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Edward Payson Roe.

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Upon reaching the library he said to his daughter: "I've been at
a conference in which the police, military, and state authorities
took part, and things look gloomy. I have also sent further
despatches. My dear child, I wish you were with your mother, but
I'm too weary to think any more to-night."

"Papa, the question of my remaining has been settled. Now rest.
Mr. Merwyn came and brought good news."

"Yes, I know all about it. Why did he not stay?"

"He naturally wished to return and look after his own home."

"True enough. I hope he found it unharmed. He has proved himself a
grand, brave fellow to-day, and I only wish it was my privilege to
fight at his side. It would be far easier than to carry my burden."

"Not another perplexing thought to-night, papa."

"Well, Marian, I must have some sleep, to be equal to to-morrow. You
must obey orders and sleep also. I shall not take off my clothes,
and shall be ready for any emergency; and do you also sleep in your
wrapper."

He kissed her fondly, but with heavy eyes.






CHAPTER XLVII.

A FAIR FRIEND AND FOUL FOES.





THE reader has already discovered that I have not attempted anything
approaching a detailed history of the dreadful days of the riot.
I merely hope to give a somewhat correct impression of the hopes,
fears, and passions which swayed men's minds and controlled
or directed their action. Many of the scenes are too horrible to
be described, and much else relating to the deeds and policy of
recognized leaders belongs to the sober page of history. The city
was in awful peril, and its destruction would have crippled the
general government beyond all calculation. Unchecked lawlessness
in New York would soon have spread to other centres. That cool,
impartial historian, the Comte de Paris, recognized the danger in
his words: "Turbulent leaders were present in the large cities of
the East, which contained all the elements for a terrible insurrection.
This insurrection was expected to break out in New York, despite
Lee's defeat: one may judge what it might have been had Lee achieved
a victory."

With the best intentions the administration had committed many grave
errors, - none more so, perhaps, than that of ordering the draft to
be inaugurated at a time when the city was stripped of its militia.

Now, however, it only remained for the police and a few hundreds
of the military to cope with the result of that error, - a reckless
mob of unnumbered thousands, governed by the instinct to plunder
and destroy.

When the sun dawned in unclouded splendor on the morning of the
14th of July, a superficial observer, passing through the greater
part of the city, would not have dreamed that it could become a
battle-ground, a scene of unnumbered and untold outrages, during
the day. It was hard for multitudes of citizens, acquainted with
what had already taken place, to believe in the continuance of
such lawlessness. In large districts there was an effort to carry
on business as usual. In the early hours vehicles of every kind
rattled over the stony pavement, and when at last Merwyn awoke,
the sounds that came through his open windows were so natural that
the events of the preceding day seemed but a distorted dream. The
stern realities of the past and the future soon confronted him,
however, and he rang and ordered breakfast at once.

Hastily disguising himself as he had done before, he again summoned
his faithful servant. This man's vigilance had enabled him to
admit his master instantly the night before. Beyond the assurance
that all was well and safe Merwyn had not then listened to a word,
yielding to the imperative craving for sleep and rest. These,
with youth and the vigor of a strong, unvitiated constitution, had
restored him wonderfully, and he was eager to enter on the perils
and duties of the new day. His valet and man-of-all-work told him
that he had been at pains to give the impression that the family
was away and the house partially dismantled.

"It wouldn't pay ye," he had said to a band of plunderers, "to bother
with the loikes of this house when there's plenty all furnished."

With injunctions to maintain his vigilance and not to be surprised
if Merwyn's absence was prolonged, the young man hastened away,
paving no heed to entreaties to remain and avoid risks.

It was still early, but the uneasy city was waking, and the streets
were filling with all descriptions of people. Thousands were
escaping to the country; thousands more were standing in their doors
or moving about, seeking to satisfy their curiosity; while in the
disaffected districts on the east and the west side the hosts of
the mob were swarming forth for the renewal of the conflict, now
inspired chiefly by the hope of plunder. Disquiet, anxiety, fear,
anger, and recklessness characterized different faces, according
to the nature of their possessors; but as a rule even the most
desperate of the rioters were singularly quiet except when under
the dominion of some immediate and exciting influence.

In order to save time, Merwyn had again hired a hack, and, seated
with the driver, he proceeded rapidly, first towards the East
River, and then, on another street, towards the Hudson. His eyes,
already experienced, saw on every side the promise of another bloody
day. He was stopped and threatened several times, for the rioters
were growing suspicious, fully aware that detectives were among
them, but he always succeeded in giving some plausible excuse. At
last, returning from the west side, the driver refused to carry
him any longer, and gave evidence of sympathy with the mob.

Merwyn quietly showed him the butt of a revolver, and said, "You
will drive till I dismiss you."

The man yielded sullenly, and Merwyn alighted near Mr. Vosburgh's
residence, saying to his Jehu, "Your course lies there," pointing
east, - and he rapidly turned a corner.

As Merwyn had surmised, the man wheeled his horses with the purpose
of following and learning his destination. Observing this eager
quest he sprung out upon him from a doorway and said, "If you try
that again I'll shoot you as I would a dog." The fellow now took
counsel of discretion.

Going round the block to make sure he was not observed, Merwyn
reached the residence of Mr. Vosburgh just as that gentleman was
rising from his breakfast, and received a cordial welcome.

"Why, Merwyn," he exclaimed, "you look as fresh as a June daisy
this morning."

The young fellow had merely bowed to Marian, and now said, "I
cannot wonder at your surprise, remembering the condition in which
I presented myself last night."

"Condition? I do not understand."

Marian laughed, as she said: "Papa came in about midnight in scarcely
better plight. In brief, you were both exhausted, and with good
reason."

"But you did not tell me, Marian - "

"No," she interrupted; "nothing but a life-and-death emergency
should have made me tell you anything last night."

"Why, our little girl is becoming a soldier and a strategist.
I think you had better make your report over again, Mr. Merwyn;"
and he drew out a fuller account of events than had been given
the evening before, also the result of the young man's morning
observations.

Marian made no effort to secure attention beyond offering Merwyn
a cup of coffee.

"I have breakfasted," he said, coldly.

"Take it, Merwyn, take it," cried Mr. Vosburgh. "Next to courage,
nothing keeps up a soldier better than coffee. According to your
own view we have another hard day before us."

Merwyn complied, and bowed his thanks.

"Now for plans," resumed Mr. Vosburgh. "Are you going to police
headquarters again?"

"Direct from here."

"I shall be there occasionally, and if you learn anything important,
leave me a note. If I am not there and you can get away, come here.
Of course I only ask this as of a friend and loyal man. You can
see how vitally important it is that the authorities at Washington
should be informed. They can put forth vast powers, and will do so
as the necessity is impressed upon them. If we can only hold our
own for a day or two the city will be full of troops. Therefore
remember that in aiding me you are helping the cause even more
than by fighting with the best and bravest, as you did yesterday.
You recognize this fact, do you not? I am not laying any constraint
on you contrary to your sense of duty and inclination."

"No, sir, you are not. I should be dull indeed did I not perceive
that you are burdened with the gravest responsibilities. What
is more, your knowledge guides, in a measure, the strong national
hand, and I now believe we shall need its aid."

"That's it, that's the point. Therefore you can see why I am eager
to secure the assistance of one who has the brains to appreciate
the fact so quickly and fully. Moreover, you are cool, and seem to
understand the nature of this outbreak as if you had made a study
of the mobs."

"I have, and I have been preparing for this one, for I knew that
it would soon give me a chance to prove that I was not a coward."

Marian's cheeks crimsoned.

"No more of that, if you please," said Mr. Vosburgh, gravely. "While
it is natural that you should feel strongly, you must remember
that both I and my daughter have asked your pardon, and that you
yourself admitted that we had cause for misjudging you. We have
been prompt to make amends, and I followed you through yesterday's
fight at some risk to see that you did not fall into the hands of
strangers, if wounded. I could have learned all about the fight
at a safer distance. You are now showing the best qualities of a
soldier. Add to them a soldier's full and generous forgiveness when
a wrong is atoned for, - an unintentional wrong at that. We trust
you implicitly as a man of honor, but we also wish to work with
you as a friend."

Mr. Vosburgh spoke with dignity, and the young fellow's face flushed
under the reproof in his tone.

"I suppose I have become morbid on the subject," he said, with some
embarrassment. "I now ask your pardon, and admit that the expression
was in bad taste, to say the least."

"Yes, it was, in view of the evident fact that we now esteem and
honor you as a brave man. I would not give you my hand in friendship
and trust concerning matters vital to me were this not so."

Merwyn took the proffered hand with a deep flush of pleasure.

"Having learned the bitterness of being misjudged," said Marian,
quietly, "Mr. Merwyn should be careful how he misjudges others."

"That's a close shot, Merwyn," said Mr. Vosburgh, laughing.

Their guest started and bent a keen glance on the girl's averted face,
and then said, earnestly: "Miss Vosburgh, your father has spoken
frankly to me and I believe him. Your words, also, are significant
if they mean anything whatever. I know well what is before
me to-day, - the chances of my never seeing you again. I can only
misjudge you in one respect. Perhaps I can best make everything
clear to your father as well as yourself by a single question. If
I do my duty through these troubles, Mr. Vosburgh being the judge,
can you give me some place among those friends who have already,
and justly, won your esteem? I know it will require time. I have
given you far more cause for offence than you have given me, but I
would be glad to fight to-day with the inspiration of hope rather
than that of recklessness."

Her lip trembled as she faltered: "You would see that you have
such a place already were you not equally prone to misjudge. Do you
think me capable of cherishing a petty spite after you had proved
yourself the peer of my other friends?"

"That I have not done, and I fear I never can. You have seen that
I have been under a strong restraint which is not removed and which
I cannot explain. To wear, temporarily, a policeman's uniform is
probably the best I can hope for."

"I was thinking of men, Mr. Merwyn, not uniforms. I have nothing
whatever to do with the restraint to which you refer. If my father
trusts you, I can. Do not think of me so meanly as to believe I
cannot give honest friendship to the man who is risking his life
to aid my father. Last evening you said I had been off my guard.
I must and will say, in self-defence, that if you judge me by that
hour of weakness and folly you misjudge me."

"Then we can be friends," he said, holding out his hand, his face
full of the sunshine of gladness.

"Why not?" she replied, laughing, and taking his hand, - "that is,
on condition that there is no more recklessness."

Mr. Vosburgh rose and said, with a smile: "Now that there is complete
amity in the camp we will move on the enemy. I shall go with you,
Merwyn, to police-headquarters;" and he hastily began his preparation.

Left alone with Marian a moment, Merwyn said, "You cannot know how
your words have changed everything for me."

"I fear the spirit of the rioters is unchanged, and that you are
about to incur fearful risks."

"I shall meet them cheerfully, for I have been under a thick cloud
too long not to exult in a little light at last."

"Ready?" said Mr. Vosburgh.

Again Merwyn took her hand and looked at her earnestly as he said,
"Good-by, Heaven bless you, whatever happens to me;" and he wondered
at the tears that came into her eyes.

Making their way through streets which were now becoming thronged, Mr.
Vosburgh and Merwyn reached police headquarters without detention.
They found matters there vastly changed for the better: the
whole police force well in hand; and General Harvey Brown, a most
capable officer, in command of several hundred soldiers. Moreover,
citizens, in response to a call from the mayor, were being enrolled
in large numbers as special policemen. Merwyn was welcomed by his old
companions under the command of Inspector Carpenter, and provided
with a badge which would indicate that he now belonged to the police
force.

Telegrams were pouring in announcing trouble in different sections.
Troops were drawn up in line on Mulberry Street, ready for instant
action, and were harangued by their officers in earnest words which
were heeded and obeyed, for the soldiers vied with the police in
courage and discipline.

Soon after his arrival Merwyn found himself marching with a force
of policemen two hundred and fifty strong, led by Carpenter and
followed by a company of the military. The most threatening gatherings
were reported to be in Second and Third Avenues.

The former thoroughfare, when entered, was seen to be filled as far
as the eye could reach, the number of the throng being estimated
at not less than ten thousand. At first this host was comparatively
quiet, apparently having no definite purpose or recognized leaders.
Curiosity accounted for the presence of many, the hope of plunder
for that of more; but there were hundreds of ferocious-looking men
who thirsted for blood and lawless power. A Catholic priest, to
his honor be it said, had addressed the crowd and pleaded for peace
and order; but his words, although listened to respectfully, were
soon forgotten. What this section of the mob, which was now mustering
in a score of localities, would have done first it is impossible
to say; for as it began to be agitated with passion, ready to
precipitate its brutal force on any object that caught its attention,
the cry, "Cops and soldiers coming," echoed up the avenue from
block to block, a long, hoarse wave of sound.

Carpenter, with his force, marched quietly through the crowd from
21st to 32d Street, paying no heed to the hootings, yells, and vile
epithets that were hurled from every side. Dirty, ragged women,
with dishevelled hair and bloated faces, far exceeded the men in the
use of Billingsgate; and the guardians of the law, as they passed
through those long lines of demoniacal visages, scowling with hate,
and heard their sulphurous invectives, saw what would be their fate
if overpowered. It was a conflict having all the horrors of Indian
warfare, as poor Colonel O'Brien, tortured to death through the
long hot afternoon of that same day, learned in agony.

The mob in the street had not ventured on anything more offensive
than jeers and curses, but when Carpenter's command reached 32d
Street it was assailed in a new and deadly manner. Rioters, well
provided with stones and brick-bats, had stationed themselves on the
roofs, and, deeming themselves secure, began to rain the missiles
on the column below, which formed but too conspicuous a mark. This
was a new and terrible danger which Merwyn had not anticipated, and
he wondered how Carpenter would meet the emergency. Comrades were
falling around him, and a stone grazed his shoulder which would
have brained him had it struck his head.

Their leader never hesitated a moment. The command, "Halt, charge
those houses, brain every devil that resists," rang down the line.

The crowd on the sidewalk gave way before the deeply incensed and
resolute officers of the law. Merwyn, with a half-dozen others,
seized a heavy pole which had been cut down in order to destroy
telegraphic communication, and, using it as a ram, crashed in the
door of a tall tenement-house on the roof of which were a score of
rioters, meantime escaping their missiles as by a miracle. Rushing
in, paying no heed to protests, and clubbing those who resisted, he
kept pace with the foremost. In his left hand, however, he carried
his trusty revolver, for he did not propose to be assassinated by
skulkers in the dark passage-ways. Seeing a man levelling a gun
from a dusky corner, he fired instantly, and man and gun dropped.
As the guardians of the law approached the scuttle, having fought
their way thither, the ruffians stood ready to hurl down bricks,
torn from the chimneys; but two or three well-aimed shots cleared
the way, and the policemen were on the roof, bringing down a man
with every blow. One brawny fellow rushed upon Merwyn, but received
such a stroke on his temple that he fell, rolled off the roof, and
struck the pavement, a crushed and shapeless mass.

The assaults upon the other houses were equally successful, but
the fight was a severe one, and was maintained for nearly an hour.
The mob was appalled by the fate of their friends, and looked on
in sullen, impotent anger.

Having cleared the houses, the police re-formed in the street, and
marched away to other turbulent districts.

Only the military were left, and had formed about a block further
to the north. Beyond the feeble demonstration of the invalid corps
the rioters, as yet, had had no experience with the soldiery. That
policemen would use their clubs was to them a matter of course, but
they scarcely believed that cannon and musketry would be employed.
Moreover, they were maddened and reckless that so many of their
best and bravest had been put hors de combat. The brief paralysis
caused by the remorseless clubs of the police passed, and like
a sluggish monster, the mob, aroused to sudden fury, pressed upon
the soldiery, hurling not only the vilest epithets but every missile
on which they could lay their hands. Colonel O'Brien, in command
for the moment, rode through the crowd, supposing he could overawe
them by his fearless bearing; but they only scoffed at him, and
the attack upon his men grew more bold and reckless.

The limit of patience was passed. "Fire!" he thundered, and the
howitzers poured their deadly canister point-blank into the throng.
At the same time the soldiers discharged their muskets. Not only
men, but women fell on every side, one with a child in her arms.

A warfare in which women stand an equal chance for death and wounds
is a terrible thing, and yet this is usually an inseparable feature
of mob-fighting. However, setting aside the natural and instinctive
horror at injuring a woman, the depraved creatures in the streets
were deserving of no more sympathy than their male abettors in
every species of outrage. They did their utmost to excite and keep
alive the passions of the hour. Many were armed with knives, and
did not hesitate to use them, and when stronger hands broke in the
doors of shops and dwellings they swarmed after, - the most greedy
and unscrupulous of plunderers. If a negro man, woman, or child
fell into their hands, none were more brutal than the unsexed hags
of the mob.

If on this, and other occasions, they had remained in their homes
they would not have suffered, nor would the men have been so
ferocious in their violence. They were the first to yield to panic,
however, and now their shrieks were the loudest and their efforts
to escape out of the deadly range of the guns the most frantic.
In a few moments the avenue was cleared, and the military marched
away, leaving the dead and wounded rioters where they had fallen,
as the police had done before. Instantly the friends of the sufferers
gathered them up and carried them into concealment.

This feature, from the first, was one of the most marked
characteristics of the outbreak. The number of rioters killed and
wounded could be only guessed at approximately, for every effort
was made to bury the bodies secretly, and keep the injured in
seclusion until they either died or recovered. Almost before a fight
was over the prostrate rioters would be spirited away by friends
or relatives on the watch.

The authorities were content to have it so, for they had no place
or time for the poor wretches, and the police understood that they
were to strike blows that would incapacitate the recipients for
further mischief.

In the same locality which had witnessed his morning fight, Colonel
O'Brien, later in the day, met a fate too horrible to be described.






CHAPTER XLVIII.

DESPERATE FIGHTING.





HAVING again reached police headquarters, Merwyn rested but a short
time and then joined a force of two hundred men under Inspector
Dilkes, and returned to the same avenue in which he had already
incurred such peril. The mob, having discovered that it must cope
with the military as well as the police, became eager to obtain
arms. It so happened that several thousand carbines were stored in
a wire factory in Second Avenue, and the rioters had learned the
fact. Therefore they swarmed thither, forced an entrance, and began
to arm themselves and their comrades. A despatch to headquarters
announced the attack at its commencement, and the force we have
named was sent off in hot haste to wrest from the mob the means
of more effective resistance. Emerging into the avenue from 21st
Street, Dilkes found the thoroughfare solid with rioters, who, instead
of giving way, greeted the police with bitter curses. Hesitating
not a moment on account of vast inequality of numbers, the leader
formed his men and charged. The mob had grown reckless with every
hour, and it now closed on the police with the ferocity of a wild
beast. A terrible hand-to-hand conflict ensued, and Merwyn found
himself warding off and giving blows with the enemy so near that
he could almost feel their hot, tainted breath on his cheek, while
horrid visages inflamed with hate and fury made impressions on his
mind that could not easily pass away. It was a close, desperate
encounter, and the scorching July sun appeared to kindle passion
on either side into tenfold intensity. While the police were
disciplined men, obeying every order and doing nothing at random,
they WERE men, and they would not have been human if anger and
thoughts of vengeance had not nerved their arms as they struck down
ruffians who would show no more mercy to the wounded or captured
than would a man-eating tiger.

Since the mob would not give way, the police cut a bloody path
through the throng, and forced their way like a wedge to the factory.
Their orders were to capture all arms; and when a rioter was seen
with a carbine or a gun of any kind, one or more of the police would
rush out of the ranks and seize it, then fight their way back.

By the time they reached the factory so many of the mob had
been killed or wounded, and so many of their leaders were dead or
disabled, that it again yielded to panic and fled. One desperate
leader, although already bruised and bleeding, had for a time
inspired the mob with much of his own reckless fury, and was left
almost alone by his fleeing companions. His courage, which should have
been displayed in a better cause, cost him dear, for a tremendous
blow sent him reeling against a fence, the sharp point of one of
the iron pickets caught under his chin, and he hung there unheeded,
impaled and dying. He was afterwards taken down, and beneath
his soiled overalls and filthy shirt was a fair, white skin, clad
in cassimere trousers, a rich waistcoat, and the finest of linen.



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 33 of 37)