The draft riots in New York.
Major T. P. M Elrath.
The story of the New York draft riots of 1863 has been related with more or less completeness by every historian of the civil war. No thoroughly accurate account, however, has yet been published.
The chroniclers appear to have confined their researches to surface events, and have been either ignorant of the true circumstances attending the suppression of the riots, or desirous of keeping those circumstances concealed.
At that particular juncture a large portion of the city's militia force was absent at the seat of war, a fact which gave rise to the opinion that the riots had been previously planned instead of being, as it really was, a sudden and spontaneous insurrection.
Through the same cause, also, the civil authorities were crippled, and the task of restoring order was thrown into the hands of the few Federal troops then stationed in the vicinity of New York.
It is probable that the city was a gainer in the end by this state of things, which in the outset appeared so unfortunate.
The interference which the regular troops encountered at the hands of the State
officers-growing out of the jealousy of the local militia commander-doubled the period of the rioters' triumph, and coupled with his inefficiency throughout, suggests forcibly what might have been the consequence, had he been in absolute command.
Early in the summer it had been announced from Washington
that a compulsory addition was to be made to the armies in the field by means of a general conscription.
The quota of the city of New York
was fixed at 12,500, and that of Brooklyn
at 5,000. Colonel Robert Nugent
, of the Sixty-ninth New York Volunteers--a captain
in the Thirteenth United States Infantry--was detailed as assistant provost marshal general, and established his headquarters in Leonard street. The business of his department was conducted with quiet discretion, and the bugbear of a draft, which at first had created great consternation, in the course of time lost its terrors, as people became accustomed to its contemplation.
Still there was a deep-seated hostility to the proposed conscription, which the political opponents of the war fostered as sedulously as they dared, with the hospitalities of Fort Lafayette and its-sturdy commandant, Martin Burke
, staring them in the face.
On Monday, June 29th, Governor Seymour
, in Albany
, received private information that a deep laid conspiracy was on foot in New York to resist the draft.
Hastening to the city the details of the plot were communicated to him from the same source, to the effect that a large body of deserters, 1,800 strong, acting in concert with another large body of “Copperheads” were banded together to oppose the draft.
Arms were to be obtained for the revolutionists by a simultaneous attack on the State arsenal in Seventh avenue, and on the Seventh Regiment armory, to be made during the night of July 3d, when it was believed that the noise and confusion attendant upon ushering in the national holiday would render the movements of the leaders in the daring project less liable to be observed.
held a council with Mayor Opdyke
and General Sanford
Strong guards were posted at the places threatened with attack.
The police authorities were privately notified, and Superintendent Kennedy
detailed trusty officers to watch the armories, and to report the slightest circumstance of an unusual character that might occur in their neighborhood.
Having made preparations for the assault General Sanford
left the city on Friday morning, confiding the management of affairs to General Spicer
The night passed quietly, however.
No attack was made, no conspirators exposed themselves to arrest, and the Governor
and the small circle whom he had admitted to his confidence satisfied themselves that the whole affair was a hoax, gotten up with the mischievous intent of creating an alarm.
The incident, however, revealed the existence of a dangerous under-current of sentiment in New York, at that time, hostile to the war policy of the government, and competent to impress itself with fatal distinctness upon the minds of the ignorant masses who make up so large a portion of that city's foreign population.
The “Peace party,” as the opposition styled itself, was carrying things with a high hand.
At a meeting in the Twenty-second ward, held shortly after the 4th of July, the approaching conscription was
denounced in bitter terms, and the President
and his Cabinet were stigmatized as “murderers” and “despots.”
The train was, beyond a doubt, being carefully laid, when an unexpected spark brought about a premature explosion.
The 11th of July was the date appointed for the draft to begin.
As that day fell on Saturday its selection was particularly ill-advised, the Sabbath holiday which followed affording the ignorant masses, as well as the disaffected element of the population, an opportunity for studying into the situation through the morning papers, and of discussing the prospect over their liquor — the probable result of which might have been easily foreseen.
Some slight impediments had been placed in the way of the enrolling officers, but nothing had occurred to excite apprehensions of any outbreak, and the first day's work of conscription passed off in a quiet and orderly manner.
The drafting took place in the deputy provost marshal's office, at the corner of Forty-sixth street and Third avenue, and 1,236 names were peacefully drawn that day out of the 1,500 called for from the Twenty-second ward.
It was believed that the popular enthusiasm created by the routing of Lee
's army had effectually silenced the antiwar party.
Some hopeful ones expressed the belief that the contest was so near its close that even if the draft went on the conscripts would never be called for in the field.
Then that fatal Sunday intervened.
On the following morning the papers stated that the Irish laboring classes in the Twentieth ward, where the draft was to be
held that day were in a state of intense excitement, and threatened to resist it to the utmost.
The threat was speedily put into execution.
The Sunday deliberations had evidently led to a determination to break up the drafting depot in Third avenue. About nine o'clock in the morning fifty rough and rowdyish-looking fellows were observed, by persons doing business on the East
river, in the region of Grand street, prowling along the wharves and picking up recruits.
Gaining insolence by increase of numbers, they entered the foundries and warehouses, and by persuasion and threats induced the workmen to join them.
Simultaneously with this movement a similar one was progressing on the west side.
About ten o'clock a large body of laboring men and ill-favored ruffians, armed mostly with clubs and bludgeons, after holding a brief parley in a vacant lot near Central Park
, marched down Forty-seventh street to Third avenue. The deputy marshal's office was immediately entered, Captain Jenkins
and his assistants retreating precipitately through a rear door.
The wheel containing the names was carried away safely, but all the books and papers that
could be found were destroyed, and the building itself was set on fire.
Police Superintendent Kennedy
, who was driving across the town on a tour of inspection, observed the flames, and leaving his wagon at the corner of Forty-sixth and Lexington avenue, proceeded unsuspiciously and unarmed on foot to the scene of the disturbance.
Although not in uniform he was recognized.
In an instant he was set upon and beaten so brutally that when, after a race for life of several blocks, he was happily rescued from his pursuers and carried in a market wagon to the police headquarters in Mulberry street, his colleagues failed to recognize him. He was the first person assaulted in the riot.
Police Commissioner Acton
immediately realized the situation.
He assumed command, and dispatching what police were available (forty-four in number) to the scene of the riot, telegraphed to each of the thirty-two precincts covered by the Metropolitan police for the whole reserve force to be concentrated at the headquarters.
This wise step was taken just in time, for soon afterward the rioters had cut down the telegraph poles and destroyed all communication between the headquarters and the upper precincts of the city.
A futile effort had meanwhile been made to subdue the rioters in Third avenue by a force of between forty and fifty invalid soldiers, who were ordered to the aid of the deputy provost marshal from the Park barracks
These soldiers held the key of the situation in their hands.
The mob up to this period was entirely without definite organization, and destitute of leaders, and was wholly incapable of maintaining its ground against a resolute attack of disciplined troops.
But either through a mistaken sense of their own superiority, or a misguided disposition to leniency, the soldiers contented themselves with firing a harmless volley over the heads of the rioters.
The latter, who a moment before were wavering, saw their opportunity immediately.
They rushed upon the soldiers, wrested from them their yet unloaded weapons, and drove them in wild confusion down the avenue.
Two of the soldiers were beaten down, and left for dead on the pavement.
Others would doubtless have suffered a similar fate, had they not fortunately encountered in their flight the police force sent by Commissioner Acton
The mob, having tasted blood after receiving its baptism of fire, was by this time worked up into a state of uncontrollable frenzy.
Brandishing clubs and muskets above their heads, and yelling, and shouting, they rushed down the avenue like a torrent.
, who commanded the police, expecting speedy reinforcements, deployed his men in line across the street, and, as the head of the disorderly column approached, he ordered a charge.
their overwhelming numbers, the mob could not withstand this onset of a disciplined force.
Step by step, they were driven back three blocks.
By the time Forty-sixth street was reached, however, Sergeant McCredie
's little band was thoroughly exhausted.
The expected reinforcements did not arrive.
A large body of rioters, who had slipped out of the way into Forty-fifth street, seeing the paltry number of police before whom they were retreating, emerged again into the avenue, in rear of the latter, thus hemming them in on every side.
Fighting was no longer in the question.
The brave little force broke and fled, every man seeking his own safety, and all eventually escaped, though nearly every one of the party was severely beaten and wounded.
This first triumph of the mob was achieved about noon.
The excitement had spread rapidly through the city, and at that hour Third avenue, from the Cooper Institute to Forty-sixth street, was black with human beings-the sidewalks, housetops and windows being all crowded with rioters, or spectators.
It was estimated that fifty thousand persons were thus congregated within the stretch of thirty blocks along the avenue.
The attention of the mob having been drawn away in the manner related from the building they had set on fire, the firemen succeeded in subduing the flames, after four houses had been burned to the ground.
It is deserving of notice that, while these terrible scenes were being enacted in the Ninth district, the draft in the Eighth district, at 1190 Broadway
, under Captain Manierre
, was going on without molestation.
It was adjourned at noon, and the policemen in attendance hastened to the aid of their comrades on the east side.
In the meantime the work of destruction progressed, but in an irregular and desultory manner, clearly indicating the absence of previous arrangement.
The news of the uprising, as it spread through those portions of the city where the low Irish dwelt, stirred up the dregs of the population, and they came thronging forth in great numbers, so that at almost every turn a mob was discernible.
Splitting up into several sections, as different objects attracted them, they would rejoin and separate without apparently any concert of action.
A shout and a cry in one direction would call off a throng, while a similar shout in another direction would attract a portion thither.
The armory, at the corner of Second avenue and Twenty-first street, was captured from the police detailed to hold it, and the rioters, after arming themselves, destroyed all the material they could not carry away.
Several of the attacking party were killed in this encounter.
One detachment started for Captain Manierre
's drafting office, at the corner of Broadway and Twentyninth
street, which they burned down.
The rich goods in the stores on the block of Broadway
, between Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth streets, turned the attention of the mob to plunder.
It was estimated that the active rioters in this crowd were not over one hundred in number, but they were attended by an enormous horde, including women and children, who displayed a skilled expertness in appropriating property.
Watches, bracelets, jewelry, and valuable goods of all kinds disappeared from the stores, as if by magic, and in an hour's time the whole block had been devastated and set on fire.
It was completely destroyed.
Simultaneously with these two outrages, a third and larger squad of rioters broke away in the direction of the Colored Orphan Asylum
, on Fifth avenue and Forty-third and Forty-fourth streets.
The old antipathy of the Irish to the negroes had already been given full vent, and since noon had manifested itself in various parts of the city-even those remote from the scenes of worst outrage-by a sort of desultory persecution of black people wherever they were met. The station-houses were filled with the hounded creatures seeking protection; and about the time of the attack on the orphan asylum, a colored cartman had been murdered, mutilated, hanged, and burned, in Clarkson street, under circumstances of atrocity unparalleled in civilized communities.
On their way, the mob stopped to sack and burn two valuable dwellings, on Lexington avenue, after which the orphan asylum was subjected to a pillage, which lasted nearly two hours; and the edifice was then, despite the earnest efforts of the firemen, burned to the ground.
The inmates had been removed before the mob's arrival.
Soon after this, the crowd, flushed with success and maddened with liquor, made a demonstration on the police headquarters.
They were met, in Broadway
, near Amity street, by Inspector Daniel Carpenter
, who, after a brief struggle, drove them back with terrible punishment.
No more spirited fight took place during the entire riots than this one, in which a desperate mob, armed with every description of weapon, and numbering several thousand, was totally routed by two hundred policemen, armed solely with their clubs.
A similar scene was enacted at about seven o'clock in the evening, when an attack was made on the Tribune
Here, again, the crowd was enormously in excess of the police; and here, again, the latter swept the ruffianly assailants before them like chaff before an autumn breeze.
This ended the heavy fighting of the day, though minor disturbances occurred at various points during the evening, including the burning of Postmaster Wakeman
's house, in Eightysixth
The custom-house and sub-treasury, in Wall street, were under guard; and General Sanford
, commanding the city military, had collected some men for the protection of the State arsenal, in Seventh avenue. But, throughout the deadly occurrences of the day, he had not dispatched a single body of soldiers to assist the police in quelling the mob.
At the beginning of July, the military post of the city and harbor of New York
was commanded by Brevet Brigadier General Harvey Brown
of the Fifth United States Artillery.
The headquarters of the Department of the East, under General Wool
, were in New York city.
The “post” headquarters were at Fort Hamilton
, where, as Adjutant
of the Fifth Artillery, I performed the additional duty of Acting Assistant Adjutant General
The “post” comprised all the forts and military commands, excepting Governor's Island
, in the vicinity of New York, together with the hospital and convalescent depots at Hart's
and Riker's Islands
and Willett's Point
The garrison of this rather comprehensive post, exclusive of the volunteers who passed through it in a continuous stream, on their way from Northern hospitals, to rejoin their commands in the field, was constituted as follows: At Fort Hamilton
, the headquarters, and two mounted batteries (Dupont
's and Piper
's) of the Fifth Artillery; headquarters Second Battalion Twelfth United States Infantry, Major Bruen
, commanding, and the Eleventh Regiment New York Volunteer Heavy Artillery, Colonel W. B. Barnes
. Fort Ethan Allen (Sandy Hook
), Company F, Twelfth Infantry, Captain It. R. Putnam
Fort Richmond, Company H, Twelfth Infantry, Captain Walter S. Franklin
, commanding. Fort Lafayette, one company of the Ninth United States Infantry, under Lieutenant Wood
; Lieutenant Colonel Martin Burke
, Third United States Artillery, commanding.
Fort Schuyler, Twentieth and Twenty-eighth New York Batteries, First Lieutenant B. F. Ryer
, Twentieth Battery, New York Volunteer Artillery, commanding.
New York city, a volunteer guard at the Park barracks
, designated the Invalid Corps
Beside the above-named commands, there was a company of infantry at Fort Hamilton
known as the “Permanent guard,” which had been organized by myself a few weeks previous in compliance with instructions from department headquarters.
The garrison of that post-being composed of light artillery-had special duties to perform incident to the mounted service which, in addition to their not being armed with muskets, precluded their being detailed for the general garrison guard and fatigue duty.
guard” was in its way a “crack” organization.
My orders authorized me to take from all the volunteer troops, convalescents and furlough men in the harbor, whatever private soldiers I might select, not to exceed one hundred and eighty in number, and by dint of careful selection and occasional changes-substituting good material for poor — the company became eventually a type of the cream of the volunteer army.
No two men in it belonged necessarily to the same regiment; all had seen hard service in the field, and all were willing to pass a portion of their terms of enlistment in protecting Fort Hamilton
The severest punishment I could inflict was to ship an undesirable soldier to his regiment.
The name I adopted in mild imitation of the celebrated “Permanent party” of Governor's Island
Their association with the regulars excited in them a wholesome spirit of emulation.
I succeeded in having them equipped in every respect the same as the Twelfth Infantry; had their clothing made over by a company tailor to fit them; fed them well with the accumulations of the company fund; held them down to strict discipline, and in a short time I found myself in charge of as orderly, self-possessed, and “natty” a company as any officer need desire to command.
The gallant service they performed in the July riots, and the eagerness displayed by the regular infantry officers in New York during that period to lead them, showed the sterling metal of which they were composed, and justify me in claiming for the “Permanent guard of Fort Hamilton
” the place it is entitled to in the history of that deadly outbreak.
On July 4th telegraphic orders were received from Washington
to dispatch the two batteries from Fort Hamilton
to the Army of the Potomac at Chambersburg
, and the “Permanent guard” thus became the only effective garrison of the post.
The aggregate strength of General Brown
's command at that time was less than 500.
About two o'clock on the afternoon of Monday, July 13th, having occasion to visit the telegraph office just outside the military inclosure of Fort Hamilton
, I was informed by the operator that communication with the city had been in some way cut off. No word of any disturbance had reached us at the Narrows.
Shortly afterward a mounted orderly from General Wool
's headquarters made his appearance, bearing an order to send immediately to New York a portion of the troops from Fort Lafayette, and half the company then garrisoning Fort Richmond.
While I was proceeding to carry this order into execution General Brown
arrived from the city and expressed great surprise at the small number of men-about eighty-specified in General Wool
As the tug was then in
sight which was to carry the detachment to New York, General Brown
ordered me, without delay, to get all the troops at Forts Hamilton
, Lafayette, Richmond, and at Sandy Hook
, in readiness to move at a moment's notice, while he proceeded to the city to provide transportation for them.
This first detail of troops sent to New York consisted of one platoon of Company H, Twelfth United States Infantry, from Fort Richmond, and Lieutenant Wood
, Ninth United States Infantry, with his company (fifty-four strong), from Fort Lafayette--the whole under the command of Captain Walter S. Franklin
These troops were ordered by General Brown
, upon landing, to report to Colonel Nugent
at the corner of Broadway and Leonard street; and as that officer was found to be at the Seventh avenue arsenal, they were dispatched without delay to that point.
, on arriving at the arsenal, found everything already in the state of confusion that prevailed there during the whole period of the disturbances.
Nobody seemed to know who was in command-militia staff officers were displaying great activity in a purposeless way; and excepting a single sentry at the front entrance, there was literally no guard established over the building.
A detachment of marines arriving from the Brooklyn Navy Yard
, Captain Franklin
used them to clear away the noisy crowd that had congregated in the avenue and established a line of sentries along the four streets by which that post was approached.
In the meanwhile, after ordering the remainder of the regular troops in the harbor to be in readiness, and making provision to replace them with volunteers, I occupied myself at Fort Hamilton
in an effort to improvise for the occasion a section of light artillery, which I knew would be valuable in street fighting.
The two batteries, on their departure a few days previous, had carried with them every trained horse and driver, and all the equipments at the post.
There remained, however, two guns, brass six-pounders, which had belonged to Bragg
's celebrated battery in the Mexican
war, and which, having been condemned, had for several years past performed ornamental service on Governor's Island
, and, more lately, had been utilized for drill instruction by the batteries of the Fifth Artillery.
A couple of hours' effort enabled me to rig together a harness for the post quartermaster's horses, a wheel and a lead team to each piece.
The quartermaster's teamsters supplied the drivers, and a sufficient number of volunteers were detailed to serve as cannoneers.
This motley battery was completed by my assigning the drum major
of the Fifth Artillery as chief of one of the pieces, and the commissary sergeant as the chief of the other, and placing a volunteer officer of
heavy artillery in command of the whole, with orders to make every effort to report to General Brown
, at the St. Nicholas Hotel
As the horses were unused to that kind of pulling, I was in great doubt about the guns ever reaching New York; but my concern on that score was greatly modified by the reflection that none of the men accompanying them knew anything respecting their use. My doubts as to the horses turned out to be groundless, though those respecting the men were fully realized.
About eight in the evening two steamboats reported to me at Fort Hamilton
On one of these I placed a company of volunteer artillery to replace at Sandy Hook Captain Putnam
's company of the Twelfth Infantry, which latter I ordered to return on the same boat to New York.
On the other boat I proceeded myself with the “Permanent guard,” and the remainder of the troops already referred to from Forts Lafayette and Richmond, numbering in all about one hundred and forty soldiers.
Landing at the foot of Spring street I marched, in a heavy shower, up to the St. Nicholas Hotel
, where I was ushered into General Wool
's office, in one of the parlors.
The apartment was crowded with officers and civilians.
Among the latter I recognized several of the most prominent merchants of New York engaged in earnest discussion with General Brown
Approaching Major Christensen
, General Wool
's adjutant general, I inquired what had been going on in the city that day, for as yet I was ignorant of the details.
's reply was characteristic.
, this is the one spot in New York where the least is known of what is taking place!”
The course of events showed that the refreshing ignorance admitted by Major Christensen
prevailed at General Wool
's headquarters without interruption through the riots, despite the intelligent staff with which he was surrounded.
Reporting my arrival to General Brown
, I was informed that having declined to serve under General Sanford
when ordered to do so by General Wool
, he had, at his own request, been relieved from duty.
I replied that I should like then to be relieved also, but he requested me to report to General Wool
, which I did. A more arbitrary piece of absurdity has seldom been recorded in military annals than this attempt to place, at a critical juncture, a veteran of nearly fifty years service in the regular army in a position subordinate to an. unpracticed militia officer, simply because the latter held higher rank by State commission. General Wool
, however, was firm in spite of the earnest remonstrances of the gentlemen present, and General Brown
was equally determined.
Happily for the welfare of New York city, the matter was compromised during the night by the interposition
of Mayor Opdyke
and others, and General Brown
the next morning assumed command of all the government troops in the city, and took up his quarters at the police headquarters in Mulberry street, where he and Commissioner Acton
concerted measures which speedily reduced the rioters to submission.
No effective steps were taken to accomplish this purpose until these two gentlemen formed their alliance, and no steps other than those which they carried out tended in any degree whatever to that end.
In the meanwhile, I had reported to General Wool
, who nervously ordered me to take my command to the arsenal, and to carefully avoid any encounter with a mob on my way thither, as it was imperative to reinforce General Sanford
No obstacle was offered, however, to our progress, and we reached the arsenal about eleven o'clock. General Sanford
was there in command, but did not wear any vestige of uniform, either then, or at any time during the riots.
About midnight, word was received that a mob was preparing to assault the arsenal.
A few minutes later General Sanford
put on his hat, and, bidding us good-night, with the assurance that he should look in again in the morning, he departed for his private residence.
This resembled his behavior on the 3d of the month, as above related.
Two staff officers remained and entertained us for the rest of the night with a dispute as to which was in command.
About two A. M., Lieutenant Wood
arrived at the arsenal with the section of artillery from Fort Hamilton
, which had succeeded in reaching the St. Nicholas Hotel
, and he and I made a transfer of commands, he taking my infantry and I assuming charge of the artillery. .The staff officers desired me to bring the guns inside the building, but as that was preposterous, I persuaded them to allow me to put them in battery at the corners of. Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth streets, pointing up and down Seventh avenue. Rumors reached us, from time to time, of disorderly gatherings moving about the city; but, as I have already stated, no further violence was attempted by the mob until Tuesday morning.
The 14th of July dawned clear and lovely.
In the lower part of the city some attempt was made in the morning to resume business, but in the upper districts stores and residences remained closed.
Second and Third avenues were the rallying points, but the rioters, being without leaders, hesitated as to their course of action.
Early in the morning Inspector Carpenter
, with two hundred and fifty police, started on a reconnoissance from the Mulberry
About the same time one of the staff officers at the arsenal ordered the officer whom I had placed in command of
the section, while I went to breakfast at a restaurant, in the next block, to accompany a detachment under Colonel O'Brien
, Eleventh New York Volunteers, to Yorkville
, where fighting was reported to be in progress.
The lieutenant was refused permission to notify me, and when I returned to the arsenal I was thunder-struck to find that my guns, and men, and horses had disappeared, nobody seemed to know whither!
Seeking out the staff officer who had performed the brilliant coup
, I gave him my opinion of his conduct in the language it merited, and had the satisfaction of being informed, in return, that “the regular army officers were always trying to ride over the militia!”
My occupation in that quarter being gone, I returned to General Brown
, for assignment to whatever other duty might offer itself.
It was no easy matter to accomplish this.
No street cars were running, and it would have been sheer fool-hardiness to undertake to make the trip on foot, alone.
Two livery stables were near by, but in neither could I induce a driver to undertake the risky job. Finally, the proprietor of one of the stables declared that he would drive me down himself.
A coach was driven out, and cautioning me to keep the curtains down and to have my revolver ready for use, he started briskly across the town.
It seemed like passing through a deserted city!
Up Thirty-sixth street to Fifth avenue, and down that thoroughfare to Fourteenth street, every house we passed was closed, with curtains down and blinds tight shut. :Neither cars nor stages were running, and, excepting occasional glimpses of people grouped together at distant points down the side streets, we did not see a living creature until, after turning into Broadway
, we approached Amity street. From that point Broadway
was crowded as far, almost, as the eye could reach, with citizens eager to hear what was occurring in the disaffected districts.
I found General Brown
at the St. Nicholas Hotel
, and was instructed to serve on his personal staff, Lieutenant Colonel Frothingham
, having been detailed as his adjutant general.
In the meanwhile, the section with Colonel O'Brien
's command had encountered a mob at Second avenue and Thirty-fourth street. Carpenter
's policemen had just before inflicted a severe punishment upon this gang, and threatening demonstrations were made toward O'Brien
, who attempted to awe the crowd by a discharge of blank cartridges.
This cleared the streets and Colonel O'Brien
, who appears to have been operating thus far on his own responsibility, marched down town and reported to General Brown
As he was in too excited a condition to be fit to intrust with a command, his services were declined, and
his company melted away as mysteriously as it had sprung into existence.
The unfortunate colonel undertook to return to his residence.
As he was passing through Thirty-second street, he was attacked by the very ruffians whose lives he had so unwisely spared, and after being subjected to horrible brutalities, was dragged almost naked into his own back yard, where he died in agony, surrounded by a howling crowd of ferocious men and women.
This tragedy was a type of the acts that were being perpetrated in twenty different parts of the city.
The mob had asserted itself, and the spirit of pandemonium was set loose.
It is impracticable to give a detailed account of all the riotous and murderous transactions.
Detachments of police and military were incessantly setting out from the Mulberry
street headquarters, returning for a brief rest, and then sallying forth again.
Wherever a mob was encountered, it was charged upon relentlessly, with utter disregard to the relative strength of the two forces; and in every case the rioters were repulsed with heavy loss.
Finally, they ceased showing fight on the open streets, and, at the first appearance of their determined pursuers, broke and fled, to assemble again at some distant point, and resume their work of havoc.
In all the proceedings, from Tuesday morning on, no co-operation was received from General Sanford
by General Brown
or Commissioner Acton
Members of volunteer regiments, who chanced to be in the city, tendered their services; and nearly four hundred citizens were sworn in at police headquarters, as specials, receiving clubs and badges.
Business was closed down town, and the merchants and bankers resolved to volunteer, in companies of one hundred each, to serve under the military.
William E. Dodge
was made captain of one of these companies.
The armory, at White and Elm streets, was guarded by a mixed command of the Eighty-fourth New York Militia and some Zouaves.
The sub-treasury and custom-house were similarly defended.
In front of the government stores, in Worth and White streets, the Invalid Corps
and a squad of marines patrolled, while howitzers, loaded with grape and canister, stood ready for action.
All this time the fight was going on in every direction, while the constant ringing of fire-bells contributed to increase the constantly-spreading terror of the citizens.
The negro population were hunted down mercilessly, and the ferryboats were crowded through the day by the poor wretches, fleeing for their lives.
Scenes of violence and carnage, such as I have described, prevailed in the streets of New York from Monday noon until Thursday night. The political sentiment, which displayed itself in
the original assault on the draft office, in Third avenue, disappeared after that demonstration, and thenceforward the mob was actuated solely by an instinct of rapine and plunder.
The limits of this sketch will not admit a recital of every encounter between the rioters and the city's defenders.
Outbreaks would occur simultaneously in widely-separated sections of the city, compelling the police and military to split up into small detachments.
These latter would combine, as they happened to meet in the streets, so that it would be impossible to give a connected narrative of the services of any individual portion of the command.
I will, accordingly, briefly summarize the principal occurrences of the riots not yet described:
Thursday, July 14.-Lieutenant Wood
, Ninth Infantry, commanding the mixed detachment from the Narrows, being assaulted, about ten A. M., in Pitt street, fired on the mob, killing fourteen and wounding seventeen.
He dispersed, at the point of the bayonet, another mob in Division street. The “Permanent guard” received special mention for its gallantry in both the above actions.
, with two hundred policemen, had a desperate fight, on Second avenue, near Thirtieth street, with over one thousand rioters, whom he routed with severe loss.
Later in the day, the mob returned, in increased numbers, and overpowered the police, but were again repulsed, by Captain Franklin
(Twelfth Infantry), after a spirited fight, in which a number of rioters were killed.
's house was partially sacked by a mob of boys.
An attack was made on some houses at Forty-sixth street and Fifth avenue, which was suppressed by Captain Putnam
(Twelfth Infantry), with a loss to the rioters of forty men. The residence of James Gibbon
, a relative of Horace Greeley
, in Twenty-ninth street, between Seventh and Eighth avenues, was emptied of its contents.
Brooks Brothers' clothing store, in Catharine street, was ransacked, until Captain Franklin
came to the rescue.
Four barricades were erected in Ninth avenue, near Thirty-fifth street, which Captain Wilkins
, with the Governor's Island
troops, captured and destroyed after a lively fight.
My section, of which I had resumed command after it was rescued from Colonel O'Brien
, was attacked at Thirty-sixth street and Seventh avenue. I went into battery, but my raw gun detachments worked clumsily, and the mob vanished like smoke into the side streets.
As the excitement was intense in that neighborhood, and General Sanford
was apprehensive for the safety of the arsenal, I bivouacked where I was, having the “Permanent guard,” under Lieutenant Porter
, First United States Artillery, as my support.
Wednesday, July 15.-Several thousand rioters, who were
sacking houses and hanging negroes to lamp-posts at Thirty-second street and Eighth avenue, were driven off by Colonel Mott
, with a squadron of cavalry, and a battery of the Eighth New York Volunteer Artillery.
All through that day, from points in the city five miles apart, came the news of riots and calls for help.
One of the latter was from General Sanford
, asking to be relieved of some of the negroes who had taken refuge in the arsenal, so that he could make room for more soldiers.
Several colored men were hung to lamp-posts near Twenty-seventh street and Seventh avenue, and a force of one hundred and fifty infantry was sent in the afternoon by General Sanford
to disperse the mob. The soldiers returned, however, without attempting to clear the streets, and almost while they were still in sight the rioters had recommenced their occupation of plunder and murder.
Late in the day, a fight took place in First avenue, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets, between a desperate mob and a force of militia and enrolled citizens.
, of the Ninth New York Volunteers, was shot, and crippled for life, and the troops were repulsed until Captain Putnam
, with his company, and the “Permanent guard,” under Captain Shelley
, acting aide-de-camp
, were sent by General Brown
to the rescue.
Thursday, July 16.-At an early hour in the morning the Seventh Regiment New York Militia, which had been summoned home by telegraph, arrived, and the other militia regiments followed during the day. By this time the riot was regarded as practically over.
had the day previous issued a proclamation, calling on the citizens to resume their avocations.
It was also announced from Washington
that the draft had been suspended, and the Common Council appropriated $2,500,000 toward paying $300 exemption money per man to the poor who might be drafted.
, however, and Commissioner Acton
remained steadily at their posts.
The riotous spirit, which for three days and nights had held the metropolis by the throat, though crushed, was not yet wholly extinguished.
The “Permanent guard” had encounters during the day with rioters on Fourth avenue, near Grammercy Park, and in Fifty-second street, near Eleventh avenue. A heavy fight took place about one P. M. at Jackson
's foundry, at First avenue and Twenty-eighth street. The mob, driven to final desperation, rallied repeatedly after being dispersed by the soldiers, and renewed their attack.
The troops were so divided, engaged in patroling the city, that it was night before a sufficient force could be concentrated by General Brown
to finish the work of subjugation.
, with several companies under his command, earned
this crowning honor, and, about ten P. M., in a heavy thunderstorm, finished successfully the last fight of the New York riots.
While these military operations were in progress, other influences were being exerted for the restoration of peace and order, none of which, however, had any perceptible effect.
arrived in New York on Tuesday, and issued a proclamation, notifying the insurgents that the only opposition to the conscription that could be allowed was an appeal to the courts, the right of every citizen to make which would be maintained, and urging all to stand firmly by the authorities in sustaining law and order in the city.
It was soon urged upon the Governor
, however, that more rigorous measures were demanded, and, becoming convinced that such was the case, he issued a second proclamation, declaring the city in a state of insurrection.
It was too late, however.
Opposition to the conscription had, hours before, faded from the minds of the frenzied rioters, and the glare of the incendiaries' torch blinded them to the inevitable consequences of their misdoing.
Later on that same day, Governor Seymour
was induced to speak from the steps of the City Hall to an immense gathering of the people, among whom, it is probable, there were many who had participated in the outrages which had been committed.
The Governor made a few remarks, intended to allay the popular excitement, and earnestly counseled obedience to the laws and the constituted authorities.
He also read a letter, containing a statement that the conscription had been postponed by the authorities in Washington
This speech of Governor Seymour
, owing to his well-known affiliation with the opposition, was severely criticised by his political opponents, chiefly on account of his opening it with the words, “My friends.”
While he was speaking, however, his previous proclamation showed that he. was exerting his influence for suppressing the insurrection, and he could hardly be expected to address a peaceable audience with the invective applicable to red-handed rioters and incendiaries.
In his remarks he expressed his belief that the conscription act was illegal, and announced his determination to have it tested in the courts.
In dwelling upon these points he may have violated good taste, but it must be borne in mind that his purpose was to soothe an unusual popular excitement, and that he was justified in using whatever reasonable arguments were available for that purpose.
In his official acts and proclamations during the riots, Governor Seymour
expressed himself in very different phrases.
There was better ground for censure in the attitude assumed by Archbishop Hughes
toward the rioters.
prelate had yielded on Wednesday, July 15th, to the pressure exerted upon him by issuing a brief address to the Irish, urging them to abstain from violence, he caused to be published at the same time a long letter to Horace Greeley
, expressing his sympathy with the opponents of the war, and his belief that the Irish were the victims of oppression.
On Thursday Archbishop Hughes
issued a call for a meeting at his residence, at Madison avenue and Thirty-sixth street, on the following day, of “the men of New York who are now called in many of the papers rioters.”
At the time appointed between three thousand and five thousand persons assembled there, and listened to a sensible exhortation to good conduct, at the conclusion of which they returned to their homes as peaceably as they had come together.
Such an effort, if made four days earlier, would have prevented incalculable suffering and loss.
The riots were brought to an end on the evening of Thursday, July 16th, and the city immediately resumed its customary aspect, while the authorities proceeded to calculate the amount of damage that had been sustained.
The exact number of rioters killed was never ascertained.
It was reported, how truly I cannot say, that the remains of many — of them were secretly carried into the country for burial.
, in his next annual message, stated that “the number of killed and wounded is estimated by the police to be at least one thousand.”
The mortality statistics for the riot week at the City Inspector's office
showed an increase of four hundred and fifty over the average weekly mortality, including ninety deaths from gun-shot wounds.
The increase for the month was twelve hundred.
A large number of wounded persons probably died during the following week.
Only three policemen were killed.
The damage to property was more precisely estimated.
A committee was appointed by the county supervisors to audit claims for damages, for all of which the county was responsible under law. Claims were presented to the amount of $2,500,000, of which $1,500,000 were allowed, and were paid as expeditiously as possible.
On July 17th, an unexpected order was received from the War Department relieving General Brown
from the command of the city and harbor of New York
, General Canby
being sent from Washington
to assume the position.
On the following day, General Wool
was superseded by Major General John A. Dix
Old age and consequent infirmity rendered the removal of General Wool
from so responsible a command a matter of perfect propriety, but the citizens of New York, conscious of the debt of gratitude they owed to General Brown
, were very reluctant to see him so peremptorily supplanted
at the very moment of his and their triumph.
The orders in both cases were dated the 15th, and, doubtless, had their origin in a supposition at the War Office that so extensive an outbreak must, in some degree, be attributed to the inefficiency of the commanding officers
To a certain extent such an impression was correct.
The strong contrast presented throughout the riots by the conduct of the three generals between whom the command was nominally divided enabled observers, even during the height of the excitement, to recognize the difference between capacity and titled incompetency.
, in his temporary office at the St. Nicholas Hotel
, unconscious of the real condition of things, and issuing orders contrary to reason and to military precedent, and General Sanford
, in citizens' dress, jealously locking himself up for three days in the arsenal, collecting about him eagerly every soldier he could lay his hands upon, and in no single instance initiating a movement against the rioters of sufficient consequence to receive mention in the daily journals, were types of prejudiced inefficiency; while General Brown
, on duty without intermission through four days and nights, covering the entire city of New York
with a military force whose aggregate number was far smaller than the bodies of rioters with which any one of its detachments came into collision, co-operating generously with the sturdy Police Commissioners, and bending his whole energies to the single task of carrying out their plans for saving the city, was emphatically the man for the occasion.
I have before me, as I write, General Brown
's order-book, in which are transcribed the orders he issued during these four eventful July days.
They cover nearly all the movements I have referred to above, beside many that I have not alluded to-such as sending troops to protect the down town wharves, to the aid of Brooklyn
, of Harlem
, and of Jersey City
, to guard private residences, providing ordnance material and subsistence supplies, and the innumerable incidents of a campaign.
Yet General Wool
, in a letter written July 20th to Governor Seymour
, asserted to himself the credit of all these precautions, and made a special boast of having, at the first outbreak, ordered to New York all the troops in the harbor, “leaving only small guards to protect the forts.”
I have already shown how General Brown
was compelled to exert himself in order to accomplish this very thing which General Wool
's order practically forbade.
A similar spirit was displayed by General Sanford
in his report of July 25th to the Governor
, in which he claims to have sent detachments “to all parts of the city, and the rioters were everywhere beaten and dispersed on Monday afternoon, Monday night,
and Tuesday morning, and the peace of the city would have been entirely restored in a few hours but for the interference of Brevet Brigadier General Brown
, who, in disobedience of the orders of General Wool
, withdrew the detachments belonging to the General Government
Both of the letters referred to abound in mis-statements; but a further analysis of their prejudiced features is unnecessary in this place.
The Police Commissioners
of New York, and the merchants whose interests being at stake rendered them keen observers, were unanimous in attributing to General Brown
the saving of the city from further inestimable damage.
A number of representative citizens united on July 25th in presenting him with an elegant service of silver as a testimonial of their gratitude and esteem.
The letter accompanying the present concluded with these words of sympathy: “Your memory will always remain with us safe from all detraction, and beyond all forgetfulness.”
's command was now limited to the affairs of his regiment, the Fifth Artillery.
I reported to him each morning at his residence for the day's instructions.
Early in August, a few weeks after the riots, I presented myself, as usual, and was surprised and grieved to hear him remark “I shall never give you orders again!”
In response to my look of surprise, General Brown
silently pointed to a paragraph among the telegraphic dispatches in that morning's issue of the New York Times
, which he was reading on my arrival.
It announced that Colonel
and Brevet Brigadier General Harvey Brown
had been retired from active service, to date from August 1st, by order of the President
This was the first notification he had received of his impending fate.
In this abrupt manner was a faithful army service of forty-five years brought harshly to an end. Such is the reward which our republic sometimes bestows upon her honest servants who have patiently passed their lives in upholding her honor.
The foregoing condensed narrative is written from a purely military standpoint, with a view to placing in their true light the services performed in the New York riots by the United States troops under General Brown
All that I have written is substantiated by official documents on file at the department headquarters, copies of which are in my hands.
My purpose being so, restricted, much of equal interest to many minds has been necessarily omitted.
That portion of the subject, however, I leave the politicians to relate, being satisfied to contribute, as my meed to history, this true chapter concerning the New York draft riots of 1863.