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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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		October 1861.
  10.  Thursday.   (Continued.)

[newspaper clipping: first column]
How the Rivers of New York are Guarded.
  It was a dark, dreary night succeeding a humid, 
sunless day, and the window-panes of our omnibus
were blurred with moisture within and sprinkled
with fine rain without, insomuch that the compara-
tively deserted streets in the lower portion of the
city looked all the stranger through their tearful
medium, as we rattled down town to keep our ap-
pointment.  This was one obligingly vouchsafed by
Captain Todd, of the Harbor Police, at our respect-
ful solicitation.  We were bound for a nocturnal
cruise in company with those under his command.
  Not in his company, though.  We go in a four-
eared boat, under the direction of Sergeant Hol-
land.  Sergeant Holland, attired in a stout pilot-
coat, which had bidden defiance to worse storms
than the one impending, is quite ready for us 
waiting, in fact.  The men and boat are ready, too.
  Whitehall stairs.  Accordingly, we turn our
backs on the lamp which, over the door at the cor-
ner of State street, gleams out into the wet, misty
night, like the eye of a vigilant Cyclops, proclaim-
ing to all well and ill-disposed persons that there is
the office of the Harbor Police, skirt the black
Battery and descend to the water-side.
  There Sergeant Holland s lantern, redly-reflected
upon the dark water, at the end of the shed, cover-
ing the little wharf, reveals four policemen, button-
ed up in heavy dark coats, and resting on their
oars.  Into their boat we enter incontinently, seat-
ing ourself in the stern, beside the sergeant, who
officiates as steersman, and start on our tour of
  Our course lies up the East river, keeping close
to the shore, coasting the piers and vessels.  It is 
the slack of ebb-tide, and the fast-falling drizzle is
driven against us by as raw and unpleasant an
east-northeast wind as ever searched out latent
rheumatism in the bones of humanity.  But, ap-
propriately clad, we can afford to brave it, nay,
even to enjoy the spectacle.
  The piers and vessels loom up intensely black to
our left, and the water rushes and ripples, and
washes and gurgles against them and against the
keel of our boat with an inexpressibly mournful
sound, as, propelled by eight stout arms, we cleave

[newspaper clipping: second column]
the dark current, the slackening tide of which offers
but little impediment to our progress.  The river
looks broader than by daylight, for there are but
few vessels upon it, except at the wharves, and all
of them lie still enough.  Only the ferry-boats plash
to and fro, leaving a broad track of indistinctly-seen
foam in their wake, and rising big and bulky from
the surface of the water, their lighted cabins in
gleaming contrast with the blackness without, their
little, bright, colored signal-lamps aloft looking
more than pretty we think poetical.  When our 
boat (not a large one) comes within the swell caused
by these East river leviathans, it oscillates con-
siderably.  But such excitements occur but seldom.
The sights, the sounds, the drizzle, the darkness,
are all sombre and suggestive of melancholy.
  Or they would be so, were we to sit in silence and
yield to their influence, which is not the case.  For
Sergeant Holland has much to relate concerning
the Harbor Police, which commands our earnest
attention.  Premising that we shall combine with
it information previously received from Captain
Todd, and requesting the reader to imagine us
gliding swiftly up the river, (narrowing scrutinizing
the black piers by the way, on the look-out for pil-
ferers,) we shall forthwith embody it in our narra-
  Before the existence of the Harbor Police, mari-
time New York was an undefended prey to as dan-
gerous and as daring a race of water-thieves as ever
existed in the metropolis of England over a hun-
dred years ago, when Ned Ward, in his London
Spy, thus characterized their grades and designa-
tions:  Game watermen and game lightermen,
heavy horsemen and light horsemen, scuffle hunt-
ers and long-apron men, lumpers, journeymen
coopers, mud-larks, badgers and rat-catchers ; to
which might be added Dicken s category of to-day:
 tier-rangers, truckers, dry-dredgermen,  and the
like.  Similar aquatic vermin infested our port,
their modes of procedure being as varied as au
dacious.  They carried off boxes, barrels, and stores
from the wharves sometimes in broad day-
light, in boats and carts, with or withou
connivance on the part of the crew or cap
tain.  They glided silently alongside of ves-
sels in the dusk of the evening or at night to receive
bags full of coffee or tea or sugar anything fraudu
lently dropped overboard or lowered to them.
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Eighteen: page seven
Description:Newspaper clipping regarding a night cruise taken with the New York Harbor Police.
Subject:Books and reading; Crime; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Holland, Sergeant; Journalism; Police; Sailors; Todd, Captain; Ward, Ned
Coverage (City/State):New York, [New York]; London, England
Coverage (Street):State Street
Scan Date:2010-06-08


Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Eighteen
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of the scene in New York at the commencement of the Civil War, his visits to military camps in and around New York City as a reporter for ""The New York Evening Post,"" boarding house life, the shooting of Sergeant Davenport by Captain Fitz James O'Brien for insubordination, and Frank Bellew's marital troubles.
Subject:Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marriage; Military; Publishers and publishing; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.