Mobs, Riots & Disturbances~July 1863~the 14th and 15th

Mobs, Riots, and Disturbances~Gideon Welles

While rioters run rampant in New York, life goes on in other ways and in other places. A Confederate soldier asserts to his wife that Gettysburg was not a Southern defeat while a government clerk in Richmond laments the loss of control of the Mississippi River. President Lincoln explains his dissatisfaction to General Meade. Secretary Welles sees a rebel conspiracy reaching even to New York City. A Memphis paper calls for compassion for street walkers.

Mid-week brings a third day of disturbances in New York and elsewhere. Clucking his disdain for Yankees Sir Arthur Fremantle departs for England.

New York City rioters

New York City rioters

July 14– Tuesday– 2 miles east of Martinsburg, West Virginia– Confederate soldier Jedediah Hotchkiss writes to his wife Sara. He does view Gettysburg as a defeat nor does he see the surrender of Vicksburg as a serious loss. “The talk of the Yankee papers about the routed & demoralized condition of our army is the purest of nonsense. We could have remained at Gettysburg if we had seen fit – the enemy did not come out to attack us & only followed when the found we were gone . . . . We regret the loss of Vicksburg, because of the noble stand she has made & the heroic endurance of her citizens & soldiers but she is not the Confederacy & freedom does not die with her – its fall sets free a band of noble spirits to harass and annoy the enemy in his imagined possession of the Mississippi & he will find his much coveted & dearly obtained prize an apple of Sodom now he has gained it. Our army is in fine spirits and ready to meet the foe any where in the open field.”

July 14– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to General George Meade, explaining his dissatisfaction. “Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so South of the river, when you can take with you very few more than two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it. I beg you will not consider this a prosecution, or persecution of yourself As you had learned that I was dissatisfied, I have thought it best to kindly tell you why.”

July 14– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary Welles smells a conspiracy. “We have accounts of mobs, riots, and disturbances in New York and other places in consequence of the Conscription Act. Our information is very meager; two or three mails are due; the telegraph is interrupted. There have been powerful rains which have caused great damage to the railroads and interrupted all land communication between this and Baltimore. There are, I think, indubitable evidences of concert in these riotous movements, beyond the accidental and impulsive outbreak of a mob, or mobs. Lee’s march into Pennsylvania, the appearance of several Rebel steamers off the coast, the mission of A. H. Stephens to Washington, seem to be parts of one movement, have one origin, are all concerted schemes between the Rebel leaders and Northern sympathizing friends, the whole put in operation when the Government is enforcing the conscription. This conjunction is not all accidental, but parts of a great plan. In the midst of all this and as a climax comes word that Lee’s army has succeeded in recrossing the Potomac. If there had been an understanding between the mob conspirators, the Rebels, and our own officers, the combination of incidents could not have been more advantageous to the Rebels.”

July 14– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones wonders and worries. “To-day we have tidings of the fall of Port Hudson, on the Mississippi River, our last stronghold there. I suppose some 10,000 or 12,000 of our men had to surrender, unconditionally. Thus the army of General Pemberton, first and last, some 50,000 strong, has been completely destroyed. There is sadness and gloom throughout the land! The enemy are established on Morris Island, and the fate of Charleston is in doubt. We have nothing authentic from General Lee; but long trains of the slightlywounded arrived yesterday and to-day. It has been raining, almost every day, for nearly two weeks.”

July 14– Tuesday– Memphis, Tennessee– The Memphis Bulletin addresses a moral issue. “In all the large cities and towns in the North and East, they have houses of refuge and correction. Here, however, if a frail female falls, and commits a wrong act, or in other words, forfeits a place in genteel society, and happens to violatethe ordinances of the city, she is immediately arrested and carried to the station-house,where there are no adequate arrangements for her accommodation. Could we not have a ‘house of refuge’ and correction for dissipated and fallenwomen? It is true that many of them are beyond redemption, and no act of kindness to recall them to the path of rectitude and virtue could be successful in accomplishing the object. But there are others, who have not traveled the road to degradation so far; perhaps these might be recalled, their youthful years would justify such a hope at least. Harshness cannot recall them, scorn will only drive them further, but separation from vicious associations may do much.”

July 14– Tuesday– Manitowaning, Manitoulin Island, Canada– George Ironside, Jr, a conscientious, humane, and knowledgeable government agent dealing with First Nation peoples, dies unexpectedly of a heart attack. His exact age is unknown but most likely is 63 at the time he dies.

July 14– Tuesday– Hamburg, Germany– The first of five days of meetings, with veterinarians from all over Europe, begins today. The topic of the meeting is discussion on systems to combat epizootic diseases. This meeting will become the first International Veterinary Congress, later known as The World Veterinary Congress.

July 15– Wednesday– New York City– The third day of the riots includes yet more destruction, death, arson and lynchings. A group of white men attack Abraham Franklin, a disabled African American coachman, beat him and his sister, Henrietta, then lynch Abraham. After he is dead, Patrick Butler, a 16 year old Irish butcher, cuts down the body and drags it through the streets. Another mob beats to death Joseph Reed, a 7 year old black child. Susan B Anthony writes that the mob violence in the city caused her and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to leave the Stanton house for safer quarters. The New York Times observes, “In the movements of the mob yesterday, moreover, there was no mistaking the fact that pillage was the prime incentive of the majority. ‘Resistence to the draft’ was the flimsiest of veils to cover the wholesale plundering which characterized the operations of the day.”

draft rioters

draft rioters

July 15– Wednesday– New York City– Martha Perry tells of what happened in her house. “Hurrying to the kitchen, I found our colored servants ghastly with terror, and cautioned them to keep closely within doors. One of them told me that she had ventured out early that morning to clean the front door, and that the passing Irish, both men and women, had sworn at her so violently, saying that she and her like had caused all the trouble, that she finally rushed into the house for shelter. Now that I began to realize our danger, I tried with all my power to keep John [her injured husband] in ignorance of it, for in his absolutely disabled condition the situation was most distressing. The heat was intense: and during the morning I sat in his room behind closed window shutters, continually on the alert to catch every outside noise, while watching the hot street below in the glare of sunlight. Men and women passed with all sorts of valuables taken from plundered houses.”

July 15– Wednesday– New York City– Dr John Torrey, age 67, a prominent scientist describes his day for his friend Dr Asa Gray. This morning I was obliged to ride down to the office in a hired coach. A friend who rode with me had seen a poor negro hung an hour or two before. The man had, in a frenzy, shot an Irish fireman, and they immediately strung up the unhappy African. At our office there had been no disturbance in the night. Indeed the people there were “spoiling for a fight.” They had a battery of about 25 rifle barrels, carrying 3 balls each, & mounted on a gun- carriage. It could be loaded & fired with rapidity. We had also 10-inch shells, to be lighted & thrown out of the windows. Likewise quantities of SO3, with arrangements for projecting it on the mob. Walking home we found that a large number of soldiers – infantry, artillery & cavalry are moving about, & bodies of armed citizens. The worst mobs are on the 1st & 2nd & 7th Avenues. Many have been killed there. They are very hostile to the Negroes, & scarcely one of them is to be seen. A person who called at our house this afternoon saw three of them hanging together. The Central Park has been a kind of refuge to them. Hundreds were there to-day . . . . This evening there was a great light north of us & I found, on looking with a spyglass, that it was from the burning a fine bridge over the Harlem valley used by one of the railroads. There was some cannon-firing in the 1st Avenue, with what result I don’t know. The city looks very strangely. Nothing in Broadway but a few coaches. Most of the stores closed, but the side walks are full of people & not a few ladies are out. It is half past 10 o’clock, & I must go to bed”

Dr John Torrey

Dr John Torrey

.July 15– Wednesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong writes of events near and far. “There will be much trouble today. Rabbledom is not yet dethroned any more than its ally and instigator, Rebeldom. News from the South is consolatory. Port Hudson surrendered. Sherman said to have beaten Joseph Johnston somewhere near Vicksburg. Operations commencing aganst Charleston. Bragg seems to be abandoning Chattanooga and retiring on Atlanta.”

July 15– Wednesday– New York City– Sir Arthur James Fremantle departs for England. “The hotel this morning was occupied by military, or rather by creatures in uniform. One of the sentries stopped me; and on my remonstrating to his officer, the latter blew up [at] the sentry, and said, You are only to stop persons in military dress– don’t you know what military dress is?’ ‘No,’ responded this efficient sentry– and I left the pair discussing the definition of a soldier. I had the greatest difficulty in getting a conveyance down to the water. I saw a stone barricade in the distance, and heard firing going on– and I was not at all sorry to find myself on board the China.”

July 15– Wednesday– Troy, New York– Violence against the draft law and against black people erupts here. The trouble makers are primarily Irish immigrants. The New York Times reports, “The mob was addressed by Reverend Father Haveeman, who advised them to go to their homes, to keep the peace and obey the laws. The mob then broke away, and visited the colored church, and threatened to destroy it. Again Father Haveeman addressed the excited crowd, and implored them to desist, and, through his efforts, the church was saved. The mob next went to the jail, and forcing it open-released all the prisoners confined there. The Steamer Francis Skiddy, having colored waiters on board, was warned away from the dock, and quietly slipped down to Albany.”

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