Know-Nothing Riot

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The term "Know-Nothing Riot" has been used to refer to several political uprisings in United States of America during the latter half of the 19th century. These included riots in St. Louis in 1854, Washington, D.C. in 1857, and New Orleans in 1858.

Washington Riot[edit]

On June 1, 1857, a band of American Party rowdies traveled by train from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. to assist local party members in controlling the polls at a municipal election. The band included members of the Plug Uglies, Rip Raps, and Shiffler Fire Company from Philadelphia. After word of their arrival spread and rioting began at several polls, President James Buchanan called out United States Marines from the Navy Yard to quell the fighting. At one of the polls, the Marines clashed with citizens, most of them Washingtonians. They opened fire, killing ten men, only one from Baltimore. The violence drew sharp condemnation of Buchanan's resort to military force, but resulted in no significant criminal prosecutions. The bloody event soon became lost in the larger controversy over slavery and largely forgotten.

New Orleans Riot[edit]

The New Orleans Know-Nothing group began as a local movement in 1858 to reduce what residents considered a high rate of crime and violence in the city, primarily among Irish and German immigrants, who were among the poorest classes. A secret Vigilance Committee was formed to monitor their activities, and in particular to prevent disruption of upcoming municipal elections.

On the night of June 2, 1858, armed men under the command of Capt. J. K. Duncan, who was an officer in the United States Army, marched to Jackson Square and occupied the court rooms in The Cabildo. For the next five days, a standoff existed between the Vigilance Committee and members of the Native American Party. On June 7, the elections were held and the Native American candidate, Gerard Stith, defeated the Democratic Party candidate, P.G.T. Beauregard. The Vigilance Committee disbanded with no further violence.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Melton, Tracy Matthew. Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies, 1854-1860 (2005)
  • Smith, John Kendall. A History of New Orleans (1922)