In 1840s Ireland, three-quarters of the rural Irish were dependent
on the potato for sustenance. The potato was the only food crop
that was nutritious enough to sustain those without any other means
of food. When the famine hit in 1845, Ireland became the sight of
tragedy in epic proportions. Three million farmers and laborers would
be left destitute by famine's end. Most were living in squalor and were
ravaged by hunger and disease.
Too poor to pay their rents, over a half-million Irish were evicted from
their homes. For many, to stay in Ireland meant starvation, disease and
death. Emigration seemed their only chance at survival. Landlords found it
cheaper to pay overseas passage for these Irish rather than have them go to the workhouse.
Approximately 50,000 Irish
received passage from their landlords. Others received money from those who
had emigrated before. Between 1840-1850, 30% of the Emerald Isle's children
would be forced to emigrate.
Most of the Irish who left at this time, were crowded onto the decks of cattleboats,
bound for English ports, such as Liverpool. Once landing in England, many would board
larger ships, mostly bound for the US. These ships used to transport the Irish to their
new homes were small, old and unseaworthy. Manned by poorly trained crews, the ships went
to sea without adequate water and food supplies, medical care or sanitary facilities.
The trip to America took 5-6 weeks on average, but some voyages could last as long as 12
weeks. The Irish were crowded together in the darkness of the ship's hold. The area was
so cramped, that only children were able to stand up. People slept as many as 4 to a berth.
There was no fresh air. The hold was rarely cleaned, and full of lice, disease and human waste.
Many of the Irish boarded the ship already malnourished from the famine. Others suffered from
typhus, dysentery and cholera. The mortality rates on board these Irish emigrant ships was as
high as 40%. These ships would forever be engrained on the Irish psyche as the coffin ships.
While America was the land of promise for many immigrants, the Famine Irish were at a disadvantage.
Many were illiterate and arrived with few skills and no money. Some spoke only Gaelic. Many Irish
were forced to remain in New York City, lacking the funds to travel elsewhere. Their first homes were
usually in shantytowns -- decaying slums usually situated near the waterfront. Areas that had been long
evacuated by other ethnic groups as they were able to climb the economic ladder. Disease was epidemic
in these towns. Tuberculosis the most common visitor to many households. In areas such as Five Points,
families would squeeze into tiny rooms and damp cellars for as little as three dollars per month. There was no running
water, and chamber pots were emptied into the streets. Garbage was thrown into the streets, where rats
regularly fed off it. Irish infant mortality in these areas was the highest in the US.
Illiteracy and lack of skills forced many of the newly arrived Irish into America's lowest economic levels.
The men were able to find work as unskilled laborers, miners, ditch diggers, cartmen or dockworkers. Work
was never steady and working conditions were often dangerous. Hours were long, pay was little. The women
had a slight advantage -- they could work as servants or cooks, earning slightly better wages than the men.
Castle Garden had a labor exchange where affluent families could choose servants from among the newly arrived
immigrants. By 1855, the Irish comprised 87% of New York City's unskilled labor force.
From 1820 to the 1860s, the Irish were the leading immigrant group to the United States. By 1860, one-quarter
of New York City's 800,000 residents was Irish-born. They left Ireland hoping to procure a better life for themselves.
What many found was continuing poverty, disease and lack of opportunity. The Irish became America's first urban
underclass. However, there was something ominous looming on
the horizon for the Famine Irish in America - the rise of the Know-Nothing Party.
Americans were appalled by the influx of Irish to their shores
following the Famine. These newly arrived immigrants were not
the same as the Irish who came before. They were poor, dirty
and uneducated. To the 19th century mind, poverty was a moral
failing -- a sign of laziness. However, the most horrifying aspect
was that the majority of these immigrants were Catholic. While
Catholics had emigrated to US shores before, they quietly blended
into American society. However the new Irish Catholics would
not endure anything quietly.
To be Irish Catholic was a stigma in American society. The new
immigrants were viewed as dirty, violent, unskilled, uneducated
drunks. Evangelical revivals usually emphasized the no popery
movement. A popular children's game of the time was Break the
Pope's Neck. Hate literature was on the rise. New York City's
famous patrician, George Templeton Strong, described the Famine
Irish as brutal, base, cruel, cowards and as insolent as base.
Anti-Irish cartoons appeared regularly in newspapers and magazines.
Illustrator Thomas Nast, an avowed anti-Catholic, continually drew
the Famine Irish as apes for the pages of Harper's Weekly.
It was this wave of anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant feeling that the Know-Nothings rode to popularity.
The American Republic Party was formed in New York State in 1843.
It's central theme was to keep America American. Following the
arrival of the Famine Irish, the party quickly spread into neighboring
states under the new name, the Native American Party. They came to
be called the Know-Nothing Party due to the reply of their members
when quizzed about the party: I know nothing.
The Know-Nothings allied themselves with the mainstream Whig Party who
favored limiting immigration and publicly blamed the Irish for society's
ills. This staunchly anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic group ran
on the platform of eliminating immigration and keeping Catholics of any
ethnic group off US soil. Their base support came from native-born white
working men of all social groups. By 1854, the Know-Nothing Party had over
1 million members and had elected 8 governors, over 100 congressmen and the
mayors of Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.
As the fires of the anti-immigrant/anti-Catholic sentiment burned freely,
churches in some US cities were burned to the ground. Convents were looted
and burned. As the Know-Nothings came to hold a rally in New York City, fear
abounded. Archbishop Hughes appealed to the mayor of New York for protection
of the city's churches. Instead, members of the Irish-Catholic fraternal
organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, stood guard at various churches
throughout the city. The Irish reacted to the prejudice in America the same
way they reacted to it back in Ireland. They would fight for justice
on their own terms.
In the 1854 elections, the Know-Nothing Party gained control of Massachusetts.
Anti-Catholic legislature was put in place within the state. The Know-Nothings
came close to a similar electoral victory in New York State, but were defeated,
much to the relief of the state's large Irish and German immigrant population.
The 1854 platform of the Know-Nothing Party consisted of 15 tenets, including:
1. Repeal of all naturalization laws.
2. None but native Americans for office.
4. War to the hilt on political Romanism.
5. Opposition to the formation of military companies composed of foreigners.
7. Hostility to all Papal influences, when brought to bear against the Republic.
9. More stringent and effective Emigration Laws.
14. Eternal enmity to all who attempt to carry out the principles of a foreign
church or state.
You can read the entire 15 points of the 1854 Know-Nothing platform courtesy of
Abraham Lincoln commented on the strong Know-Nothing show in the 1854 elections:
Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began
by declaring that all men are created equal. We now practically read it all men are
created equal except Negroes. When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read all
men are created equal except Negroes, and foreigners and Catholics.
The Know-Nothings started to break apart following the 1854 elections. They had
concentrated all their efforts upon the newly arrived immigrants, but it was the
issue of slavery that tore the group apart. The group was split over whether slavery
should be allowed to continue. The antislavery element of the Know-Nothings fled to
the Republican party. What was left of the Know-Nothings disintegrated by 1856. However,
the seeds of mistrust and hatred had already been sewn. The newly arrived Famine
Irish now deeply mistrusted the system and those who ran it.
African-Americans had resided in New York State as both freemen and
slaves since its founding. The black population in New York City
grew rapidly after 1800. They could easily find work as
opportunities were abundant.
Former slaves and freemen worked mostly as dock workers, hod
carriers and domestic servants. They lived near or among whites in
the lower class neighborhoods. While racism was everywhere, they
were still able to find employment and put food on the table. They
were vital to New York City's economy. However,
all of this changed drastically in the 1840s with the arrival of
the Famine Irish.
For the most part, former slaves and freemen were poorly educated, if
educated at all. Former slaves had little job skills useful to the
Northern economy. As we discussed earlier, the Famine Irish were no better off.
The lack of skills and education put both groups into direct competition
for the same jobs, creating resentment among both groups.
The Irish competed for those low-paying jobs as dock workers, hod carriers
and domestic servants. By 1846, they had wrestled control of these
occupations from the blacks. African-Americans, who had formerly dominated these
occupations, now could only find work in these areas as strike breakers. While
it provided them the chance to put food on their tables, it created
further resentment among the Irish, heightening racial tensions.
In the antebellum south, slaves were considered valued property and thus
prohibited from doing life-threatening work. These dangerous jobs were
given to the Irish. A southern dock official said that slaves were worth
too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard, or get
their backs broke, nobody loses anything. Those sentiments were echoed
throughout the nation.
By 1860, New York City had the second highest population of African-Americans of
all the Northern cities. Things were about to get much worse for the two
groups on the bottom rung of America's social and economic ladder.
War was coming.
On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began when Fort
Sumter was fired upon by southern forces. President Lincoln
called for 75,000 new soldiers. New Yorkers were among the
first to go. However, by 1863, New Yorkers weren't as staunchly
supportive of the war as they had been.
The fall of 1861 brought a brief recession to the North.
It would the first of many ups-and-downs for the economy.
Gold prices fluctuated and prices began to inch upwards.
In 1863, the war was costing the US government an average of
.5 million per day -- equivalent to .6 million in today's
economy. The federal government needed money to finance the
war effort. To help offset the cost, the Internal Revenue Act
was passed in 1862, enacting the first US income tax. While this
3% tax was only levied on those whose income surpassed per year,
there were also provisions for excise taxes.
Excise taxes were levied on liquor, tobacco, playing cards, jewelry,
patented medicines and newspaper ads. This tax was especially hard
on lower-income families as the tax was regressive. Other taxes put
into effect under this sweeping Act include license taxes on professionals,
except clergy, a stamp tax, value-added taxes and an inheritance tax.
Inflation became commonplace throughout the Union, though it was not as
severe as the inflationary prices in the Confederacy. In the North, prices
of goods rose as much as 75%. A carton of eggs cost by 1863 - equivalent
to today! Wages, however, wouldn't keep pace with the rising costs.
People found that their wages in 1863 were worth 20% less than when the war
first started. This was especially hard on those with the lowest economic
status -- the Irish and African-Americans.
Many groups in New York City were beginning to sympathize with the Confederacy.
The Union army had suffered a string of horrendous losses. Northerners perceived
the war to be too long and unwinnable. The war had become unpopular, and President
Lincoln was about to do something even more unpopular.
In September 1862, Lincoln first read the Emancipation Proclamation,
altering the North's mission in the war. Under the Proclamation,
all slaves in Confederate states were free as of January 1, 1863.
For those who had never tasted freedom, this was a day they had only
dreamed about. For Lincoln's detractors, the Emancipation Proclamation
became a very powerful weapon of propaganda.
Many historians have appointed Abraham Lincoln as the most
respected, and one of the best, American presidents. However,
Lincoln had more than his share of enemies. Democratic New York
Governor Horatio Seymour openly despised the Republican president.
African-Americans were openly wooed by the Republican party, while the
Democrats went after the new immigrants -- the Irish and the Germans.
When Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation in the fall of
1862, the two political parties immediately retreated to their opposing
corners and came out fighting.
Democratic politicians were appalled by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Governor Seymour called it unconstitutional. Democrats began fanning
the racial flame. They told their constituents that emancipation would cause
the soon-to-be-freed slaves to come North and take their jobs. Charges
were made that African-Americans would be brought in to overthrow the white
majority of Tammany Hall. Democrats said that Northern soldiers were no
longer fighting to preserve the Union, but dying for the blacks. The
charges became more outrageous, saying that the Republicans themselves
would bring the freed slaves into the city to replace white workers.
Former New York City Mayor Fernando Wood was very vocal in his sympathies for
the Confederacy and the unfairness of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1861,
he had suggested that New York City secede from New York State over the power
struggle with Albany concerning the city's police forces. A popular mayor,
Wood's former views were being echoed around the city.
The Irish were already in intense labor competition with African-Americans of
New York City, and were terrified by the thought of it getting worse.
Black-Americans in New York City couldn't begin to imagine how their situation
could get any worse. But
worse it would become. By the end of 1862, the Union was in desperate need
of more soldiers. There was only one way to go -- the draft.
The Conscription Act of 1863
By the end of 1862, the Union was in desperate need of more
soldiers. There was almost universal agreement in the political
world that a draft was the answer. However, from the moment the
act was put into place, controversy reigned.
During the summer of 1862, following Union victories
at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, Secretary of War Stanton ordered
recruiting stations closed throughout the North. Stanton firmly
believed recruitment was no longer necessary as Union victory was
on the horizon. It would only take Stanton about 2 weeks to
realize his mistake, and recruitment offices were reopened.
Most officers and politicians in the North believed the war would
not last very long. General William Tecumseh Sherman was one of
the few exceptions. Upon the outbreak of hostilities, Sherman had
remarked to a friend that the war would be long and bloody. People
thought Sherman was crazy. Now as the war grinded into it's third
year, they realized with horror that he was right.
At the beginning of the war, citizens in both the North and South
flocked to sign up. There was no shortage of soldiers on either
side. However the Union had suffered unspeakable losses on the
battlefield, and the end was nowhere in sight. Recruitment in the
North was down. Lincoln had no option, but to go to a draft.
The Conscription Act of March 1863 would be the breaking point for
many disillusioned Northerners, especially in New York City. Under
the provisions of the Act, states that had not met their enlistment
quotas, were subject to a draft lottery. Opponents criticized the
Act as soon as it was made public. New York Governor Seymour declared
the Act unconstitutional, claiming it was a violation of states' rights.
Seymour, however, backed voluntary enlistment.
Republican New York City Mayor George Opdyke backed the Conscription Act
fully, putting him in direct conflict with Albany and Tammany Hall.
From 1861-1863, approximately 800,000 immigrants arrived on US shores.
Many of them were met on the docks by recruiting agents, hired by
companies to supply men for the war.
There was widespread resentment over the way the Act was written. There
were several loopholes for the elite, including being able to purchase
a substitute. If your name was chosen in the lottery, you could simply
hire someone to go in your place. In most instances, immigrants were the
substitute of choice. The most reviled part of the Act was the Commutation
Fee. The Commutation Fee was a fee that was paid every time your name or number came up in the lottery. Payment of the fee would allow you to passed
over for the draft. A board of officers was set up in each city to assure that
those who were drafted, would show up for induction. Failure to report for
induction, resulted in sentencing as a deserter.
The Commutation Fee of (equivalent to approximately today) amounted to
about half of the annual salary of the average working-class American. It was completely out of reach for New York City's lower classes. The bigwigs at Tammany Hall then offered to pay the Commutation Fee for anyone in their districts who were drafted. Poor New Yorkers believed the Democratic Party could effectively shield them from the draft.
As more details of the Conscription Act became public, resentment began to build.
Under the new Act, African-Americans were not eligible for the draft, though they
were free to volunteer under the Emancipation Proclamation. The poor were angry
that they would be forced to fight to free the slaves, while African-Americans were
given the option of whether or not to join up. Society's attitudes made matters
worse, as there was no social stigma attached to someone who chose to purchase a
substitute or pay the Commutation Fee. However society was blatantly contemptuous
of anyone refusing to fight or deserting the ranks. Privileged whites were able
to bribe doctors for medical exemptions from the draft. Meanwhile, most of the poor
had never seen a doctor in their lives.
The politicos jumped on the bandwagon, issuing charges that Democratic districts in
New York City would be required to furnish more men for conscription than those in
Republican districts. There were also charges that the Republican party was stuffing
the ballot boxes of the city with votes of imported Republican soldiers. The federal
government was not helping to diffuse matters. Protest demonstrations and meetings
regarding the Conscription Act were popular. Troops were used freely and without
restraint to break them up. Provost Marshals were able to search house-to-house,
without a warrant, for Union deserters.
Irish dock workers had recently gone on strike to protest their low wages and
hazardous working conditions. Businesses had brought in African-Americans as strike
breakers. Outraged strikers attacked and beat the blacks. Federal troops had to
be called in to protect the black workers. New York City's economic and racial tensions
were at the breaking point as the summer of 1863 began.
In July 1863, Union General George Meade met Confederate
General Robert E. Lee on the battlefield in Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania. There was fear in New York City that if the
Confederacy won the battle, they may set their eye on
Manhattan for their next invasion. Paranoia was spreading.
A General Provost Marshal was in charge of all draft offices
in the city. The city was then subdivided into districts -- each
district was manned by an Assistant Provost Marshal. It was
the duty of each Provost Marshal to make sure the draft proceedings
Saturday, July 11, was an important, though rather quiet day in New York
City. The draft lottery was beginning that day. The city was
almost completely devoid of any military presence, as they were
off in Gettysburg. The Provost Marshal didn't believe there
would be too much unrest due to the lottery drawings. It was
believed that the Invalid Corps, composed of men who were physically
unable to take to the battlefield, would be enough to handle any
The draft lottery was held that day in the Eleventh and Ninth districts
of the city. Approximately 1200 names were drawn. While there were some
scattered groups of citizens hurling obscenities at the officers, the
drawing took place without incident.
The same day, news of the battle at Gettysburg had reached New
York. While General Meade had managed to rout General Lee,
people were sickened by the accounts of the carnage and horrified
by the sheer numbers of the casualty lists.
On Sunday, July 12, the names of the 1200 draftees were published
in the city's newspapers. In the same articles, the particulars of
the Commutation Fee were released. People were outraged that the
Democratic party had failed to protect them from the draft. Where
would they get to avoid the draft? Within hours, angry citizens
took to the streets in protest. The Provost Marshal and
his men nervously eyed the crowds. They were sure the people would settle down. Another day passed without incident. However, the
next day, the city would explode.
Monday, July 13, 1863: Day One
New York City Police Superintendent, John A. Kennedy, sympathized with
the plight of the poor Irish in the city. He had been one of them. Sprung from the
mean streets of Five Points, and one-time member of the Dead Rabbits gang, not only did he
understand their anger concerning the draft, but on Monday morning,
he could feel something in the air. He sent small squads of
police officers to protect the draft offices. A rumor reached him
that a group of men were planning to seize the arsenal. He
sent 50 policemen to guard it.
In 1863, New York City was comprised of 32 police precincts, all
connected by telegraph. If something happened in one area of the
city, word would reach police headquarters within minutes.
Shortly after 8 am Monday morning, word reached Kennedy that
the street-workers and laborers of the Nineteenth Ward hadn't reported for
work. Kennedy, knowing it was an ominous sign, believed the men would
attack Provost Marshal Maniere's office on Broadway and Marshal Jenkins'
office over at the corner of 42nd Street and Third Avenue. He immediately
sent out the following telegrams:
July 13. 8:35 A.M. From Central Office to Seventeenth, Eighteenth and
Send ten men and a sergeant forthwith to No. 677 Third Avenue, and report to
Captain Porter of Nineteenth Precinct for duty.
--- 8:50 A.M. To Twenty-ninth Precinct: Place a squad of ten of your
men, with a competent sergeant, at No. 1190 Broadway, during the draft - if you
want more, inform me.
--- 8:55 A.M. To Sixteenth and Twentieth Precincts: Send your reserve to
Seventh Avenue Arsenal forthwith.
By 9 AM, Kennedy was receiving telegrams from around the city that trouble was
beginning. It was what he feared. He sent out the following dispatch:
--- 9:00 A.M. To all platoons, New York and Brooklyn: Call in your reserve
platoons and hold them at the stations subject to further orders.
Kennedy was confident that he had sent enough men out to handle any disturbances.
With that thought in mind, he decided to drive to Marshal Jenkins' office in the
Meanwhile, crowds of people were beginning to gather in the western part
of the city. As the mob grew in number, they began to move
north. With each factory they passed, workmen would throw
down their tools and join them. As the mob passed a side
street, groups would splinter off to make sure the side
streets were taken. Business owners were threatened with
destruction of their property if they stood in opposition
to the mob. With each passing minute, the mob swelled in
number and was armed to the hilt with clubs, sticks, knives
and anything they could get their hands on.
The mob continued to flow north, stopping in a vacant lot
not far from Central Park. Here they quickly debated where
they should go. The crowd split into two groups and marched
down Fifth and Sixth Avenues - turning east at Forty-sixth
and Forty-seventh Streets.
The exact size of the mob is not known. An eyewitness stated
that the mob covered the entire width of the street, and although
moving rapidly, it took them approximately 25 minutes to pass
a single point.
The mob turned up Third Avenue and tore down the telegraph poles
as they went. They then angrily marched to their target -- the
The small squad of policemen sent to guard the draft office
were powerless against the huge mob. Stones were thrown
through the windows and the mob rushed the doors. As they
rushed in, they began destroying furniture. The military
officers who had manned the building, fled out the back door.
The mob seized the wheel containing the names of draftees
and destroyed it, along with books and papers. They tried
to break open a safe by beating it with clubs. When the safe
refused to open, the mob became enraged and set fire to the
building. Cheers came from the streets. Families lived in
the rooms over the office. The rioters, believing officers to
be hiding up there, threw stones at their windows. The families
cowered in fear.
Deputy Provost Marshal Vanderpoel was out on the street, among
the mob. Fearing for the lives of the families upstairs, he pleaded
with the mob to let him and others save the families. A man hit
Vanderpoel in the face, as others hurled obscenities at him. Fearing
for his own life, Vanderpoel broke from the crowd and ran over to
where the policemen were standing helplessly.
The building containing the draft office was consumed by flames, as
was the building next door. Heavy columns of black smoke rose into
the sky. The mob quietly watched the fire, almost awed by it. They
slowly began to move away.
Eventually the fire department arrived, but the mob prevented them
from fighting the fire. The flames threatened the entire
block. A fireman pleaded with the mob to let them douse the flames,
explaining that the draft office was completely gone, but now private
property was in danger. The mob allowed the fire department to put
out the fire, but only after 4 buildings on the block had been destroyed.
Superintendent Kennedy was trying to make his way across
town to Provost Marshal Jenkins' office. As his wagon
approached the corner of Forty-sixth Street and Lexington
Avenue, he spotted the fire and stopped. Attempting to
make it to Third Avenue on foot, he found the street blocked
by a group of people who were quietly milling about. As he
neared the fire, a voice within the crowd yelled out, There's
Kennedy! The crowd turned to look at him.
Suddenly Kennedy felt a heavy push against his back, and turned
to face a man in an old soldier's uniform. Kennedy demanded
an explanation for the rough treatment, and instead received
a blow to the face. The crowd closed in on him, knocking him
to the ground and hitting him with repeated blows and kicks.
He managed to crawl away, but the crowd followed in pursuit.
Kennedy got to his feet and ran towards Forty-seventh Street.
Here he met another mob, who had witnessed his beating. They
rushed at him, knocking him backwards. Bleeding and stunned,
Kennedy staggered to his feet. The mob had him surrounded.
A large man with a club swung at Kennedy's head, but missed.
Protecting his head, Kennedy tried to push his way through the
mob while they beat his body with clubs, sticks and their fists.
As the melee approached Lexington Avenue, they came upon a huge
pond. The mob yelled for Kennedy to be drowned. A heavy
blow struck Kennedy in the side of the head and sent him headfirst
into the water. The mob continued to beat him and throw stones.
He struggled to his feet and staggered to the middle of the pond.
The mob rushed to the other side of the pond to catch him as he
tried to get out. But Kennedy beat them to the other side and
staggered up the bank and onto Lexington Avenue.
Once on Lexington, Kennedy saw a man he knew and yelled for
help. John Eagan ran to his defense and saved Kennedy from his
pursuers. Kennedy was so beaten and bloody that Eagan didn't
recognize his friend. The mob continued to close in on Eagan
and Kennedy as they made their way down Lexington. Eagan
flagged down a passing feed wagon, put Kennedy in the back, and
took him to police headquarters.
At headquarters, a surgeon was summoned and police officers gathered
around the bleeding, semiconscious Kennedy. While the doctor determined
that there were no broken bones and that Kennedy was expected to make
a full recovery, the shocked and angry police officers spoke of vengeance.
The mob on that stood on Third Avenue watching the fire began
to increase in size as people poured in from the tenements and
workshops of the area. They were still quietly watching the
flames when shouts of The soldiers are coming! rang out.
The Invalid Corps, a small body of men sent from the Central
Park area, approached, firing blank shots over the
heads of the crowd. As soon as the mob realized they were
blanks, they became enraged and descended on the soldiers,
seizing their muskets and hitting them over the head. One
soldier was beaten to death and left on the pavement. Another
soldier broke from the crowd and ran towards Forty-second Street,
when his pursuers grabbed him, tore off his uniform and beat him
Police Sergeant McCredie and Captain C.W. Caffrey arrived on the
scene with a small back-up force of fourteen. As they approached Third Avenue
from Forty-third Street, they were shocked to see the road blocked
by the immense mob and the soldiers of the Invalid Corps running for
their lives. A few other squads from around the city arrived, giving
the police a force of forty-four men on the scene -- to face an angry
mob of a few thousand. McCredie took command on the scene and was
determined to stand his ground. He believed there was another force
of police officers on the other side of the mob to the North (which there
wasn't) and the two combined forces could fight off the mob.
The mob descended on McCredie and his men, yelling obscenities and
brandishing weapons. McCredie ordered his men to form a line, blocking
the street. As the mob came within reach, McCredie ordered his men to
charge. The rioters were stunned by the sudden show of force by this
small band of policemen and retreated. McCredie and his men chased them
as far as Forty-sixth Street. It was on Forty-sixth Street that it was
McCredie's turn to be stunned as there was no other police force there.
Instead, he found an even heavier body of rioters, completely blocking
Now that they had a back-up force, the main body of rioters turned and
charged McCredie and his men, completely surrounding them. To make matters
worse, another mob showed up from Forty-fifth Street to join the melee.
The police were attacked with clubs, iron bars, guns and knives while stones
and other objects rained down from the rooftops.
The wounded policemen scattered in different directions: some up side streets,
others down Third Avenue. Only Sergeant McCredie and five policemen were
left unharmed. McCredie had taken refuge in the house of a German family. A
young woman in the household advised him to hide between two mattresses. Just
as he did, a crowd broke through the front door. The young woman informed the
mob that McCredie had escaped through the back door, so they followed in
Officer Bennett was beaten severely on the street and knocked down three times
before he laid motionless. The mob, believing him to be dead, stripped him of
his uniform and left him in his underclothes. Eventually he was removed from
the scene and taken to the morgue at St. Luke's Hospital, where he laid for several
hours. His wife was escorted to the morgue, where she threw herself onto his body,
weeping. When she placed her hand on his heart, she was overjoyed to feel it still
beating. Bennett was removed to another part of the hospital, where he remained
unconscious for three days.
Officer Travis, one of the policemen who fled down Third Avenue, was chased down by
a man carrying a gun. Travis turned on his pursuer, knocking him to the ground and
seizing the gun. Before he could use it, he was attacked by a group wielding clubs.
After the repeated blows knocked Travis to the ground, the mob jumped on him, knocked
out his teeth, broke his jawbone and right hand and proceeded to mutilate his body.
Believing he was dead, they stripped Travis naked and left him on the pavement.
Officer Phillips managed to run most of the way unharmed. However, he was relentlessly
pursued by a crowd that chased him all the way down to Thirty-ninth Street. He tried
to find refuge in a house, but found the door closed to him. As he turned to go back
down the steps, a man in soldier's uniform leveled his gun at Phillips and fired.
Missing him completely, Phillips grabbed the musket and hit the man with it. As the man
fell backwards down the stairs, Phillips ran through some vacant lots over to Fortieth Street.
Here he encountered another mob. A woman with a large shoemaker's knife in her hand lunged at
Phillips, missing his throat, but slashing his ear. She stabbed at him again, hitting his arm.
A stranger who had witnessed the attack, ran to Phillips and shielded his body from further blows,
yelling that he would kill any man who would further injure the police officer. The mob began
The rest of the officers in McCredie's force fared just as badly. Officers Sutherland and
Mingay were beaten badly. Officer Kiernan would have been killed by the mob if it hadn't
been for a sheer coincidence. Kiernan had been struck on the head with a large stone and
the back of his neck slashed with a baling hook. He laid bleeding and helpless on the street
before the mob. It was then that Officer Eagan's wife passed by. (Officer Eagan had earlier
saved Commissioner Kennedy.) She threw herself over Officer Kiernan's body and shrieked,
For God's sake, don't kill him! The crowd backed off.
It was now noon and Third Avenue was in a state of utter chaos. It was unbearably hot and
heavy clouds were appearing on the horizon. From the Cooper Institute to Forty-sixth Street,
approximately thirty blocks, the roads were blocked by rioters. Spectators appeared on stoops,
sidewalks, rooftops and were hanging out windows. The mobs of people in the streets were broken
up by horse-carts, unable to move and abandoned by their drivers. There was one large column
of smoke reaching skyward to the north.
The draft drawing down in the Eighth District had continued
quietly until about noon. Provost Marshal Maniere decided
to cease the drawings when the policemen, who were sent down
to guard the office, were called over to the Ninth District
to deal with the mobs.
The news of the uprising spread quickly through the poorer
sections of the city, bringing more rioters into the streets.
Telegraph poles on Third Avenue were knocked down, effectively
cutting off communication between the precincts. The mob would
break off into smaller groups to chase down citizens or loot
a house or business. They would then rejoin the larger group
and continue moving. The mob realized they needed arms and
remembering the Armory at the corner of Second Avenue, they
proceeded in that direction.
Police commissioners also thought of the Armory and sent a
squad of thirty-five officers down there. The officers were
ordered to hold the Armory at all costs. A small group had
tried to force their way into the Armory, but were warned by
a sergeant to leave. They left and returned fifteen
minutes later heavily reinforced and armed. Stones and bricks
were thrown through the windows. Although the police officers
were all armed with carbines, none of them fired. The mob
then attempted to set the building on fire, but failed.
Frustrated, they pounded through the door with
sledgehammers. A panel in the door gave way, and a rioter
attempted to crawl through. He was shot in the head by the
The sergeant had telegraphed headquarters at 3:45 PM, apprising
them of the situation and begging for help. Fifteen minutes
later came their answer:
It is impossible for us to protect the armory at Second Avenue
and Twenty-first Street. Answer - draw your men off.
The enraged mob had thrown itself against the door, completely
knocking it down. The police officers, attempting to escape
through the side and back doors, found themselves completely
cut off. They escaped through a hole in the back wall, a foot
and a half in diameter and eighteen feet off the ground. They
dropped into the yard in back and ran to Twenty-second Street.
Here they took off the uniforms and made their way back to the
precinct while mingling unnoticed in the mob.
Meanwhile the mob was busy looting the Armory. Every member of
the mob had armed himself with a musket. The weapons that they
left were broken beyond repair. Now fully armed, the mob
proceeded over to Mayor Opdyke's house.
The mob stood outside the mayor's house, calling for him to
appear. An urgent plea from a neighbor, Judge Barnard, deterred
them. There were now rumors spreading about an attack on police
headquarters, down on Mulberry Street.
As the mobs moved through the streets, they looted stores,
carrying goods off to their homes. Stolen liquor was passed
around freely. Now as late afternoon drew to a close, the
mob was still angry and many of them were drunk.
Word reached police headquarters on Mulberry Street of an
impending attack. The mob was believed to have numbered
five thousand by this time, and the police could only muster
up a force of about two hundred. As the police officials
huddled in the commissioner's office to discuss strategy for
the oncoming onslaught, they decided they would take no
prisoners. Sergeant Daniel Carpenter, an older and well experienced
officer, was put in charge of the small force.
Carpenter assembled his force and had them form a line across
Bleecker Street. On his word, they slowly moved forwards towards
Broadway. As they turned onto Broadway, they saw the mob approaching
from a block and a half away. They filled the street as far as the
eye could see and were armed with guns, knives, pitchforks, clubs
and iron bars. Upon sight of the mob, businesses shut their doors
and pedestrians fled up side streets. A few rioters were carrying
signs that bore the words, No draft, while at the front of the pack
waved the American flag.
Carpenter divided his two hundred man force, sending companies of fifty
men each up each side street, all the way to Fourth Avenue. They were
instructed to attack the mob from both sides, while Carpenter and his
company attacked from the front. Once all the men were in position,
Carpenter ordered a charge. Police flew at the mob from all directions,
brandishing nightsticks. A brief fight ensued before the mob dissolved
in terror. People fled in all directions, some trying to break down
doors to seek refuge inside businesses. The police followed in hot
pursuit. Spectators cheered. When the mob finally cleared off the street,
Broadway resembled a battlefield, littered with the bodies of the dead and wounded.
Carpenter had seized the American flag from one of the rioters and proudly
began to march it over to Mayor Opdyke's house as a symbol of victory.
However, when he found everything quiet at the mayor's house, he quietly
returned to police headquarters.
Telegrams were beginning to fly into police headquarters. From the Sixteenth
A crowd of about three hundred men have gone to the foot of Twenty-fourth
Street to stop men in the foundry from working.
From the Twentieth Precinct:
A very large crowd is now going down Fifth Avenue to attack the Tribune
From the Twenty-first Precinct:
The mob avowed their determination of burning this station. Our connection
by telegram may be interrupted at any moment.
From the Twenty-fourth Precinct:
The mob have fired the buildings corner of Broadway and Twenty-fourth
While the police were struggling to pull together a respectable
size force to handle the different disturbances that were
breaking out around the city, the upper part of New York City
was falling apart. The Bull's Head Tavern on Forty-sixth Street
was the scene of another fire. The Tavern had closed for the day,
but the rioters pried open the doors with pickaxes. After looting
the premises, they torched it.
There was looting all along Lexington Avenue. Rioters carried
off expensive furniture and silver place settings while the ladies of the house, their children and servants fled in fear.
The Provost Marshal's headquarters on Broadway were also set on
fire. The fire spread quickly, burning an entire block of
Broadway between Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Streets. Shops
of all kinds, liquor stores and jewelry stores alike, were looted
throughout the city.
George W. Walling, from his autobiography Recollections of a New
York Chief of Police:
For my part, I had for several days noticed with great uneasiness
growing discontent among certain classes. Things, I thought, were
coming to a head, and so I remained at the precinct station Sunday
night. Early on Monday morning I went to my house, took breakfast
and proceeded to headquarters to make my customary report. At Third
Avenue and Nineteenth Street I learned, for the first time, that rioting
was in progress. I was told that the mob had attacked an enrolling office
in Third Avenue, driven off the police and set fire to the building. My
station was in Thirty-fifth Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. I
immediately started back again on the "dead run," believing the whole
force would be called out. I was not mistaken. In a short time orders
were sent from headquarters directing me to collect my "off-platoon."
Messengers were despatched, and soon all the men reported for duty.
The mob had been successful in stopping the draft in two districts.
Now the mob focused its attention on the group they believed was
responsible for not just the draft, but the entire war -- blacks.
The Sixth Precinct had reported to headquarters that a mob of about
seven hundred people had attacked some African-Americans over on Baxter Street.
Afterwards, they went to Samuel Crook's saloon on Chatham and beat
the black waiters. Another mob was heading for the Colored Orphan
The Colored Orphan Asylum was located on Fifth Avenue, from
Forty-third to Forty-fourth Streets. The asylum was home to over
two hundred children, ranging in age from newborn infants to
preteens. It was a four-story high, imposing building, fully
staffed with matrons and officers.
The mob surrounded the building and hurled obscenities at the
residents. Superintendent William E. Davis locked all doors.
Knowing what was coming, Davis gathered all the children, and
hurried them out a back door to safety, just as the mob broke
through the front. The mob looted the building, carrying off
furniture, and even the meager possessions of the children.
Large furniture was broken into pieces and set on fire.
The fire department arrived and an official tried to plead with
the crowd to let them save the building. The mob knocked him
down and started to beat him. Other firemen rushed to his defense,
carried him to safety and then tried to extinguish the flames. It
was too late. The building was lost. Thankfully, the children had
made it to safety.
George W. Walling:
Information was received that the rioters were on their way to the
Colored Orphan Asylum, on Fifth Avenue, between Forty-third and Forty-fourth
Streets, in which were about two hundred colored children, besides the
matron and attendants. Then came the news that the institution had been
attacked by a mob three thousand strong, pillaged and burned to the ground,
the inmates making their escape as best they could. All were brought to my
station, the small upon the backs of the larger, and were made as comfortable
as possible, remaining with me a week. The poor creatures were almost crazed
with terror, and were glad enough when, after the riots were over, arrangements
were made to convey them to a temporary place of refuge on Blackwell's Island.
There had been a crowd gathering around City Hall all day long.
They became more restless as night fell. The mob stopped all
passing trains, searching for blacks who have been on board.
Mostly, however, they glared at the Tribune Building. They wanted
the head of Tribune editor, Horace Greeley.
The mob that the police had routed on Broadway earlier in the day,
now headed for the Tribune Building. They stood outside and
shouted for Greeley. When he didn't appear, they hurled stones
and bricks through the windows. The mob from City Hall joined
them, and they rushed into the building, destroying everything
A force of one-hundred-fifty police officers descended upon the
mob. Clubs and fists were flying. The crowd in the street began
to run. The police fought their way into the Tribune Building. The
appearance of the police frightened the rioters and they tried to
escape through doors and windows. The crowd began to run towards
At the moment, Sergeant Carpenter (who had routed this mob on
Broadway) was entering the park from the opposite side with a force
of two-hundred. Carpenter and his men swept the rioters out of the
park. He then made his station at City Hall that night.
More reports were rushing into police headquarters, detailing attacks
on blacks. One had been severely beaten and hanged from a tree. The
police went down and removed the body. African-Americans throughout the city were
terrified. Many had sought refuge at police stations.
As Monday, July 13, drew to a close, New York City was in
a state of chaos. The police department didn't have the
numbers to compete with the huge mobs. Most of the city's
military presence was gone -- off in Pennsylvania.
Mayor Opdyke demanded help from General Wool, who commanded
the Eastern Department and had his headquarters at the
corner of Bleecker and Greene. Opdyke also contacted Major
General Sanford, who commanded what was left of the city's
troops. Sanford ordered the Seventh Regiment to meet that
Earlier in the afternoon, Wool had ordered eighty men to be
shipped over from Fort Hamilton. General Brown, who commanded
the city's garrison, had heard of the riot and believed that
eighty men would be insufficient. Brown took it upon himself
to order an entire company into the city. Brown then directed
all troops at Forts Hamilton, Lafayette and Richmond to be ready
Mayor Opdyke realized that the only this riot could be quelled
would be by military force. He requested a force of marines from
Rear-Admiral Paulding at the Navy Yard and back-up forces from
West Point. Opdyke also appealed to the mayor of Newark, New Jersey
and the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode
Island for any extra troops. His last measure of the day was to
issue a proclamation to the rioters, calling on them to disperse.
It didn't work.
George W. Walling, receiving orders to report to police headquarters:
No cars or stages were running, and in order to get to Mulberry Street as
quickly as possible I hired stages, in which to place all my available force,
leaving in the station a sergeant, two doormen and a few partially disabled
patrolmen who were on the sick-list. We arrived safely at headquarters. Meantime
a body of rioters had attacked and burned another enrolling office in Broadway,
near Twenty-sixth Street. That evening we were stationed in the City Hall, as
threats had been made to destroy the Tribune and other newspaper offices.
The night of July 13 brought anxiety to residents of New York
City. Thunderstorms had driven many of the rioters indoors. The
exhausted police department was grateful for the rest. Many
officers slept on the floors of their station houses.
Telegraph poles that had been cut down by the mob, were
quietly put back up by city workers who wore disguises. As
quickly as they worked to put the poles up, other poles would
Approximately fifteen to twenty police officers had fallen
in the line of duty. The number of rioters killed was not known.
Those that died were left in the street by the police, and later
carried away by their friends.
Destruction of property consisted of four buildings burned on
Third Avenue, a block of Broadway between Twenty-eighth and
Twenty-ninth Streets, two brownstones on Lexington Avenue,
Allerton's Hotel near the Bull's Head Tavern, the Colored
Orphan's Asylum, the Aged Colored Woman's Home and the Harlem
Railroad Bridge. The looted Second Avenue Armory stood without
Tuesday, July 14, 1863: Day Two
Tuesday, July 14, began rather peacefully. Carriages rambled
down some streets while men hurried on their way to work. Most
of the city remained as it as always been, except pedestrians
kept an eye out for trouble.
At police headquarters, they were busy planning strategies for the
day. A large force of special policemen had been sworn in. General
Brown had delivered over seven hundred troops to the police. The
soldiers were milling about inside and outside police headquarters,
waiting for instructions. General Sandford had placed a force to
guard the Second Avenue Armory.
George W. Walling:
Some time during the next morning one of my men came to me and said:
"Captain Walling, I've seen a big, rough-looking fellow peeping through the
window. He's done it three or four times."
"Ah!" I remarked; "perhaps it will be just as well to keep a watch on him.
Next time he peeps in call my attention to it."
"There he is again," said the man, presently.
And sure enough, the dim outline of a man's face could be seen pressed
against the window pane. I opened the door cautiously, and slipping out
quietly grabbed him by the collar.
"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, as I looked at his features. "What are you
doing here, Leonard?" for it was no other than my brother, who was a ship-carpenter.
He told me his fellow workmen had struck and wouldn't let him work.
"Well, if you can't work, can you fight?" I asked him.
"Try me," he replied.
I immediately had him sworn in, gave him a club and had no occasion to
feel ashamed of my unexpected recruit. He served under me the whole of the
week, and took an active part in all that occurred, on one occasion narrowly
Things were already beginning to fall apart to the North. Telegrams
poured into headquarters, detailing fires and fights. Reports stated
that from Sixth Avenue to the West, over to Second Avenue on the
East, and as far south as Broome Street were all covered with mobs.
Businesses in these areas had shut down. Factories had no laborers
reporting for work.
The troops were called out into Mulberry Street and companies chosen
for immediate action. A police force of two-hundred-fifty men, headed
by Sergeant Carpenter, headed for Second and Third Avenues. Carpenter and
his men walked straight through the mob on Thirty-second Street without
harm. While the mob did yell obscenities, there was no violence. Up alittle
further, the mob had scattered to take positions on rooftops. As the police
approached, they threw stones and bricks. The police column scattered.
Carpenter ordered men to storm the houses and clear the rooftops. The police
broke through doors and stormed to the roof. Fights ensued, the
police were victorious. Rioters who tried to escape back down the stairs were
met by more police inside the buildings. Some rioters chose to jump the two or
three stories to the street, rather than face the police. The fight lasted
for about an hour, with bodies strewn everywhere. The rioters had conceded the
victory to the police.
The soldiers who had accompanied Carpenter's police force, had formed a line
across Third Avenue, about a block and a half up from the fighting. Colonel
O'Brien, of the 11th New York, had assumed command and placed two howitzers
in the middle of Third Avenue. The mob, who had remained quiet in their defeat,
became boisterous again at the sight of the bodies scattered on the street and
the soldiers blocking their way. They started throwing stones and bricks at the
soldiers, and jeering Colonel O'Brien. O'Brien ordered his men to fire. The
howitzers opened up into the mob while the soldiers fired their muskets. Bodies
fell everywhere. An eyewitness described one of the victims as a woman
carrying an infant in her arms. The mob tried to flee in terror, knocking
each other down in an attempt to evacuate the street. In less than five minutes,
Third Avenue was cleared of the mob.
Colonel O'Brien and his men marched back down to police headquarters where he asked to
be relieved of command. O'Brien was an Irishman who had grown up in the poorer sections
of the city. Conflicted by the duties of his military position and having
grown up among many of the mob, O'Brien was disturbed and sickened by what had
taken place. General Brown dismissed him. O'Brien rode home to find that his family
had deserted the house and fled to Brooklyn. Crowds lined the streets, and they made
threats as he rode by. O'Brien entered a neighboring store for a few moments, and upon leaving,
found the door blocked by an ominous-looking crowd. He drew his sword in one hand and
his revolver in the other, and pushed his way into the street. He was hit hard on the back
of the head and staggered forward. Suddenly the crowd rushed him, and O'Brien was unable to
defend himself. The crowd knocked him down and beat him bloody. They dragged the barely
conscious O'Brien a little ways down the street, then left him. He laid helpless and bleeding,
while onlookers would walk up, curse or spit on him, and walk on.
Eventually a Catholic priest came upon the dying O'Brien and gave him Last Rites. The crowd fell
silent. The priest turned to the mob and demanded they let the man die in peace. When the priest
went to administer aid to another victim, the crowd again attacked O'Brien -- pounding and trampling his body.
Throughout the afternoon, people would walk up and throw stones at O'Brien, who could do no more than emit a groan.
At sundown, O'Brien's body was dragged into his own backyard, stripped of his uniform except his pants and left there.
Still more crowds would wander into his backyard to assault him. Sometime after sunset, Colonel O'Brien finally died.
What happened to Colonel O'Brien was happening all over the city. Mobs were wandering everywhere, exacting revenge.
The military was facing more anger and hatred from the mobs than the police had faced.
Lieutenant Wood headed one of many companies who were sent off
from police headquarters on Tuesday morning. Wood and his men
were patrolling down around the Bowery. When they turned onto
Pitt Street, they encountered a boisterous mob of about two
thousand. Wood ordered his one-hundred-fifty men to form a line
across the street and to 'shoulder arms.' A member of the mob
stepped forward to speak with Wood, but Wood waved him off. The
mob started throwing stones at the soldiers. Wood ordered his men
to fire, and bodies began to fall. The mob fled in all directions.
The police had their hands full down around Thirtieth Street. Mobs
were now aware that the military had been called out, and they rushed
to arm themselves. They learned of a cache of carbines at a wire
factory on Thirtieth Street, and rushed over to grab them. The factory
had no one guarding it, so the mob thought it would be an easy take.
They forced their way in, and distributed the carbines. However, the
attack had been telegraphed to police headquarters, and a force of
two hundred men, under Inspector Dilks, rushed to the scene. As the police
marched off Twenty-first Street, they encountered a mob numbering one
thousand strong. Dilks ordered a charge and the scene soon disintegrated
into hand-to-hand combat. One of the leaders of the mob attempted to charge
the police. As he turned around and saw that he had no back-up, a blow from a
police club sent him staggering onto the sidewalk, where
he fell and was impaled through the jaw on an iron railing. The police managed
to cut a swath through the crowd and proceeded to recapture the stolen carbines.
The sidewalk and the
street were covered with bodies. The mob began to flee.
Once the street was clear, Dilks ordered his men to secure the wire factory
of all armed rioters. The police stormed the building, securing the staircase
step-by-step. Rioters tried to run back down the stairs, only to be met by
police officers wielding clubs. The police secured the building and a physician
from headquarters treated the wounded. Gathering what guns they recaptured,
Dilks and his men marched back to headquarters amid a crowd of cheering spectators.
While the wire factory was under attack, Mayor Opdyke's house on Fifth Avenue was
again attacked and this time, looted. Provost Marshal Maniere, with a small force,
dispersed the rioters and saved the house from destruction.
By afternoon, a reinforced mob returned to the wire factory and overthrew the small
police guard left to defend it. They found some boxes of guns the police
had overlooked earlier and rearmed themselves. A detachment of police and soldiers
under Captain Franklin was sent out this time. As they approached the five-story building,
they were hit with stones and bricks thrown from the windows. The police charged the mob,
clubbed their way into the building, and cleared it floor-by-floor. Rioters fled back down
the stairs or jumped out the windows to their death. The police took all the guns from
the building and proceeded to march back to police headquarters.
The mob was right on their heels in pursuit, yelling obscenities and hurling bricks at the
soldiers, who took up the rear of the procession. The soldiers took the onslaught quietly,
until Captain Franklin ordered them to fire. The soldiers fired at pointblank range.
The rioters fled, scrambling over the bodies that had fallen.
Police headquarters had become a madhouse. The telegraph machine worked nonstop,
requesting help from every precinct to handle the mobs. In a short two hour period,
headquarters had received and answered the following telegrams:
10:20 AM From Thirteenth Precinct. Send military here immediately.
10:22 AM From Sixteenth Precinct. A mob has just attacked Jones' soap
factory; stores all closed.
10:50 AM From Twenty-sixth Precinct. Tell Inspector Leonard to send
one hundred here forthwith.
10:55 AM From Twentieth Precinct from General Brown. Send to arsenal
and say a heavy battle is going on. Captain Wilkins and company of regulars
will report to me here at once.
11:18 AM From Sixteenth Precinct. Mob is coming down to station-house;
we have no men.
11:20 AM From Eighteenth Precinct. The mob is very wild, corner Twenty-second
Street and Second Avenue. They have attacked the Union steam factory.
11:35 AM From Twenty-sixth Precinct. Send another one hundred men here
11:35 AM From Twentieth Precinct. Send one hundred men to disperse mob
assailing Mayor Opdyke's house.
11:38 AM From Twenty-first Precinct. Can you send a few men here?
11:40 AM From Twenty-second Precinct. The mob has gone to Mr. Higgins'
factory, foot of Forty-third Street, to burn it.
11:45 AM From Eighteenth Precinct. What shall we do? The mob is about
Reply - Clear them down, if you can.
11:50 AM From Eighteenth Precinct. We must leave; the mob is here with
11:50 AM From Twentieth Precinct. Mob tearing up track on Eleventh Avenue.
11:58 AM The mob have just sacked a large gun-store in Grand Street, and are
armed, and are on the way to attack us.
12:10 PM From Fifteenth Precinct. Send your men here forthwith.
12:35 PM From Twentieth Precinct. Send two hundred men forthwith to Thirty-fifth
12:36 PM From Twenty-first Precinct. The mob have just broken open a
gun-store on Third Avenue, between Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh Streets,
and are arming.
12:40 PM From Twenty-first Precinct. Send help - the crowd is desperate.
The telegrams continued all day, as precincts around the city pleaded for help.
Businessmen gathered for a meeting on Wall Street and declared businesses closed
until the city was under control. The Harbor Police were busy ferrying in
troops from Riker's and Governor's Islands, while also trying to prevent their docks
from being destroyed. The Sub-Treasury building and the Custom House were guarded
by the 10th National Zouaves and one-hundred-fifty armed citizens. The Invalid Corps
patrolled the areas around the government buildings. Approximately four hundred
New Yorkers were sworn in as special police officers, furnished with clubs and
badges, to help quell the riot. The fire department worked tirelessly, rushing to
all corners of the city to extinguish the flames.
Governor Horatio Seymour had finally reached the city. He holed up for awhile with
Mayor Opdyke, drafting two proclamations for the mob and orders for a citizen
New York City's African-American population, fearing for its lives, fled from the city.
Ferries leaving the city were packed. However, aged and poor blacks were unable to leave.
They were forced to face the mobs, who were now hunting them down.
African-Americans were chased down the streets, while the mob yelled obscenities.
If he/she was overtaken, they would be beaten to death. If an African-American ran
into a house in a black neighborhood, the house was burned down -- consuming the occupants.
Entire black neighborhoods went up in flames.
On Tuesday morning, James Costello, an African-American, left his house
on Thirty-third Street on an errand when he was set upon by a large
mob. As they chased him down the street, he pulled a revolver from his
pocket and shot of his pursuers. The shot was fatal. The mob, now enraged,
chased and caught Costello, beating him to death. They then hanged his
limp body from a lamppost for a while, only to then cut it down, drag it
through the gutters, pelt it with stones and finally set it on fire. When
Mrs. Costello emerged from her house to try to stop the attack, the mob
turned on her and her children. The Costellos fled the scene, dodging through
backyards and over fences, and finally found safety at the local police station.
In neighborhoods such as those around Sullivan and
Roosevelt Streets, African-Americans were afraid to venture into the streets. Two
boarding houses in this area were surrounded by mobs. The lodgers fled in fear.
Finding only the owner inside, the mob beat him, broke up his furniture and
burned the building to the ground.
Stores patronized by African-Americans shared the same fate. Rioters would
loot the establishment, distribute the goods amongst themselves, then torch the building.
The police came upon the half-naked body of an African-American man hanging at the
corner of Twenty-seventh and Seventh Avenue. Crowds danced and sang around the body.
The body was that of Abraham Franklin, a man who had stopped by that area
earlier in the day to check on his elderly mother. Franklin was on his knees,
praying for God to protect his mother, when the mob, who had seen him enter
the house, broke through the door. They beat Franklin with their fists and clubs
and then hanged him in front of his mother. When the police arrived on the scene,
Franklin was barely alive. As the police cut him down, he showed some signs of life
by raising his arm slightly. However, the police were then called off to another
mob scene and left Franklin in the street. Once the police were out of sight, the
mob hanged Franklin again. When he was dead, they mutilated his body.
A huge crowd at Thirty-second and Eighth spent the day looting houses and
hanging African-Americans. When Colonel Mott of the Eighth Regiment appeared on the
scene, he saw three bodies hanging from lamp posts while the crowd shouted.
As the soldiers approached, the mob fell back. Mott cut down one of the bodies
from the lamp post. This enraged the mob and they attacked the soldiers with
stones and bricks. The infantry was called up and with bayonets affixed,
pushed the mob back, but just for an instance. They rushed the soldiers again,
and the infantry fired. The infantry would fire five or six rounds before the
mob finally fled. Soldiers followed. Once the scene was clear, the soldiers
retired to police headquarters. Once the soldiers were off the scene, the mob
went back to hanging African-Americans.
African-Americans who were unable to flee the city, attempted to take up refuge at
police stations. As the stations became too full, many
were escorted downtown to police headquarters, where they slept on the floor. The
police fed them out of their own meager rations. When headquarters became
too crowded, many were escorted to the Armory, where they were protected
It was nearly impossible for the police to protect every African-American in the
city, as riots had encompassed practically all of Manhattan. By mid-afternoon
of Day Two, eight buildings were burning in Harlem and there were reports of
mobs gathering in the lower end of Westchester. Mobs that were dispersed by
the police or soldiers would simply meet up again in another area. Businesses were
closed, street cars had stopped running and citizens were arming themselves to patrol the
streets. Broadway was deserted and the Fifth Avenue Hotel had closed all its
iron shutters. New Yorkers of all races were attempting to flee the city by
rail or ferry. Trains leaving the city couldn't get far as most of the railroad
tracks were torn up. The Weehawken ferry was burned. Ordinary patrol for the police
was out of the question, and crimes went unchecked. Even in the midst of the riots,
newspapers continued to call the draft unconstitutional, calling for an examination by
the courts and full suspension of the draft.
The mobs seemed to be without a singular goal. Some attacked African-Americans and
burned their houses. Others attacked police stations and looted houses. Crowds
attacked a house on Twenty-ninth Street and Eighth Avenue, believing Horace Greeley to be there.
The police stopped every stage that was still running and commandeered it as a
means of transporting police and soldiers to various locations throughout the
city. By early evening, there was a line of stages parked in front of police
Crowds had been gathering on Sixth Avenue since late morning. They
milled about, partaking in some general looting. By early afternoon,
they decided to loot the mansions at the corner of Fifth Avenue and
Forty-sixth Street. Supplied with guns, revolvers, muskets, stones,
clubs and barrel staves, they forced their way into the residence.
Police headquarters had gotten word of their plans and sent Police Captain
George Walling from the Twentieth Precinct with a company of soldiers under
Captain Putnam. The soldiers marched up Forty-sixth Street with
bayonets affixed. Under orders to take no prisoners, they charged
into the mob, splitting it in two. The soldiers broke down into
squads and chased the fleeing rioters.
Captain Walling saw an armed crowd in an alley. He ordered his men
to take cover behind an approaching fire engine. When they were
opposite the alleyway, the police fired, then charged. Rioters fled
into a nearby tenement house. Police sharpshooters fired on rioters
that were at the fringes of the crowds. Fleeing rioters were shot
off the roofs. Walling saw about thirty men break into a hardware store,
in an attempt to steal some pistols. He charged the group by himself, and shot the
leader in the head.
George W. Walling:
That day I was directed to proceed with my men - one hundred in number - to
certain buildings in the Twentieth and Twenty-second wards which were to be
protected. We marched up Broadway, being supported by a company of regulars from the
Invalid Corps. Thirty-second Street was reached without any exciting incident;
but on arriving there I was informed that a mob was about to attack the Sixth
Avenue car stables. This was not exactly true, the mob having designs on Dr.
Ward's and other private residences in the neighborhood of Forty-sixth Street
and Fifth Avenue. We marched up Forty-fifth Street, and through it to Fifth Avenue.
We were confronted by a howling mob of men and women, numbering over 2000.
A large number were armed with bludgeons. There was but one thing to do, and
that was done quickly. I shouted out at the top of my voice, so that the
rioters could hear me:
"Kill every man who has a club. Double quick. Charge!"
And at them we went with our clubs. The rioters dropped their bludgeons, tumbling
over each other, and took to their heels. We took no prisoners, but left the
rioters where they fell. The number of broken heads was large. The mob
dispersed in all directions, despite the frenzied cries of the women for the men
to "stand up and give the police."
This scrimmage, however, was nothing compared to what was to follow.
Word came of another attack on Horace Greeley's house, and the police sent
a squad over. When they arrived, they found the building filled with men,
women and children in the process of looting it. One rioter ran out the front
door, shooting his pistol as he fled. The police closed on him with clubs
before finally subduing him. Inside, the looters refused to hand over the
goods to the police. One Irish woman fought so hard that she grabbed a police
officer by the throat. Rather than dropping their goods, the rioters escaped
with loot in hand, including women's shawls, dresses and sheet music.
There was chaos in the street when the soldiers arrived. Police and rioters
were all mingled together. The soldiers fired a volley into the crowd, sending
both the rioters and the police diving for cover. As the smoke cleared and the
rioters fled, order began to be restored. However, three police officers were
wounded by the soldiers' volley.
By evening, mobs had descended on the Brooks Brothers store on Catherine Street.
Workers inside the store became alarmed at the sight of the growing mob. The
rioters turned the gas off, plunging the store into total darkness. Headquarters
sent a squad of approximately sixty men to defend the store. Officers Platt,
Kennedy and Sergeant Finney guarded the front door. The three police officers seemed
to intimidate the crowd for a while, but then shouts broke out, demanding the store
be opened. The crowd started to push forward. The three officers advanced upon
the crowd with their clubs drawn, when the crowd rushed forward, knocking the
officers to the ground. The officers were beaten badly before managing to escape
and flee back to headquarters.
The mob broke down the door and entered Brooks Brothers. However, it was pitch
black inside. Windows were broken out while the gas was turned back on. The store
was ablaze with light. Crowds milled in and out for a while, taking what they could
carry out the door with them. The mob was almost done looting when Sergeant Delaney and
a small force bore down on them. The mob was armed, and gunshots were heard. The police
then drew their revolvers and a gunfight erupted in the street. Rioters scrambled over
fallen bodies trying to escape. The police pushed their way into the store.
The rioters on the first floor didn't put up any resistance, but jumped through windows
in an attempt to escape. It would be different on the second floor. Another gunfight
erupted on the second floor. Finally the police were able to force the rioters to the
rear of the building, where they remained until they could be put in custody. Once the
store was completely cleared, the military guarded it for the remainder of the riots.
While Brooks Brothers was under attack, a mob attempted to burn the Tribune building, but
failed. Nearby, in the office of the New York Times, staffers prepared for a similar fate by
arming themselves. The mobs never bothered them.
Police Captain Petty was ordered to take two hundred man and go protect a wire factory on
Second Avenue. Petty, with ten police officers behind him, chased a mob
up the factory stairway, to the fifth story, clubbing rioters as they went. When they
reached the top, the police fought hand-to-hand with the rioters. At one point, eight
bodies lay blocking the doorway.
At City Hall, Mayor Opdyke asked for police protection, fearing an attack from the mob
gathering outside. Governor Seymour, who was at the St. Nicholas Hotel, hurried over
to City Hall and addressed the rioters from the steps, pleading with them to give up and
return home. The mob listened quietly.
Archbishop Hughes, yielding to pressure from Mayor Opdyke, addressed the Irish of the city,
asking them to refrain from violence. At the same time, Hughes sent a letter to Horace
Greeley explaining that the Irish of the city had been oppressed and it was time the war
ended. Critics charged Hughes of sympathizing with the rioters, rather than calling for peace.
The mobs over on Eighth and Ninth Avenues began to assemble
barricades across the streets. Their purpose was twofold:
to slow down the advance of the police and soldiers and to give
the mob a point from which to rally an attack. As the afternoon
wore on, the barricades were strengthened by wiring telegraph
poles, carts and wagons together.
Headquarters knew of the barricades and dispatched police and
Army regulars to handle the situation. A request was sent to
General Sandford at the arsenal for reinforcements, which never
came. The officers on the scene waited until dusk, but seeing
that no back-up was coming, pressed on with a charge.
As the police and soldiers advanced on the first barricade at
Thirty-seventh Street, a rain of bullets came at them, followed
by stones and bricks. The police fell back, while the Army
regulars kept advancing and firing. The rioters stayed their
position. Both sides exchanged shots until the mob fled back
to the second barricade.
The police moved, dismantling the first barricade, while the
soldiers advanced on the second. More gunshots were exchanged;
the soldiers advancing and the mob holding its ground. When
the soldiers got too close to the barricade, the mob fled to the
next one. The scene repeated itself at every barricade, until
the last one at Forty-third Street.
After the last barricade was taken by the police, the mob fled
in all directions. The soldiers were fast on their heels,
firing into the crowds.
George W. Walling:
...at the request of General Sanford, I conveyed
a large number of colored persons, who had taken refuge in the Arsenal, to my
station. This was crowded already, but I managed to stow them away somehow, the
officers and men giving up their rooms. Barricades had been erected by the mob
on Ninth Avenue, at certain intervals, all the way from Twenty-sixth to Forty-second
Street. These obstructions were constructed of carts, bricks, wagons, etc., the
vehicles being lashed together with telegraph wires, or anything else that came to
hand. Many of the rioters had fire-arms. They could be seen not only behind the
barricades, but on the house-tops.
My instructions were simply to "clear the streets," and a company of Zouaves having
been sent to support us, we proceeded to obey orders. We advanced towards the first
barricade at the "double quick" with the soldiers in our rear. When within a short
distance of it we were greeted by a sharp volley of pistol shots, with an occasional
bullet from a musket by way of variety. Fortunately most of the balls passed over our
heads, but it was warm work. The barricade could not be carried by the police alone, so
we deployed to the right and left, thus allowing the soldiers space in which to
manuevre and return the fire of the mob. This they did, and the rioters retreated.
Barricade No. 1 was won.
The police then went to the front, but were again greeted with a volley from the mob,
while the Zouaves, in skirmishing order, occupied the sidewalks, getting a shot at the
rioters whenever they exposed themselves.
Even after so many years one or two tragical incidents come to my mind in connection with
this sad affair as distinctly as though they happened yesterday. One was that of a rioter
who had stationed himself with a musket at the corner of an intersecting street, and was
firing at us as fast as he could load, simply poking the muzzle of his gun round, he being
protected by the angle of the house. One of the Zouaves saw this trick, and, watching his
opportunity, fired completely through the wooden house, killing the man instantly.
Another fellow on top of a house made himself very conspicuous during the conflict by
taking a shot at either the police or the soldiers, and then dodging behind one of the
chimneys. He tried this once too often. Suddenly, while I was watching him, he threw
up his arms and fell headlong to the street with a rifle ball through the very centre of his
Every inch of ground was disputed by the now desperate rioters, but slowly and surely we
advanced. One by one we captured the remaining barricades with the aid of the soldiers, until
our task was accomplished.
This area was the scene of disturbances up until after midnight. Around
9 PM, the police broke up an attack on a gun store. At midnight, a
mob tried to destroy a black church on Thirtieth Street, but were
repelled by soldiers.
The promised reinforcements never appeared that night. Seven hundred
soldiers were holed up at the arsenal. The police needed them in the
streets. Acting Police Commissioner Thomas C. Acton - who had replaced the
badly injured John Kennedy - tried appealing to Governor Seymour for
the men to be released, but was initially turned down. Finally, after
much arguing, a
company was released to police headquarters.
George W. Walling:
...the police under my command, together with the Zouaves, returned
to the station. While there, waiting for orders, the Governor (Horatio
Seymour), accompanied by Alderman John Hardy, came up and I accosted them.
Alderman Hardy said to me:
"The Governor and myself have been over on Ninth Avenue, and found a number
of persons there killed in the fight. It's too bad."
"I can't help that," was my reply. "They were there behind their barricades,
and we had orders to clear the street. If there were any innocent persons
there, I regret it very much. But such persons had no business there; they
should have got out of the way when ordered to disperse. It's certain they
were there, and gave encouragement to the rioters by their presence. If they
come back," I added, after a pause, "I shall attack them again and serve them
in the same way."
Turning to the Governor, I asked him:
"Have you anything to say, sir; or any orders to give?"
The Governor's reply was: "Take your orders from your official superiors."
Both then walked away.
Night brought little relief to New York City. George W. Walling:
We marched back to the station only to find that our duties for that day were
by no means ended. At night, word was brought that the mob had attacked a church
in Twenty-seventh Street belonging to a colored congregation, and that we must
disperse the rioters.
No time was lost in getting to the scene of action, but the rioters were well
prepared to give us a warm reception. They had thrown out a line of pickets to
warn them of our approach. It happened that several fire-engines were passing through
the street at the time, and mixing with the party of firemen we approached close to
the church without attracting much attention.
The building was occupied by the rioters, and no sooner was our presence
made known than we were greeted with a sharp fusillade from pistols, muskets, shotguns, etc.
My men returned the fire with their revolvers, and this was the first time during the
day that the police under my command had recourse to fire-arms. But now they did use
them they proved most effective, as the following incident will show:
One of the rioters had straddled the ridge-pole of the church, and was hacking away
at the timbers with an axe. The outline of his form stood out boldly against the sky,
and he was in full view of the crowd. His actions were watched with great interest,
and I kept my eye on him, as did everyone else. Presently the arm of one of my men was
slowly raised to the proper level, there was a flash and a report, and the man on the
roof disappeared from sight. Next day his body was found at the rear of the church. The
bullet had lodged in his skull, and death must have been instantaneous.
That shot was followed by a howl of rage from the rioters, who attacked us in a savage
and determined manner. We also set to work with a will, clubbing our opponents must
unmercifully. The neighborhood was cleared in short order.
A mob attempted to
burn the Harlem Bridge, but were unsuccessful due to the rainstorms of
the night before. Mobs were gathered outside the Western Hotel and
other establishments, but were dispersed before any damage could be done.
Most of the mobs had gone home by midnight, though there were scattered
problems. At police headquarters, exhausted policemen slept on the floor.
Outside, soldiers and policemen were stationed at various points around
the city. The streets were mostly deserted. Houses and businesses were shuttered.
George W. Walling:
Before this a tragic occurrence was added to my day's experience.
I was standing on Eighth Avenue, at Thirty-fifth Street, late in the
afternoon, when six or eight burly-looking fellows, armed with clubs,
marched up the street. In the middle of the block was a hardware store kept
by a man named Heiser, and there it was that the party of ruffians
stopped. The one who was evidently the leader was flourishing a heavy
cart rung, with which he attempted to smash in the door. Heiser dealt
in guns and pistols among other things, and if these men succeeded in
getting into the store they would arm themselves and their comrades. I
was alone, and there was no time to waste in seeking assistance. The
fellow with the cart rung plied his weapon with such energy and strength
that at the third or fourth blow he split the door in two. It so happened
that his club stuck in the crack, and while he was endeavoring to pull it
out I rushed forward and struck him a terrible blow on the head with my
locust. He fell to the pavement as if he had been shot. His companions,
who made no attempt to attack me, put him in a wagon and hauled him away.
A doctor was afterwards sent for to attend him, but his only remark on
seeing the patient was:
"He doesn't want a doctor. He needs an undertaker."
The man was dead!
Wednesday, July 15, 1863: Day Three
By Wednesday morning, July 15, New York City was occupied
territory. Gunboats silently patrolled the rivers. Marines stood on guard at the
Brooklyn Navy Yard, while six war ships, fully armed, watched from the water.
Within the city, soldiers were quartered in private houses, churches and police
Six warships sailed into the harbor this morning, carrying a total of ninety
guns. A gunboat lay off the Battery to protect Fort Columbus. Businesses and
residences stayed shuttered.
New Yorkers awoke to read Governor Seymour's proclamation, written the previous day,
now published in the newspaper. It had also been printed and distributed as fliers:
To the People of the City of New York:
A riotous demonstration in your city, originating in opposition to the conscription
of soldiers for the military service of the United States, has swelled into vast
proportions, directing its fury against the lives and property of peaceful citizens.
I know that many of those who have participated in these proceedings would not have
allowed themselves to be carried to such extremes of violence and of wrong except
under an apprehension of injustice; but such persons are reminded that the only
opposition to the conscription which can be allowed is an appeal to the courts. The
right of every citizen to make such an appeal will be maintained, and the decision
of the courts must be respected and obeyed by rulers and people alike. No other course
is consistent with the maintenance of the laws, the peace and order of the city, and the
safety of its inhabitants. Riotous proceedings must and shall be put down. The
laws of the State of New York must be enforced, its peace and order maintained, and
the lives and property of all its citizens protected at every hazard.
The rights of every citizen will be properly guarded and defended by the Chief
Magistrate of the State.
I do therefore call upon all persons engaged in these riotous proceedings to retire
to their homes and employments, declaring to them that unless they do so at once I
shall use all the power necessary to restore the peace and order of the city.
I also call upon all well-disposed persons, not enrolled for the preservation of
order, to pursue their ordinary avocations. Let all citizens stand firmly by the
constituted authorities, sustaining law and order in the city, and ready to answer
any such demand as circumstances may render necessary for me to make upon their services;
and they may rely upon a rigid enforcement of the laws of the State against all who violate them.
Horatio Seymour, Governor
Seymour had also drafted an order for all citizens to report to one of the designated
areas to become part of a citizen organization.
Early this Wednesday morning, a mob was prowling through the African-American
neighborhoods around East Twenty-eighth Street. They chose a house at
random, broke in and began to loot the building. The residents fled just
as the house was set on fire. One of the tenants, 7 year old Joseph Reed,
became separated from his family in the confusion and the mob seized him. A group of
male rioters gathered around Reed, beating him with sticks and hitting him with
cobblestones. A large man stepped forward from the crowd and struck Reed on
the temple with the stock of his pistol. Just as Reed hit the ground, a young
fireman, John F. McGovern of Company 39, ran to his rescue. McGovern single-
handedly held the mob at bay while scooping the unconscious boy into his arms.
He carried Reed to safety. Reed would die from a severe head trauma the following
Military reinforcements sent by Lincoln, most fresh off the battlefield of
Gettysburg, began arriving. Colonel William F. Berens of the 65th Regiment of the
New York State National Guard, arrived in New York City with his troops
on Wednesday morning. Immediately upon docking, he experienced
the anger of the mobs:
On the way from the dock, a large mob gathered about and attempted
to get possession of two Negroes who were serving as cooks with the
artillery company of the Eighth New York National Guard. I protected
them from harm by placing them amidst the battery and protecting the
same by a company thrown on either flank.
Two companies from the 65th were assigned to guard the treasury buildings
on Wall Street, while four companies were sent to restore order in Union
Square. Berens himself, would experience more trouble as he headed for
Seward's Shell Factory on 17th Street:
On arriving at the corner of Avenue A and Twenty-second street, I was fired
into by the mob. I wheeled my men into line to return the fire, and the mob skedaddled.
I then passed on a block farther, to the corner of Twenty-third street, when the mob
gathered in upon my company from both directions on Twenty-third street, and
commenced at once to fire upon us. I returned the fire, and kept up the street,
firing, until I arrived at Twenty-eighth street. Finding my small company of
only 28 men, besides the men serving the howitzer, too small to disperse so
large a mob as had collected, I dispatched Quartermaster Flack to headquarters,
on Mulberry street, for re-enforcements. The mob seemed to be very generally armed.
I then fought my way through the mob to the factory. One of my men was wounded,
and several of the crowd were killed and wounded by our fire. On arriving at the
factory, we found the door closed. I forced the door, and took possession.
The mob gathered heavily around the factory and fired upon us. We returned their fire,
and afterward sallied out upon them and drove them up Twenty-eighth street, as
far as the corner of First avenue, and dispersed them.
At 2 p.m. Quartermaster R. Flack arrived with Companies A and D. At about 5 p.m.
a priest came to me as a commissioner from the riotous populace, and urged me to
quit the factory and return, stating the people agreed that if I did so the factory
should not be injured. He stated further that the crowd threatened that if we did not
leave they would burn us out. He implored me to accept the proposal, saying that he
feared the worst consequences; that the mob was about 4,000 strong--altogether too
large for my weak force to resist--and that he could not control or restrain them. I reported the
offer made to me by the priest to General Brown. His answer was, to hold the place at
all events, and to disperse the assemblage about me at the point of the bayonet, if necessary.
Previous to the receipt of this response from General Brown, however, having refused the
offered compromise, and the priest having retired beyond the reach of harm, and the crowd
gathering heavily around the building we occupied, I found it necessary to open fire upon them,
which was kept up until our assailants were
driven back behind the corners of the neighboring streets.
At 3 PM, African-American Mrs. Staat decided to visit her son, William Henry Nichols on East
Twenty-eighth Street. A mob saw her enter the house and immediately surrounded the building.
They showered the house with stones, bricks and assorted bric-a-brac they found in the street.
Mr. Nichols was not the only resident of the building. Upstairs from him, was a new mother -- her baby
only three days old. The rioters broke through the front door of the building with axes and rushed inside.
Nichols and his mother fled to safety in the basement. The rioters ran through every floor of the building,
eventually finding the mother and her new baby. The baby was wrestled from the mother's arms and thrown
from the window to the street below.
Ten residents of the building had taken refuge in the basement. The rioters axed through the buildings
water pipes, causing water to flood the basement. The residents, mostly women and children, fled the
basement as quickly as they could -- running out into the back yard. As they were attempting to climb
over the fence, Mrs. Staat fell behind -- too tired to make the jump. The mob immediately set upon her. Her son,
William Nichols, sprang to her defense, imploring the mob to Save my mother, if you must, kill me.
Mrs. Staat was released and two rioters grabbed Mr. Nichols. They held each arm, while a third rioter,
armed with a crowbar, hit Nichols repeatedly in the head. Mrs. Staat fled to safety. William Nichols
died at New York Hospital two days later.
While the mob spent most of its energies in the last two days looting and attacking policemen and soldiers,
they used day three to focus their hatred on the city's African-Americans. At around 3 PM, the same time
William Nichols' house was being overrun, a mob attacked and set fire to a building on Second Avenue that
was occupied by African-Americans. The residents fled in terror while flames consumed the building.
The mob then prowled along Second Avenue, hunting down their escaping victims.
The police wired headquarters, requesting reinforcements. They were slow in coming. By 4 PM, the mob
had caught five or six African-Americans and was preparing to hang them. The police of the Twenty-first
precinct again wired for immediate reinforcements.
After killing Mr. Nichols over on Seventh Avenue and Twenty-eighth Street, the mob threatened to cut
off the Croton Reservoir. Soldiers arrived in time to prevent the service disruption. At the same time,
a riot erupted on Pier 4 on the North River. A group of African-Americans were viciously beaten to death.
While mobs were killing African-Americans all over the city, General Sandford was having another problem at the arsenal.
He telegraphed police headquarters that the arsenal was so full of African-Americans who had come seeking protection, that if
headquarters didn't do something about it immediately, he would turn them back out into the streets. Acting Police
Superintendent Acton and General Brown were horrified at the prospect and wired Sandford to keep them inside and do the best he could.
General Sandford had the same number of men underneath him at the arsenal that General Brown had at police headquarters.
However, Sandford had not sent out any reinforcements in the last two days. He had little communication with General Brown
at police headquarters and firmly believed the worst of the riot to be over by the third day. Sandford thought the police
were now capable of handling any disturbances without the aid of the military. (This would be a matter of contention between
Sandford and Brown in the aftermath of the riots.)
Day Three of the riots passed in much the same way as the previous two days.
Telegraphed reports flew
into police headquarters, describing mob activity. Buildings burned at
the corner of Thirty-third and
Second Avenue, government stores down on Liberty Street were ablaze,
buildings at the corner of Catharine
and East Broadway were on fire, stores were looted on Houston Street.
The police station in the Twenty-first
precinct was overrun by the mob and all the police fled.
Citizens began pouring into police stations, offering their services
to help quell the riot. One company of noncombatants was formed
and placed under the command of Charles A. Lamont. Other citizens
were enrolled as policemen for the day and placed on duty.
Nineteen-year old African-American Joseph Jackson was gathering
driftwood down by the East River in which to heat his house with when
he was seized by a mob. They beat him bloody and tossed his body
into the river.
Early in the afternoon, word reached headquarters of a cache of
muskets in a store on Broadway, near Thirty-third Street. Colonel
Meyer was sent out to recover the muskets, with the aid of fifty-three
soldiers from Hawkins' Zouaves. Upon reaching their destination,
Meyer found a large mob gathering, its size increasing by the moment.
The soldiers pushed their way into the building and seized the muskets.
As the mob closed around them on the street, a cart happened to drive
by. Meyer grabbed the driver, explaining the situation to the Irishman,
and the cart was offered as a getaway. The guns were thrown in the
back. The Zouaves surrounded it as it drove away.
A battery of rifled cannon arrived at the Seventh Regiment Armory and
immediately put into position in the street. Pickets had been firing
all day, and an attack in the area looked imminent -- even though Sandford had thought
the riot basically over. Towards evening, Sandford received word that
a mob was gathering on First Avenue, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth
Streets. A force was sent out under Colonels Winston and Jardine consisting of regular
soldiers and citizens. They stopped on Nineteenth Street, set out the
howitzers and placed the infantry in front. When the rioters spotted the
big guns, they fled in every direction -- into basements and onto rooftops.
Many of the rioters were armed with pistols and muskets and those that were,
took up position along the rooftops. The howitzers opened fire and cleared
the street of any rioters who were left. When the howitzers were silenced,
rioters fired back. The rain of bullets from the rooftops was incessant. The
soldiers tried to pick them off, but had a hard time as they presented a small
mark. Since the soldiers presented a large target down in the street, the
fight soon turned towards victory for the rioters.
Pinned down in the street, Colonel Jardine weighed the prospect of having his
soldiers storm the building. Suddenly, a rioter stepped from behind a building,
and resting his gun on the shoulder of another rioter, fired at Jardine. Jardine
was hit in the thigh, knocking him down on the pavement. Rioters opened fire again,
and officers began to drop. As the howitzers were failing to hit any rioters, though
they were tearing the buildings apart, and seeing many of his men falling, Colonel
Winston ordered an immediate retreat. As soon as the infantry began to withdraw, the
mob swarmed into the street and gave chase.
In the ensuing panic to escape, many
wounded and killed soldiers were left where they lay, including Colonel Jardine.
Jardine managed to limp off the street and take refuge in a basement, where the mob
soon found him. They were yelling for him to be strung up, when a rioter stepped
forward, recognizing Jardine as an old friend. This man protected the Colonel from
further harm and carried him to a surgeon in the area.
The mob had control of Nineteenth Street and police headquarters was not happy. General
Brown sent down one-hundred-fifty men under Captains Putnam and Shelby, along with two
field guns. Putnam's orders were to not only disperse the mob, but to bring back the
wounded and dead soldiers. The Captains were in place by 11 PM. The dim street was still
packed with rioters. Upon word of the approaching soldiers, rioters again took to the
rooftops with guns. Without hesitation, Putnam and his men charged into the middle of the
mob, sending them in every direction. The two field guns then opened fire on the buildings,
clearing them just as quickly. Putnam and his men remained on Nineteenth Street, collecting
the dead and wounded until after midnight.
While the battle for Nineteenth Street was still being determined, fights were taking place
all over the city. Houses in African-American neighborhoods were being torn down, piece by piece, leaving
a pile of rubble. Looted houses were burned to the ground. The night air was filled with the
sounds of fire bells, gunfire, cannon-fire and smoke. Disturbances were beginning to break out
over on the Brooklyn docks, as stores were set on fire.
African-Americans Jeremiah Robinson and his wife, decided to flee the city for the safety of Brooklyn
on this night. Believing that Mr. Robinson would go unmolested in the streets if in disguise, his
wife dressed him in some of her clothes. Even though he wore a hooded cape, there was nothing that
hid Robinson's beard. As the couple turned off Catherine Street onto Madison, they encountered a mob.
Two boys saw Robinson's beard, and proceeded to lift his skirt, exposing his heavy boots. The mob
set upon Robinson in rage, beating and mutilating him. When he was dead, the mob threw Robinson's
body into the river. Mrs. Robinson fled up Madison and eventually took refuge in Brooklyn.
A crowd of rioters were prowling Clarkson Street in search of an African-American male who had
escaped from their clutches when they came upon William Jones. Jones was returning from the
local bakery with a loaf of bread under his arm when he was grabbed. The mob beat him close to
death, then hanged him from a lamppost. They then made a large bonfire under his feet, passing
around liquor bottles while they warmed themselves. Jones' remains were beyond recognition. For
two weeks, two different women, both in search of their lost husbands, returned to the scene to
try to glean some sort of information about the victim. Mary Jones was finally able to identify
the remains as her husband after an eyewitness reported that the victim had a loaf of bread with
him. Mary had sent her husband to the store for bread that day, and he never returned.
African-American Ann Derrickson was enduring her own nightmare on York Street. A mob had grabbed
her twelve year old son. After dousing him with kerosene, they fastened a rope around his neck
and prepared to hang from the lamppost. White residents from the area, who had been patrolling
on their own to help quell the violence, rushed to the young boys defense. They beat off the mob
and untied the rope, just as the police arrived on the scene. Mrs. Derrickson, pushing through
the crowd to get to her son, was grabbed by a fleeing rioter and beaten to death with a cart rung.
Police Superintendent Acton had gone 48 hours without sleep, and was about to forgo it another
night. The telegraphs at headquarters worked incessantly through the third night. Acton was
anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Seventh Regiment, sent from Gettysburg, and due in at any
moment. A special police force was sent down to the trains to await their arrival. However,
Acton and his men would have to wait all night.
Thursday, July 16, 1863: Day Four
At half past four on Thursday morning, July 16, Superintendent
Acton's prayers were answered. The Seventh Regiment had marched
up Canal Street towards Broadway, and were amassing outside the
St. Nicholas Hotel.
The morning newspapers were full of statements from church, city
and state officials. Governor Seymour's second proclamation, also
drawn up on July 14, appeared:
Whereas, It is manifest that combinations for forcible resistance
to the laws of the State of New York and the execution of civil
and criminal process exist in the city and county of New York,
whereby the peace and safety of the city and the lives and property
of its inhabitants are endangered: and
Whereas, The power of the said city and county has been exerted, and
is not sufficient to enable the officers of the said city and county
to maintains the laws of the State and execute the legal process of
its officers; and
Whereas, Application has been made to me by the Sheriff of the city
and county of New York to declare the said city and county to be in
a state of insurrection:
Now, therefore, I, Horatio Seymour, Governor of the State of New York
and Commander-in-Chief of the forces of the same, do, in its name and
by its authority, issue this proclamation in accordance with the
statute in such cases made and provided and do hereby declare the city
and county of New York to be in a state of insurrection; and give notice
to all persons that the means provided by the laws of this State for
the maintenance of law and order will be employed to whatever degree
may be necessary, and that all persons who shall, after the publication
of this proclamation, 'resist, or aid in resisting, any force ordered
out by the Governor to quell or suppress such insurrection' will render
themselves liable to the penalties prescribed by law.
New York, July 14, 1863
A proclamation from Mayor Opdyke appeared in the newspapers this
morning. In it, Opdyke declared the insurrection to be basically
ended. (This was news to the exhausted police and soldiers.)
He called on New York City residents to aid the police and military,
by forming citizen bands to patrol their own neighborhoods. He
also asked everyone to return to their normal daily routines and for
the railroads and stage lines to resume their routes.
At the same time, the City Council had declared the draft to be
officially suspended in New York City. The council went so far
as to appropriate .5 million towards paying the commutation fee
for any poor man who may be drafted.
Also appearing in the newspapers that morning was an invitation from
Archbishop Hughes to all the Irish in the city:
To the men of New York, who are now called in many of the papers rioters.
I am not able, owing to rheumatism in my limbs, to visit you, but
that is not a reason why you should not pay me a visit in your whole
strength. Come, then, tomorrow (Friday) at two o'clock, to my residence,
northwest corner of Madison Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street.
There is abundant space for the meeting, around my house. I can address
you from the corner of the balcony. If I should not be able to stand
during its delivery, you will permit me to address you sitting; my voice
is much stronger than my limbs. I take upon myself the responsibility
of assuring you, that in paying me this visit or in retiring from it, you
shall not be disturbed by any exhibition of municipal or military presence.
You, who are Catholics, or as many of you as are, have a right to visit your
bishop without molestation.
Archbishop of New York
New York, July 16, 1863
On Day Four, the police commissioners and General Brown changed their
strategy. Rather than having the military rendezvous at police
headquarters, they divided the city into four districts, and placed a
strong force of soldiers and police within each district. The districts
consisted of Harlem, the Eighteenth, Twenty-sixth and Twenty-ninth
There was some semblance of normalcy in New York City that morning.
Streetcars on Eighth Avenue were again running, as well as those over
on Third Avenue. Stores in this area were again opening for business.
However, over on the East side of the city, businesses remained closed
along First Avenue.
The streets were still littered with the debris from the combat: bricks,
stones, glass, wood, etc. Tenement houses in the poor sections of the city
were filled with wounded, dead and dying rioters. Saloons in these areas
opened for business, and wounded rioters poured in for drinks. In the poor
areas, women stood in their doorways, cursing the military and the police.
The Seventh Regiment was stationed on the West side of the city, given a larger
area to protect than the other regiments. Yet the morning remained relatively
At around noon, police headquarters was informed of a small mob menacing the
military in the Twenty-first Precinct. A small group of police, numbering only
twenty-five men, were sent out to help. Upon reaching the spot, they discovered
that the mob numbered about two hundred. As the soldiers were trying to load their
howitzer, the mob rushed them, seizing the howitzer and sending the soldiers scrambling
to take refuge in Jackson's Foundry at First Avenue and Twenty-eighth Street.
As they awaited military reinforcements from headquarters, the mob kept increasing in
size. Whenever a soldier attempted to take up a position to fire on the mob, he was
shot. As the reinforcements arrived, the mob attacked. The soldiers fired into the
mob, but the mob gave no ground. The military backed up to the corner of First and
Twenty-eighth. The mob delighted in the apparent retreat of the military and started
to jeer them. Just then, a band of soldiers appeared with bayonets affixed and charged
the mob. The rioters fell back, only to rush the soldiers again, and cause the soldiers
to fall back. The tug-of-war continued until word of the street skirmish reached the
The Seventh marched through the streets, unharmed through crowds of rioters, to the
Twenty-first Precinct. When the mob at Twenty-eighth Street spotted the large column
of soldiers, they fled back to Twenty-ninth, where they proceeded to loot businesses.
Word reached police headquarters and another military force was sent out. As soon as
the rioters saw the arriving soldiers, they attacked. Rioters had taken up positions
in the buildings along Twenty-ninth, shooting from windows and rooftops. Eyewitnesses
reported that the gunfire kept up incessantly for a half hour. A sergeant was hit in
the head with a brick thrown from a rooftop. When he hit the ground, the rioters grabbed
him and beat him to death.
Unable to make any headway against the rioters, the soldiers began to retreat, leaving
the body of their sergeant in the street. General Brown did not have any more reinforcements
to send, so the mob kept control of the area for most of the day. At around 9 PM, Captain
Putnam was sent back with reinforcements. Arriving on the scene, Putnam pleaded with the mob
to allow his men to remove the
body of their fallen sergeant. As the body was being placed in a wagon, the mob attacked.
The soldiers opened fire and the mob scattered, regrouping at Second Avenue and Thirty-first
Street, where they were joined by more rioters.
The rioters took up positions again along rooftops and in windows. The soldiers appeared on
the street, and the mob opened fire. Putting their field cannons in position, the soldiers
opened fire, bodies piling up in the street. However, the assault from the rooftops hadn't
been abated. Putnam ordered his men to open fire on the buildings. This proved ineffective
as the rioters were deeply entrenched. Captain Putnam finally ordered the buildings to be stormed.
As the soldiers advanced up the stairways, the rioters had no means of escape. They seemed to
prefer death to being taken prisoner, and fought with a vengeance the soldiers hadn't seen in the
previous days. For a half hour, bloody hand-to-hand combat took place within the buildings.
With their numbers rapidly thinning, the remaining rioters tried to run. Many who couldn't
escape, hid under beds and behind furniture. The soldiers found them all and brought them in
to police headquarters.
Friday, July 17, dawned brightly, bringing with it something
New York City hadn't seen all week -- peace. Omnibuses, full
of passengers, rumbled down the streets, businesses and residences
were unshuttered and opened, pedestrians again took to the
streets. The precincts that had seen some of the worst fighting,
were again quiet. No crowds assembled on the streets.
However, New York City itself, bore the look of a warzone.
Smoldering ruins replaced buildings. Broken barricades remained
in the streets. Buildings that were still standing showed broken
windows and damage from cannon fire. Lampposts and telegraph poles laid on the
The people who had rioted in the streets all week, stayed close to home.
Many retired to local saloons to nurse their wounds and trade
war stories. They hid their battered faces from patrolling policemen.
Police had already begun the tireless task of searching for looted
goods in the poor neighborhoods. In dirty cellars and squalid
apartments, the police retrieved priceless art, antique vases,
expensive garments and jewelry.
Approximately five thousand people met with Archbishop Hughes at
his residence. Although the crowd consisted mainly of those who
had rioted, noticeable by all the bruised faces and broken limbs,
the assembly was peaceful. Critics complained that Hughes had
acted too late to have done any good.
Relief was abundant at police headquarters. Acton settled down
to the first amount of sleep he had had in five days. Exhausted
police officers also snoozed on the floors.
There was one big surprise for General Brown on this day. After
fighting side-by-side with the police all week to save the city,
he received word from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in Washington:
he was being immediately replaced by General Canby. Upon relinquishing
his command, Brown spoke of his troops:
(They) engaged night and day in constant conflict with the mob,
they have in some fifteen or twenty severe contests -- in most of
them outnumbered more than ten to one, many of the mob being armed,
whipped and effectually dispersed them, and have been uniformly
successful. In not a single instance has assistance been required
by the police, when it has not been promptly rendered; and all
property, public and private, which has been under their protection,
has been perfectly and efficiently protected.
To Superintendent Acton and Commissioner Bergen, I offer my thanks for
their courtesy to me and their kindness to my command.
Mayor George Opdyke issued yet another proclamation on this sunny morning:
The riotous assemblages have been dispersed. Business is running in its
usual channels. The various lines of omnibuses, railway and telegraph have
resumed their ordinary operations. Few symptoms of disorder remain, except
ill a small district in the eastern part of the city, comprising a part of
the Eighteenth and Twenty-first Wards. The police is everywhere alert. A
sufficient military force is now here to suppress any illegal movement, however
Let me exhort you, therefore, to pursue your ordinary business. Avoid especially
all crowds. Remain quietly at your homes, except when engaged in business, or
assisting the authorities in some organized force. When the military appear in
the street, do not gather about it, being sure that it is doing its duty in
obedience to orders from superior authority. Your homes and places of business
you have a right to defend, and it is your duty to defend them, at all hazards.
Yield to no intimidation, and to no demand for money as the price of your safety.
If any person warns you to desist from your accustomed business, give no heed to
the warning, but arrest him and bring him to the nearest stationhouse as a
Be assured that the public authorities have the ability and the will to protect
you from those who have conspired alike against your peace, against the government
of your choice, and against the laws which your representatives have enacted.
During the riots, Governor Seymour had telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in
Washington, requesting a suspension of the draft. Seymour finally received his
answer. However, it was not the answer he wanted and it didn't come from Stanton:
Time is too important...We are contending with an enemy who, as I understand, drives
every able-bodied man he can reach into his ranks...No time is wasted, no argument is
used. This produces an army with a rapidity not to be matched on our side if we first
waste time to re-experiment with the volunteer system.... The draft was just and
constitutional, and yet practical, in performing the important duty with which I am
charged, of maintaining the unity and free principles of our common country.
New York City was America's most populous city by the 1860s,
and had already become its financial capitol. While America
had many ports of entry in the 19th century, New York City
was the number one port of entry for millions of immigrants
seeking a better life. By the end of July 1863, New York
City was also an occupied city. Approximately ten thousand
troops had set up camp in Manhattan to help preserve the peace.
The 65th Regimental Infantry of the New York State National
Guard had an impressive battle resume prior to July 1863:
Seven Pines, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and
Gettysburg. They were exhausted. With little or no rest
or rations, they were ordered to bring peace to the streets
of New York City. Now, in the calm after the storm, they
tried to process the horrendous events of the previous 16 days.
A telegram arrived at police headquarters:
5:45 PM From the Ninth Ward. The Colonel wishes his men be
allowed to have beer in the stationhouse.
Reply: Acton says he is opposed to beer, but the colonel can
give his men as much as he pleases. They have earned it.
Colonel William F. Berens and his men of the 65th, left New
York City on July 20, bound for Buffalo. They were replaced
in the city by the 152nd Regular New York Volunteers. The 65th
would go on to take part in the Battle of the Wilderness,
Spottsylvania and Appomattox.
The men of 7th Regimental Infantry of the New York State Militia
were mustered out of service on July 21, 1863. Historians have
complained that the 7th was underutilized during the riots.
Major-General Sandford and Brigadier-General Brown would go at it tooth and
nail after the riots. Brown complained to superiors that Sandford
never sent out reinforcements -- or at any rate, sent out very few.
The action of each general during the riots was closely scrutinized
and criticized by the other. Sandford claimed that all the troops
placed in New York City were under his command, as ordered by General Wool,
Commander of the Department of the East. Therefore, he could do
with them as he wished. Brown claimed to know nothing of this order
and argued that it was foolish for the military to take command
of quelling the riot when it was the police department who should
have been in charge. Brown continued to argue that the police
were in the best position to know which areas of the city needed
protection, how to get to these areas and which disturbances
needed to be taken care of first. Besides, all communiques went
through police headquarters. According to Brown, the military
was simply a cooperating force to the police department.
Sandford told superiors that he would have had the riots
under control by Monday night if all of his orders had not been
countermanded by General Brown and there had been no interference
from the police department. Brown was livid. He countercharged
the Sandford had holed himself up in the arsenal all week and would
have had no idea if the entire city had gone up in flames unless he
went up to the roof and looked around. Brown was also quick to
defend the tireless work of the police department -- men he worked
side-by-side with all week. Acton also jumped into the fray,
detailing how the defense of the arsenal was important, but that
his men and Brown's had secured the rest of the city. Acton reported
to the Board of Police Commissioners:
General Sandford's error consisted in not choosing to be in close
communication with this department, when alone through the police
telegraph, and other certain means, trustworthy information of the
movements of the mob could be promptly had.
Brigadier-General Brown had been replaced by Secretary of War Edwin
Stanton, but his unwavering support during the riots was not forgotten
by New York's Finest. In an address to the New York Police Department,
the Board of Police Commissioners said:
During the whole of those anxious days and nights, Brigadier-General
Brown remained at the Central Department, ordering the movements of
the military in carefully considered combinations with the police
force, and throughout the struggle, and until its close, commanded
the admiration and gratitude of the Police Department and all who
witnessed his firm intelligence and soldierly conduct.
In the judgment of this Board, the escape of the city from the power
of an infuriated mob is due to the aid furnished the police by
Brigadier-General Brown and the small military force under his command.
No one can doubt, who saw him, as we did, that during those anxious
and eventful days and nights Brigadier-General Harvey Brown was equal
to the situation, and was the right man in the right place. To the
soldiers under his command, we are grateful as to the brave men who
perilled all to save the city from a reign of terror.
It is unknown what Stanton or Sandford thought of the address.
Sandford, of the 1st Division New York State National Guard, would
forever claim that he and his men were solely responsible for bringing
peace to New York City. In a December 30, 1863, letter to
Brig. General John T. Spruce, Adjutant-General of the state of
New York, Sandford claimed that he sent out a total of 26 detachments
during the course of the riots to help quell the violence. He
also said that under his orders, his men secured the northern and
western sections of the city on July 13 and 14. Brown could only
shake his head in disbelief.
Police Superintendent John A. Kennedy would return to work a week
or so after the riots. Thomas C. Acton would return to his position
as President of the Board of Commissioners - with much relief. The
police suffered horribly during the riots. Approximately 80 police
officers were wounded; four were killed -- including one officer who
had been thrown off the roof of a building. Two police stations
were burned to the ground -- the 18th on East 22nd Street and the
23rd on East 86th Street.
George W. Walling:
I am entirely aware that resistance to the draft was the first incentive
to these disturbances; but in New York, as in all large centres of population,
where any set of men makes a demonstration to ventilate its grievances, there
will always be grouped around this party of malcontents the very worst elements
of society. Aside from the strictly criminal classes - always ready to take
advantage of any local troubles in order to carry on their peculiar vocations - there
is a large body of idle persons, with no interests at stake, who amalgamate
with the thieves for the purpose of sharing in the plunder. At times, when the
utmost license has been rampant, this class has formed a most dangerous element. I
really know of no instance of a riot occurring in New York, or in any other large
city, during which robbery did not play a prominent part. A riot, or disturbance,
is the thief's opportunity, and he is sure to take advantage of it. For more than
a year after the draft-riots various articles, stolen during the disturbances from the
houses of well-to-do citizens, were discovered by the police in different parts of the
city. Furniture, carpets, china and other articles of domestic character were
carried off, and in some instances tapestry carpets, valuable rugs and rich
hangings were found decorating some of the most squalid and poverty-stricken
shanties on Manhattan Island.
The police resumed their regular patrols, but now in pairs.
There was fear that a lone police officer was not safe. Recovery
efforts of stolen goods continued in the poorer neighborhoods for
over a week. Police retrieved some strange articles, including
barrels of bird seed, sugar and starch. The people in possession
of the stolen articles claimed they found them in the streets and
took them in to prevent them from being destroyed. Arrests were
made on a daily basis. Officers watched over the docks to make
sure stolen goods weren't ferried out of the city.
It's estimated that as many as 50,000 people took part in the riots.
The police were unable to arrest any of the leaders of the mobs,
though anyone believed to have taken part in the riots was taken
in. Most of these prisoners were indicted. Twenty people would
be tried for taking part in the riots, with nineteen convictions.
It would cost the city million (.1 million today) to bring these
individuals to trial.
The physical damage to New York City was catastrophic. An
untold number of houses and buildings were destroyed. Parts
of city blocks were now gone -- nothing remained but smoldering
ruins. The cost of the physical damage was $1.5 million -- or
approximately .5 million today.
Much more than the physical damage, was the emotional and
psychological toll on the citizens of New York City - especially
African-Americans. During the riots, many had fled the city
to take refuge on Blackwell's Island, in the woods of Bergen
New Jersey or in the fields of Long Island. Those who remained
in the city, hid at police stations or at the arsenal. Now they
faced the hurdle of returning to their homes.
Those who did return to the city, came back in apprehension and fear.
The hatred that had been directed at them all week could still be felt.
African-Americans wandered the ruins of what had once been their homes,
trying to salvage something. It is believed that as many as 5,000
African-Americans were left homeless after the riots. Even if their houses
were left standing, many found their homes looted of all possessions.
Family members haunted the police stations, trying to determine what had
happened to their missing loved ones. Most were directed to the city morgue.
Many African-Americans would either refuse to return to New York City, or
after finding everything gone, would leave quickly. By 1865, New York City's
African-American population had decreased by 20% -- from 12,472 (in 1860)
The exact number of casualties from the riots are unknown. Many
of the rioters who were killed by the police or military were
left in the streets. Family and friends would come later to remove
the bodies. The exact number of African-Americans killed is also
not known. Estimates of casualties on all sides is believed to be anywhere
110 to over a thousand. Even the approximations of loss brought out
the partisanship of the city's leaders. Democrats claimed the Republican
propagandists exaggerated the figures to make their constituents look bad
and put their estimate at 74 victims at the most.
New York City's merchants banded together and raised approximately
,000 for relief of the city's African-American victims and also to
help rebuild the Colored Orphans Asylum. Approximately twenty-seven thousand
dollars was set aside for rebuilding the Orphan Asylum, while the
balance was to be distributed between the victim's families. The
Committee set up shop on Fourth Street, near Broadway, to disperse funds.
On July 24, the first day the doors opened, approximately 3000
African-Americans showed up to receive relief. If an applicant was believed
express need, he or she was given a set fee that didn't exceed . By
August 21, a total of 12,782 African-Americans had received relief.
Life would be equally difficult for New York City's Irish, but in a
vastly different way. The Irish were deeply hated through the late
1840s and 1850s. The Nativist party had been fading. The gallantry
and bravery of the Irish on the battlefields of the Civil War, on
both sides, had begun to change public thinking. Northerners reveled
in the glorious stories of New York's legendary Fighting 69th, the 28th
Massachusetts and the 24th Pennsylvania Irish. Prior to the war, these men
were viewed as drunken, violent good-for-nothings who would never be loyal to
the early years of the war, these same men were viewed as brave
defenders of freedom by those who supported the Northern war effort.
Maybe, some of them began to think, they were wrong in their suppositions
on the Irish. However, one week in July 1863 would undo it all.
Nativist thinking would be on the uprise again. Talk again returned
to closing America's borders to immigration. Cartoons would continue to
the Irish as violent, drunken monkeys.
While not all of the rioters were Irish, the Irish did comprise a
large majority of the mobs. They rioted alongside their poor
German and American neighbors. Talk would always be of the Irish
rioters. There is little talk of the Irish who gave their all to
bring peace to their city -- the police, the soldiers, the average
citizen who risked their lives to save their neighbors; the firefighters who
risked their lives to not only battle the blazes, but had to fight the mob
off to do their jobs. The newspapers didn't talk about firefighter John
McGovern, who risked his life to save a small African-American boy from a
lynch mob. They didn't mention the police, many of whom were Irish, who
offered food and comfort to the African-Americans who had taken refuge at the
station houses. They are the forgotten heroes of this immense tragedy.
And as for the draft? It would resume in New York City on August
19, without any further disturbances. Throughout the North, the draft
would raise 150,000 troops -- only 1/5 of the Union's total forces. Of
the 150,000 troops raised, a full 3/4 were paid substitutes -- most of whom
were newly arrived Irish and German immigrants.
George W. Walling:
The draft-riot was certainly the most serious uprising that has ever
occurred in New York, both in the area over which the disturbance extended
and in the number of persons engaged in it. The forces of the police at the
beginning of the trouble was not of sufficient strength to cope with the rioters
at all points at once; but whenever the police and the mob came in contact the
former were invariably the victors. No sooner, however, had the conflict ended in one
part of the city than it began in another. That the struggle would have been
prolonged and more disastrous had it not been for the aid of the military, there is
no doubt; but I believe the police would have subdued the mob eventually.
Whenever there are the slightest premonitions of a riot, an once of prevention is
worth more than a ton of cure in the shape of clubs or bullets. At the beginning of
such a conflict, a mob has no organization, and can be readily broken up.