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1863 July 18: New York City Draft Riots

July 19, 2013

News on the draft riots that occurred in New York City from July 13-16, 1863.  This report is from the July 18, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal.

L A T E   N E W S !



At latest accounts from New York up to 6’oclock last evening, ther [sic] lot had not abated, but was increasing in its fury. —A number of elegant dwelling houses had been rifled of their contents and burned, police men were stoned and beaten to death, and a great number of persons more or less injured by the infuriated devils.  The mob is said to have been instigated and lead on by one Andrews of Virginia, who was figured somewhat conspicuously at recent Copperhead meetings at Cooper Institute.  He addressed the rabble while the work of destruction was going on, reviling the Administration and counselling [sic] resistance to its laws.  Mayor Opdyke¹ has issued a proclamation declaring his intention to put down the riot, and establish order at hazards.  Gov. Seymour has been sent for and was expected to arrive last evening.  At 4 o’clock yesterday the mob was said to number 3,000 all armed, and bent on indiscriminate destruction to everything in their way.

NEW YORK, July 14, via New York and Erie Line. —Superintendant [sic] Kennedy² badly, but not fatally injured.

About 7 o’clock in the afternoon yesterday, a crowd gathered around the Tribune office and commenced yelling.  A few men attacked and gutted the publication office, but were dispersed by the police after firing a few shots.

NEW YORK, via N.Y. & E. Line. —The riot is still raging.  Gov. Seymour just telegraphed to Albany for all the military that can be raised and sent there.

BUFFALO, July 14. —This city is filled with rumors regarding the New York riot, but it cannot be traced to any reliable source.  The telegraph lines to New York are still interrupted and no reports can be got except by newspapers carried by railroad to Albany.

It is reported that the Hudson river road has been torn up for some distance.  It is thought the draft will have to be postponed in Buffalo, for want of sufficient force to protect the officers.

NEW YORK, July 14, 3 P. M.—The Post says bodies of rioters to day visited the large manufacturing establishments, forcing the laborers to join them, forbiding [sic] the loading of ships, &c., &c.

Up to this hour several houses have been sacked, including Mayor Opedyke’s [sic].

Conflagrations are occurring momentarily, and the mob which seems to be divided into seperate [sic] crowds, are bent on plunder, pillage and robbery, of all persons.

The merchants have held a meeting and about 200 have just marched up Brodaway [sic] to enroll themselves as special police.  There has been several collisions with the military and police, in which the rioters have got worsted.

A detachments of troops with two pieces of ordinances, under Col. O’Brien, charged on the rioters about nine o’clock on the morning of the 14th inst. [July]  Three rounds of blank catridges [sic] were fired from the cannon, when the mob dispersed, promising, however, to come back soon with arms.

A company of infantry was stoned in Pitts street, when the lieutenant ordered them to fire, which they did, killing several of the scoundrels and dispersing the rest.

At 4 P. M. the brokers held a meeting, and organized themselves into companies for immediate service.  Similar meetings are held in different parts of the city.  All the stores down town are closed, and all the armories and arsenals and public buildings are fully garrisoned.

Some 5,000 effective troops are expected in the city this evening.

The mob is quite dense in City Hall Park, where Gov. Seymour addressed it, stating that he had sent his Adjutant General to Washington to request the draft to be stopped, and implored the crown to respect property and persons, and the State would see that all would be made satisfactory.

NEW YORK, July 14—4:30 P. M.—All omnibusses [sic] have stopped running, and the horse cars also, under the threat of the mob.

A body infantry and artillery are stationed at the Hudson River Railroad depot, to protect it from a large mob congregating there.

A large Pork Packing Factory was burned by the mob this morning.

A block of nine buildings, including a planing mill on 29th street, was burned by the mob this morning.

The mob this morning took possession of a tenement block on 34th street but driven out by the infantry who shot and killed several.

The mob set a school house on fire on 17th street, but it was extinguished.

The mob attacked a detachment of marines near Delancy street, when the latter fired, killing three and wounding six.

1.  George Opdyke (1805-1880) was a wealthy clothing manufacturer and merchandiser before being elected mayor of New York City in  December 1861. He was a radical Republican who served in the State Assembly (1859) and was a delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention. Opdyke was an ally of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s Treasury secretary. As mayor, Opdyke recruited and equipped troops for the war, and responded to the draft riots. In early 1863, Opdyke had strongly supported the Lincoln Administration’s draft policies in New York City. He played a central role in suppressing the July 1863 draft riots by working with the city police commission and federal government to put down the rebellion and to block any attempt at commutation. He also blocked bills passed by the City Council which would have exempted City draftees by paying their $330 fee to be exempted from the draft. But his role in the draft riots effectively killed any possibility that Opdyke would be re-elected in 1863.
2.  John Alexander Kennedy (1803-1873) was the New York City superintendent of police. Before that he worked with emigrants, first as commissioner of emigration and then as superintendent of the Castle Garden immigration station. He became superintendent of police in 1860 and served until he resigned in 1870. On the morning of July 14, 1862, he was severely beaten by a mob, while protecting the office of the provost-marshal. After the riots, he was appointed provost-marshal of New York City, as well as superintendent of police, and continued to serve in this dual capacity during the Civil War.

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