Illustrations of the Riots in New YorkThe Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1216, p. 142.
August 8, 1863
Close upon dusk a crowd, small in numbers, had gathered before the Tribune office. A few groans, a few cheers, and some "Hi hi's!" left one at a distance in doubt of what was going on or intended; but a closer acquaintance with the feeling of the crowd showed clearly enough that a very rough demonstration was in contemplation against the said office. A gradual ebullition of hostility, first among a parcel of boys in front, and gradually extending to the rougher and more determined spirits behind them, broke out into a regular attack. A crash of glass was heard, at the sound of which numbers of lookers-on immediately stampeded, as if the neighbourhood had become already too hot for them. But crash followed upon crash, doors were rent open, and all the sounds of a speedy demolition of counters and furniture inside told that an entrance had been effected, and that the work of destruction under many hands was going on.
To the first body of the more active participators in the stone-throwing and window-breaking operations, were added, with the rush of a hurricane, an immense body from the direction of Chatham-street, who joined in immediately, and the work of destruction inside the building was evidently culminating to what appeared must be the final result of the continued attack--the complete destruction of the Tribune buildings. The first stone was thrown at a quarter to eight o'clock. In a very few moments the lower portion of the building was taken possession of. In almost as few moments the police appeared, walking up leisurely through Nassau-street; following them pretty closely, and as leisurely, came a second body of about equal numbers, both numbering not more than about 150 men. They halted between Beekman and Spruce streets; there both joined and formed in column at the magic signal of the "baton on the flags." The contents of the lower part of the building were then flying through broken windows and gaping doors, hundreds of ready hands aiding in the work of destruction. This halt of the police had a purpose. But a very brief time elapsed from the forming of the column in Nassau-street when an answering signal on the flags was heard coming from some distance in front. The same moment the whole body of police in Nassau-street rushed forward in a charge, baton in hand, some of the forward men raising the cheering cry of "Hi, hi!" which was as cheeringly answered by numbers of people on the sidewalks and doorfronts, and by clapping of hands as they rushed past. Two bodies of police on the same instant charged from two other points converging on the very centre of the crowd, through whom they dashed, scattering them like chaff before the wind. Down they fell by dozens in the street, the fellows who had got into the office of the Tribune tumbling over each other like Merry Andrews as they hurried to escape from the scene of their own depredations, often stricken down as they rose by the touches of the inevitable baton-Nemesis, which mercilessly descended upon them. Instantaneously the streets were cleared.
Intense excitement prevailed on the west side of the town. News had reached the people up town that their fellow-citizens were in open resistance to the draught. The feeling was, as in all other sections, very severe against the negroes, and several were badly beaten. At last, towards night, one negro got into difficulty with a white man; loud words followed, and the crowd set upon the black man. He retreated a little way, and finally drew a pistol and discharged its contents into the crowd. The ball took effect in the breast of one of the assailants, who fell forward as if killed. The negro, terrified at the act, took to his legs and ran with all possible speed towards Hudson-street, the affray having taken place in Cornelia-street, where he lived. When near Hudson-street he was overtaken and severely beaten. He was then stripped of all his clothes except the shirt, and a rope was loudly demanded. One was procured from a store near by--a stout clothes-line--and it was attached to the negro's neck. The other end was then slung over a tree, and he was drawn up several feet. Some of them then set his shirt on fire, and the sight presented was a frightful one. The body remained hanging, surrounded by a dense crowd of people, who shouted and yelled, pursuing every negro who made his appearance. At last orders were given to have the body cut down; and this was done, a large force being detailed for the purpose.
The rioters, having arranged their plans, began to move down town by way of Fifth and Sixth avenues, until they reached the vicinity of Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh streets, along which they proceeded in an easterly direction. When they arrived at Fourth-avenue, along which the New Haven and Harlem railroad tracks run, it was suggested that the authorities might telegraph to Albany for troops. Scarcely were the words uttered when the axes were laid at the foot of the telegraph poles, and down they came with a terrific bang. That part of the wires that could not be thus destroyed was divided by means of men climbing the poles, throwing slings, stones, &c., until the wires were severed and rendered completely useless. Another branch wire, leading from the railroad to Third-avenue, and that along Third-avenue, were similarly damaged, and then the crowd again moved on to the Provost Marshal's office. This office was situated on the north-east corner of Third-avenue and Forty-sixth-street. As soon as the people had reached this position they began to flank the building on the avenue, and on that part of Forty-sixth-street which leads to Second-avenue. When they had taken a position to suit themselves the signal was made to commence the attack. This signal was given by the throwing of a large stone through one of the panes of glass, and as soon as this was done a rush was made for the entrances and windows.
After a very short interval, and before any of the persons in the upper part of the premises had had time to remove their furniture, the flames burst out of that part of the building where the offices were held (on the ground floor), and soon were master of the entire edifice, which was four stories in height. A current of wind blew the flames across Forty-sixth-street, and soon a number of frame workshops and stables were ablaze. The firemen began rapidly to arrive at the scene of the destruction, and made a few vain efforts to plant their apparatus for the extinction of the fire. The crowd, however, refused to let them work, asserting, in positive terms, that they should not extinguish the flames until the intended work of destruction had been accomplished.