New Yorkers and the War: 1863

July 29, 1863

July 29th, 1863

Filed under: Religion — by Frederick Law Olmsted @ 5:27 pm

New York, July 29th 1863

My Dear Wife,

I arrived here last night. This morning I receive yours of 26th.

My conscience reproaches me about father. I shall go to him as soon as I can – probably first of next week. I suppose him to be at Sachem’s Head. Write if he is, or is not, please, immediately. If I can, I will leave here on Saturday.

I saw Professor Bache yesterday. He spoke with obvious satisfaction of your visit & the pleasure of Mrs Bache in overhauling flowers with you and that sort of thing. He is very well. Is to be here tonight on his way to Wolcott. He spoke of Frank as a smart and diligent boy.

About the church, I prefer that you should follow your inclinations. You know that I have very little choice, but so far as I have, your argument does not weigh against it. I would much prefer that the children never heard a sermon, if they could attend worship of a decorous character without it. And, among Sermons, the duller and least impressive, the better. I crave and value worshipfullness, but I detest and dread theology & formalized ethics. My experience is too, that Episcopelians are better men than Presbyterians. These are crude, general propositions. Individual men & manners and thoughts & ways of thinking are likely, of course, to override them.

I can’t tell you how much it rejoices me to hearthat you feel relieved of care & grow calmers, smoother & cheerfuller.

Not the least progess, unless it be backward, in my plans & enterprises. I don’t feel as if I could stand the San. Com. any longer. Professor Bache said yesterday that he should quit, whether I did or not, if Newberry was allowed his way.

Yours affectionately,


Make the most of Litchfield & make yourself unwilling to think of coming away.


July 25, 1863

July 25th, 1863

Filed under: Richmond,South — by Maria Lydig Daly @ 2:05 am

Went last evening to see Uncle John, and met Mr. Turner on our walk home. He had just returned from Nassau where he went to meet his brother-in-law. We learned much from him. The Richmond people were averse to the war – tired to death of it. Everyone was ruined, but each individual was afraid to act because of the army. Mr. Turner did not think if Charleston was taken that it would be possible for the rebels to hould out any longer. Twenty million dollars’ worth of goods (contraband of war) had been sent from Nassau, where there was not a man who was not engaged in the trade. Mr. Turner is from Richmond…

July 23, 1863

July 23th, 1863

Filed under: Religion,Riot — by Maria Lydig Daly @ 2:04 am

At last the riot is quelleced, but we had four days of great anxiety. FIghting went on constantly in the streets between the military and police and the mob, which was partially armed. The greatest atrocities have been perpetrated. Colonel O’Brian was murdered by the mob in such a brutal manner that nothing in the French Revolution exceeded it. Three or four Negroes were hung and burned; the women assisted and acted like furies by stimulating the men to greater ferocity. Father came into the city on Friday, being warned about his house, and found fifteen Negroes secreted in it by Rachel. They came from York Street, which the mob had attacked, with all their goods and chattels. Father had to order them out. We feared our own block on account of the Negro tenements below MacDougal Street, where the Negroes were on the roof, singing psalms and having firearms.

One night, seeing a fire before the house, I thought the time had come, but it proved to be only a bonfire. The Judge sallied out with his pistolm telling me that if he were not at home in five minutes to call up the servants. This mob seems to have a curious sense of justice. They attacked and destroyed many disreputable houses and did not always spare secessionists. On Saturday (the fifth day) we went up to see Judge Hilton, who thought me very courageous, but I felt sorry for Mrs. Hilton upon hearing that she had been so terribly frightened. She gave me such details that I came home too nervous to sleep. In Lexington Avenue, houses were destroyed. One lady before whose house the mob paused with the intention of sacking it, saved her house by raising her window, smiling, and waving her handkerchief. Mr. Bosie’s brother was seized by a rioter who asked him if he had $300.

“No,” said he.

“Then come along with us,” said the rioter, and they kept him two hours. Mrs. Hilton said she never saw such creatures, such gaunt-looking savage men and women and even little children armed with brickbats, stones, pokers, shovels and tongs, coal-scuttles, and even tin pans and bits of iron. They passed her house about four o’clock on Monday morning and continued on in a constant stream until nine o’clock. They looked to her, she said, like Germans, and her first thought was that it was some German festival. Whilst we sat there, we heard occasional pistol shots, and I was very glad that I had ordered a carriage to take us home. The carriage, it seems, was very unwillingly sent since the livery-stable keeper was so much afraid.

Every evening the Judge would go out near eleven o’clock to my great distress. But he threatened to send me into the country If I objected (which I dreaded still more), so I kept quiet. James Leonard, the Superintendent of Police in our neighborhood, said the draft could not be enforced; the firemen are against it, as well as all the working classes.

Among those killed or wounded have been found men with delicate hands and feet, and under their outward laborers’clothes were fine cambric shirts and costly underclothing. A dressmakes says she saw from her window a gentleman whom she knows and has seen with young ladies, but whose name she could not remember, disguised in this way in the mob on Sixth Avenue.

On Sunway we went to see Mrs. Nathaniel Jarvis and Mr. James T. Brady, who had just arrived from Washington. I saw Susanna Brady, who talked in the most villent manner against the Irish and in favor of the blacks. I feel quite differently, altough very sorry and much outraged at the cruelties inflicted. I hope it will give the Negroes a lesson, for since the war commenced, they have been so insolent as to be unbearable. I cannot endure free blacks. They are immoral, with all their piety.

The principal actors in this mob were boys, and I think they were Americans. Catherine, my seamstress, telles me that the plundering was done by the people in the neighborhood who were looking on and who, as the mob broke the houses open, went in to steal. The police this morning found beds, bedding, and furniture in the house of a Scotch Presbyterian who was well off and owned two cows and two horses. The Catholic priests have done their duty as Christian ministers in denouncing these riotous proceedings. One of them remonstrated with a woman in the crowd who wanted to cut off the ears of a Negro who was hung. The priest told her that Negroes had souls. “Sure, your reverence,” said she, “I thought they only had gizzards.”

On Sunday evening, Mr. Dykes came in. He had seen Judge Pierrepont, who had gone to Washington with others to see what can be done. Mr. Dykes thinks that New York, being a Democratic city, may expect little indulgence from the Administration. The Judge went up to see General Dix, now in command here, who says that the government is determined to carry the draft measure through at all costs. Yesterday we went to the wedding of Lydia Watson in Westchester County. Mr. James Adie told the Judge that there was a secessionist plot to burn all the houses in the neighborhood on Thursday night, that he had heard that his had been exempted by vote, and that the principal instigator and mover in it was one of the richest and most influential men in the neighborhood. The purpose of the plot was to intimidate the government and prevent conscription. Mrs. Harry Morris, who I hear has been very violent in her invectives against the North, wished to know if the soldiers could be relied upon. I told her entirely so, that they declared they would rather fight these traitos at home who made this fine in their real whilst they were risking their life to preserve order and the laws than the rebels. For her comfort, I told that the mob had destroyed the houses of secessionsist. I frightened her, I think, not a little.

July 21, 1863

July 21st, 1863

Filed under: Press — by George Templeton Strong @ 7:42 pm

Quiet continues, though the Express and that yet more beastly World are doing all they can to instigate outbreak.

A vehement south wind all day. Morgan’s raid across the Ohio has failed very badly. His whole force is captured, artillery and all, and he escaped by slinking off while negotiations for surrender are in progress. Chivalric Morgan!

July 20, 1863

July 20th, 1863

Filed under: Germans,Irish,Politics,Union League Club — by George Templeton Strong @ 7:42 pm

Hot. Atmosphere mucilaginous. City quiet. Nothing special to record. Dined with Agnew at Maison Dorée, and spent a little time at the club. I see a frequent placard bearing these two words, “Sam, Organize!” It plainly means that there is a movement to revive the old Native American party with its Know-Nothing Clubs; a very natural consequence of the atrocities just perpetrated by our Irish canaille. Talking with Americans of the middle and laboring class, even of the lowest social grade, I find they fully appreciate and bitterly resent these Celtic outrages. But the obstacle in the way of a revived Know-Nothingism is that it would be obliged to discriminate betwen Celts and Teutons. The Germans have behaved well and kept quiet. Where they acted at all, they volunteered against the rabble, as they did, most effectively, in the Seventh Ward. A mere anti-Hibernian party would have no foundation on principle, would seem merely vindictive and proscriptive, and would lead to no lasting result, I fear. For myself, personally, I would like to see war made on Irish scum as in 1688.

July 19, 1863

July 19th, 1863

Filed under: African-Americans,Germans,Irish,Politics,Press,Religion,Riot,Slavery,Women — by George Templeton Strong @ 7:34 pm

Have been out seeking information and getting none that is to be trusted. Colonel Frank Howe talks darkly and predicts an outbreak on the east side of the twon tonight, but that’s his way. I think this Celtic beast with many heads is driven back to his hole for the present. When government begins enforcing the draft, we shall have more trouble, but not till then.

Not half the story of this memorable week has been written. I could put down pages of incidents that the newspapers have omitted, any one of which would in ordinary times be the town’s talk. Men and ladies attacked and plundered by daylight in the streets; private houses suddenly invaded by gangs of a dozen ruffians and sacked, while the women run off for their lives. Then there is the unspeakble infamy of the nigger persecution. They are the most peaceable, sober and inoffensive of our poor, and the outrages they have suffered during this last week are less excusable – are ounded on worse petext and less provocation – than St. Bartholomew’s or the Jew-hunting of the Middle Ages. This is a nice town to call itself a centre of civilization! Life and personal property less safe than in Tipperary, and the “people” (as the Herald calls them) burning orphan asylums and conducting a massacre. How this infernal slavery system has corrupted our blood, North as well as South! There should be terrible vengeance for these atrocities, but McCunn, Barnard & Co. are our judges and the disgrace will rest upon us without atonement.

I am sorry to find that England is right about the lower class of Irish. They are brutal, base, cruel, cowards, and as insolent as base. Choate (at the Union League Club) tells me he heard this proposition put forth by one of their political philosophers in conversation with a knot if his brethren last Monday: “Sure and if them dam Dutch would jine us we’d drive the dam Yankees out of New York entirely!” These caitiffs have a trick, I hear, of posting themselves at the window of a tenement house with a musket, while a woman with a baby in her arms squats at their feet. Paddy fires on the police and instantly squats to reload, while Mrs. Paddy rises and looks out. Of course, one can’t fire at a window where there is a woman with a child!! But how is one to deal with women who assemble around the lamp-post to which a Negro had been hanged and cut off certain parts of his body to keep as souvenirs? Have they any womanly privilege, immunity, or sanctity?

No wonder St. Patrick drove all the venomous vermin out of Ireland! Its biped mammalia supply that island its full average share of creatures that crawl and eat dirt and poison every community they infest. Vipers were superfluous. But my won theory is that St. Patrick’s campaign against the snakes is a Popish delusion. They perished of biting the Irish people.

July 17, 1863

July 17th, 1863

Filed under: Gramercy,Riot — by George Templeton Strong @ 7:33 pm

The Army of Gramercy Park has advanced its headquarters to Third Avenue, leaving only a picket guard in sight. Rain will keep the rabble quiet tonight. We are said to have fifteen thousand men under arms, and I incline to hope that this movement in aid of the rebellion is played out.

July 16, 1863

July 16th, 1863

Filed under: Democrats,Economy,Gramercy,Politics,Public transportation,Riot,Wood — by George Templeton Strong @ 7:14 pm

Rather quiet downtown. No trustworthy accounts of riot on any large scale during the day. General talk downtown is that the trouble is over. We shall see. It be as it pleases the scoundrels who are privily engineering the outbreak – agents of Jefferson Davis, permitted to work here in New York.

Omnibusses and railroad cars in full career again. Coming uptown tonight I find Gramercy Park in military occupation. Strong parties drawn up across Twentieth Street and Twenty-First Streets at the east end of the Square, by the Gramercy House, each with a flanking squad, forming an L. Occasional shots fired at them from the region of Second or First Avenue, which were replied to by volleys that seem to have done little execution. An unlucky cart-horese was knocked over, I hear. This force was relieved at seven by a company of regulars and a party of the Seventh with a couple of howitzers, and there has been but a stray shot or two since dark. The regulars do not look like steady men. I have just gone over to the hotel with John Robertson and ordered a pail of strong coffee to put a little life into them.


Never knew exasperation so intense, unqualified, and general as that which prevails against these rioters and the politic knaves who are supposed to have set them going, Governor Seymour not excepted. Men who voted for him mention the fact with contrition and self-abasement, and the Democratic Party is at a discount with all the people I meet. (Apropos of discount, gold fell to one hundred and twenty-six today, with the city in insurrection, a gunboat athe foot of Wall Street, the Custom-house and Treasury full of soldiers and live shells, and two howitzers in position to rake Nassau Street from Wall to Fulton!!!!)

Every impression that’s made on our people passes away so soon, almost as if stamped on the sand of the sea-beach. Were our moods a little less fleeting, I should have great hope of permanent good from the general wrath these outrages have provoked, and should put some faith in people’s prophesying that Fernando Wood and McCunn, and the New York Herald, and the Brookses and others, are doomed henceforth to obscurity and contempt. But we shall forget all about it before next November. Perhaps the lesson of the last four days is to be taught us still more emphatically, and we have got to be worse before we are better. It is not clear that the resources of the conspiracy are yet exhausted. The rioters of yesterday were better armed and organized than those of Monday, and their inaction today may possibly be meant to throw us off our guard, or their time may be employed perfecting plans for a campaign of plundering and brutality in yet greater force. They are in full possession of the western and the eastern sides of the city, from Tenth Street upward, and of a good many districts beside. I could not walk four blocks eastward from this house this minute without peril. The outbreak is spreading by concerted action in many quarters. Albany, Troy, Yonkers, Hartford, Boston, and other cities have each their irish anti-conscription Nigger-murdering mob, of the same type with ours. It is a grave business, a jacquerie that must be put down by heroic doses of lead and steel.

Dr. Peters and Charley Strong called at eleven P.M. They have been exploring and report things quiet except on First Avenue from Nineteenth to Thirtieth Street, where is said to be trouble. A detachment of the Seventh Regiment, five hundred or six hundred strong, marched to that quarter from their armony an hour ago.

July 15, 1863

July 15th, 1863

Filed under: Press,South,Union League Club — by George Templeton Strong @ 6:59 pm

Wednesday begins with heavy showers, and now (ten A.M.) cloudy, hot, and steaming. Morning papers report nothing specially grave as occuring since midnight. But 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 against Charleston. Bragg seems to be abandoning abandoning Chattanooga and retiring on Atlana. Per contra, Lee has got safely off. I thought he would. Lots of talk and rumors about attacks on the New York Custom-house (ci-devant Merchant’s exchange) and the Treasury (late Custom-house). Went to see John J. Cisco and found his establishment in military occopuation – sentinels pacing, windows barricaded, and so on. He was as serene and bland as the loveliest May morning (“so cool, so calm, so bright”) and showed me the live shell ready to throw out of the window and the “battery” to project Assay Office oil-of-vitriol andt he like. He’s all right. Then called on Collector Barney and had another long talk with him. Find him well prepared with shells, grenades, muskets, and men, but a little timid and anxious, “wanting counsel,” doubtful about his right to fire on the mob, and generally flaccid and tremulous – poor devil!

Walked uptown with Charley Strong and Hoppin, and after my cup of coffee, went to Union League Club. A delegation returned from police headquarters, having vainly asked for a squad of men to garrison the clubhouse. None can be spared. What is worse, we were badly repulsed in an attack on the mob in First Avenue, near Nineteenth Street, at about six P.M. Fired upon from houses, and had to leave sixteen wounded men and a Lieutenant Colonel Jardine in the hands of these brutes and devils. This is very bad indeed. But tonight is quieter than the last, though there seems to be a large fire downtown, and we hear occasional gun-shots.

At the club was George Biggs, full of the loudest and most emphatic jawing. “General Frémont’s house and Craven’s to be attacked tonight, Croton mains to be cut, and gas works destroyed,” and so on. By way of precaution, I had had the bathtubs filled, and also all the pots, kettles, and pails in the house. Twelve-thirty: Light as of a large fire to the south.

July 14, 1863

July 14th, 1863

Filed under: Frank Leslie,Mrs. Lincoln,Riot — by Maria Lydig Daly @ 10:36 pm

The draft began on Saturday, the twelfth, very foolishly ordered by the government, who supposed that these Union victories would make the people willing to submit. By giving them Sunday to think it over, by Monday morning there were large crowds assembled to resist the draft. All day yesterday there were dreadful scenes enacted in the city. The police were succesfully opposed; many were killed, many houses were gutted and burned: the colored asylum was burned and all the furniture was carried off by women: Negroes were hung in the streets! All last night the fire-bells rang, but at last, in God’s good mercy, the rain came down in torrents and scattered the crowds, giving the city authorities time to organize. Today bodies of police and military patrolled the city to prevent any assembly of rioters. A Virginian, last evening, harangued the crowd. Fearful that they might attack a Negro tenement house some blocks below us, as they had attacked others, I ordered the doors to be shut and no gas to be lighted in front of the house. I was afraid people would come to visit Judge Daly, ask questions, etc. I did not wonder at the spirit in which the poor resented the three-hundred-dollar clause.

The news from the army is most encouraging. It is thought that Lee will not be able to escape. It would seem as though this war might now be brought to an end, but this news of the riots here will give the rebels encouragement. The principal cause of discontent was the provision that by paying three hundred dollars any man could avoid serving if drafted, thus obliging all who could not beg, borrow or steal this sum to go to the war. This is exceedingly unjust. The laboring classes say that they are sold for three hundred dollars, whilst they pay one thousand dollars for Negroes.

Things seem quiet this morning. People are returning to their homes, though the tops of the stages are crowded with workingmen and boys.

Mr. Leslie at Long Branch told me that he was in disgrace with Mrs. Lincoln for having published in his paper a likeness of her taken at Springfield by a skillful photographerist sent there for the purpose just after Lincoln’s election. At the time she was entirely satisfied with the likeness, but after she had been dressed by city mantua-makers and milliners, she considered it a libel. It was certainly the likeness of a very common looking country body, whilst now she looks like a vulgar, shoddy, contractor’s wife who does not know what to do with her money. Mr. Leslie likewise told me that the clerk at Tiffany and Young’s had told him that their present largest buyers were the common people, that a common-looking woman came into the store a few weeks since and asked for diamons. She picked out a necklace, earrings, brooch, and bracelet and ordered them sent to her house. The clerk did not like to do so and asked her name (which he did not know). Then he said that it was against the rules of the store to send things out of such value without payment.

“Oh, my old man will pay for them,” said she.

“Then,” said the cler, “will you write something to that effect?”

“Write what you please; I will sign it,” said she, and she made a cross. “He’ll know that.”…

I was told that the Admiral du Pont’s share of the prize money is $200,000. It is thought that he is in no haste to take Charleston.

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