N the opening lines of his Divina Commedia
the great poet of the Middle Ages
depicts, in a few energetic words, the glance that the traveller rescued from the storm casts at the ‘perilous waters’ which he has just crossed.1
The people of the Northern States
in the early days of July, 1863, could thus cast a long retrospective look at the experiences which they had just encountered, like the shipwrecked voyager who, landing upon the shore, turns to glance at the angry billows which break impotent at his feet.
The events which closely followed the twofold
victory at Gettysburg
enabled the North
to take in the whole extent of the misfortunes that would have befallen them if Lee
had planted his flag upon the slopes of Cemetery Hill
had succeeded in breaking Grant
In the preceding volume we did not wish to interrupt the long recital of the campaign which led the armies of the Potomac
and of Northern Virginia
from the Rappahannock
to the heart of Pennsylvania
, and finally brought them back to their startingpoint.
Near the banks of the Mississippi River
, on the contrary, military operations having been interrupted by the annihilation of one of the two contending parties, we discontinued the recital of these operations at the beginning of July.
Before resuming our narrative it is necessary to speak of the insurrection which stained with blood the principal cities of the North-east, and also of the invasion which threw consternation into the cities of the Middle States
at the very moment when the fortune of arms was declaring in favor of the Federal Government
Elsewhere we have told how the Peace party, sympathizing with the Southern
cause, had seen its ranks swell at every new success achieved by the Confederates
Proportioning their boldness to the assumed weakness of the Federal
power, the leaders of the Peace party kept themselves within the limit, at times difficult to be defined, which divides on the one hand open treason, and on the other violent opposition made in time of war to a national government.
They had not dared actively to co-operate with Lee
, but they waited only for his first victory upon the soil of the free States in order to shake off the authority in the White House
, ensure the dismemberment of the Union
, and cause the recognition of the independence of the South
Already anticipating such a victory, they were making innumerable harangues at the moment when the rest of the nation were rushing to arms.
Their chief adversary, Mr. Lincoln
, on the day of his inauguration had made allusion to the mystic ‘chords of memory’ which united all patriotic hearts.
One of his predecessors, Mr. Pierce
, the most noted among the partisans of peace, anxious, no doubt, to surpass him in the allegorical style, announced to his auditors that, on their side, they would construct ‘a great mausoleum of hearts,
to which men who yearn for liberty will, in after years, with bowed heads and reverently, resort as Christian pilgrims to the sacred shrines of the Holy Land
A man of true talent, the new governor of New York, Horatio Seymour
, disdaining so high a strain, was more precise as well as more practical.
He was invited to address his constituents on the Fourth of July.
Twice already, in 1861 and 1862, the great national holiday had been celebrated amid mourning and defeat.
It seemed as if the return of this date should once more bring misfortune to the Union
cause, the destiny of which was going to be decided by the issue of the battle begun since the first day of July.
Therefore, Mr. Seymour
, counting upon a fresh disaster, exclaimed in the presence of an excited assembly, ‘We were promised the downfall of Vicksburg
, . . . the probable capture of the Confederate
capital, and the exhaustion of the rebellion.
Where are these victories?’
At the same moment the telegraph brought him the response that the campaign of the Peace Democrats
The leaders held their tongues or changed their speeches.
But they had roused passions which could not be allayed at their bidding.
They needed only an opportunity to burst forth.
This opportunity was foreseen, and was not long delayed: it was the draft, or conscription.
Although authorized for the last four months in the law of March 3, 1863, compulsory service had not yet been put in force.
The Federal Government wished to allow the several States time to dispense with the draft by voluntary enlistment.
But all extensions of time had expired, and most of the States having failed to furnish a complete contingent, it became necessary to enforce it. The enrolling-offices had been organized under Federal authority: the rolls were ready.
Victory having restored to him strength and confidence, the Secretary of War
ordered the provost-marshals to begin work on Saturday, the 11th of July.
This tribute of blood was the hardest, the most unpopular, of all levies, yet at the same time it was the most necessary to continue the war. The partisans of peace had therefore a double motive to attack it. Their programme was to declare the draft unconstitutional, to appeal to the courts of judicature, and, pending their decision, to oppose the enforcement of the draft.
This resistance, prepared long in advance, was to find powerful
elements in the cities of New York and Brooklyn
, which were burdened with a heavy requisition, together having to furnish seventeen thousand five hundred men, while the poor among their inhabitants wanted neither the draft which abolished the premiums on enlistments nor the emancipation which would bring to the North
the liberated blacks as formidable competitors.
However, having neither head nor director, the population of these cities did not get excited on the first day of the draft.
But the intervening Sunday
having given every one time for reflection, minds became heated and bold, ringleaders were improvised.
On Monday, the 13th, crowds were collected; they rapidly increased in size, and soon one of them broke into one of the enrollingoffices.
The Federal officers, rudely interrupted in their duties, escaped with difficulty.
The rioters demolished everything; then, throwing turpentine on the floor, set fire to the building.
The firemen, who had come in haste to extinguish it, were violently driven away.
The rising had commenced by conflagration; it was going to continue by murder.
The chief of police
, Mr. John A. Kennedy
, arriving on the ground, is set upon and left for dead.
In an instant the rumor is spread throughout the city that the draft has been stopped by force.
The other enrolling-offices are prudently closed, and, this news imparting boldness to the most timid minds, an immense crowd is added to the first rioters.
This crowd is divided into groups which march in the different thoroughfares, carrying everywhere mischief and terror.
The mob is not armed; but no matter, since neither the civil nor the military authorities could find in the great city a thousand soldiers to oppose it. The organized militia has not yet returned from Pennsylvania
, where it was sent to reinforce Couch
Old General Wool
, to whom had been given, as a sort of retirement, the command of the Federal
forces in New York, has under his orders only two companies of regulars, occupying Fort La Fayette; a company of marines is watching the arsenal at Brooklyn
About fifty of the latter are called up in haste to disperse a crowd, but on account of a very inopportune sentiment of humanity the officers dare not order the soldiery to fire upon an unarmed mob, and a discharge of blank cartridges follows the ordinary summons to disperse.
At the report of the
muskets the crowd falls back, but seeing that it produces only smoke, with shouts and jeers it rushes upon the hapless soldiers, who are routed, trampled under foot, and beaten with clubs.
The mob, drunk with blood, is seized with a blind fury; women and children incite the men and march pell-mell with them.
On their route all shops, stores, and windows are closed; the frightened citizens hide in their houses, and soon the city presents the aspect of being deserted wherever the riot is not raging.
General Harvey Brown
, second in command, has gone to get his troops from the different forts in the harbor, but the greater part of the day elapses before he has had time to bring them into the city.
Meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen assembles, but without a quorum; General Wool
issues useless orders, and appoints lieutenants who have no more soldiers than he; the policemen, efficient, but in too small a number, group themselves so as to resist the assailants, and, armed simply with clubs, defend as best they can the posts entrusted to them.
The rioters are masters of the rich city: fortunately, if they follow ringleaders, they have no head-chiefs capable of directing them.
The bands or gangs, mixed with thieves, who largely profit by so good an opportunity, wander at random.
Their dominant passion is promptly awakened; they have forgotten the draft to fall upon the negroes, who are the objects of their particular hatred.
This unfortunate class of people is pursued, ill-treated, and some of them are butchered.
A magnificent charitable institution, the Colored Orphan Asylum
, which sheltered more than seven hundred children, was sacked and burned to the ground.
Elsewhere the Government
arsenal was captured and pillaged, despite the resistance made by the police.
Several places were set on fire, but as soon as the incendiaries had withdrawn, the firemen, always brave, came to extinguish the flames.
Nowhere are the rioters organized on a military footing, nor do they establish either posts or barricades.
Hence toward midnight a hard rain is sufficient to disperse them.
On the following morning, however, after a few hours of rest, they come together again.
, having returned from the country, does to that ignoble gathering the honor to address
it from the balcony of the City Hall.
This manifestation of a yielding spirit brings him plaudits, but disarms neither the assassins nor the pillagers.
Indignant at so many excesses, he decides to proclaim martial law—a vain proclamation, for the power is wanting to enforce it.
Happily, more efficient measures are going to be resorted to. The regulars and a certain number of volunteers, well organized, form into a body of about five hundred men—too weak to repress a city of one million inhabitants, but which, skilfully employed by General Brown
to keep open certain thoroughfares, prevents the rioters from finally taking possession of the whole city.
One of the volunteers, Colonel H. J. O'Brien
, is massacred, but there is no delay in avenging him. The regulars from Fort La Fayette, although only one hundred and fifty strong, having encountered a mob that opposed them, respond to a volley of stones with a fire by platoons which strews the street with dead and wounded.
This vigorous act is imitated by other detachments, and promptly cools the ardor of the rioters.
The soldiers take advantage of this to concentrate, and then to attack them in the very heart of the city.
Four barricades erected between Twenty-ninth and Thirty-fifth streets are carried by assault.
Night comes on, and the news of the approach of the regiments recalled from Harrisburg
adds to the feeling of discouragement among the rioters.
On the 15th, as early as daybreak, calls for assistance are addressed from all parts to the various officials who, with little co-operation, have undertaken to pacify the city.
The small detachments which they can dispose of are sent in different directions.
Instead of profiting by this dispersion of the soldiers, the weary rioters seem inclined to scatter also.
In the evening, after another day of violent acts, there remain in the streets only a few groups of plunderers, who before the arrival of the police are seeking to make the best of their absence.
On the ensuing day order is restored.
Only one band is still tramping through certain outlying quarters of the town, but a few squads of soldiers are sufficient to disperse it.
Among the military there were about ten killed and eighty wounded. The dead among the rioters and the victims of the riot exceeded four hundred and fifty.
In place of General Wool
substituted General Dix
, a very energetic politician who had already attracted attention in connection with the government of the city of Baltimore
The temporary triumph of the insurrection must needs have a telling effect in other cities.
, where the draft had been accomplished without trouble, the news that New York had victoriously resisted the process created on the 15th a great commotion among the people.
The agents of the Federal Government
were insulted; groups were formed, they pillaged shops where arms were sold, and finally collected in the evening to carry the armory of a battery of artillery.
The rioters had already forced open the doors when a case-shot gun was fired among them.
This single discharge, which knocked down seven or eight men, proved sufficient to put an end to the onset.
In the night regular troops and militiamen collected, and occupied in force all the strategical points: the revolt was thus checked before it had time to increase.
The cities of Troy
in the State of New York
, of Portsmouth
in New Hampshire
, and some villages in Holmes county, Ohio
, were also stained with blood while resisting the draft for military service.
In many other places this resistance, without developing into an insurrection, was organized with the connivance of wellnigh the entire population and seriously impeded the operation of law.
In New York the enforcement of the draft had been, in fact, suspended.
wished that, before resuming it, the Government
should accept the arbitrament of the tribunals, failing which he could not, he alleged, answer for the public safety.