Friday, April 17, 2009
Image: "The riots in New York - Destruction of the Colored Orphan Asylum." The Illustrated London News. August 15, 1863.
It was July 12, 1863, and tension was in the air. The Battle of Gettysburg had just been fought and the federal government had instituted a draft which would force men ages 18-35 to serve for a three year term. The streets were filled with working men and women, reading aloud the names of those chosen for the draft. Soon, the streets held an outraged, predominantly Irish, mob. The crowd headed to Central Park while leaders spoke out about the draft. The mob then went to Provost Marshall's office to find out who else was drafted, while carrying "No Draft!" signs. On their way, the destruction of the city began as rioters cut telegraph wires, collected weapons, and stopped traffic. John Kennedy, the Superintendent of Police was attacked, and homes of policemen were targeted. Rioters also laid waste to jewelry, hardware, and liquor stores, eight draft offices, and the offices of Horace Greeley's Tribune. The armory was burned, leaving several of the same rioters that started it to parish in the fire. At 4:00 PM, protesters attacked, set fire to, and looted the Colored Orphan Asylum. The children were safely evacuated. The rioters chased, assaulted, and lynched (hung) African-Americans throughout the city. Also, property belonging to African-Americans, wealthy Republicans and abolitionists, and policemen were destroyed. One of these men was Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Daily Tribune. Greeley was a major wealthy Republican. It wasn't just a draft riot. By now, it was a full-fledged race riot. William Jones, and African-American, was walking to the store to buy bread, when he was attacked by a gang led by an Irish immigrant, John Nicholson. Jones was beaten and hanged from a tree, then his body was set on fire. Peter Heuston was a Mohawk Indian, but was unfortuneatley mistaken for an African-American and was beaten. Two weeks later, Heuston died in the hospital. After Monday, some rioters stopped, seeing how violent they had become. They even helped clean up afterwards. Others just kept on violently destroying the city that they lived in, and its inhabbitants. Many African-Americans did their best to leave the cities after they saw how much danger they were in. That night at 11:00 PM, it rained over the city.