New York receives the news of Fisk’s death with mixed emotions. Horace Greeley lectures Wall Street and America for having produced such a sorry specimen of humanity. “Fiction furnishes few personages more absurd in qualities and in fortune,” the Tribuneeditor and self-anointed conscience of liberalism declares. “Even the story of Aladdin ceases to seem so impossible when we think of this illiterate Vermonter stepping almost without an interval from his cart of notions to take the reins of a great corporation, to purchase today a fleet and tomorrow a theater, to make today a panic and tomorrow a statute, to buy legislatures and prima donnas, to dazzle Wall Street with the brilliancy of his thefts and Central Park with the splendor of his equipages.… It is not creditable to our society and our civilization that such careers are possible.” But Fisk could have done worse, Greeley admits. “He was no hypocrite—if that is any praise. When he devoured the widow’s substance, he differed from many of his associates in refraining from the pretense of long prayers. In the household circle where he was known before he became the James Fisk, Jr., of history, he will be sincerely mourned and wept. Perhaps it is as well that we should leave his story as it is known to the world—a warning and a lesson.”

Fisk’s colleagues and the general public gather at the hotel to see the body, which is placed in an open coffin in the parlor outside the bedroom where he died. Jay Gould, weary from the long night, rests blankly in a chair a few feet from the coffin as mourners file past. “It was a picture never seen before and never to be seen again,” an eyewitness records: “the dead Fisk, gazed upon by hundreds, with pity only because of the manner of his death, and the living Gould sitting unmoved beside the corpse, to be looked upon with abhorrence by many who passed, for the deeds which he had wrought with him who was dead.”

Just before the coffin is closed, Bill Tweed arrives. He doesn’t want to be seen, especially not now. The public reaction to the Orange Day riot emboldened the state’s attorney to investigate the activities of Tweed’s Tammany ring; indictments are imminent. Tweed judges that the less public fraternizing with Fisk and Gould the better. But he feels sad for Fisk and wants to see his partner in collusion one last time. He waits until everyone else, including Gould, has gone. He slips into the parlor for a moment’s view. He follows the coffin as it is carried through the halls of the hotel to the rear entrance on Mercer Street. Only when the wooden box passes out the door does he turn aside and disappear down another hallway.

Fisk’s fellow militiamen mourn his passing. “It is with deep regret that the Brigadier-General commanding announces the death of Col. James Fisk, Jr., Ninth Regiment Infantry,” his superior proclaims. “His loss will be sincerely felt, and his place in the National Guard not easily filled.” Fisk’s lieutenant issues an order to the Ninth: “This command will assemble at the armory in full dress uniform (white cross and body belts and white gloves), with crape on the left arm, on Monday, Jan. 8, to pay the last tribute of respect to our lamented Colonel. Assembly at 12 o’clock M.”

When that hour arrives, the body is lying in state at the Opera House. The city has turned out in force to bid farewell to the Prince of Erie, to watch the parade that transports the body to the train for Vermont, to see if the Irish and the Orangemen will battle again, to determine whether Tweed will show his face in public.

The parade goes off without a hitch. The Irish tribes leave their shillelaghs at home. Tweed stays away.

The coffin is placed on the train, which pulls out of the station at three. Fisk returns, finally, to his native state.

Jim Fisk

Josie Mansfield

Ned Stokes

Cornelius Vanderbilt

Jay Gould

William Tweed

Wall Street

Vanderbilt and Fisk at work

The Grand Opera House

The Gold Room on Black Friday

The morning after

The Orange Day riot

The Grand Central Hotel

The fatal meeting

Mourning Fisk, after a fashion

The Tombs

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