Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bloody Monday Perspectives, Part 1

One of American history's ugly warts happened in Louisville, Kentucky on election day, August 6, 1855. There on the streets of that city a veritable riot occurred that saw attacks on the Irish and German Catholic immigrant population by native-born whites, most belonging to the American or Know-Nothing Party.

Louisville Daily Journal publisher and Know-Nothing booster George Prentice called for vigilance against the immigrant population in order to insure political power did not stray in his newspaper the day before the riots occurred.

Naturally, as in any atrocity, blame was cast in numerous directions. Rival newspaper, the Louisville Democrat, which courted the immigrant vote, printed a short notice in the following days: "The attempt to lay blame upon our foreign population will be a failure. The fact is known to all that that were armed at the demonstrations made against them at the previous elections. Instead of being excited to violence they were apprehensive of attacks upon them, and very few could be induced to go near the polls. We leave the public to judge if men in this condition would be likely to provoke a dominant organized party, who had evidently had the physical force at command, and were believed to be determined to use it at will."

The Know-Nothing Louisville Journal mockingly replied to the Democrat's comments: "'We leave it to the public to judge' whether a victorious party, the party that had the numerical strength, a party that at noon was over 1,300 votes ahead, was likely to get up a riot. There was no inducement for any such insane procedure. The fact that the assaults upon Americans did not begin until after the Sag Nichts found that they were beaten at the polls is almost conclusive evidence that it was the chagrin of the latter at such a result that imperiled them to deeds of violence. It would have been folly and madness on the part of the Americans to keep peace and preserve order throughout the day at the polls, and they did so. Whenever a fight or disturbance at the polls was begun it was promptly stopped. And but for for the shooting of Americans passing in the streets the day would have passed of with more quiet than is usual on an election day."

The Journal continued below this story with another: "We are assured upon good authority that Francis Quinn, who was found dead in one of the blocks of burnt houses belonging to him was seen a few days since [ago] with a double-barreled shot-gun and a supply of shot, which he said he had procured for use on the day of the election. While his building was burning there was a constant report of firearms inside, the discharges being produced by the heat. These instruments of death had evidently been provided for dealing death to Americans. The explosions of powder whilst his houses were on fire showed that he had laid in a large quantity of ammunition. We deeply regret Mr. Quinn's death, yet all the evidence proves that his blood is upon his own head."

Finally, attempting to blame anyone but themselves, the Know-Nothings printed: "WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RIOT.-This is a question which must be answered. There is a terrible responsibility somewhere and the proper parties, let them be who they may, must bear it. One thing at least is known. The foreigners in this city, more especially the Catholic Irish, from some cause and at some instigation, were armed to the teeth, and, using their arms, from houses, behind barriers, and from their skulking places have shot down remorselessly, unoffending citizens as they passed in the streets. Of the terrible, the horrible consequences of these assaults we have no the heart to speak. There is no language too strong-there is no language strong enough, for this condemnation. It will be the duty, and the duty must be sternly performed, of the Coroner to thoroughly investigate the facts and when the inquest is made we shall have more to say."


  1. Hi Tim!

    I am the g-g great grand daughter of Henry T Titus. Like you I love history, although I studied
    anthropology instead of history. While living in Tenn I had some involvement with history, working as a tour guide at the State Capitol and assisting Lois Riggins at the Tn State Museum and doing some historic survey in Knoxville while taking grad courses at UT (Go Vols!) Anyway, I wanted to send you some info and also I have some questions for you and I was wondering if you have an email or are on ancestry or some other way of sending the info. I think it's great that you are doing this blog to educate people about history and I'm really glad I found your blog.

  2. Hi Jody,
    Thanks for the kind words about the blog. My hope is to create some curiosity in people to ask questions about the past...and then seek them out.

    Sure, you can email me at