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The term Know-Nothing Riot has been used to refer to a number of political uprisings of the Nativist American Know Nothing Party in the United States of America during the mid-19th century. These anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic protests culminated into riots in Philadelphia in 1844, St. Louis in 1854, Cincinnati and Louisville in 1855, Baltimore in 1856, Washington, D.C. and New York in 1857, and New Orleans in 1858.

Philadelphia Nativist Riots of 1844

The Cincinnati Nativist Riots of 1855

File:Bloody Monday Election Riots.jpg

Louisville Bloody Monday Election Riots of 1855

File:Washington DC Election Riot.jpg

Washington D.C. Election Riot of 1857

The New York City Dead Rabbits Riot of 1857

Know-Nothing Riots (1844-1858)[]

Philadelphia Riot[]

St. Louis Riot[]

Cincinnati Riot[]

Louisville Riot[]

Baltimore Riot[]

Washington D.C. Riot[]

On June 1, 1857, a band of American Party rowdies traveled by train from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. to assist local party members in controlling the polls at a municipal election. The band included members of the Plug Uglies and Rip Raps. After word of their arrival spread and rioting began at several polls, President James Buchanan called out United States Marines from the Navy Yard to quell the fighting. At one of the polls, the Marines clashed with citizens, most of them Washingtonians. They opened fire, killing ten men, only one from Baltimore. The violence drew sharp condemnation of Buchanan's resort to military force, but resulted in no significant criminal prosecutions.

New Orleans Riot[]

The New Orleans Know-Nothing group began as a local movement in 1858 to reduce what residents considered a high rate of crime and violence in the city, primarily among Irish and German immigrants, who were among the poorest classes. A secret Vigilance Committee was formed to monitor their activities, and in particular to prevent disruption of upcoming municipal elections.

On the night of June 2, 1858, armed men under the command of Capt. J.K. Duncan, an officer in the United States Army, marched to Jackson Square and occupied the court rooms in The Cabildo. For the next five days, a standoff existed between the Vigilance Committee and members of the Native American Party. On June 7, the elections were held and the Native American candidate, Gerard Stith, defeated the Democratic Party candidate, P.G.T. Beauregard. The Vigilance Committee disbanded with no further violence.[1]


Notable Know Nothing criminal gang rioters[]

  • American Guards (New York City)
  • Atlantic Guards (New York City)
  • Blood Tubs (Baltimore and Philadelphia)
  • Bowery Boys (New York City)
  • Killers (Philadelphia)
  • O'Connell Guards (New York City)
  • Plug Uglies (Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City)
  • Rip Raps (Baltimore)
  • Roach Guards (New York City)
  • Shifflers (Philadelphia)

See also[]

  • History of St. Louis
  • Know-Nothing Riot of 1856
  • List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States



  • Melton, Tracy Matthew. Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies, 1854-1860 (2005)
  • Smith, John Kendall. A History of New Orleans (1922)

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