Continued Tranquility

On Saturday morning it was announced that the authorities at Washington had resolved to enforce the draft. It had been repeatedly asserted during the riot that it was abandoned, and the report received very general credence. Still, the official denial of it produced no disturbance. The spirit of insurrection was effectually laid.

It is a little singular, that, in all these tremendous gatherings and movements, no prominent recognized leaders could be found. A man by the name of Andrews had been arrested and imprisoned as one, but the charge rested wholly on some exciting harangues he had made, not from any active leadership he had assumed.

There were, perhaps, in the city this morning not far from ten thousand troops quite enough to preserve the peace, if the riot should break out afresh; and orders therefore were given to arrest the march of regiments hastening from various sections to the city, under the requisition of the Governor. Still, the terror that had taken possession of men could not be allayed in an hour, and although the police had resumed their patrols, and dared to be seen alone in the streets, there was constant dread of personal violence among the citizens. Especially was this true of the Negro population. Although many sought their ruined homes, yet aware of the intense hatred entertained toward them by the mob, they felt unsafe, and began to organize in self-defence. But the day wore away without disturbance, and the Sabbath dawned peaceably, and order reigned from the Battery to Harlem. The military did not show themselves in the street, and thousands thronged without fear the avenues in which the fighting had taken place, to look at the ruins it had left behind. On Monday there was more or less rebellious feeling exhibited by the rioters, on account of the general search of the police for stolen goods, and the arrest of suspected persons. It exhibited itself, however, only in threats and curses not a policemen was assaulted. It was amusing, sometimes, to see what strange articles the poor wretches had stowed away in their dirty cellars. There was everything from barrels of sugar and starch to tobacco and bird-seed. Said a morning paper: “Mahogany and rosewood chairs with brocade upholstering, marble-top tables and stands, costly paintings, and hundreds of delicate and valuable mantel ornaments, are daily found in low hovels up-town. Every person in whose possession these articles are discovered disclaims all knowledge of the same, except that they found them in the street, and took them in to prevent them being burned. The entire city will be searched, and it is expected that the greatest portion of the property taken from the buildings sacked by the mob will be recovered.” The rivers and outlets to the city were closely watched, to prevent its being carried off. In the meantime, arrests were constantly made.

It would be invidious to single out any portion of the police for special commendation, where all did their duty so nobly; but it is not improper to speak of the sanitary police, whose specific duties do not lead them to take part in quelling mobs.

They have to report all nuisances, examine tenement-houses and unsafe buildings, look after the public schools, but more especially examine steam-boilers, and license persons qualified to run steam-engines. Hence, it is composed of men of considerable scientific knowledge. But all such business being suspended during the riot, they at once, with their Captain, B. G. Lord, assumed the duties of the common policemen, and from Monday night till order was restored, were on constant duty, participating in the fights, and enduring the fatigues with unflinching firmness, and did not return to their regular duties till Monday morning.

The drill-officer also, Sergeant T. S. Copeland, became, instead of a drill-officer, a gallant, active leader of his men in some of the most desperate fights that occurred. His military knowledge enabled him to form commands ordered hastily off, with great dispatch. But not content with this, he led them, when formed, to the charge, and gave such lessons in drill, in the midst of the fight, as the police will never forget.

With the details of what followed we have nothing to do. The Grand Jury indicted many of the prisoners, and in the term of the court that met the 3d of August, twenty were tried and nineteen convicted, and sentenced to a longer or shorter term of imprisonment. Of course a large number on preliminary examinations got off, sometimes from want of sufficient evidence, and sometimes from the venality of the judges before whom they were brought. Claims for damages were brought in, the examination of which was long and tedious. The details are published in two large volumes, and the entire cost to the city was probably three millions of dollars. Some of the claims went before the courts, where they lingered along indefinitely. The number of rioters killed, or died from the effects of their wounds, was put down by the Police Commissioners at about twelve hundred. Of course this estimate is not made up from any detailed reports. The dead and wounded were hurried away, even in the midst of the fight, and hidden in obscure streets, or taken out of the city for fear of future arrests or complications. Hence there was no direct way of getting at the exact number of those who fell victims to the riot. The loss of life, therefore, could only be approximated by taking the regular report of the number of deaths in the city for a few weeks before the riots, and that for the same length of time after. As there was no epidemic, or any report of increased sickness from any disease, the inference naturally was, that the excess for the period after the riots was owing to the victims of them. Many of these were reported as sunstroke, owing to men exposing themselves to the sun with pounded and battered heads. The Police Commissioners took great care to keep all the wounded policemen indoors until perfectly cured. Only one ventured to neglect their orders, and he died of a sunstroke.

The difference of mortality in the city for the month previous to the riots, and the month during and subsequent, was about twelve hundred, which excess Mr. Acton thought should be put down to the deaths caused directly and indirectly by the riots. Although many policemen were wounded, only three were killed or died from the injuries they received.

Immediately after the riot, Mr. Leonard W. Jerome and others interested themselves in raising a fund for the relief of members of the Police, Militia, and Fire Departments who had sustained injuries in the discharge of their duty in suppressing the riots. Subscriptions to the amount of $54,980 were paid in, and $22,721.53 distributed by the Trustees of the Riot Relief Fund, in sums from $50 to $1,000, each, through Isaac Bell, Treasurer, to 101 policemen, 16 militiamen, and 7 firemen.

The balance was securely invested, to meet future emergencies, a portion of which was paid to sufferers by the Orange Riot of 1871.

The following is the list of colored people known to be killed by the mob, together with the circumstances attending their murder, as given by David Barnes, in his Metropolitan record, to which reference has heretofore been made.

Colored Victims of the Riot

Reports from the captains of the several precincts, with all the details of their operations, were made out also from the subordinate military officers to their immediate superiors. The final reports of General Wool, commanding the Eastern Department, and Major-general Sandford, commanding the city troops, caused much remark in the city papers, and called forth a reply from General Brown, who considered himself unjustly assailed in them. Explanation of the disagreement between him and General Wool having been fully given, it is not necessary to repeat it here. The same may be said of the statement of General Wool, regarding his orders on Monday the 13th, respecting the troops in the harbor. But in this report of General Wool to Governor Seymour, there are other statements which General Brown felt it his duty to correct. General Wool says, that finding there was a want of harmony between Generals Sandford and Brown in the disposition of troops, he issued the following order:

Major-General Sandford, Brevet Brigadier-General Brown.

Gentlemen: It is indispensable to collect your troops not stationed, and have them divided into suitable parties, with a due proportion of police to each, and to patrol in such parts of the city as may be in the greatest danger from the rioters. This ought to be done as soon as practicable.

John E. Wool, Major-General .
After this had been issued, General Sandford reporting to me that his orders were not obeyed by General Brown, I issued the following order:

“All the troops called out for the protection of the city are placed under the command of General Sandford.”

General Brown in his reply says, that he ” never saw or heard of this first order .” The only explanation of this, consistent with the character of both, is that General Wool sent this order to General Sandford alone either forgetting to transmit it to General Brown, or expecting General Sandford to do it.

At all events, sent or not, it was a foolish order. One would infer from it that the whole task of putting down the riots belonged to the military, the commanders of which were to order out what co operating force of police they deemed necessary and march up and down the disaffected districts, trampling out the lawlessness according to rule. This might be all well enough, but the question was, how were these troops, strangers to the city, to find out where ” such parts of the city ” were in which was ” the greatest danger from the rioters ?” It showed a lamentable ignorance of mobs; they don’t stay in one spot and fight it out, nor keep in one mass, nor give notice beforehand where they will strike next. Such knowledge could only be obtained from police head-quarters, the focus of the telegraph system, and there the troops should have been ordered to concentrate at once, and put themselves under the direction of the Police Commissioners. Again, General Wool says he issued the following order to General Brown, on Tuesday:

“Sir: It is reported that the rioters have already recommenced their work of destruction. Today there must be no child’s play. Some of the troops under your command should be sent immediately to attack and stop those who have commenced their infernal rascality in Yorkville and Harlem.”

This order, too, General Brown says he never received. Thinking it strange, he addressed a note to General Wool’s assistant adjutant-general, respecting both these orders, which had thus strangely wandered out of the way. The latter, Major Christensen, replied as follows:

“The orders of General Wool published in his report to Governor Seymour, viz.: ‘That patrols of military and police should be sent through the disaffected districts;’ and the one July 14th, ‘Today there must be no child’s play,’ etc., were not issued by me, and I cannot therefore say whether copies were sent to you or not. They were certainly not sent by me.

“C.F. Christensen,
“Major, Assistant Adjutant-general.”

We have explained how the error may have occurred with regard to the first order. But there is no explanation of this, except on the ground that General Wool perhaps sketched out this order, without sending it, and afterwards seeing it amid his papers, thought it was a copy of one he had sent. He was well advanced in years, and might easily fall into some such error.

It is not necessary to go into detailed account of all the statements contained in General Wool’s letter which General Brown emphatically denies; but the following is worthy of notice. He says that General Brown issued orders that General Sandford countermanded, and that General Brown acted through the riots under his (Wool’s) orders; whereas the latter says, he never received but three orders from Wool during the whole time, and only one of those referred to any action towards the rioters, and that was to bring off some killed and wounded men left by a military force sent out either by Sandford or Wool, and which had been chased from the field by the mob.

But the statements of General Wool are entirely thrown into the shade by the following assertion of General Sandford, in his report. He says: “With the remnant of the [his] division (left in the city), and the first reinforcements from General Wool, detachments were sent to all parts of the city, and the rioters everywhere beaten and dispersed on Monday afternoon, Monday night, and Tuesday morning. In a few hours, but for the interference of Brigadier-general Brown, who, in disobedience of orders,” etc.

The perfect gravity with which this assertion is made is something marvelous. One would infer that the police was of no account, except to maintain order after it was fully restored by the military on Tuesday morning. General Sandford might well be ignorant of the state of things in the city, for he was cooped up in the arsenal, intent only on holding his fortress. So far as he was concerned, the whole city might have been burned up before Tuesday noon, and he would scarcely have known it, except as he saw the smoke and flames from the roof of the arsenal. He never sent out a detachment until after the Tuesday afternoon, when, as he says, but for General Brown’s action, the riot would have been virtually over. The simple truth is, these reports of Generals Wool and Sandford are both mere after thoughts, growing out of the annoyance they felt on knowing that their martinetism was a total failure, and the whole work had been done by General Brown and the Police Commissioners from their head-quarters in Mulberry Street. Acton and Brown had no time to grumble or dispute about etiquette. They had something more serious on hand, and they bent their entire energies to their accomplishment. General Sandford held the arsenal, an important point, indeed a vital one, and let him claim and receive all the credit due that achievement; but to assume any special merit in quelling the riots in the streets is simply ridiculous. That was the work of the police and the military under the commissioners and General Brown.

The statement of the Police Commissioners, Acton and Bergen, on this point is conclusive. They say that General Sandford’s error consisted in “not choosing to be in close communication with this department, when alone through the police telegraph, and other certain means, trustworthy information of the movements of the mob could be promptly had.”

That single statement is enough to overthrow all of General Sandford’s assertions about the riot. It was hardly necessary for them to declare further in their letter to General Brown:

“So far from your action having had the effect supposed by General Sandford, we are of the opinion, already expressed in our address to the police force, that through your prompt, vigorous, and intelligent action, the intrepidity and steady valor of the small military force under you, acting with the police force, the riotous proceedings were arrested on Thursday night, and that without such aid mob violence would have continued much longer.”

Well Earned Praise

On the week after the riot the Board of Police Commissioners issued the following address to the force, in which a well earned tribute is paid to the military:

To the Metropolitan Police Force.
On the morning of Monday, the 13th inst., the peace and good order of the city were broken by a mob collected in several quarters of the city, for the avowed purpose of resisting the process of drafting names to recruit the armies of the Union.

Vast crowds of men collected and fired the offices where drafting was in progress, beating and driving the officers from duty.

From the beginning, these violent proceedings were accompanied by arson, robbery, and murder.

Private property, unofficial persons of all ages, sexes, and conditions, were indiscriminately assailed none were spared, except those who were supposed by the mob to sympathize with their proceedings.

Early in the day the Superintendent was assaulted, cruelly beaten, robbed, and disabled by the mob which was engaged in burning the provost marshal’s office in Third Avenue, thus in a manner disarranging the organization at the Central Department, throwing new, unwonted, and responsible duties upon the Board.

At this juncture the telegraph wires of the department were cut, and the movement of the railroads and stages violently interrupted, interfering seriously with our accustomed means of transmitting orders and concentrating forces.

The militia of the city were absent at the seat of war, fighting the battles of the nation against treason and secession, and there was no adequate force in the city for the first twelve hours to resist at all points the vast and infuriated mob. The police force was not strong enough in any precinct to make head, unaided, against the overwhelming force. No course was left but to concentrate the whole force at the Central Department, and thence send detachments able to encounter and conquer the rioters. This course was promptly adopted on Monday morning. The military were called upon to act in aid of the civil force to subdue the treasonable mob, protect life and property, and restore public order.

Under such, adverse circumstances you were called upon to encounter a mob of such strength as have never before been seen, in this country. The force of militia under General Sandford, who were called into service by the authority of this Board, were concentrated by him at and held the arsenal in Seventh Avenue, throughout the contest. The military forces in command of Brevet Brigadier-general Harvey Brown reported at the Central Department, and there General Brown established his head-quarters, and from there expeditions, combined of police and military force, were sent out that in all cases conquered, defeated, or dispersed the mob force, and subjected them to severe chastisement. In no instance did these detachments from the Central Department, whether of police alone or police and military combined, meet with defeat or serious check.

In all cases they achieved prompt and decisive victories. The contest continued through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and till 11 o’clock on Thursday night, like a continuous battle, when it ended by a total and sanguinary rout of the insurgents.

During the whole of those anxious days and nights, Brigadier-general Brown remained at the Central Department, ordering the movements of the military in carefully considered combinations with the police force, and throughout the struggle, and until its close, commanded the admiration and gratitude of the Police Department and all who witnessed his firm intelligence and soldierly conduct.

It is understood that he had at no time under his immediate command more than three hundred troops, but they were of the highest order, and were commanded by officers of courage and ability. They cordially acted with, supported, and were supported by, the police, and victory in every contest against fearful odds, was the result of brave fighting and intelligent command.

In the judgment of this Board, the escape of the city from the power of an infuriated mob is due to the aid furnished the police by Brigadier-general Brown and the small military force under his command. No one can doubt, who saw him, as we did, that during those anxious and eventful days and nights Brigadier-general Harvey Brown was equal to the situation, and was the right man in the right place.

We avail ourselves of this occasion to tender to him, in the most earnest and public manner, the thanks of the department and our own.

To the soldiers under his command we are grateful as to brave men who periled all to save the city from a reign of terror. To Captains Putnam, Franklin, and Shelley, Lieutenant Ryer, and Lieutenant-colonel Berens, officers of corps under the command of Brigadier-general Brown, we are especially indebted, and we only discharge a duty when we commend them to their superiors in rank and to the War Department for their courageous and effective service.

Of the Inspectors, Captains, and Sergeants of police who led parties in the fearful contest, we are proud to say that none faltered or failed. Each was equal to the hour and the emergency. Not one failed to overcome the danger, however imminent, or to defeat the enemy, however numerous. Especial commendation is due to Drill sergeant Copeland for his most valuable aid in commanding the movements of larger detachments of the police.

The patrolmen who were on duty fought through the numerous and fierce conflicts with the steady courage of veteran soldiers, and have won, as they deserve, the highest commendations from the public and from this Board. In their ranks there was neither faltering nor straggling. Devotion to duty and courage in the performance of it were universal.

The public and the department owe a debt of gratitude to the citizens who voluntarily became special patrolmen, some three thousand of whom, for several days and nights, did regular patrolmen’s duty with great effect.

In the name of the public, and of the department in which they were volunteers, we thank them.

Mr. Crowley, the superintendent of the police telegraph, and the attaches of his department, by untiring and sleepless vigilance in transmitting information by telegraph unceasingly through more than ten days and nights, have more than sustained the high reputation they have always possessed.

Through all these bloody contests, through all the wearing fatigue and wasting labor, you have demeaned yourselves like worthy members of the Metropolitan Police.

The public judgment will commend and reward you. A kind Providence has permitted you to escape with less casualties than could have been expected. You have lost one comrade, whom you have buried with honor. Your wounded will, it is hoped, all recover, to join you and share honor. It is hoped that the severe but just chastisement which has been inflicted upon those guilty of riot, pillage, arson, and murder, will deter further attempts of that character. But if, arising out of political or other causes, there should be another attempt to interrupt public order, we shall call on you again to crush its authors, confident that you will respond like brave men, as you ever have, to the calls of duty; and in future, whenever the attempt may be made, you will have to aid you large forces of military, ably commanded, and thus be enabled to crush in the bud any attempted riot or revolution.

To General Canby, who, on the morning of Friday, the 17th inst., took command of the military, relieving Brigadier-general Brown, and to Gen. Dix, who succeeded General Wool, the public are indebted for prompt, vigorous, and willing aid to the police force in all the expeditions which have been called for since they assumed their commands. Charged particularly with the protection of the immense amount of Federal property and interests in the Metropolitan district, and the police force charged with the maintenance of public order, the duties of the two forces are always coincident.

Whatever menaces or disturbs one equally menaces and disturbs the other.

We are happy to know that at all times the several authorities have co-operated with that concert and harmony which is necessary to secure vigor and efficiency in action.

Sergeant Young, of the detective force, aided by Mr. Newcomb and other special patrolmen, rendered most effective service in arranging the commissary supplies for the large number of police, military, special patrolmen, and destitute colored refugees, whose subsistence was thrown unexpectedly on the department. The duty was arduous and responsible, and was performed with vigor and fidelity. All the clerks of the department, each in his sphere, performed a manly share of the heavy duties growing out of these extraordinary circumstances. The Central Department became a home of refuge for large numbers of poor, persecuted colored men, women, and children, many of whom were wounded and sick, and all of whom were helpless, exposed, and poor. Mr. John H. Keyser, with his accustomed philanthropy, volunteered, and was appointed to superintend these wretched victims of violence and prejudice, and has devoted unwearied days to the duty. The pitiable condition of these poor people appeals in the strongest terms to the Christian charity of the benevolent and humane. The members of the force will do an acceptable service by calling the attention to their condition of those who are able and willing to contribute in charity to their relief.




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.

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