July 31, 2013

Assassination Attempt of Congressman Charles Van Wyck, 1861

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Assassination Attempt of Congressman Charles Van Wyck, 1861

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From page 3 of the Cleveland (Ohio) Leader on February 25, 1861:

The Assault upon Mr. Van Wyck.

A Washington dispatch gives the following particulars of the assault upon Representative Van Wyck:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22.


A most cowardly and brutal assault was made, about half-past 11 o'clock last night, upon Hon. Van Wyck, member of Congress from the West Point district, N. Y., by three ruffians, armed with bowie knives.  Mr. Van Wyck had just left the residence of Senator King, on Capitol Hill, and was passing down by the north wing of the Capitol to his lodgings, when a stout built man came up behind him, and struck him with a bowie knife in the breast over the heart.  The knife penetrated the outside and inside coats, passed through a folded copy of the Globe, and then nearly through a thick memorandum book, both of which were in the breast pocket of his frock coat, not quite reaching the skin.


Mr. Van Wyck struck the man a blow under the jaw which staggered him, when the second ruffian struck a blow at Mr. Van Wyck with a bowie knife, which the latter caught in his left hand, making a terrible gash across the palm.  At the same time he (Van Wyck) knocked the fellow down with his right, and instantly drew a revolver and shot the first ruffian, who dropped and was caught by his friends.

The third ruffian knocked Mr. Van Wyck with his fist.  This blow, together with the effect of the one he first received, and especially from the profuse bleeding of his hand, weakened him very much, and observing that the ruffians were making haste to escape with their wounded companion, who appeared to him quite helpless, he sank himself almost exhausted upon the sidewalk, and did not fire again.  But as soon as he gathered sufficient strength he made his way to his hotel, which he did not reach till after twelve this morning.  He said very little about the affair, except to one or two confidential friends, Dr. Lee of the House who dressed his wound, and to the police, in the hope that the parties might be discovered; but up to to-night no trace of their whereabouts has been ascertained.

Mr. Van Wyck is quite nervous this evening, and is suffering considerable pain from the wound in his hand, but is in no serious danger.

Mr. Van Wyck cannot account for this attack upon him, unless it has grown out of his speech at the last session, which created so much excitement and discussion because of its severity against the system of slavery, wherein he cited instances of slave burning.  For some time after its delivery he received letters threatening his life.  Outside of this he has no knowledge of having created the enmity of any human being.  He is a man who never visits gambling or drinking saloons, and while he is a resolute man when assailed, in his daily walk he is very quiet and gentlemanly.

The affair having become known to-night, creates intense feeling, especially in Congressional circles.

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