Item #List2435 Document Noting the Capture of Patrick Keegan and Patrick O’Brien for the Murder of Colonel Henry F. O’Brien who Was Murdered in the New York Race Riots, and the Payment of a Reward for the Capture, Signed by New York City Mayor George Opdyke and Others. Irish-Americana - New York Race Riots, George Opdyke, Colonel Henry O’Brien.
Document Noting the Capture of Patrick Keegan and Patrick O’Brien for the Murder of Colonel Henry F. O’Brien who Was Murdered in the New York Race Riots, and the Payment of a Reward for the Capture, Signed by New York City Mayor George Opdyke and Others.
[Irish-Americana - New York Race Riots] [O’Brien, Colonel Henry] Opdyke, George, et al.

Document Noting the Capture of Patrick Keegan and Patrick O’Brien for the Murder of Colonel Henry F. O’Brien who Was Murdered in the New York Race Riots, and the Payment of a Reward for the Capture, Signed by New York City Mayor George Opdyke and Others.

New York: 1863. Document measuring 9 ¾ x 8 inches, folded. Signed by George Opdyke and others. Very Good with some splitting at folds else fine. Very Good. Item #List2435

In July 1863, the Civil War draft in New York City led to protests, escalating into widespread riots by July 14th. The Irish-born Colonel Henry O’Brien, who had been put in charge of recruiting for the New York 11th Infantry, would die gruesomely in the riots, highlighting the class elements of the unrest which existed alongside the racial elements. Born in Ireland in the 1820s, O’Brien had served with Company H of the 155th New York State Infantry before resigning in February 1863. He returned to New York, promoted to Colonel in June, tasked with recruiting for the 11th New York State Volunteers. The aggressive mandate coincided with high casualty rates for Irish New Yorkers in the Union Army. The Battle of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg increased the challenges, coupled with the perceived injustice of the $300 exemption clause in the Conscription Act.

To protest the draft, thousands gathered in Central Park on July 13th, marching across the city. In the 18th Ward, armed protesters gathered on 14th Street. Reports of a threatening mob on Second Avenue and 34th Street prompted police response. O’Brien, offering aid, saw his house attacked, but spared from fire as he didn't own it. Chaos ensued as police faced resistance, and O’Brien led military reinforcements from the 11th NYSV. Attempts to disperse the crowd resulted in violent clashes, with bullets causing casualties, including two children. A fierce battle at the Union Steam Works led to O’Brien's gruesome death at the hands of the rioters, after he had returned to his house likely in a misguided attempt to salvage any belongings. Though multiple assailants caused O’Briens death, no one was ever convicted of the crime, partially due to the mob’s intimidation of witnesses and the complicity of his neighbors in the murder. The first people arrested were Patrick Keegan and Patrick O’Brien, after the coroner deemed them responsible. However the charges were later dropped. No one would ever be convicted of the crime.

Offered here is the original certification of the arrest of Keegan and O’Brian, signed by multiple officials including George Opdyke, the mayor of New York. The document was first certified by an official with the last name Ramsey, then signed both by the mayor and the officers Albert Bogart and Valentine Gass, who were responsible for the apprehension of Keegan and O’Brian, acknowledging the receipt of the $100 reward. The document is docketed, and crosshatched writing notes from the comptroller’s office note the payout to Gass and Valentine. Opdyke’s note states that he offered the reward initially on July 22nd. We find no similar documents relating to the riots in the trade, with the closest examples being contemporary manuscript accounts of the riots which turn up occasionally. Overall a remarkable ephemeral survival of the riots and the death of Henry O’Brien.

References:

Reynolds, Kelly Ann. Henry F. O’Brien, The Man Murdered by the Mob. Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, accessed online at: https://ethnic-village.org/henry-f-obrien-the-colonel-murdered-by-the-mob/, 1/24.

Price: $2,750.00