The Mob in New York

New York Times

Citation Information:“The Mob in New York,” New York Times, v. 12, 15 July, 1863. Numbers 3680 - 3685.

Resistance to the Draft-Rioting and Bloodshed.

Conscription Offices Sacked and Burned.

Private Dwellings Pillaged and Fired.


Colored People Assaulted—An Unoffending Black Man Hung.

The Tribune Office Attacked—The Colored Orphan Asylum Ransacked and Burned—Other Outrages Incidents.



The initiation of the draft on Saturday in the Ninth Congressional District was characterized by so much order and good feeling as to well nigh dispel the foreboding of tumult and violence which many entertained in connection with the enforcement of the conscription in this City. Very few, then, were prepared for the riotous demonstrations which yesterday from 10 in the morning until late at night; provided almost unchecked in our streets. The authorities had counted upon more or less resistance to this measure of the Government after the draft was completed, and the conscripts were required to take their place in the ranks, and at that time they would have been fully prepared to meet it, but no one anticipated resistance at so early a stage in the execution of the law, and, consequently, both the City and National authorities were totally unprepared to meet it. The plotters of the riot knew this, and in it they saw their opportunity. We say plotters of the riot, for it is abundantly manifest that the whole affair was concocted on Sunday last by a few wire-pullers, who, after they saw the ball fairly in motion yesterday morning prudently kept in the background. Proof of this is found in the fact that as early as 9 o’clock, some laborers employed by two or three railroad companies, and in the iron foundries on the eastern side of the City, formed in procession in the Twenty-second Ward, and visited the different workshops in the upper wards, where large numbers were employed, and compelled them by threats in some in instances, to cease their work. As the crowd augmented, their shouts and disorderly demonstrations became more formidable. The number of men, who thus started out in their career of violence and blood, did not probably at first exceed three-score. Scarcely had two dozen names been called, when a crowd, numbering perhaps 500, suddenly made an irruption in from of the building, (corner of Third-avenue and Forty-sixth street,) attacking it with clubs, stones, brickbats and other missiles. The upper part of the building was occupied by families who were terrified beyond measure at the smashing of the windows, doors, and furniture. Following these missiles, the mob rushed furiously into the office on the first floor, where the draft was going on, seizing the books, papers, records, lists, &c., all of which they destroyed, except those contained in a large iron safe. The drafting officers were set upon with stones and clubs, and, with the reporters for the Press and others, had to make a hasty exit through the rear. They did not escape scatheless, however, as one of the enrolling officers was struck a savage blow with a stone, which will probably result fatally, and several others were injured.

From the above it will be seen that the drawing by Provost Marshal Jenkins did not commence punctually at 9 o’clock, as was intended. Intimations had been received that a riot was probable, and Acting Assistant Provost Marshal General Nugent was applied to for a force which would be sufficient to preserve the peace. At ten o’clock however no other response had been made to this application than the arrival of a dozen policemen and Provost Marshal Jenkins decided to resume the drawing. The wheel was placed prominently upon the table, the blind-folded man stood beside it, the man whose duty it was to turn the wheel was ready, and Mr. Jenkins announced that the draft, which was begun on Saturday, would be concluded. At this time, there were about two hundred persons present, and during the twenty minutes before the riot was inaugurated, they freely made use of excited and threatening language. These ruffians did not hesitate at all about joining the main body of the rioters as soon as they arranged themselves before the building, and their exit was the signal for the attack, which commenced with a volley of stones. When the office had been cleared of the officers and other persons, many of the more excited of the rioters rushed in and played instant havoc with machinery and demolishing the furniture and papers. The books, lists and records, and blanks were dragged into the street, torn into fragments, and scattered everywhere with loud imprecations and savage yells. The men seemed to be excited beyond expression, and in their futile efforts to wrench open the iron safe which contained the names of the drafted, gave themselves wholly to devilish rage and fury.

The destruction of the material in the office was hardly accomplished when smoke was discovered to be issuing from the rest of the room and this evidence of the building being on fire was received with vociferous shouts, and other indications of delight. As the flames gradually increased, the passions of the mob grew deeper, and their yelling and brandishing of clubs and threatening of everybody connected with enforcement of the draft was more emphatic. Some of the crowd supposed that the Enrolling officers had secreted themselves in the upper part of the building, and notwithstanding the fact that women and children were known to occupy the upper floors, the cowardly wretches threw stones and other missiles into the windows.

Fearing that these poor people would either be burned to death or maimed by these projectiles, Deputy Provost-Marshal Edward S. .Vandderfore bravely stepped out to the front, and assuring the rioters that they had utterly destroyed all the drafting paraphenalia, requested them to withdraw, or to do something to prevent the destruction of the helpless women and children. Suspecting from his uniform that he was one of the drafting officers, one of the rioters seized him and struck him. Mr. Vanderfore merely shook off his assailant and in a pacific manner, renewed his request when the action of the fire attracted the attention of the rioters and a number of the men grabbed him with their hands, with stones and… Because he could not resist them, he withdrew to the place where the police were posted. The rioters followed him with great clubs, and the men, who were desperate, beat him upon the body and head. His head was so badly bruised that blood flowed profusely, when he was thrown down and kicked. He afterward escaped by the aid of the police and one of two of his friends, but the rioters followed him, striking him with clubs. He is so badly injured that there is but little probability of his recovery.

Meantime the fire spread from the enrolling office to the adjoining buildings, and the entire block was consumed.


Soon after the rioting began Superintendent Kennedy hurried to the scene in a carriage, and as he alighted a portion of the crowd recognized him, greeting him at first with uncomplimentary epithets and afterwards with blows. A score or more of the ruffians fell upon him, and dealt heavy blows upon his head, face, and body, injuring him severely. They doubtless would have killed him outright had not a strapping fellow in the crowd felt some compunction at the brutality of the rest and dashed in to the rescue. By vigorous blows, he kept a clear space about Mr. Kennedy’s prostrate body until two policemen gathered up their Chief and removed him to a place of safely. In addition to his painful cuts and bruises, Mr. Kennedy was also a sufferer in the loss of his watch, spectacles and gold-beaded cane. The ruffians in this as in many other instances made plunder a part of their programme.

The rioters soon betook themselves to other places apparently with no concerted plan but bent on fresh depredations.


At about 4 o’clock the crowd proceeded from the scene of their exploits in Lexington-avenue and Forty-Fourth-street to the armory situated on the corner of Second-avenue and Twenty-first street. The building was a large four-story one, and was occupied for the manufacture of rifles and carbines for the Government. In the early part of the day the Police authorities had placed in the building a large number of Police, consisting principally of the Broadway Squad their instructions were to protect the building and the property therein, and to resist with force any attempt of the invaders to enter the premises. The mob on Second avenue, Twenty-first and Twenty-second streets rapidly increased and at the time the first attempt was made to force the doors of the building, it amounted to from three to four thousand, the greater part of whom were boys. At this time, some 18 or 20 men, followed by scores of youngsters made an attempt to force the doors of the Armory on Twenty-first street. The doors were burst open by means of heavy sledges, and the crowd made a rush to enter to enter the building. Those in charge of the building, acting under instructions, fired upon those who were entering, and four or five were wounded. One man, named Michael Vaney, was shot through the heart, and died immediately. Vaney was a mechanic, and worked in the Morgan Iron Works. He was about 40 years of age, and resided in Twenty-third street, between Avenues A and B. The other persons who were shot are not regarded as being seriously injured.

The shooting of Vaney, who was one of the ringleaders of the party making the attack, was the signal for a general onslaught upon the armory. Loud and deep were the curses uttered against the officers who had shot their leader and for the next hour the paving stones flew thick and fast. And not until the last pane of glass in the windows of the building had been broken did they resist. It is proper to remark that nearly all those threw the paving stones were boys under twelve years of age. During all this time efforts of a desperate character were being made to fire the building. The doors on Second-avenue were finally forced open, and an excited multitude tried to effect an entrance. They were promptly repelled by those inside. Very soon they received reinforcements and again they made the attempt to enter, some of them with lighted torches in their hands. Meantime a dispatch was received by the officers of the Broadway Squad in charge of the building, from Police Headquarters to the effect that in as much as it was impossible to reinforce them, and the attacking party so greatly outnumbered them, they must retire in the best manner they could. In a short time, they were all safely outside the building, with the exception of two of their number who were pelted on the head with brickbats; one of them was very seriously injured. The excitement against all policemen at this time ran so high that it was regarded a hazardous undertaking for one to show himself to the excited populace. The fact that there was a private entrance in the rear was a most fortunate circumstance for them.

The police having vacated the premises the mob found it comparatively an easy task to enter and fire the building. In fifteen minutes from the time the crowd had undisputed possession of it, the entire structure was a mass of flame. About half a dozen men remained inside as a sort of forlorn hope, and when all escape for them by the ordinary ways had been cutoff by the flames the poor fellows let themselves down from the windows of the third story in the best manner they could. One took hold of the windowsill, and another slid down to his feet and then dropped to the pavement in this way they all managed to escape but two of them had each a leg broken, one had his skull so much fractured that he is not expected to recover and another was so bruised and injured that when he was taken into a neighboring drug store life seemed extinct. Amid the excitement and confusion our reporter was unable to obtain the names of any of those who were thus injured.



At 11 A. M., word reached the Park Barracks of the disturbances and Lieutenant Reid and a detachment of the incalld corps immediately reported to the scene of the riot. They went by the Third avenue route, the party occupying one car. On the way up, crowds of men, women, and children gathered at the street corners hissed and jeered them, and some even went so far at to pick up stones, which they defiantly threatened to throw at the car. When near the scene of the disturbance, Lieut. Reid and command alighted, and formed in company line, in which order they marched up to the mob. Facing the rioters the men were ordered to fire which many of them did, the shots being blank cartridges, but the smoke had scarce cleared away when the company which did not number more than fifty men, if as many, were attacked and completely demoralized by the mob, who were armed with clubs, sticks, swords and other impediments. The soldiers had their bayonets taken away and they themselves were compelled seek refuge in the side streets. But in attempting to flee thither, several it is said were killed, while those that escaped did so only to be hunted like dogs, but in a more inhuman and brutal manner. They were chased by the mob. Who divided themselves into squads, and frequently a single soldier would be caught in a side street with each end blocked up by the rioters. The houses and stores were all closed (excepting a few liquor shops which had the shutters up but kept the back door open,) no retreat was, therefore, open for him, and the poor fellow would be beaten almost to death, when the mob becoming satiated and disgusted with their foul work, he would be left sweltering in blood, unable to help himself.

Elated with success, the mob, which by this time had been largely reinforced, next formed themselves into marauding parties and paraded through the neighboring streets, looking more like so many infuriated demons, the men being more or less intoxicated, dirty and half-clothed.

Some shouted, ” Now for the Fifth-avenue Hotel — there’s where the Union Leaguers meet.”

Others clamored among themselves for the muskets, which they had taken from the soldiers. The streets were thronged with women and children, many of whom instigated the men to further work of blood, while the injured men left the crowd, and found seats up the street corners, at one of which the reporter heard the following conversation, between an intoxicated youth, who was badly wounded in the hand, and an elderly excited woman, probably his mother.

Youth —” Aw, begad, if it hadn’t been for this lick, which the son of a ——— guv me, I’d a belabored him afor this, and, bedad, I wud.”

Woman—” Mussahantulusha, yo betters mind yer own bisiniss.”

Youth— ” No—if Sam Garrigan [or Galligan — Reptr] had a dun the business brother , it wud be Alright.”

From this may be inferred that the Sam Garrigan, or Galligan, mentioned in the conversation above, is the ringleader, of which there can be little doubt, as the reporter frequently heard Garrigan’s or Galligan’s name cheered and called the “Bully boy”. Garrigan, or Galligan, we believe is a well known wire- puller of the ward, and from conversations between the men, we gleaned the following which may be taken for what it is worth. 1. That Garrigan or Galligan is the ringleader. That the mob, numbering about 500 men, assembled this morning at Central Park, armed and equipped, i.e. with clubs and sticks, and from there went to the Draft Office where they commanded all else.


The Orphan Asylum for Colored Children was visited by the men about 4 o’clock. This institution is situated on Fifth -avenue, and the building, with the grounds and gardens adjoining, extended from Forty-third to Forty-fourth street. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands of rioters, the majority of whom were women and children, entered the premises, and in the most excited and violent manner they ransacked and plundered the building from cellar to garret. The building was located in the most pleasant and healthy portion of the City. It was purely a charitable institution. In it there are on an average 600 or 800 homeless colored orphans. The building was a large, four-story one, with two wings of three stories each.

When it became evident that the crowd designed to destroy it, a flag of truce appeared on the walk opposite, and the principals of the establishment made an appeal to the excited populace, but in vain.

Here it was that Chief-Engineer Decker showed himself one of the bravest among the brave. After the entire building had been ransacked, and every article deemed worth carrying away had been taken — and this included even the little garments for the orphans which were contributed by the benevolent ladies of this City— the premises were fired on the first floor. Mr. Decker did all he could to prevent the flames from being kindled, but when he was overpowered by superior numbers, with his own hands he scattered the brands, and effectually extinguished the flames. A second attempt was made, and this time in three sections of the house. Again he succeeded, with the aid of half a dozen of his men, in defeating the incendiaries. The mob became highly exasperated at this conduct and threatened to take his life if he repeated the act. On the front steps of the building he stood up amid an infuriated and half-drunken mob of two-thousand, and begged of them to do nothing so disgraceful to humanity as to burn a benevolent institution, which had for its object nothing but good. He said it would be a lasting disgrace to them and to the City of New-York.

These remarks seemed to have no good effect upon them, and meantime, the premises were again fired—this time in all parts of the house. Mr. Decker, with his few brave men, again extinguished the flames. This last act brought down upon him the vengeance of all who were bent on the destruction of the asylum, and but for the fact that some firemen surrounded him, and bodily said that Mr. Decker could not be taken except over their bodies, he would have been dispatched on the spot. The institution was destined to be burned, and after an hour and a half of labor on the part of the mob, it was in flames in all parts. Three or four persons were horribly bruised by the falling walls, but the names we could not ascertain. There is now scarcely one brick left upon another if the Orphan Asylum.

The Riots Yesterday.

The outrages upon law and public order yesterday, in this metropolis, will revive the heart of every rebel, and of every hater of our institutions the world over. The assiduous fanning of every malignant passion by a portion of our public Press, and by platform demagogues, has at last resulted in an open outbreak, and for hours a mob, embracing thousands, raged at its full bent through an extended section of our City, with arson and bloody violence. The absence of nearly our entire military force, in their great patriotic work of aiding to beat back the invaders of Northern soil, gave these public enemies a rare opportunity for carrying things with a high hand. The law was not only defied but was successfully resisted. For the first time within the memory of this generation, it could not command means for its protection. It stood paralyzed, helpless, humbled. It was a spectacle that may well crimson the cheek of every true American with shame. Yet, if that were all, there might be some resignation, for public humiliations have been a rarity in New York. But, unfortunately, there is danger in it, as well as disgrace. There is something portentous in this lawlessness at this juncture.

It has long been declared by the rebel journals, and also by the European journals in the interest of the rebels, that the Conscription act could not be enforced, and that this would compel a discontinuance of the war. The anti-war journals here in the North, while they in general have not ventured to recommend violent resistance to the Conscription, have yet studied to excite against it every unreasoning passion and prejudice. Malignants, too, of the Vallandigham type, have for months been doing their best, by artful harangues, to foment a spirit of resistance. These men understood their work thoroughly. Their business was to bring about violence; and ANTHONY himself never managed that business more skillfully. Ever discerning man saw what it would end in—the mob in the street taking upon themselves all the risks, these gentry in their closets rejoicing in the fray in which they dared not mingle. The Government could not blind itself to this flagitious course of action. It made some effort to defeat it; but it was found that this only armed these public enemies with new power for they turned it to their advantage by pretending that it was now a question of freedom of speech, and gained new influence by setting themselves up as its champions. Thus the dangerous element has been continually growing. It has spread more or less through every part of the North. It has reached all the baser portions of society everywhere, and made them restless, and ready for almost any violence. In most communities this spirit is effectually kept under by superior public opinion. But there are localities where this public sentiment has no such force. This has been shown in the rural districts by the outbreaks which have already occurred in Ohio and Indiana. It is now being shown amid a city population, where the passions of men are far more inflammable, and where the facilities for effective organization are far greater. What its real strength is no man can yet measure; but yesterday’s demonstrations sufficiently attest that it is quite strong enough to be formidable and dangerous.

The practical question now is, how this spirit of resistance is to be met. Is it to be done by discussing the merits and the necessities of the Conscription act? Decidedly No! it will be a fatal mistake for the friends of the Government to suspend their action on the turn of any such question. No man who is at heart for the war, by which alone the Government can be sustained, has a serious doubt about either the constitutionality, of the justice, or the propriety, or the necessity of this resort for replenishing the national armies. Even were it otherwise—were the measure actually one that could be reasonably questioned, it would not affect present duties one tittle. The one sole fact that must determine the action of our public authorities against these demonstrations is, that the Conscription act stands on the National Statute Book a law. It was enacted by the two bodies in which, under the Constitution, “all legislative powers” are granted, and it was “approved” by the President. There has never been in this Republic a law of more absolute validity, or more perfect sanction. Until it is repealed, or pronounced by the highest Court unconstitutional and null, it must stand, and its requirements must be satisfied. The administrators of law have no alternative but to enforce its provisions, without fear or favor. Come what may, they are shut up to that line of action. And it is the duty of every law abiding man to sustain them in it. The official or the citizen who falters is treacherous to every civil obligation.

The issue is not between Conscription and no-Conscription, but between order and anarchy. The question is not whether this particular law shall stand, but whether law itself shall be trampled under foot. Is this City to be at the mercy of a mob? Have the statutes of the land to await the approval of all the Jack Cades of society before they can attain any binding force? Nobody ever imagined that this conscription act would suit either rebels in the South, or rebel-sympathizers in the North. No valuable law is ever passed that has the favor of the evil-minded. Yield to them the ratification of our public legislation, and you will speedily be reduced to the condition of being without any law whatever. There is not a man’s life in this City that is safe, nor a dollar’s worth of property, if the spirit which dominated this City yesterday is to be left to its own working. It is as fatal to our whole civil and social organization as the plague is to the physical constitution of man. To give way before it is simply to invoke destruction. Our authorities, we perfectly understand, have been taken at a great disadvantage. These riots have been precipitated upon them at the very time when they were least able to meet them with promptitude. It has proved to have been a great mistake to suffer our city to be so completely stripped of its military defenders. But it is idle now to repine over this. There are yet available means enough, if seasonably and properly taken in hand, to crush, before another twenty-four hours, this twin hydra of the rebellion utterly, beyond all possibility of its ever writhing again. But it will require boldness, decision, nerve of no ordinary character. The responsibility is practically with Gov.. Seymour and Mayor Opkyke. Men in their positions never were confronted with more stupendous duties.