Richard Mather Bayles.

History of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time online

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Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 29 of 72)
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"A United States Detective paid a visit to the North Shore
last week, to ascertain whether any anti-conscription meetings
had been held in that quarter ; and, if so, to get the names of
the officers and speakers, what was said and done, and who at-
tended the meetings. He states that he has the names of thir-
ty-three individuals who require looking after ; also that their


places of rendezvous are watched, and that the government has
established a reliable telegraph station in the midst of them, or
in other words, a spy to report their movements. The detective
is said to favor grave stones as convenient places of observa-

The names of persons appointed to make the enrollment un-
der the conscription act of 1863, which was made in June, were
as follows : For Castleton, Edward Jones ; Middletown, J. J.
Clute ; Northfield, Simon Haughwout ; Southfield, John Jacob-
son ; Westfield, - .

The quota of Richmond county in the call of 1863, was for
four hundred men, who were to be taken from those enrolled
between the ages of twenty and thirty-five, unless a deficiency
in that class should necessitate drawing upon the class beyond
that age. While the question of enforcing the draft was being-
discussed, and its execution appeared as a probability of the
near future, events developed which gave this localitj 7 a sudden
and undesirable notoriety.

From its proximity to Xew York city this county could not
but feel every pulsation of popular emotion that disturbed the
bosom of that city, and when the celebrated draft riots of July,
186H, filled it with the horrors of an inferno it is perhaps no
more than a reasonable consequence that some kindred spirit
should find expression here. On the island the public mind
was in a state of high fermentation. Riot was in the air, and
it would seem that men hardly knew what they did. For two
years the public mind here had been almost constantly wrought
up to fever heat, and now the prospect of a draft being made to
fill the quota of four hundred men in this county under the
recent call, but few of whom were already enlisted, made a
strain upon the public nerve which it was in a poor condition
to bear with tranquility. For a moment the steady arm of
patriotism seemed to falter, weakened as it had been by the
drain upon it caused by the withdrawal of hundreds from the
community to the field of the war. Sober counsels wavered
and the influence of men of means was weak, because of the ob-
noxious clause in the conscription act which promised to ex-
empt all drafted men who should pay three hundred dollars.
In this weak moment the baser elements of society gathered
strength, and disorder attempted to block the wheels of organ-
ized government.


In this critical moment the innocent colored population were
among the first to receive the demoniacal thrusts of unchained
hatred. In McKeon street, Stapleton, a large number of this
class resided, and there was located their African church. On
Tuesday evening, July 14th, crowds began to gather and indica-
tions of trouble appeared that alarmed the people of this neigh-
borhood with fears that an attack upon them and upon this
church was about to be made. Rumors were circulated that a
mob was about to burn the houses of the negroes and their
church, but the night passed without any such demonstration
being made.

About the same time a large crowd, variously estimated to
number from fifty to two hundred persons, a large number of
whom were boys, proceeded to the Tompkins Lyceum, in Van
Duzer street, and with the noisy demonstrations of a band of wild
Indians, forced the outer door, and took all the muskets that
were stored there in the drill-room of the Tompkins cadets.
Another drill-room near Stapleton landing was similarly robbed
of muskets. Different estimates placed the number of guns
thus seized by this mob at from thirty to three hundred.

The mob, gathering numerical strength as it went, reached
the Vanderbilt landing railroad station at about midnight,
where they set fire to a building used as a car house, and
burned it to the ground. Two engine companies who came to
the scene were forbidden to interfere, but they were permitted
to direct their efforts toward saving the dwelling of Mrs. Cor-
son, whose house stood near by, and in this they succeeded.

The nucleus of another mob was formed on the same evening
at Factoryville, which proceeded eastward, gathering strength
as it proceeded, making night hideous with shoutings of "No
Draft" and many other violent and threatening expressions,
too odious to be repeated. At New Brighton they proceeded
to the ice cream saloon of a colored man by the name of Green,
who fortunately had been apprised of their coming, and had
closed his place and fled. They then entered the drug store of
Mr. Christie with such noisy demonstrations that the propri-
etor fled to the cellar for safety. But being assured that he
was not the object of their search he returned, and the mob sat-
isfied themselves that the negro Green was not there, and de-
parted. While they were thus drifting about the streets of
New Brighton the Rev. Mr. Conron, of St. Peter's church,


gained their ears, and by his influence they were pacified and
induced to disperse and go to their homes.

On the afternoon of the following day a mob, consisting of
nearly fifty men, made an attack upon the houses of the negroes
living in McKeon street, Stapleton. These were mostly small
one-story houses. One after another the windows were broken
in, the doors torn down and the furniture and materials inside
were broken up and thrown into the street. The inmates of
these houses had fled to the woods on the previous evening,
and this, no doubt, saved some of their lives. One house, be-
longing to one Wormsley, who was particularly obnoxious,
and whom rumors had credited with advocating arming the
blacks to assist in enforcing the draft, was burned to the ground.
A three-story brick house occupied by families in the upper
stories and a grocery store below, was completely "gutted,"
the mob helping themselves to groceries as they were thrown
into the street. In one of the houses a lame man had remained.
He was dragged from his house and heartlessly beaten, and
others were kicked and beaten as they were met on the high-
ways. A few colored persons who remained quietly in their
houses were unmolested, doubtless escaping the notice of
or not being known to the leaders of the mob. An attempt
was made to burn the church, but the fire was extinguished by
a friendly hand before much damage was done. A colored
coachman was attacked as he was driving his coach on the
afternoon of the 13th, at Vanderbilt landing. Several men
seized the horse, while others leaped upon the seat and com-
menced beating the driver. By the timely interference of a
gentleman the negro was rescued and sent in a small boat to
Fort Hamilton for safety.

On the north side of the island rumors of intended attacks
upon the leading republicans and negroes were flying about and
creating great alarm. Many families packed up their valu-
ables and left their houses. In some the male members only
remained to guard their homes while the female members went
to some place of supposed safety. The negroes fled, some to
the woods, and some to the Jersey shore. Private meetings of
citizens were held, and guards were set at various points along
the shore, and the streets were patrolled for several nights. No
serious outbreak occurred there.

At Richmond, the sheriff, suspecting that an attempt would


be made to seize a negro prisoner who was in the jail on a charge
of rape, obtained a military force from the camp at New Dorp
and had the jail guarded for a day or two, and then had the
prisoner referred to conveyed to the Tombs in New York city.

In this highly excited condition of the public mind a mass
meeting was held at Clifton on Wednesday, the 15th. This
was presided over by Messrs. William Shaw, D wight Townsend,
and Mr. Fellows, and was attended by many respectable citi-
zens, the bulk of the meeting being made up of the laborers at
the fortifications. The Rev. Father Lewis addressed the meet-
ing with conciliatory language, exhorting respect to law and
assuring them that no unjust demands would be made upon
them. Speeches were also made by Messrs. D wight Townsend,
Robert Christie, Jr., and Mr. Hull, after which the following
preamble and resolutions were passed :

11 Whereas, In the sense of this meeting the Conscription Act
sought to be enforced by the Government is oppressive and un-
just in its enactments, and under present circumstances un-
called for ; be it therefore

'' Resolved, 1. That we call upon the Governor of the State
of New York to, without delay, have the constitutionality of
this Conscription Act tested before our State courts, by whose
decision we pledge ourselves to abide.

" 2. That in case our State Courts should decide the Con-
scription to be constitutional, we will, under the $300 clause,
procure a substitute for every drafted man in the town of South-
field who is not able or not willing to leave his home and

" 3. That we pledge ourselves, one and all, to support, with
all our might, the Government in its great efforts to restore the
Union and the full force of the Constitution in all the States ;
and to uphold everywhere, by word and example, the principles
of law and order."

Handbills were also distributed, signed by the town officers,
announcing that the draft had been stopped. This action
probably averted any uprising of rioters that might have been
brewing in that section of the island.

But it would appear that riot was in the atmosphere and as
though violence had a free license for the time. On Thursday,
the 16th, two ruffians attacked John Ryan, of Cherry lane,
Castleton, as he was going home from work, and brutally beat


him and robbed him of his clothes which he wore, leaving him
only a shirt on his person. They had stolen a horse and wagon
at Port Richmond, and continued their evening's riot by knock-
ing another man down, smashing a vehicle and "cleaning out"
a tavern, after which they were secured and committed to jail.

But a still more serious affray occurred at Vanderbilt land-
ing on the 20th. In the early evening two or three soldiers were
in a drinking saloon, when one of them h'red his musket at a
boy. This enraged some others who were present to such an
extent that they set upon the soldiers and beat them so badly
as to leave them for dead. A train of cars came up just then,
having on board a company of soldiers, who came out and com-
menced firing upon the crowd that had by this time collected.
They no doubt took the crowd to be a mob gathering and de-
termined to scatter it. In doing so their shot took effect in the
body of one Charles Murphy with such force that he died
shortly after. About ten men were arrested by the soldiers and
taken to camp. One or both of the soldiers who began the
disturbance died within a few days.

The county subsequently paid damages for property de-
stroyed in these riots as follows, to which expense may be ad-
ded about ten thousand dollars incurred in contesting several
of the claims in the courts : John B. Smith, $61.00; S. I. R. R.
Co., $1,336.00; J. M. Evans & Son, $222.38; Henrietta Corson,
891.50; William Wilson, $3,697.96; Sarah Cornish, $585.21;
Jacob Gunsett, $215.46; Rosetta Graves, $791.97; Mary Brown,
$197.95; Abraham Wilson, $352.08; Aaron Dunn, $297.18; Pat-
rick Sullivan, $900.00; M. Tool, $382.50; John Lewis, $17.00;
Levi Purnell, $700.98; Edward Felix, $888.94; Charles Worms-
ley, $330.18; Oliver Wilson, $354.40; J. J. Galligher, $120.95;
Daniel A. Lewis, $798.87; Eleanor S. Wormsley, $1,187.08;
David Wormsley. $3,638.44: total, $17,207.99.

On the 25th of August the supervisors passed resolutions au-
thorizing the county treasurer to raise, on the bonds of the
county, fifty thousand dollars to be appropriated as might be
necessary in providing for those who might be drafted and were
notable to pay the exemption fee of three hundred dollars, un-
der the conscription act which, it was expected, would be en-
forced in the First congressional district. The enrollment had
been revised and corrected throughout the county preparatory
to such a draft.


The draft took place at Jamaica, on Monday, August 30th,
under the supervision of Provost Marshall Edwin Rose. The
day passed without any disorderly demonstrations. The num-
ber enrolled from this county was 2,205, which was distributed
among the towns as follows: Castleton, 559 ; Southfield, 463;
Northfield, 444; Westfield, 438; Middletown, 301. The number
to be drawn from these was five hundred and ninety-four, which
included an addition of fifty per cent, to make up the deficiency
which should result from exemptions.

After the draft was made notices were served on the drafted
men, requiring them to appear before the provost marshall at
Jamaica by a certain time or be accounted as deserters. The
officer whose duty it was to serve these notices, while so en-
gaged in Wood road was set on by the women of the neighbor-
hood, armed with brickbats and hot water, and so fierce was
their onslaught that the officer fled before them Later he se-
cured the assistance of a squad of men from a neighboring
camp and completed the fulfillment of his duties. But few men
were actually gained for the service by this draft, the majority
of those who were held paying the commutation fee of three
hundred dollars. The supervisors meantime raised the proposed
loan for this purpose from fifty thousand dollars, as it had been
fixed by their vote of August 25, to seventy- five thousand dol-
lars. This action was approved by resolutions passed at a mass
meeting of the citizens and tax-payers of the county held at
the pagoda at Clifton park on the 19th of September. The
bonds issued for this purpose were disposed of in a very few
days. The five hundred and ninety-four drafted men were ac-
counted for October 14th, in the following manner: Seventy-four
were aliens ; ten furnished substitutes ; ninety-four were exempt
for physical disability ; one hundred and three were exempt for
other causes ; one hundred and sixty-two commuted, and one
hundred and fifty-one failed to report.

Under the call of the president for three hundred thousand
men made in October, 1863, which was to be filled by January
5, 1864, the quota from each town of this county was: Castleton,
seventy-seven ; Southfield, sixty-five ; Northfield, sixty-two ;
Westfield, sixty-two ; Middletown, forty-two. Two months
passed seeing but little done toward meeting it. A mass
meeting was called by the supervisors, which convened at
the court house on the 19th of December, to give popular ex-


pression to the means to be adopted to meet the call. Resolu-
tions were passed calling on the supervisors to raise one hundred
and twenty thousand dollars, or as much of that sum as might be
necessary, and to pay to each volunteer, drafted man or substi-
tute, counting in the quota, four hundred dollars, and to open
a recruiting office in each town and to appoint suitable persons
to attend to the same. About the 1st of January, 1864, re-
enlistments were taking place in the field, and these were
allowed to count to the credit of localities as though they had
taken place at home, when so specified and arranged. By this
and other means the supervisors were able to fill the quota and
so avoid a draft. The quota was completed early in March.

We may remark in passing, that the early months of 1864,
witnessed an unusual degree of activity in business on the
north shore of the island. Real estate seemed unusually active
there and also on other parts of the island, especially on the
western shore.

Another call for troops was made in March, 1864. To provide
for it the supervisors met on the 18th and determined to con-
tract with some responsible party to fill the quota of one hun-
dred men which belonged to this county to furnish. They
published an advertisement on the following day inviting par-
ties wishing to contract for filling the quota to present themselves
with their sureties at a meeting appointed for the 22d instant.
A draft was ordered for April 15th, if the quota was not other-
wise filled before that time. The supervisors on the llth
preceding, offered three hundred and fifty dollars each for men
two hundred dollars of which was to be paid to the recruit,
and one hundred and fifty dollars to the party who should pro-
cure him. The quota was filled during April.

A new enrollment of persons liable to do military duty was
ordered in May, and the work of enrolling began about the 1st
of June. The names of all who could prove causes of exemp-
tion were stricken off, and those who had been omitted or
had since come within the range of age or residence were

In July a call was made for 500,000 more. To arrange for
filling the quota under this a mass meeting was held at Clifton
Park on the 26th, when resolutions were passed placing the
entire business of raising money and filling the quota in the
hands of the supervisors and calling upon them to exercise


those duties. On August 8th the committee which had been
appointed to solicit subscriptions to a loan reported to the
supervisors that they had secured 75,000. Under this call
the quotas for this county were: Middletown, 123; Southiield,
70; Westfield, 77; Castleton, 154; Northfield, 119; making a
total of 543. The supervisors, on the 22d of August, resolved
to establish a recruiting office on the island, and offered 200
for each recruit and $200 additional to the agent or broker
procuring him, or $400 to every man liable to draft who should
secure a substitute to be credited to the county. Camp Wash-
ington, just outside the quarantine walls, was designated as the
recruiting depot. For $600 deposited with the supervisors by
any citizen liable to draft, before September 5th, they would un-
dertake to procure a substitute for him, such substitutes to be
supplied in the order in which applications and deposits were
made. The prices mentioned were not sufficient to procure the
needed recruits. The price advanced until $700 apiece was paid
for them. Then about the latter part of September the quota was
still one hundred and eighty men short, and the county had no
ready money with which to pay for more. Arrangements were
effected, however, by which the county bonds were exchanged
for men, and the quota was tilled, though a form of drafting
was begun on the 3d of October.

About this time large sums of money were made speculating
in recruits. Human flesh was bought and sold like cattle in
the shambles. Fresh emigrants from foreign countries and
others, whom circumstances in various ways had brought to this
step, were seized and controlled by brokers who understood the
means of holding them, and offered in the market where they
would command the highest price. The poor victims them-
selves received perhaps a paltry hundred dollars, more or less,
while the greater part of the money paid by the people went
into the pockets of brokers, officials and others who had the
manipulating of the business. Enormous sums of money were
raised on corporate obligations and appropriated with a reck-
lessness that would have been appalling at any other time
than under the exigency of the hour. Charges of complicity
with the brokers and sharing in the spoils were often made
by popular gossip against the servants of the people. It was
impossible at the time and is still more so at this late day to
reach the facts which would decide in every case whether those


charges were true or false. Whilst the meagre and often im-
perfect records which boards of supervisors and other officials
left sometimes give reasonable ground for suspicion that
crooked work was being carried on behind the scenes, it is
doubtless true that many an honest man, whose actions were
prompted by patriotic and unselfish motives, has been made
the object of unjust imputations in connection with this busi-
ness. These remarks are founded on observations made in the
history of different counties. They apply to Richmond as well
as to many others.

A revision of the enrollment was made in December, 1864,
under the direction of an enrolling board in each town, which
was composed of the supervisor, town clerk and one inspector
of election.

A mass meeting was held at the court house, January 6, 1865,
to provide for raising the quota under the call of December 19th,
for 300,000 men. The supervisors were instructed to fill the
quota and raise the money necessary on the credit of the
county. They later resolved to raise two hundred men. Fre-
quent meetings were held by the board, but the work of filling
the quota progressed slowly. A draft finally took place on the
25th of February, at which four hundred and forty-six names
were drawn. Previous to the drawing the supervisors, Feb-
ruary 18th, offered bounties of 300 for one year's men, $400
for two years' men, 600 for three years' men and $100
additional " hand money " to the person presenting the recruit,
or the same additional sum to the recruit presenting himself.
The same bounties, but not the "hand-money." were offered to
men liable to draft who should secure substitutes before the
draft. The drafted men were not required to report as long as
enlistments were active.

Great dissatisfaction arose during the latter part of 1864 and
the early part of 1865 in regard to the management of the
county finances. It was charged that the supervisors and officials
acting under their authority were using more money in procur-
ing recruits than was necessary, and intimations were even pro-
mulgated that those officials were using their positions to en-
rich themselves by sharing with the brokers the enormous
commissions that were allowed for procuring recruits.

Whether much or little foundation existed for this dissatis-
faction, it arose to such a pitch that public meetings were held


in some of the towns to discuss measures for the protection of
the tax-payers against the wanton increase of their burdens.
The debt of the county at the beginning of 1865 had reached
an amount exceeding $700,000. Such a meeting was held at
Giesser's hotel, Middletown, on the first of February, at which
resolutions were passed declaring that in the opinion of the
majority of the citizens of the town there was great misman-
agement in town and county offices, owing to a lack of capacity
and economy in public matters, resulting in enormous taxation
for which the citizens received no due return; that a new, in-
telligent and economical administration of affairs must be inau-
gurated; that to accomplish this end they would lay aside party
considerations and put forth their utmost exertions to elect such
men as by public consent were without suspicion or reproach;
and to appoint a committee to aid in bringing before the state
legislature the petition of the people of the county for a
thorough investigation of the accounts of the supervisors. A
similar meeting was held at Fireman's hall, Port Richmond, on
the 8th inst., at which similar resolutions were passed.

The result of this agitation was the election of a board of
supervisors, nearly all of whom were new members, and men
in whom the people had full confidence as to their ability and
disposition to discharge the responsible duties of their office in
a conscientious and creditable manner. Still however, a change
in the board of supervisors did not remedy all the evils which
annoyed the people. Abuses existed in the management of the
recruiting office, as the following paragraph from the " Ga-
zette" at the time will illustrate.

" A SWINDLING SHOP. The recruiting office at Nautilus Hall,
Tompkinsville, Staten Island. The majority of the persons
brought to this place, or going there voluntarily are swindled
out of a large part of the bounties they receive from the County,
and the harpies who make part and parcel of the machine
operated there, fill their pockets with the plunder. These
facts we have from the most credible witnesses, from whom
we can obtain dates, names, amounts and particulars of trans-
actions, if necessary. The iniquities have become known to

Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 29 of 72)