1 While this horror was the outcome of jealousy between Edwin Forrest and the English
tragedian, William C. Macready, there is plenty of reason for the belief that political
chicanery brought about the crisis. Forrest had been coldly received in England. This was charged to Macready's envy and to the criticisms of the cuspidorial customs of the United States by Charles Dickens during a visit to this country.
On May 7, 1849, both Forrest and Macready played Macbeth in New York and the latter's performance was broken up. Washington Irving and other leading citizens persuaded Macready to give another performance three nights later. On the same day handbills of an inflammatory character branding the appearance of the English actor as an insult to our Americanism were distributed through the city wherever they would do most harm.
It was later proved by the Gazette that the handbills had been ordered by some one who had headquarters at the Empire Club, which was then led by Captain Isaiah Rynders. Where Bible House now stands was a stone-yard; a also a sewer was being constructed along Fourth Avenue. Cobblestones and the contents of the yard made plentiful ammunition for the infuriated mob that descended on the Astor Place Theater to break up the Macready performance. When the militia was finally brought to the aid of the police the first round of fire was discharged above the heads of the rioters. Still they would not disperse. The fatal command then followed.
a more detailed description of the Astor Riot of 1859]
2 A Riot Among
The Soldiers Of The "Third Regiment Irish
The Sixty-third Regiment, which is the Third Regiment in the First Irish Brigade, landed in this City on Thursday from their encampment on David's Island. The intention was to immediately embark on a Camden and Amboy boat, enroute for Washington. They were landed at the foot of Fourteenth-street, North River, in the early part of the day, and made a
very creditable appearance on their march down Broadway, the men being, at that time, apparently sober. A large crowd witnessed the passage of the troops till they arrived at the foot of Battery-place, where the boat was lying ready to take them on board. But at this point a different scene began to be enacted.
The first three companies passed through the gate on to the pier at which the steamer was lying, in good military style. Several women desiring to follow them, were repulsed by the guard in attendance at the gate. This created considerable excitement among the soldiers, and in order to keep out all who did not belong to the regiment, as well as to restore order in the ranks, a halt was ordered, and the gates closed. Several of the soldiers thereupon broke rank, and the example being immediately followed by others, in a very short time a large number of the regiment started for the saloons and drinking shops in Battery-place, West and State Streets. They were, of course, accompanied by their relatives and friends, who had followed them for the purpose of witnessing the embarkation.
Soon a scene of the greatest confusion and disorder prevailed. Soldiers, who a short time before were orderly and obedient, were now either raving with passion, or so stupidly intoxicated as to be unable to walk. The ranks were broken, and the scene at this time is represented, by those who witnessed it, to have been of the most disgraceful character. Finally the gates of the pier were opened, and the order given for all belonging to the regiment to march in. The soldiers, accompanied by their friends, rushed forward; but the latter being driven back with force by the guard at the gates, all again became a scene of confusion, and a disgraceful riot spread through the whole, extending itself as the numbers increased, and the passions of the men became more inflamed.
Those who were outside declared they would not go unless their friends could be admitted inside the gates, and those already in, were anxious to get out on a short furlough. But the officers had determined that neither party should be gratified. Bayonets, knives, and
other weapons were then freely used, and it is reported that several were seriously wounded. The officers, for a time, had no command over their men, and when the soldiers inside found there was no way of escaping by the gates, many of them rushed forward towards the northern side of the dock, in spite of the great exertions of their officers to prevent
it, and some of them, succeeded in escaping by the way of a schooner which was anchored in
the vicinity. Others climbed up the side of the gates, in doing which, two fell into the water, and one man is believed to have been drowned, as he was heard making cries as if strangling, and is not known to have been rescued.
It is asserted by the officers that but little liquor was drank by the soldiers previous to their arrival at the place of embarkation. After the fight had continued in this manner for about an hour, and many bruises, sword-cuts, and wounds of a like character had been inflicted, the riot was formally quelled by the combined efforts of the officers of the regiment and the Police of the First Ward. During the affray one of the soldiers attempted to stop an officer. The officer, in self-defense struck his assailant on the head with his sword, inflicting a severe, and it is feared, fatal wound. He was, however, taken on board the steamer.
The police performed their duty manfully after they were in working order. Great Credit is due to Col. Enright and his subordinate officers for the efforts, they made to suppress the riot, and prevent bloodshed. Most of the men were, got on board the steamer in the course of the evening, and she soon after set sail for her destination. Col. Eneight has remained behind to look after the missing. Yesterday morning, the steamer Weehawken returned from Amboy, bringing the bodies of privates John Gautley, aged 30 years , of Company C, and Dennis Reagan, aged 35 years of Company B, who died soon after
leaving New York. Coroner Jackman held an inquest on the bodies, and a verdict of death from intemperance was rendered.