July 13, 1863
The New York City Draft Riots
---In what will become the worst and most violent civil disturbance in United States history, riots begin spreading across the city, starting from the Five Points district and arising mostly out of unrest in the Irish populace and their dissatisfaction over the military draft, and the unwillingness of the working class to join the Army. A mob of 3,000 to 4, 000 people attack the Provost Marshal’s office, where the drawing of names for the Draft is being done, and capture the lists and draft tickets, scattering and destroying them. Then, they set fire to the buildings. The mob begins to catch and lynch negroes, and they attack the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue, looting the facility of any valuables, and set fire to the building. The firefighters are unable (or unwilling) to save the school. The mob attacks the local Armory at Second Avenue and a battle with police commences there. The mob also attacks the offices of Horace Greeley' New York Tribune. By 5:00 PM, the rioters have burned 7 buildings and killed 6 policemen, and attempt to murder Superintendent of Police Kennedy.
---George Templeton Strong writes of the Riots in his journal, and how he goes walking to investigate:
Above Twentieth Street all shops were closed, and many people standing and staring or strolling uptown, not riotously disposed but eager and curious. Here and there a rough could be heard damning the draft. No policeman to be seen anywhere. Reached the seat of war at last, Forty-sixth Street and Third Avenue. Three houses on the avenue and two or three on the street were burned down; engines playing on the ruins---more energetically, I’m told, than they did when their efforts would have been useful.
The crowd seemed just what one commonly sees at any fire, but its nucleus of riot was concealed by an outside layer of ordinary peaceable lookers-on. Was told they had beat off a squad of police and another of “regulars”. . . . At last, it opened and out streamed a posse of perhaps five hundred, certainly less than one thousand, of the lowest Irish day laborers. The rabble was perfectly homogeneous. Every brute in the drove was pure Celtic---hod-carrier or loafer. They were unarmed. A few carried pieces of fence-paling and the like. They turned off west into Forty-fifth Street and gradually collected in front of two three-story dwelling houses on Lexington Avenue, just below that street, that stand alone together on a nearly vacant block. . . . Some said a drafting officer lived in one of them, others that a damaged policeman had taken refuge there. The mob was in no hurry. . . . After a while sporadic paving-stones began to fly at the windows, ladies and children emerged from the rear and had a rather hard scramble over a high board fence, and then scudded off across the open, Heaven knows whither. Then men and small boys . . . began smashing the sashes and the blinds and shied out light articles, such as books and crockery, and dropped chairs and mirrors into the back yard; the rear fence was demolished and loafers were seen marching off with portable articles of furniture. And at last a light smoke began to float out of the windows and I came away. . . .
The fury of the low Irish women in that region was noteworthy. Stalwart young vixens and withered old hags were swarming everywhere, all cursing the “bloody draft” and egging on their men to mischief. . . . If a quarter one hears to be true, this is an organized insurrection in the interest of the rebellion and Jefferson Davis rules New York today. . . .
We telegraphed, two or three of us, from General Wool’s rooms, to the President, begging that troops be sent on and stringent measures taken. The great misfortune is that nearly all our militia regiments have been despatched to Pennsylvania. . . . These wretched rioters have been plundering freely, I hear. Their outbreak will either destroy the city of damage the Copperhead cause fatally. Could we but catch the scoundrels who have stirred them up, what a blessing it would be!
---Morgan’s Rebel raiders raid and sack Harrison, Indiana, and later cross into Ohio this evening.
---Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle, of Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards, is visiting New York on his way home to Britain. He happens to get a first-row seat to witness the New York riots:
I walked the whole distance of Broadway to the Consul's house, and nothing could exceed the apparent prosperity; the street was covered with banners and placards inviting people to enlist in various high-sounding regiments. Bounties of $550 were offered, and huge pictures hung across the street, on which numbers of ragged greybacks, terror depicted on their features, were being pursued by the Federals.
On returning to the Fifth Avenue, I found all the shopkeepers beginning to close their stores, and I perceived by degrees that there was great alarm about the resistance to the draft which was going on this morning. On reaching the hotel I perceived a whole block of buildings on fire close by: engines were present, but were not allowed to play by the crowd. In the hotel itself, universal consternation prevailed, and an attack by the mob had been threatened. I walked about in the neighbourhood, and saw a company of soldiers on the march, who were being jeered at and hooted by small boys, and I saw a negro pursued by the crowd take refuge with the military; he was followed by loud cries of "Down with the b——y nigger! Kill all niggers!" &c.
---Col. Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the 54th Massachusetts Inf. Reg., writes to his wife Annie about the regiment’s transfer to James and Morris Island, near Charleston, South Carolina:
My Darling Annie,
Just after closing my last, on the envelope of which I said we were ordered away from St. Helena’s Island, we embarked on board the "Chasseur." We sailed at about 3 P.M., without anything but India-rubber blankets and a little hardbread, and arrived off Stono Inlet, near Charleston Harbour, at about one o’clock this morning. We lay off the bar until 1 P.M. waiting for the flood-tide. The sea was running very high all the time, so that the men were very sea-sick, and we had a decidedly uncomfortable day. . . .
July 10th—Still on board our transport. Last night, two regiments landed, but encountered nothing but a few outposts. General Terry’s part is only to make a feint, the real attack being on Morris Island from Folly. That began this morning, and the news from there is, that General Gillmore has got all his troops on Morris Island, and has possession of nearly half of it.
This afternoon I went inland about two miles, and from a housetop saw Fort Sumter, our Monitors, and the spires of Charleston. Just now the news of the fall of Vicksburg, and of Lee’s defeat has reached us. What an excitement there must be through the North! For my part, though, I do not believe the end is coming yet, and the next mail will probably tell us that Lee has got away with a good part of his army; there is too much danger of our government making a compromise, for peace to be entirely welcome now. I am very glad that McClellan was not restored to command, for such vacillation in the government would have been too contemptible. Every one can rejoice at Meade’s success, as he is as yet identified with no party. I hope the prisoners will not be paroled, for they will be in the army again in a month, if they are.
I found a classmate, to-day, on board the "Nantucket," surgeon there, and George Lawrence, of the class above me, paymaster on board the "Pawnee." They are both very nice fellows; particularly so, because they have invited me to dinner; having had hardly anything but hard-bread and salt-junk since we left camp, a good dinner is to be desired. . . .
Saturday evening — We landed at noon to-day, and are now about two miles inland. There are two Brigades in line in advance of us. I don’t think anything will be done on this side.
13th — Yesterday I dined with Lawrence on board the "Pawnee," and met some very pleasant men among the officers. It has been very fortunate for me to have found so many old acquaintances here, as it has been the means of my meeting a great many people who would have otherwise been disinclined to make the acquaintance of an officer commanding a black regiment.
Our men are out on picket with the white regiments, and have no trouble with them. One of my companies was driven in by a small force of Rebels last night, and behaved very well indeed. The Rebel pickets call to us, that they will give us three days to clear out. . . .
We have not had out clothes off since we left St. Helena, and have absolutely nothing but an India-rubber blanket apiece. Officers and men are in the same boat. I sent down to-day to get a clean shirt and a horse. They will not allow any accumulation of luggage here.
The general feeling is that Gillmore will get Charleston at last. . . .
Governor Andrew writes that he has urged the Secretary of War to send General Barlow here to take command of the black troops. This is what I have been asking him to do for some time.
We got some ham for dinner to-day, which is an improvement on salt-junk. I hope the mail will be allowed to go this time.
Good bye, dearest Annie.
Your loving Rob