Roach Guards

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Roach Guards
Founding location Five Points Manhattan, New York City, New York
Years active Mid-19th century
Territory Five Points, Manhattan, New York City
Ethnicity Irish and Irish-American
Membership (est.) ?
Criminal activities street fighting, knife fighting, assault, murder, robbery
Rivals Bowery Boys

The Roach Guards were an Irish street gang in New York City's Five Points neighborhood during the early 19th century. Originally formed to protect New York liquor merchants in Five Points, the gang soon began committing robbery and murder.

The Roach Guards began fighting with rivals the Bowery Boys. Some former Roach Guard members were called the Dead Rabbits by the media. The internal feud was especially violent as they fought over the Five Points area. Despite constant fighting, they managed to hold their own in the "slugger battles" against the more organized and disciplined "Bowery Boys". The Roach Guards, however, began to decline during the 1850s, disappearing entirely by the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Historian Tyler Anbinder says, "The name so captured the imagination of New Yorkers that the press continued to use it despite the abundant evidence that no such club or gang existed." Andbinder notes that, "for more than a decade, 'Dead Rabbit' became the standard phrase by which city residents described any scandalously riotous individual or group." [1]


  1. ^ Tyler Anbinder, Five Points: the 19th-century New York City neighborhood that invented tap dance, stole elections, and became the world's most notorious slum (2001) pp 285-86.

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