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1863 July 18: More on the Draft Riots and the Death of Colonel O’Brien

July 20, 2013

More on the New York City draft riots from the July 18, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal.


NEW YORK, July 14.

The Tribune and Times offices are baricaded to-night with bundles of printing paper.

A heavy force of police is about there and on the side walk of Printing House square.  In front of the Times office is a small cannon which fires twelve balls at a discharge.

Yesterday morning the mob gutted the house of Col. O’Brien,¹ of the New York volunteers, who tendered his services to suppress the riot.  A force of 300 policemen here charged on the mob and drove the rioters into houses, the officers chasing them all over buildings and felling them with their clubs.

A detachment of the 11th Regiment reached the scene and aided in dispersing the mob.

Col. O’Brien who went forward near the crowd was set upon and beaten to death almost instantly. The crowd afterwards amused themselves by firing at his head as he lay on the sidewalk, and afterwards hung him to a lamp post.  He was then taken down and thrown into the street, where he remained up to 8 o’clock last evening.

NY Draft Riots

Charge of the Police at the Tribune Office, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War” (see footnote 2)

NEW YORK, July 15.

The mayor has issued a proclamation announcing that the riot had subsided; that the remnants of the mob now only seek plunder, and calls upon the citizens to form patrols, and that all lines of omnibusses, railways and telegraph must be put in full operation immediately, and fully protected by the military.  The laws must and shall be obeyed, and the offenders pursued and punished.

A dispatch from the Secretary of War to Mayor Opdyke [George Opdyke] says five New York regiments have been ordered home.

1.  Henry O’Brien (ca. 1823-1863) was the colonel of the 11th New York Infantry. Little is known about his life before the Civil War. He served as a captain of Company H of the 155th New York Infantry, part of Corcoran’s Irish Legion, from October 1862 until his honorable discharge from that regiment in February 1863. In June 1863 O’Brien was given permission to recruit in order to re-raise the 11th New York Regiment. He was recruiting in New York City when the riots broke out.
2.  Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden, Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68; available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866).

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