Harper's Weekly, Volume: 1871 Issue: 07/29 Page 693
THE TAMMANY RIOT.
It is generally conceded that the riot of the 12th of July might have been prevented if the Tammany leaders had possessed the courage to perform their duty. For several weeks previous to the outbreak the Hibernian societies had met every night at their lodges for the purpose of drilling, and made no secret of their intention to attack the Orangemen if the parade took place. Instead of warning these men that their lawless designs would be prevented by force if necessary, the city authorities cowered before them, and endeavored to coax and wheedle them out of their intentions. Emboldened by this pusillanimous and cringing attitude, the Hibernians became still more defiant, and at length forced the
Mayor and the police authorities into the disgraceful surrender to the mob, the story of which is told in the official documents printed on another page of this paper.
The storm of popular indignation which frightened Tammany, and compelled Governor Hoffman, at the eleventh hour, to rescind the infamous “General Order, No. 57,” seems to have had no effect upon the rioters. They did not understand, perhaps, the panic which covered their friends in power with confusion; at any rate, it was not shared by them. For two weeks the Mayor had been giving them assurances that the parade would be prevented, and they would not believe he would “go back on them” when the time came. The consequence was that on the morning of the fatal day threatening demon-
strations took place in those quarters of the city where the Irish reside in greatest numbers, and sullen groups of ferocious-looking men, most of them armed, gathered at the street corners in the threatened districts. Among these groups, eye-witnesses report, women were most conspicuous by the vehemence with which they denounced Orangemen, police, and soldiers alike; and children of both sexes gathered about them, ignorant alike of their own danger and the desperate resolution of those about them.
In the course of the forenoon it became known that Gideon Lodge of Orangemen, which had intended to join the celebration in New Jersey, had made a change in their programme, and, relying upon the assurances of Governor Hoffman's proclamation, determined to parade in New York. They had sent notice of their intention to Governor Hoffman, and received from him a promise of protection to the utmost extent of the civil and military authorities. As an earnest of this protection, a strong force of police was immediately sent to their lodge-room at the corner of Twenty-ninth Street and Eighth Avenue. The military did not arrive there till afternoon.
While preparations for the parade were in progress within the hall an excited crowd gathered in the street, increasing rapidly in numbers until it overflowed into the adjoining streets, and extended half a dozen blocks either way on Eighth Avenue. The majority of this crowd appeared to be Ribbonmen [Catholic Irish wearing green ribbons], and they were evidently waiting with impatience for an opportunity to attack the Orangemen's procession. The rioters appeared to be entirely without organization or leadership. There was no concert of action among them. Separate gangs of ruffians, six to ten in number, prowled through the streets, eager for pillage, if not for fight. At the several rendezvouses of the Hibernians many bore rifles, regardless of the policemen on their beats, who made no attempt to disarm them. In the upper part of the city the rioters began to move southward at an early hour, compelling all workmen on their routes to desist and join with them. In one or two instances movements were made against the houses of men who had protected the Orangemen during the riots of last year, but as the rioters were without leadership they gradually dispersed before carrying their threats into execution. Attacks were made by the rioters on one or two armories where arms are known to be stored, but the resistance of a few determined policemen cowed the mob. The rioters were vicious and fierce enough for any purpose, but it was plain they were without the organization they had boasted. Still their demonstrations were so threatening before ten o'clock that the police were compelled to seize Hibernian Hall, and General Shaler called for a regiment of troops from Brooklyn, where, as in Jersey City, all had been comparatively quiet.
About half past two o'clock the procession began to move. Before the command to march had been given paving-stones and bricks had been hurled among the troops, and one or two pistol-shots were fired at them. The police, who acted throughout the day with the greatest coolness, bravery, and prudence, charged upon the crowd whenever the pressure became threatening, and drove back the rioters. They returned, however, as soon as the police fell back, so that the relief was only temporary. The column was formed in the following manner: The Seventh Regiment came first, followed by a strong force of police; then came a body of press reporters; then the Orangemen, with the Eighty-fourth Regiment on their left and the Twenty-second on their right; the Sixth and Ninth followed; and a force of police brought up the rear. The Orangemen numbered only one hundred and sixty. When the column commenced moving down the avenue a few shots were fired at the troops; but nothing serious occurred until the head of the line had reached Twenty-third Street, and the Orangemen were nearly opposite Twenty-fourth Street. Here they were fired upon from a tenement-house on the corner of Twenty-fourth Street and Eighth Avenue. The forbearance of the military had perhaps been misinterpreted by the Ribbonmen, who now boldly made their appearance in third-story windows and on the roofs. Whole chimneys were torn down and the bricks hurled at the procession. Shots were fired from alleys and cellar-ways. A woman who waved a handkerchief to the procession was immediately shot dead; a little girl at her side shared the same fate. At length Private Page, of the Ninth, was shot through the head by a ruffian on horseback, who rode up to within a few yards of the ranks. He was immediately shot down, and fell riddled with bullets. The smoke was hardly blown away from his pistol before retribution overtook him. Other shots from the rioters followed, and then the Eighty-fourth, Sixth, and Ninth, without waiting for immediate orders, but in pursuance of a general order, opened fire upon the mob. The crowd broke wildly and fled down the side streets, seeking shelter in cellars, behind steps, and in door-ways. The troops were excited, and for a few minutes fired rather wildly, the extreme rear of the Ninth sending a few shots up Eight Avenue into the platoon of policemen who were stationed at Twenty-ninth Street. They soon recovered their coolness, however, and the procession moved on again, leaving a hundred or more dead and wounded men, women, and children behind them.
The mob made no further attempt to obstruct the march of the Orangemen and their escort. The riot was suppressed by one short fight. The most desperate of the mob slunk away and refused to resume the attack. It was a terrible but effective remedy; and in view of what might have happened had the mob been allowed to gather strength, it was also a merciful remedy. The procession traversed only a portion of the intended route, but made a short-cut to its destination in Fourth Avenue near Cooper Institute. The military masked the little band of Orangemen, who concealed their regalia, filed into No. 4 Fourth Avenue, made their way through an alley to another street, where there happened to be no crowd, separated, and disappeared from observation. There was no further disturbance during the day or night. So ended the great riot of 1871.
The casualities of the day were as follows: Killed—two soldiers (of the Ninth), one policeman, forty-four civilians; Wounded—seventeen soldiers, nine policemen, and sixty-seven civilians.
Of our illustrations, those on page 693 show the head-quarters of the Hibernian and Orange societies, and the transfer of captured arms to the Police Head-quarters in Mulberry Street. The larger illustration on page 692 will give the reader a capital idea of the scene of the firing at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Twenty-fourth Street. It was drawn from a sketch by our special artist, who is a member of the Seventh Regiment, and was on the spot at the time. The line of soldiers stretching across the picture in the foreground is the rear company of the Seventh. Behind them is visible the marshal of the Orange procession, conspicuous by being on horseback. The moment chosen by our artist was when the rioters were firing upon the procession from the windows, roofs, and awnings of adjacent houses, provoking the return fire of the troops. On one side the police are seen driving back the mob. One officer is tearing open the coat of a rioter to take away his revolver. On the left a company of soldiers fires over the heads of the procession upon rioters stationed on the roofs opposite.
The members of the Ninth Regiment who had fallen victims to the mob were buried on the following Sunday. The police regulations prevented any attempt at disturbance.