The Lost Museum Archive

The Incendiaries, New York Times, December 2, 1864

This brief newspaper item appeared a few days after the attempt by Confederate sympathizers to set fire to several New York City buildings. Written at a time when the military fortunes of the Confederacy had reached a low ebb (Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered less than six months later, in April, 1865), it responds to the perceived threat to the city by urging hyper-vigilant supervision of refugees from the soon-to-be-defeated southern states.

THE INCENDIARIES--The Military Commission now engaged in an inquest into the rebel plot for burning down the city, have sufficient evidence before them to show that the conspiracy which broke out here this day week is merely an extension of the rebel burglary operations on the Canadian frontier. It is feared that some of the more vicious of the gang have been able to make good their escape across the border.

It is of the utmost importance that, pari passu* with the proceedings before the Military Commission, general registration of the Southern refugees should be enforced, without any nervous scruples as to its effect on the sensibilities of the parties concerned. The prime question is not what will inconvenience the skulking rebel population in our midst, but what will insure protection, effectual and permanent, against even the faintest attempt to repeat the dastardly plot of last week. We have to do more than punish the score or two of ruffians that may be convicted by the Military Commission. We have to overawe the gang against which direct evidence of criminality may be wanting. And this can only effectually be done by summarily treating as spies all who neglect to register, in conformity with the orders of the Major-General Commanding.

*pari passu: Latin for "at an equal pace or rate."