42,095 Irish, 41,179 German, 12,756 English, 11,525 British-American, 3,693 French, 3,333 Scotch, 2,014 Welsh, 2,015 Swiss, and 2,350 of all other nationalities." The average age of the New York soldier was 25 years, 7 months, and New Yorkers fought in every major battle and campaign of the conflict. See also New York and the Civil War (1861-1865).