Her Majesty’s Gold
July 14, 1863, New York City
Marguerite looked up and saw a fiery glow in the distance as she stepped out her front door. Billowing black smoke could be seen from several burning buildings in lower Manhattan. She walked down the wooden steps from the front porch to the street.
Behind her a large mob of drunken dockworkers carrying torches was marching up to her street chanting:
“Hell no, down with the draft. We ain't going to fight for no Coloreds.”
Marguerite, a young and attractive black woman from New Orleans was frightened. She had traveled to New York City to find the father of her two children. Now she found herself in the middle of a draft riot and her son was missing. She began running down the street before the mob could see her.
“Now, where is my son?” she wondered aloud as she went down the street to the nearest corner. “He was supposed to meet me on this corner after work, but he’s not here.”
She became more anxious. Marguerite crossed the street, looking down the adjoining intersection, but he was nowhere to be seen. She shouted at the top of her voice:
“Michel! Where are you?” Her son did not answer. She shouted again, only more urgently. “Michel, show yourself. I’m over here.”
From behind a building, a young black boy peered out at her, dressed in dirty overalls. He had been hiding in an alleyway waiting for his mother to arrive.
“Michel, good heavens, it’s you. We must go quickly!”
Marguerite looked behind her and saw the frightening mob coming closer. At that same moment, a shout came from one of the men marching in front. He had spotted Marguerite and her son.
“Hey, there are some Coloreds. Hurry up, let’s catch them!” He said with a sneer as he pointed at the black woman and her son. Several younger men began running toward them brandishing their clubs in the air.
“Run!” Marguerite cried to Michel as she gripped his hand. They ran down the nearest darkened alley. She began trying the door handles on each of the tenement buildings as they passed.
“Please let us in!” she cried out. But the doors were all locked and the windows barred. She could barely see the frightened occupants hiding inside through dimly lit windows. Marguerite stopped when she reached the end of the alley and began pounding on the door of the last building.
“Please, for God’s sake, let us in!” She shouted. Her son turned and saw the drunken dockworkers were gaining on them. “Hurry, Mama, they are coming! “
Michel began pounding on the door with her. The leader of the anti-draft mob pointed down the alley and shouted, “There they are.
Let’s hang them! We ain’t going to fight for Coloreds!”
Several men began running down the alley towards Marguerite and her son. Marguerite turned around to see how close they were but when she turned back, she realized her son was gone!