Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

The Northern Wing of the Rebellion

The New York Mob. - Murder, Fire, and Robbery. - The City given up to the Rioters. - Whites and Blacks robbed in Open Day in the Great Thoroughfares. - Negroes murdered, burned, and their Bodies hung on Lamp-posts. - Southern Rebels at the Head of the Riot.

SOURCE: William Wells Brown. THE NEGRO IN THE AMERICAN REBELLION - His Heroism and His Fidelity. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1867.

The partial successes which the rebels had achieved at Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, and Big Bethel, together with the defiant position of Gen. Lee on the one hand, and the bad management of Gen. McClellan on the other, had emboldened the rebels, and made them feel their strength.

Those who had served out their terms of service in the Union army were not very anxious to re-enlist. The Conscript Act had been passed by Congress, and the copperhead press throughout the land was urging the people to resist the draft, when the welcome news of the surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson came over the wires. The agents of the Confederacy were at once dispatched to New York to "let loose the dogs of war."

As the blacks of the South had assisted in the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the colored people of the North must be made to suffer for it.

The mob was composed of the lowest and most degraded of the foreign population (mainly Irish), raked from the filthy cellars and den's of the city; steeped in crimes of the deepest dye, and ready for any act, no matter how dark and damnable; together with the worst type of our native criminals, whose long service in the prisons of the country, and whose training in the Democratic party, had so demoralized their natures, that they were ever on the hunt for some deed of robbery or murder.

This conglomerated mass of human beings were under the leadership of men standing higher than themselves in the estimation of the public, but, if possible, really lower in moral degradation. Cheered on by men holding high political positions, and finding little or no opposition, they went on at a fearful rate.

Never, in the history of mob-violence, was crime carried to such an extent. Murder, arson, robbery, and cruelty reigned triumphant throughout the city, day and night, for more than a week.

Breaking into stores, hotels, and saloons, and helping themselves to strong drink, ad libitum, they became inebriated, and marched through every part of' the city. Calling at places where large bodies of men were at work, and pressing them in, their numbers rapidly increased to thousands, and their fiendish depredations had no bounds. Having been taught by the leaders of the Democratic party to hate the Negro, and having but a few weeks previous seen regiments of colored volunteers pass through New York on their way South, this infuriated band of drunken men, women, and children paid special visits to all localities inhabited by the blacks, and murdered all they could lay their hands on, without regard to age or sex. Every place known to employ Negroes was searched: steamboats leaving the city, and railroad depots, were watched, least some should escape their vengeance.

Hundreds of the blacks, driven from their homes, and hunted and chased through the streets, presented themselves at the doors of jails, prisons, and police-stations, and begged admission. Thus did they prowl about the city, committing crime after crime; indeed, in point of cruelty, the Rebellion was transferred from the South to the. North.

These depredations were to offset the glorious triumphs of our arms in the rebel States.

Peaceful the placid waters rose the radiant summer sun,
Loyal voices shouted anthems o'er the conquest bravely won;
For the walls of Vicksburg yielded to the Union shot and shell,
While Port Hudson, trembling, waited but a clearer tale to tell.

But, alas! day's golden image scarce had left its impress there,
When above a Northern city rose the sounds of wild despair:
Fiends and demons yet unnumbered rallied forth in bold array;
Deeds of darkness, scenes of carnage, marked the traitors' onward way.

Blind to feeling, deaf to mercy, who may judge the depth of crime?
None but God may know the misery traced upon the Book of Time.

The following account of the mob is from 11 The New- York Times " July 14, 1863: -

"The Orphan Asylum for Colored Children was visited by the mob about four o'clock. This institution is situated on Fifth Avenue; and the building, with the grounds and gardens adjoining, extends from Forty-third to Forty-fourth Street. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of the rioters, the majority of whom were women and children, entered the premises, and, in the most excited and violent manner, ransacked and plundered the building from cellar to garret. The building was located in the most healthy portion of the city. It was purely a charitable institution. In it there was an average of six or eight hundred homeless colored orphans. The building was a large four-story one, with two wings of three stories each.

"When it became evident that the crowd designed to destroy it, a flag of truce appeared on the walk opposite, and the principals of the establishment made an appeal to the excited populace; but in vain.

"Here it was, that Chief-Engineer Decker showed himself one of the bravest of the brave. After the entire building had been ransacked, and every article deemed worth carrying had been taken, - and this included even the little garments for the orphans, which were contributed by the benevolent ladies of the city, - the premises were fired on the first floor. Mr. Decker did all he could to prevent the flames from being kindled; but, when he was overpowered by superior numbers, with his own hands he scattered the brands, and effectually extinguished the flames. A second attempt was made, and this time in three different parts of the house. Again he succeeded with the aid of half a dozen of his men, in defeating the incendiaries. The mob became highly exasperated at his conduct, and threatened to take his life if he repeated the act. On the front steps of the building, be stood up amid an infuriated and half-drunken mob of two thousand, and begged of them to do nothing so disgraceful to humanity as to burn a benevolent institution, which had for its object nothing but good. He said it would be a lasting disgrace to them and to the city of New York.

"These remarks seemed to have no good effect upon them, and meantime the premises were again fired, - this time in all parts of the house. Mr. Decker, with his few brave men, again extinguished the flames. This last act brought down upon him the vengeance of all who were bent on the destruction of the asylum; and but for the fact that some firemen surrounded him, and boldly said that Mr. Decker could not be taken except over their bodies, he would have been dispatched on the spot. The institution was destined to be burned; and, after an hour and a half of labor on the part of the mob, it was in flames in all parts. Three or four persons were horribly bruised by the falling walls; but the names we could not ascertain. There is now scarcely one brick left on another of the Orphan Asylum.

"At one o'clock yesterday, the garrison of the Seventh-avenue arsenal witnessed a sad and novel sight. Winding slowly along Thirty-fourth Street into Seventh Avenue, beaded by a strong police force, came the little colored orphans, whose asylum bad been burned down on Monday night. The boys, from two and three to fifteen years of age, followed by little girls of the same ages to the number of about two hundred each, trotted along, and were halted in front of the arsenal.

"Then came a large number of men and women, several having babes in their arms, who bad been forced to seek refuge in adjacent station-houses from the fury of the mob. Most of them carried small bundles of clothing and light articles of furniture, all they had been able to save from the wreck of their property. The Negroes who had sought safety under the suits of the arsenal were then taken out, and ordered to join their friends outside. The procession was then re-formed, and, headed by the police, marched back again down Thirty-fifth Street to the North River.

"A strong detachment of Hawkins's Zouaves guarded the flanks of the procession; while a company of the Tenth New York Volunteers, and a squad of police, closed up the rear. Col. William Meyer had command of the escort; and on arriving at the pier, where a numerous crowd had followed them, he placed his men, with fixed bayonets, facing the people to keep them in check; and the Negroes were all safely embarked, and conveyed to Ricker's Island.

The poor Negroes have had a hard time. Finding they were to be slaughtered indiscriminately, they have hid themselves in cellars and garrets, and have endeavored, under cover of darkness, to flee to neighboring places. The Elysian Fields, over in Hoboken, has been a pretty safe refuge for them, as there are but few Irish living in that city. They have a sort of improvised camp there, composed mainly of women and children."

Blacks were chased to the docks, thrown into the river, and drowned; while some, after being murdered, were hung to lamp-posts. Between forty and fifty colored persons were killed, and nearly as many maimed for life. But space will not allow us to give any thing like a detailed account of this most barbarous outrage.

Category: Civil War | Subcategory: NY | Tags: New York
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1863, 1867, Laughter, New York, Railroad, Vicksburg (MIssissippi),