Monday, March 26, 2012

Bloody Monday Perspectives, Part 2

A month after Bloody Monday, Louisville attorney James Speed wrote to William Thompson who had requested Speed to describe what he witnessed that terrible day.

In the letter Speed explained that he went to vote early that morning and at the polls he found people making a lot of noise and cheering for Know Nothing candidate Humphrey Marshall, who was a Mexican War veteran and future Confederate general. After eating breakfast Speed went to the courthouse where he saw from a window "Irishmen and Germans beaten and chased from the courthouse yard." He left the courthouse and started to his nearby law office. From his office he saw more Germans and Irish being attacked at the courthouse. He explained, "It was not fighting man to man, but as many as could would fall upon a single Irish or German and beat him with sticks or short clubs - not walking canes, but short clubs." He advised all foreigners he saw to avoid the courthouse. He explained that the Know-Nothings distinguished themselves by wearing yellow tickets in their hats or on their lapels.

At about 2:30 p.m. he saw a number of men armed with muskets and clubs. When Speed asked what was going on a judge replied that the Germans had possession of the first ward polls and that the men were going to take it back. Speed replied that he didn't believe that was true. That afternoon Speed saw numerous bloodied Irish being taken off to the city jail. Before leaving work that day Speed saw a crowd herding a bloodied Irishman along, one man using a pitchfork as motivation. At this same time he saw "a little German who was going up Jefferson Street. They raised the shout 'move him.' He ran pursued by the crowd. He was stricken many times before he got into the courthouse yard gate. Soon after he got into the yard he was knocked down and most unmercifully beaten. To escape the blows he crawled under the Know Nothing stand, and from where I stood I thought the man with the iron fork stabbed him under there. In this I was told I was mistaken...I still think that the man with the pitchfork struck the man when down.

He went on to say, "I saw no foreigner misbehave or do or say an insolent thing. The Know Nothings had clubs and yelled incessantly." Finally, he related one last incident. "About dinner time I saw a small German knocked from the front steps or from the upper platform to the bottom. I thought that the fall would kill him. They ran down, beat him with clubs as he got up, and as he ran pelted him with stones. A man met him and knocked him down. Captain Reausseau got up where they were and saved him."

Speed went on to have a successful career as Abraham Lincoln's attorney general, but I am sure the sights of Bloody Monday stuck with him to his last days.

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