Colored Victims of the Riots

The following were colored victims of the 1863 draft riots.

William Henry Nichols (colored). Nichols resided at No. 147 East Twenty-eighth Street. Mrs. Staat, his mother, was visiting him. On Wednesday, July 15th, at 3 o’clock, the house was attacked by a mob with showers of bricks and stones. In one of the rooms was a woman with a child but three days old. The rioters broke open the door with axes and rushed in. Nichols and his mother fled to the basement; in a few moments the babe referred to was dashed by the rioters from the upper window to the yard, and instantly killed. The mob cut the water pipes above, and the basement was being deluged; ten persons, mostly women and children, were there, and they fled to the yard; in attempting to climb the fence, Mrs. Staat fell back from exhaustion; the rioters were instantly upon her; her son sprang to her rescue, exclaiming, “Save my mother, if you kill me.” Two ruffians instantly seized him, each taking hold of an arm, while a third, armed with a crowbar, calling upon them to hold his arms apart, deliberately struck him a savage blow on the head, felling him like a bullock. He died in the N. Y. Hospital two days after.

James Costello (colored). James Costello, No. 97 West Thirty-third Street, killed on Tuesday morning, July 14th. Costello was a shoemaker, an active man in his business, industrious and sober. He went out early in the morning upon an errand, was accosted, and finally was pursued by a powerful man. He ran down the street; endeavored to make his escape; was nearly overtaken by his pursuer; in self defense he turned and shot the rioter with a revolver. The shot proved to be mortal; he died two days after. Costello was immediately set upon by the mob. They first mangled his body, then hanged it. They then cut down his body and dragged it through the gutters, smashing it with stones, and finally burnt it. The mob then attempted to kill Mrs. Costello and her children, but she escaped by climbing fences and taking refuge in a police station house.

Abraham Franklin (colored). This young man, who was murdered by the mob on the corner of Twenty-seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, was a quiet, inoffensive man, of unexceptionable character. He was a cripple, but supported himself and his mother, being employed as a coachman. A short time previous to the assault, he called upon his mother to see if anything could be done by him for her safety. The old lady said she considered herself perfectly safe; but if her time to die had come, she was ready to die. Her son then knelt down by her side, and implored the protection of Heaven in behalf of his mother. The old lady said that it seemed to her that good angels were present in the room. Scarcely had the supplicant risen from his knees, when the mob broke down the door, seized him, beat him over the head and face with fists and clubs, and then hanged him in the presence of his parent. While they were thus engaged, the military came and drove them away, cutting down the body of Franklin, who raised his arm once slightly and gave a few signs of life. The military then moved on to quell other riots, when the mob returned and again suspended the now probably lifeless body of Franklin, cutting out pieces of flesh, and otherwise shockingly mutilating it.

Augustus Stuart (colored). Died at Hospital, Blackwell’s Island, July 22, from the effects of a blow received at the hands of the mob, on Wednesday evening of the Riot Week. He had been badly beaten previously by a band of rioters, and was frightened and insane from the effects of the blows which he had received. He was running toward the arsenal (State), Seventh Avenue and Thirty-seventh Street, for safety, when he was overtaken by the mob, from whom he received his death blow.

Peter Heuston, sixty-three years of age, a Mohawk Indian, dark complexion, but straight hair, and for several years a resident of New York, proved a victim to the riots. Heuston served with the New York Volunteers in the Mexican war. He was brutally attacked and shockingly beaten, on the 13th of July, by a gang of ruffians, who thought him to be of the African race because of his dark complexion. He died within four days, at Bellevue Hospital, from his injuries.

Jeremiah Robinson (colored). He was killed in Madison near Catharine Street. His widow stated that her husband, in order to escape, dressed himself in some of her clothes, and, in company with herself and one other woman, left their residence and went toward one of the Brooklyn ferries. Robinson wore a hood, which failed to hide his beard. Some boys, seeing his beard, lifted up the skirts of his dress, which exposed his heavy boots. Immediately the mob set upon him, and the atrocities they perpetrated are so revolting that they are unfit for publication. They finally killed him and threw his body into the river. His wife and her companion ran up Madison Street, and escaped across the Grand Street Ferry to Brooklyn.

William Jones (colored). A crowd of rioters in Clarkson Street, in pursuit of a Negro, who in self defense had fired on some rowdies, met an inoffensive colored man returning from a bakery with a loaf of bread under his arm. They instantly set upon and beat him and, after nearly killing him, hung him to a lamppost. His body was left suspended for several hours. A fire was made underneath him, and he was literally roasted as he hung, the mob reveling in their demoniac act. Recognition of the remains, on their being recovered, was impossible; and two women, mourned for upwards of two weeks, in the case of this man, for the loss of their husbands. At the end of that time, the husband of one of the mourners, to her great joy, returned like one recovered from the grave. The principal evidence which the widow, Mary Jones, had to identify the murdered man as her husband, was the fact of his having a loaf of bread under his arm, he having left the house to get a loaf of bread a few minutes before the attack.

Joseph Reed (colored). This was a lad of seven years of age, residing at No. 147 East Twenty-eighth Street, with an aged grandmother and widowed mother. On Wednesday morning of the fearful week, a crowd of ruffians gathered in the neighborhood, determined on a week of plunder and death. They attacked the house, stole everything they could carry with them, and, after threatening the inmates, set fire to it. The colored people who had the sole occupancy of the building, fled in confusion into the midst of the gathering crowd. And then the child was separated from his guardians. His youth and evident illness, even from the devils around him, it would be thought, should have insured his safety. But no sooner did they see his unprotected, defenseless condition, than a gang of fiendish men seized him, beat him with sticks, and bruised him with heavy cobblestones. But one, tenfold more the servant of Satan than the rest, rushed at the child, and with the stock of a pistol struck him on the temple and felled him to the ground. A noble young fireman, by the name of John F. Govern, of No. 39 Hose Company, instantly came to the rescue, and, single handed, held the crowd at bay. Taking the wounded and unconscious boy in his arms, he carried him to a place of safety. The terrible beating and the great fright the poor lad had undergone was too much for his feeble frame; he died on the following Tuesday.

Joseph Jackson (colored), aged nineteen years, living in West Fifty-third Street, near Sixth Avenue, was in the industrious pursuit of his humble occupation of gathering provender for a herd of cattle, and when near the foot of Thirty-fourth Street, East River, July 15, was set upon by the mob, killed, and his body thrown into the river.

Samuel Johnson (colored). On Tuesday night Johnson was attacked near Fulton Ferry by a gang who mercilessly beat and left him for dead. A proposition was made to throw him into the river, but for some reason the murderers took fright and fled. He was taken by some citizens to his home, and died the next day.

Williams (colored). He was attacked on the corner of Le Roy and Washington Streets, on Tuesday morning, July 14th, knocked down, a number of men jumped upon, kicked, and stamped upon him until insensible. One of the murderers knelt on the body and drove a knife into it; the blade being too small, he threw it away and resorted to his fists. Another seized a huge stone, weighing near twenty pounds, and deliberately crushed it again and again on to the victim. A force of police, under Captain Dickson, arrived and rescued the man, who was conveyed to the New York Hospital. He was only able to articulate “Williams” in response to a question as to his name, and remained insensible thereafter, dying in a few days.

Ann Derrickson. This was a white woman, the wife of a colored man, and lived at No. 11 York Street. On Wednesday, July 15th, the rioters seized a son of deceased, a lad of about twelve years, saturated his clothes and hair with camphene, and then procuring a rope, fastened one end to a lamp post, the other around his neck, and were about to set him on fire, and hang him; they were interfered with by some citizens and by the police of the First Ward, and their diabolical attempt at murder frustrated. While Mrs. Derrickson was attempting to save the life of her son she was horribly bruised and beaten, with a cart rung. The victim, after lingering three or four weeks, died from the effects of her injuries.

History, Murder,

Headley, Joel Tyler. The great riots of New York, 1712 to 1873: including a full and complete account of the Four Days' Draft Riot of 1863. New York: E. B. Treat, 1873.

1 thought on “Colored Victims of the Riots”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top