War Among The Stars


Macready sat up the night, sleepless. The clock struck four; no carriage. An anxious ten minutes ticked slowly away before it came. The covered phaeton carried England’s greatest living tragedian up Fifth Avenue, past butchers’ and gardeners’ carts coming in to market. The morning air cooled his hot cheeks. Passengers who recognized him on the northbound train were sympathetic, and Boston friends did their best to soothe his aggrieved spirit, but Macready took the first boat home. “I never felt such relief,” he confessed, “as in planting my foot on that vessel’s deck.” He never came back.

Few involved in the catastrophe learned anything. Forrest blamed the magistrates, the downtown poor blamed the uptown rich and their hired mercenaries, Yankees blamed Irish thugs, newspapers blamed each other, the coroner’s jury hinted that the police were lax, and the court pronounced ten rioters guilty enough for jail. To censure Forrest rated close to treason in the popular mind, but a hardy handful risked it. In far-off New England the Newburyport Herald put the blame on the American actor, “the man who by his ungentlemanly conduct and ill temper, prepared the way for these outrages,” it declared. “Against Forrest, himself, does this bloody scene cry out most loudly.”