Soldiers Beaten by the Mob

In the meantime, the mob that stood watching the spreading conflagration in Third Avenue increased rapidly, fed by tributaries from the tenement houses, slums, and workshops in that vicinity. But they were soon startled from their state of comparative quietness, by the cry of “the soldiers are coming.” The Invalid Corps, a small body sent from the Park, was approaching. As it came up, the soldiers fired, either blank cartridges, or over the heads of the crowd, doubtless thinking a single discharge would disperse it. The folly of such a course was instantly shown, for the mob, roused into sudden fury, dashed on the small body of soldiers before they could reload, and snatching away their muskets, pounded them over the head, and chased them like sheep for ten blocks. One soldier was left for dead on the pavement, beaten to a jelly. Another, breaking from the crowd, attempted to climb some rocks near Forty-second Street, when his pursuers grabbed him and dragged him to the top, where they tore off his uniform, and beat him till he was senseless, and then threw him down to the bottom and left him.

In the meantime, Sergeant McCredie, “fighting Mac,” as he was called, from the Fifteenth Precinct, Captain C. W. Caffrey, arrived on the scene with a few men. Marching down Forty-third street to Third Avenue, they looked up two blocks, and to their amazement beheld the broad avenue, as far as they could see, blocked with the mob, while before it, bearing swiftly down on them, and running for life, came the terror-stricken Invalid Corps. At this juncture, other squads sent from various precincts arrived, swelling this force to forty-four. It was a mere handful among these enraged thousands; but McCredie, who at once took command, determined to stand his ground, and meet as best he could the overwhelming numbers that came driving down like a storm, filling the air with yells and oaths, and brandishing their clubs over their heads. He thought that another police force was beyond the mob, on the north, and if he could press through and form a junction with it, the two combined would be strong enough to hold their own. He therefore quickly formed his men in line across the street, and awaited the shock. As the disorderly mass following up the fugitives drew near, McCredie ordered a charge, and this mere handful of men moved swiftly and steadily upon it. The rioters, stunned by the suddenness and strength of the blow, recoiled, and the police, following up their advantage, drove them back, step by step, as far as Forty-sixth street. Here the sergeant, instead of meeting another body of police, as he expected, met a heavier body of rioters that were blocking up Forty-sixth Street on both sides of the avenue. Backed by these, the main body rallied and charged on the exhausted police force in turn, and almost surrounded them. To render their already desperate situation hopeless, another mob suddenly closed in behind them from Forty-fifth street.

Thus attacked in front and rear with clubs, iron bars, guns and pistols, and rained upon with stones and brick bats from the roofs of the houses, they were unable longer to keep together, and broke and fled part up the side streets, and some down the avenue bruised, torn, and bleeding.

The desperate nature of this first conflict can be imagined, when, out of the fourteen men composing Sergeant McCredie’s original force, only five were left unwounded. At the very outset of the charge, the sergeant himself was struck with an iron bar on the wrist, which rendered the arm almost useless. In the retreat, four men assailed him at once. Knocking down two, he took refuge in the house of a German, when a young woman told him to jump between two mattresses. He did so, and she covered him up just as his pursuers forced their way in. Streaming through the house from cellar to garret, they came back, and demanded of the young woman where the man was hid. She quietly said he had escaped by the rear of the house. Believing she told the truth, they took their departure. Officer Bennett was knocked down three times before he ceased fighting. The last time he was supposed to be dead, when the wretches began to rob him even of his clothing, stripping him of every article except his drawers. He was soon after taken up and carried to St. Luke’s Hospital, and placed in the dead house, where he lay for several hours. When the sad news was brought to his wife, she hastened to the hospital, and fell weeping on the lifeless form of her husband. She could not believe he was dead, and laying her hand on his heart, found to her joy that it pulsated. She immediately flew to the officials of the hospital, and had him brought in, and restoratives applied. He revived, but remained unconscious for three days, while the riot raged around him. Officer Travis, in the flight down the avenue, saw, as he looked back, that his foremost pursuer had a pistol. Wheeling, he knocked him down, and seized the pistol, but before he could use it, a dozen clubs were raining blows upon him, which brought him to the ground. The infuriated men then jumped upon him, knocking out his teeth, breaking his jaw bone and right hand, and terribly mutilating his whole body. Supposing him to be dead, they then stripped him stark naked and left him on the pavement, a ghastly spectacle to the passers by. Officer Phillips ran the gauntlet almost unharmed, but was pursued block after block by a portion of the mob, till he reached Thirty-ninth street. Here he attempted to enter a house, but it was closed against him. As he turned down the steps, one of the pursuers, in soldier’s clothes, leveled his musket at him and fired. Missing his aim, he clubbed his weapon, and dealt him a deadly blow. Phillips caught the musket as it descended, and wrenching it from his grasp, knocked the fellow down with it, and started and ran across some vacant lots to Fortieth Street. But here he was headed off by another portion of the mob, in which was a woman, who made a lunge at him with, a shoemaker’s knife. The knife missed his throat, but passed through his ear. Drawing it back, she made another stab, piercing his arm. He was now bleeding profusely, and his death seemed inevitable, when a stranger, seeing his condition, sprang forward, and covering his body, declared he would kill the first man that advanced. Awed by his determined manner, the fiends sullenly withdrew. Officers Sutherland and Mingay were also badly beaten. Officer Kiernan, receiving a blow on his head with a stone, another on the back of his neck with a hay-bale rung, and two more on the knees, fell insensible, and would doubtless have been killed outright, but for the wife of Eagan, who saved Kennedy. Throwing herself over his body, she exclaimed, “for God’s sake do not kill him.” Seeing that they had got to attack this lady to get at Kiernan, they passed on.

The scene in Third Avenue at this time was fearful and appalling. It was now noon, but the hot July sun was obscured by heavy clouds, that hung in ominous shadows over the city, while from near Cooper Institute to Forty-sixth Street, or about thirty blocks, the avenue was black with human beings, sidewalks, house tops, windows, and stoops all filled with rioters or spectators. Dividing it like a stream, horse cars arrested in their course lay strung along as far as the eye could reach. As the glance ran along this mighty mass of men and women north, it rested at length on huge columns of smoke rolling heavenward from burning buildings, giving a still more fearful aspect to the scene. Many estimated the number at this time in the street at fifty thousand.

In the meantime the fire bell had brought the firemen on the ground, but the mob would not let them approach the burning houses. The flames had communicated with the adjoining block and were now making fearful headway. At length Engineer Decker addressed the mob, which by this time had grown thinner by the main mass moving farther down town, who told them that everything relating to the provost marshal’s office was destroyed, and now the fire was destroying private property, some of which doubtless belonged to persons friendly to them, and finally persuaded them to let the engines work. Water was soon deluging the buildings, and the fire at length arrested, but not until four were consumed with all their contents.

The drawing commenced in the Eighth District, 1190 Broadway, Captain Maniere provost marshal, on the same morning, and continued quietly until about 12 o’clock, when it was adjourned, and policemen who had been stationed there to guard it were sent over to the Ninth District, where the mob was carrying everything before it. But coming in small bodies, they were easily overcome and scattered. Sergeant Ellison, especially, got badly beaten; and Sergeant Wade, who came up soon after, and charged gallantly on the mob, shared the same fate, and had to be taken to St. Luke’s Hospital. The work of destruction having commenced, it went on after this with the wild irregularity characteristic of mobs. The news of the uprising and destruction of property, as it spread through those portions of the city where the low Irish dwelt, stirred up all the inmates, and they came thronging forth, till there were incipient mobs on almost every corner. From this time no consecutive narrative can be given of the after doings. This immense mass seemed to split up into three or four sections, as different objects attracted their attention; and they came together and separated apparently without any concert of action. A shout and a cry in one direction would call off a throng, while a similar shout in another would attract a portion thither. Some feeling the need of arms, and remembering that a gun factory was at the corner of Second Avenue and Twentieth Street, called out to the crowd, and soon a large body was rushing in that direction. The Police Commissioners had also thought of this, and hastily sent off the Broadway squad to occupy it, and they succeeded, by going singly and in pairs, in reaching it thirty five all told. These men, selected for their size, being all six feet or upward, were ordered to hold the place at all hazards.

In the meantime the mob endeavored to gain admittance, but warned off by Sergeant Burdick, left. But scarcely a quarter of an hour had elapsed, when they returned heavily reinforced, armed with all kinds of weapons, and yelling and hooting like fiends. Stones and bricks came crashing through the windows, but still the squad, though every man was armed with a carbine, did not fire.

The mob then tried to set the factory on fire, but failed. Enraged at being baffled, a powerful man advanced on the door with a sledge hammer, and began to pound against it. At length one of the panels gave way, and as a shout arose from those looking on, he boldly attempted to crawl through. The report of a solitary carbine was heard, and the brains of the man lay scattered on the floor. This staggered the mob for a moment, but soon fear gave way to rage, and shots and stones were rained against the building, smashing in the windows, and rapidly making a clean breach through the door. Burdick sent to Captain Cameron for aid, but he replied that he could not reach him.

At 3:45 the following telegram was sent from the Eighteenth Precinct:

“The mob have attacked the armory, Second Avenue and Twenty-first Street. There is danger of firing the building.”

Fifteen minutes later came: “It is impossible for us to protect the armory at Second Avenue and Twenty-first Street.”

Answer “Draw your men off. D. C.”

The squad, in evacuating the building, found themselves cut off both in front and at the sides.

The only mode of escape was through a hole in the rear wall, some eighteen feet from the ground, and scarcely a foot and a half in diameter. Piling up boxes to reach this aperture, these large men squeezed themselves through one by one, feet foremost, and swinging to a gutter trough, dropped into the yard below. Climbing from thence over a wall into a stone yard, they sped across it to the Eighteenth Precinct Station in Twenty-second Street. Here taking off their uniforms, they made their way singly, or in groups of two or three, back to the central office.

No sooner did they leave the building than the mob entered it, and the work of pillage commenced. Every man armed himself with a musket. The stacks of weapons left, after they had taken all they wanted, were broken up or rendered useless. One thrown out of the window fell on a man’s head in the street and killed him.

While the armory was being attacked, another mob was sacking and burning houses on Lexington Avenue, near Forty-seventh Street. Within five minutes from the announcement of this fact, came from the Sixth Precinct the following dispatch: “A mob of about seven hundred attacked some colored people in Baxter Street, and then went to the saloon of Samuel Crook, in Chatham Street, and beat some colored waiters there.”

A few minutes later from Sixteenth came: “A crowd of about three hundred men have gone to the foot of Twenty-fourth Street, to stop men in the foundry from working”

At the same time the following was received from the Twenty-first Precinct: “The mob avow their determination of burning this station. Our connection by telegram may be interrupted at any moment.”

Another from the Twentieth said: “A very large crowd is now going down Fifth Avenue, to attack the Tribune building.”

As fast as the wires could work, followed “from the Twenty-fourth Precinct:”

“The mob have fired the buildings corner of Broadway and Twenty-fourth Street.”

All this time, while new notes of alarm were sounded, and the police department was struggling to get its force in hand, the work of destruction was going on in the upper part of the city. Bull’s Head Tavern, in Forty-sixth Street, attracted the attention of the mob. The sales of the immense herds of cattle in the adjoining yard had been suspended, and the hotel closed. The crowd, however, forgetting the draft, and intent only on pillage, streamed up around it, and shouted, “Fire it! fire it!” While some were calling for axes and crowbars, ten powerful men jumped on the stoop, and with a few heavy blows sent the hall door flying from its hinges. The yelling crowd then rushed in, and after helping themselves to what they wanted, applied the torch, and soon the entire building was a mass of flame.

At this time another mob was sacking houses in Lexington Avenue. Elegant furniture and silver plate were borne away by the crowd, while the ladies, with their children and servants, fled in terror from the scene. The provost marshal’s head-quarters were also set on fire, and the whole block on Broadway, between Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Streets, was burned down, while jewelry stores and shops of all kinds were plundered and their contents carried off. A vast horde followed the rioters for the sole purpose of plunder, and loaded down with their spoils, could be seen hastening home in every direction.

While these fires were under full headway, a new idea seemed to strike the mob, or at least a portion of it. Having stopped the draft in two districts, sacked and set on fire nearly a score of houses, and half killed as many men, it now, impelled by a strange logic, sought to destroy the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue, extending from Forty-third to Forty-fourth Street. There would have been no draft but for the war there would have been no war but for slavery. But the slaves were black, ergo, all blacks are responsible for the war. This seemed to be the logic of the mob, and having reached the sage conclusion to which it conducted, they did not stop to consider how poor helpless orphans could be held responsible, but proceeded at once to wreak their vengeance on them. The building was four stories high, and besides the matrons and officers, contained over two hundred children, from mere infants up to twelve years of age. Around this building the rioters gathered with loud cries and oaths, sending terror into the hearts of the inmates. Superintendent William E. Davis hurriedly fastened the doors; but knowing they would furnish but a momentary resistance to the armed multitude, he, with others, collected hastily the terrified children, and carrying some in their arms, and leading others, hurried them in a confused crowd out at the rear of the building, just as the ruffians effected an entrance in front. Then the work of pillage commenced, and everything carried off that could be, even to the dresses and trinkets of the children, while heavy furniture was smashed and chopped up in the blind desire of destruction. Not satisfied with this, they piled the fragments in the different rooms, and set fire to them. At this juncture Chief Engineer Decker arrived, and determined, if possible, to save the building, addressed the crowd, as he had in the morning, hoping to induce them to forbear further violence, and let him extinguish the flames. But they had now got beyond argument of any kind, and knocking him down twice, pitched him into the street. But ten brave firemen at this juncture rushed to his side, and together fought their way through the crowd into the building, where they were joined by two assistant engineers, Lamb and Lewis. They at once began to scatter and extinguish the burning fragments, keeping back for a while, by their bold bearing, the rioters. The latter, however, soon rallied in force, and some mounting to the loft, set it on fire in every part. Decker and his few gallant allies, finding it impossible to save the building, retreated into the street, and soon the massive structure was a sheet of flame.

The crowd now proceeded to Mayor Opdyke’s house, and gathering in front of it, sent up shouts and calls for the Mayor. They were, however, deterred at that time from accomplishing their purpose by an appeal from Judge Barnard, who addressed them from the steps of an adjoining house.

Soon after, an immense mob was reported coming down Broadway, for the purpose, some thought, of attacking the Negro waiters in the Lafarge House, between Amity and Bleecker Streets, but in fact to attack police head-quarters in Mulberry Street, and break up the very centre of operations. It was a bold stroke, but the ringleaders had been drinking all day, and now, maddened by liquor, were ready for the most desperate attempts. When the news of this movement reached head-quarters, the commissioners saw that a crisis had come. The mob numbered at least five thousand, while they could not muster at that moment two hundred men. The clerk, Mr. Hawley, went to the commissioners’ room, and said: “Gentlemen, the crisis has come. A battle has got to be fought now , and won too , or all is lost.” They agreed with him. “But who,” they asked, “will lead the comparatively small force in this fight?” He replied that he thought that Sergeant Carpenter should be selected, as one of the oldest and most experienced officers on the force. “Well,” they said, “will you go down to his room and see what he says about it?” He went, and laid before him the perilous condition of things, and that an immediate and successful battle must be fought.

Carpenter heard him through, and taking in fully the perilous condition of things, paused a moment, and then rising to his full height and lifting his hand, said, with a terrible oath, “I’ll go, and I’ll win that fight, or Daniel Carpenter will never come back a live man .” He walked out and summoned the little force, and as “Fall in, men; fall in,” was repeated, they fell into line along the street. When all was ready, Acton turned to Carpenter, every lineament of whose face showed the stern purpose that mastered him, and quietly said, ” Sergeant make no arrests .”

It was to be a battle in which no prisoners were to be taken. “All right ” replied Carpenter, as he buttoned up his coat and shouted “Forward.” Solid, and silent save their heavy, measured tread on the pavement, they moved down Bleecker Street towards Broadway. As they turned into the latter street, only a block and a half away, they saw the mob, which filled the entire street far as the eye could reach, moving tumultuously forward. Armed with clubs, pitchforks, iron bars, and some with guns and pistols, and most of them in their shirt sleeves and shouting as they came, they presented a wild and savage appearance. Pedestrians fled down the side streets, stores were hastily closed, stages vanished, and they had the street to themselves. A huge board, on which was inscribed “No Draft,” was borne aloft as a banner, and beside it waved the Stars and Stripes.

The less than two hundred policemen, compact and firm, now halted, while Carpenter detached two companies of fifty each up the parallel streets to the right and left, as far as Fourth Street. Coming down this street from both directions, they were to strike the mob on both flanks at the same time he charged them in front. He waited till they had reached their positions, and then shouted, ” By the right flank Company front, double quick , CHARGE.” Instantaneously every club was swung in air, and solid as a wall and swift as a wave they swept full on the astonished multitude; while at the same time, to cut the monster in two, the two companies charged in flank. Carpenter, striding several steps in advance, his face fairly blazing with excitement, dealt the first blow, stretching on the pavement a powerful ruffian, who was rushing on him with a huge club. For a few minutes nothing was heard but the heavy thud of clubs falling on human skulls, thick and fast as hailstones on windows. The mob, just before so confident and bold, quailed in terror and would have broke and fled at once, but for the mass behind which kept bearing down on them. This, however, soon gave way before the side attacks and the panic that followed. Then the confusion and uproar became terrible, and the mass surged hither and thither, now rolling up Broadway, and again borne back or shoved up against the stores, seeking madly for a way of escape. At length, breaking into fragments, they rushed down the side streets, hotly pursued by the police, whose remorseless clubs never ceased to fall as long as a fugitive was within, reach. Broadway looked like a field of battle, for the pavement was strewn thick with bleeding, prostrate forms. It was a great victory and decisive of all future contests.

Having effectually dispersed them, Carpenter, with the captured flag, marched up to Mayor Opdyke’s house, when, finding everything quiet, he returned to head-quarters. This successful attack of the police was received with cheers by those spectators who had witnessed it.


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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