set in the late 1800's, during the massive immigrations to New York, there are tensions between the "Natives" and the irish in the five points, the most gang infested area of new york at the time. a priest, and the young boy, amsterdam's, father, was the leader of the Irish gang, the dead rabbits. during a riot between the rabbits and the natives, the priest is killed by the butcher (the leader of the natives) in front of his son. years later, amsterdam befriends the butcher with the intent to kill him on the anniversary of his father's death, all the while falling in love with a prostitute/pickpocket/burglar named jenny. after the butcher realizes amsterdams intentions, amsterdam resurrects the dead rabbits and a faceoff is going to go down between the natives and the rabbits. just before the fight, jenny comes to tell amsterdam that she chartered passage for herself on a ship to san francisco because she figured amsterdam was going to die in the fight.