For your consideration:
Things got really bad in New York City after the second Draft Riots. They were never too good. they got worse when the War Between the States started. The Republic needed soldiers and as always the poor supplied them. Immigrants coming off the boats were dragged off to serve in exchange for citizenship.
The war is in its thirteenth year and every year has been worse than the ones before it. The British tripods sold to the Rebels turned the tide against the Union at Gettysburg. The only thing that saved Washington D.C. and the nation was the new lightning guns. Now both sides are nearly bankrupt and the wonder weapons becoming rare. Soldiers are going to win this, men shot up and rebuilt with clockwork arms and legs who just keep being sent back to the front lines.
A Rebel submersible got into New York Harbor a few nights ago and used a gun that shot flames to set fire to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The fire gutted half the borough but the war goes on. They shot Lincoln in '66 but he's still giving the orders from a jar somewhere in Washington and the war goes on.
The war goes on and I pound my beat. I hear there's a resurrection man on Fourth Avenue who builds golems to take your place in the Army if you have enough money. They're made from hospital and morgue cast offs and under the table deals. I'm going to be on the raid to shut him down. You can warp the laws of nature and God but lad you better make sure you pay the right people. He didn't.
We're going in squad force. The golems are bad enough but the Plug Ugly gang has a bunch of new recruits back from serving with gears for guts. Cops just don't go out alone. if we're lucky we might get some support from one of old moneybags Hearst's dirigibles that do such a fine job protecting his newspaper building.
I might be better off in the army.
(Who says steampunk has to be set in Europe or deal with upper class inventors and gentlemen explorers?)