Incidents of the Riot

New York Times

Citation Information:“Incidents of the Riot,” New York Times, v. 12, 17 July, 1863. Numbers 3680 - 3685.

The worst feature of the riotous demonstrations which have made the fair name of our City a by-word and a hissing during the past four days is the dastardly and wanton outrages committed upon the persons of our colored people-men, women and children. The columns of the TIMES and of its contemporaries have been filled with verified reports of unprovoked attacks upon the persons of the negroes, of brutalities absolutely sickening in detail, of burnings, beatings, and drownings.

This, we are please to observe, is not so universal as it was during the first days of the riot, but even so late as yesterday there were recurrences of literal murders and of barbarous indignities, which disgrace the City, and add further infamy to the rowdies and rioters who have so completely upset the ordinary routine of the City’s life.

The first case brought to our notice was that of WILLIAM JOHNSON, a colored man, who resides with his family in Roosevelt-street. He was walking down the Second-avenue near Thirty-sixth-street, at a late hour on Wednesday night, hoping that the lateness of the hour and the darkness of the street would shield him from observation, and enable him to visit a friend who resides in an alley-way not far from that locality. As he reached the corner he was hailed by a party of young men—none of them more than twenty-two or three years of age—who asked him jokingly to look at his watch and tell them the time. JOHNSON made no reply but passed quietly on, when one of them running up behind him, struck him a violent blow on the back of the head, and at the same time tripped him, so that he fell full length upon the pavement. Instantly the whole set jumped upon him, kicked him and brutally bruised him, so that he lay for a while insensible. He was then thrown upon the steps of a grocery and left to die, or get up, as the chances of life might best favor.

Toward morning the unfortunate man came to, and slowly dragged himself the long weary distance to his home. Fortunately he was unnoticed and unhindered, so that he reached his door safely.

But, as though to prove the old adage that troubles never come singly, he had but just stepped in doors, when he was met by his heart-broken wife, who told him of the presence of his dying son, a waiter, whose employer’s place is in the lower part of the City, and who, on his way home, was beaten and left for dead by a mob of longshoremen, and was brought home in a dying state by the kind hands of the Police. The son died before noon, but the father, though terribly battered and bruised, is living, and will doubtless fully recover.



In one of the worst, so far as beating is concerned, which has come under our observation: At a late hour on Wednesday night, a colored man, whose name we could not obtain, was passing along West-street, in the neighborhood of Pier No. 5 North River. He was evidently a laboring man and was dressed in a tarpaulin, a blue shirt, and heavy duck trousers. As he was passing a groggery in that vicinity, he was observed by a body of dockmen, who instantly set after him. He ran with all the swiftness his fears could excite, but was overtaken before he had gone a block. His persecutors did not know him nor did they entertain any spite against him beyond the fact that he was a black man and a laborer upon the docks, which they consider their own peculiar people. Nevertheless they pitched into him right and left, knocked him down, pulled him up by the air, kicked him in the face and ribs, and finally, by the hands of their leader, deliberately cut his throat. The body, dead they supposed it, was then thrown into the water and left to sink. Fortunately life was not extinct and the sudden plunge brought the poor fellow to his senses, and being a good swimmer he was enabled instinctively to seek for the network of the docks. This he soon found, but was so weak from the loss of blood and so faint with pain, that he could do no more than hold on and wait for day. Yesterday morning Messrs. KELLY and CURTIS, of Whitehall, discovered him lying half dead in the water. They at once attended to his wants, gave him in charge of the Police-boat and had him sent to the hospital. The escape of the man from death by the successive abuses of beating, knifing and drowning, is most wonderful. So determined and bitter is the feeling of the


that not one of the latter dares show himself upon the docks or piers, even when a regular employe of the place. The white workmen have resolved, by concerted action, to keep colored men from this branch of labor, and they have convinced, by their conduct toward their former comrades in work, a spirit as murderous and brutal as it is illiberal and selfish. It is a prevalent rumor, to which the authorities give full credence, and which the ‘longshoremen seem proud of, that scores of these unfortunates have been thrown into the river and frowned, for no other reason than that they were obnoxious To the sensitive minded individuals of a lighter color. At all events, there are great numbers of colored men whose whereabouts cannot be ascertained, and who are either bid in places unknown to their friends and families, or have met the fearful fate so liberally dealt out to them by their naturalized fellow-citizens.

The wrongs which the colored people have sustained, and are yet sustaining, seem to have produced no marked


upon their persecutors. On the contrary, they desire simply to be unmolested, and to continue in the humble spheres which, for so many years, have been theirs, and in which they have so generally been peaceful and orderly citizens. A somewhat comprehensive tour through the quarters of the City occupied by negroes yesterday, has brought to our knowledge scores of instances, in which a Christian fortitude, unsurpassed in the days of the martyrs, has sustained the poor outraged creatures in troubles of which the imagination can with difficulty conceive. Very many men and women are tossing to-day on beds of pain and anguish, the result of the beatings and kickings they have received at the hands of the mob.

From an old man in Sullivan street, a very patriarch in years and progeny, we gathered the following


I am a whitewasher by trade, and have worked, boy and man, in this city for sixty-three years. On Tuesday afternoon I was standing on the corner of Thirtieth-street and Second-avenue, when a crowd of young men came running along, shouting “here’s a nigger, here’s a nigger.” Almost before I knew of their intention, I was knocked down, kicked here and there, badgered, and battered without mercy, until a cry of “the P are coming” was raised, and I was left almost senseless, with a broken arm and a face covered with blood, on the railroad track. I was helped home on a cart by the officers, who were very kind to me, and gave me some brandy before I got home. I entertain no malice and have no desire for revenge against these people. Why should they hurt me or my colored brethren? We are poor men like them; we work hard and get but little for it. I was born in this State and have lived here all my life, and it seems hard, very hard, that we should be knocked down and kept out of work just to oblige folks who won’t work themselves and don’t want others to work.

We asked him if it was true that the negroes had formed any organization for self-defense, as was rumored. He said no; that, so far as he knew, “they all desire to keep out of the way, to be quiet, and do their best toward allaying the excitement in the City.”

The room in which the old man was lying was small, but it was the kitchen, sitting-room, bedroom and garret of four grown persons and five children.

Instances of this kind might be multiplied by the dozen, gathered from the lips of suffering men, who though wounded and maimed by ruffians and rioters, are content to be left alone, and wish for no revenge.

At a little after noon, yesterday, a number of


on Broad-street by a rough mob of several hundred rioters. At first the negroes were disposed to stand and resist the attack, but being overpowered by superior numbers, they broke ranks and scattered, seeking refuge in the halls and cellars of the adjacent stores. Individuals of them were caught and severely injured by kickings and beatings, but non were fatally injured. At one time it looked as though most serious results would ensue, but upon the appearance of the Police the mob skedaddled and the streets was again quiet. The Police sought out the colored men and took them to the Station-house for protection.


On Wednesday evening a mob of twenty-four persons or more appeared before United States Marshal MURRAY’S house, and made hostile demonstrations. The Marshal loaded two revolvers, one of which he gave his wife, instructing her not to fire until he should utter the word. The crowd, seeing the Marshal’s determination, and, perhaps, respecting the character of his little army of one, as well as fearing the sure death that awaited them in the event of an attack, made haste to depart, and were last seen by the Marshal on their way down the Ninth-avenue.


Mr. . JOHN ARTS entered a complaint against GEORGE W. BURROUGHS, charging that he took a very active part in the assault on the Tribune Office, breaking in doors and windows. He cast the first stone, and threw several afterward, and endeavored to wrench one of the doors from its hinges. BURROUGHS was arrested by Officer SMITH, of the First Precinct, and Alderman HALL locked him up for trial.


Alderman HALL committed one EDWARD CLANCY, a desperate young man, for snapping a pistol, loaded with powder and ball, at Officer CARMAN, of the Fifth precinct, during the riot in Thomas-street, at 3 o’clock in the morning.


The mob attacked the gun-store of JAMES GODFREY, No. 72 Catharine-street, at noon on Tuesday, and forced open the doors and windows, and took a large quantity of revolvers and other arms. Sergeant RODIE, of the Fourth Precinct, with the assistance of MR. GODFREY’S workmen and friends, kept the mob at bay, and saved the further destruction of property.