The Reign of the Rabble

New York Times

Citation Information:“The Reign of the Rabble,” New York Times, v. 12, 15 July, 1863. Numbers 3680 - 3685.

Continuation of the Riot — The Mob Increased in Numbers

Demonstrations in the Upper Wards

Encounters Between the Mob, the Metropolitans and the Military

Large Numbers of the Rioters Killed.

Colonel O’Brien Murdered and Hung.

Streets Barricaded, Buildings Burned, Stores Sacked, and Private Dwellings Plundered.

Gov. Seymour in the City—He addresses the Mob and Issues a Proclamation.

Increased Preparations on the Part of the Authorities.

The Mercantile Community Aroused—Citizens Volunteering en Masse.

Reported Suspension of the Draft.

The reign of the mob which was inaugurated on Monday morning has not yet ceased, although today will probably witness the end of its infamous usurpation. All Monday night the rioters, unchecked, prosecuted their depredations, and yesterday morning found the lawless spirit not a whit abated. On the contrary, the malignant originators of the disturbance grew bolder at the impunity with which they were necessarily permitted to indulge in their first day’s career, and at one time more serious consequences than any which have yet occurred were threatened. Happily, however, the military and police authorities early in the day recovered from the partial paralysis into which the sudden demonstrations of the mob had thrown them, and in sufficient force were able to contend with the truly formidable organizations of lawless men. A few wholesome but severe lessons were administered to the rioters during the day wherever they showed themselves most turbulent, and toward evening there seemed to be unmistakable indications that the supremacy of law would soon be acknowledged even by the most rabid of the offenders. Perhaps, however, the mere fact that a score or more of the rioters were killed in the various conflicts with the military and the police was not solely the cause of this abatement of the spirit of violence. The proclamation of Gov. Horatio Seymour, and the announcement made early in the afternoon, that President Lincoln had ordered the draft in this City to be suspended, may also have had something to do with restoring the malcontents to reason. At any rate, after nightfall the streets were comparatively quiet.


Doings of the Military.

At an early hour the military began to assemble at Police Headquarters, and were in readiness to proceed to the performance of any duty to which they might be assigned. A company of United States regulars from Governor’s Island, under the command of Lieut. Wood, formed in line in front of the Headquarters.

At 10 o’clock this company was sent to the Seventh Ward, where the rioters had begun to tear down a number of buildings, and were also setting them on fire. The following order was issued by Gen. Sandford:

New York, July 14, 1863

The whole military force now at the Police Headquarters will forthwith return to the Seventh-avenue arsenal and report to Maj. Gen. Sandford.

Chas. W. Sandford, Major-General, Headquarters Department of the East

New York, July 13, 1863

Special Order.—All the troops called out for the protection of the City are placed under command of Maj.-Gen. Sandford, whose orders they will implicitly obey.

C. T. Christiansen, Assistant Adjutant-General


The Riot in Second-avenue.


Between 12 and 1 o’clock yesterday, the rioters commenced their attack upon the Union Steam Works, situated on the corner of Twenty-second street and Second-avenue. The guns taken from the armory on Monday were stored in this building, and the most active efforts were made by the insurgents to secure them.

The rioters turned out in large force, numbering from 4,000 to 5,000 people—including children. The shops and stores for half a mile around were closed, and the streets were filled with crowds of excited men, women and children.

At 2 P.M. three hundred Policemen, under the command of one of the inspectors, arrived upon the ground. The rioters had in the meantime taken possession of the building, and when the officials made their appearance, they attempted to escape by the rear windows, but too late the escape the notice of the Police. Finding themselves caught in a tight place they made an attack on the Police. This assault the Officers met by a volley from their revolvers, and five of the mob were shot.

About twenty rioters remained in the building; there was but one way for them to make their exit. The police filled the door, and each had in addition to his usual weapons a loaded revolver. The mob became desperate and made a deadly assault upon the police; they in turn used their weapons so effectively that fourteen of the mob were almost instantly killed. A scene, which defies all powers of description, then followed. Men, women and children rushed through the streets in the most frantic state of mind, and as the dead and wounded were borne from the place, the wild howlings of the bereaved, were truly sad to hear.

Four persons were killed and quite a number were injured by jumping from the second story windows of the building.

When the rioters were dispersed, the Police took possession of the Union Steam Works building, and at a late hour last night they still held the place. A collision between the authorities and the mob is liable to take place at any moment. The Police and military are fully prepared to meet them.


Doings of Gov. Seymour

Before leaving the City Hall the Governor issued the following proclamation:

To the People of the City of New York:

A riotous demonstration in your City, originating in opposition to the conscription of soldiers for the military service of the United States, has swelled into vast proportions, directing its fury against the property and lives of peaceful citizens. I know that many of those who have participated in these proceedings would not have allowed themselves to be carried to such extremes of violence and of wrong except under an apprehension of injustice; but such persons are reminded that the only opposition to the conscription which can be allowed is an appeal to the Courts.

The right of every citizen to make such an appeal will be maintained, and the decision of the Courts must be respected and obeyed by rulers and people alike. No other course is consistent with the maintenance of the laws, the peace and order of the City, and the safety of its inhabitants.

Riotous proceedings must and shall be put down. The laws of the State of New York must be enforced, its peace and order maintained, and the lives and property of all its citizens protected at any and every hazard. The rights of every citizen will be properly guarded and defended by the Chief Magistrate of the State.

I do therefore call upon all persons engaged in these riotous proceeding to retire to their homes and employments declaring to them that unless they do so at once, I shall use all the power necessary to restore the peace and order of the City. I also call upon all well-disposed persons not enrolled for the preservation of order to pursue their ordinary avocations.

Let all citizens stand firmly by the constituted authorities, sustaining law and order in the City, and ready to answer any such demand as circumstances may render necessary for me to make upon their services and they may rely upon a rigid enforcement of the laws of this State against all who violate them.

Horatio Seymour, Governor

New York July 14, 1863

During the afternoon the Governor addressed a large concourse of people in Wall-street. His speech there was the same in substance as that delivered from the City Hall steps. He said he had sent to Washington to ask that the draft in this State might be suspended until the Courts could decide upon its legality. To the decision, when it came, all owed obedience. If they decided it is to be legal, he would use every exertion to make it as equal as possible upon all citizens. The Governor’s remarks were well received.

Subsequently, the Governor addressed the people in the upper part of the City—the tenor of his remarks being substantially the same.



To the Loyal Citizens of New York

All persons who wish to enroll themselves for temporary duty, to assist in suppressing the present disgraceful riot, are requested to report themselves at either of the following places, to the officers detailed for the purpose of organizing them viz.:

Park Barracks, Broadway.
Lafayette Hall. No. 507 Broadway
Cooper Institute.
John E. Wool, Major-General