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The New York Draft riots of 1863 close The Gangs of New York both in terms of time and content. The most extraordinary element of this sequence is the (apparently) indiscriminate shelling of the Five Points neighborhood by the Navy. The fact that the "native" government is destroying the old order is clearly a major factor in the meaning of the film.

Is there any historical evidence for anything near this level of indiscriminate destruction? If not, are there interviews/articles in which the filmmakers describe their decision to include it?

Wikipedia mentions "artillery" but it sounds more like the occasional small cannon on wheels and not the heavy barrage depicted in the film. Generally I'm not a stickler for these things but since so much of the film's meaning appears to be tied up with this self-inflicted widespread annihilation, I can't help but wonder if it is included because it reflects something that really happened or if it reflects an attitude/message that the filmmakers wanted to capture and were thus willing to give up historical accuracy in an otherwise painfully accurate production.

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I found this mention on a historical website called the Cleaveland Civil War Roundtable:

One mob looted and burned a block of elegant houses on Lexington Avenue near Forty-Sixth Street; another set fire to the draft office on Broadway near Twenty-Ninth Street. Other rioters extorted money or liquor from merchants or saloonkeepers. When detectives heard rumors of a looming attack upon the Treasury vaults on Wall Street, two warships were dispatched from the Brooklyn Naval Yard, their cannon covering the lower end of Manhattan.

Note that it doesn't mention whether the cannon was actually used or not. I've found no mention of indiscriminate shelling in historical records I've read.

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Yea, I saw that one... sure seems like if the cannons were used it would be mentioned but the fact that they called them out is pretty extraordinary as it is. –  mmdanziger Apr 17 '12 at 5:53
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