Not much has been written about this civil disturbance that occurred on the afternoon of August 12, 1862 when Irish and German stevedores protested against local dock bosses, demanding increased pay for their work, and preventing others from working however when police responded the rioters overpowered them and Chief Dullard and other members of the force injured.
Ultimately the police regained control of the situation with gunfire wounding two rioters and arresting the ring leaders.
In the days that followed, the local newspapers published editorials condemning the actions of the stevedores such as this one in the Courier:
“The series of riots that disgraced our city on Monday last, bear with them a strong admonition to the business men and capitalists of Buffalo. The outrages to which we refer, had their origin in a combination, which not only seeks to control the price of labor, and to dictate the terms of employment, irrespective of the interests of the capitalists, but which retorts to a high-handed violation of law and right to compass its purposes. While we sympathize with the laboring classes, and stand ready to defend their rights to the last, we cannot shut our eyes to the dangers that lurk in these bursts of passion which result in acts of violence and blood-shed such as characterized our city on Monday.”
In the midst of the Civil War, “Dug’s Dive” a tavern owned a black man named William Douglas was a sanctuary for many of his race during a violent riot on Buffalo New York’s waterfront on July 6, I863.
Douglas was born in Tennessee around 1800 and appears to have made his way to Buffalo by the 1830s. It is not known if Mr. Douglas escaped from slavery or was freed. In any case, once in Buffalo, he became an independent businessman whose customers were mostly African-American sailors, canal boatmen and dock laborers.
Dug’s Dive, so named because it was in the basement of a waterfront building that flooded from time to time was one out of hundreds of saloons, boarding houses and brothels near the docks that provided entertainment, sustenance, and physical companionship to men who landed at the Port of Buffalo. Undoubtedly, fugitive slaves on their way to freedom in Canada with nothing but the shirts on their backs, also stopped at Dug’s Dive
In the Spring of 1861, US Army Recruiters went house to house across the city, seeking able-bodied men between 20 and 45. Physical and family exemptions could be had, but also, upon payment, of $300 cash, a man could designate a substitute to go to war for him. As only the rich had recourse to $300 in ready cash, the poor, particularly the immigrant Irish viewed this as a class war that was being borne on the back of whites for the sake of the Negroes as African Americans were then identified.
In this atmosphere on July 6th, 1863 a fight broke out that soon escalated to the point where hundreds of Irish dock workers attacked blacks at random. At least two blacks died and several others were injured. When the rioters decided to “clean out” the Union Block, where Dugs Dive was situated a mob quickly surrounded the building.
A large force of police fought their way in and rescued a large number of men who were taken to jail for their own protection. The Emerald Hotel, another nearby African American establishment as then attacked and again the Police weighed in stop the violence.
This is a part of a series about 18th and 19th century racial and ethnic riots in the city of New York. The terms Negro and Black are used here in their historical context.