Archive for February, 2007

Presidents of the United States of AmericaNo, not these guys.  The real Presidents of the United States of America.

After the winning of the War of Independence, the Founders faced another challenge; what kind of government to form.  Suspicious of a strong executive office, for obvious reasons, the first framework of government, the Articles of the Confederation, made no provisions for such an office.  This was one of the reasons the Articles were ineffectual as a tool of government and led to their being essentially tossed in the wastebasket and a new plan of government was established in our Constitution.  Even then the suspicion of a powerful executive remained.  Patrick Henry even went so far as to say the Constitution “squints toward monarchy.”

The Constitution established the office of the President, and detailed some specifics on what the requirements of the office were–must be a citizen, at least 35 years old, resident in the US for the last 14 years, commander-in-chief, enforce the laws passed by Congress, etc.–but how the President would fulfill these duties was unclear.  George Washington did much to define the office and set precedents for those that would follow him.  As examples, Washington created a cabinet, which the Constitution makes no mention of, and he served only two terms when, at that time, there was no limit.  Every President until FDR would follow Washington’s precedent and serve only two terms.  FDR was elected to four terms, and in 1951 the Twenty-second Amendment was ratified limiting the number to two.

The President was unlike any political office.  It raised all sorts of important questions, like how do we address this guy?  Some suggestions:  His Elective Majesty, His Mightiness, His Highness the President of the United States and Protector of the Rights of the Same.  It was finally decided that simply Mr. President would suffice.  Probably the best move.


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St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day Brought to You by Hallmark than with a little organized crime.

Few characters of the 1920’s are more renowned, or infamous, as Al Capone.  Building a criminal empire on a foundation of bootlegged booze barrels, by 1929 he was one of the most powerful men in Chicago.  Capone’s Italian gang ruled the South Side of Chicago but the rival German/Irish gang of George “Bugs” Moran controlled the North Side.  Moran and Capone had been rivals for years.  Capone’s old boss Johnny Torrio had had Moran’s capo Dion O’banion gunned down in his own flower shop in 1924.  Moran took over O’banion’s rackets and though he botched an attempt on Torrio’s life, his gun misfired, it sufficiently spooked Torrio into retirement, leaving Capone in command of the South Side.  The gangland wars raged as the two mafioso vied for control of the Chicago bootlegging racket and total control of the city. Needless to say that by St. Valentines Day of 1929 no love had been lost between Capone and Moran.

Capone and henchman Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn devised a plan to murder Moran by tricking him into meeting some supposed rum runners at a parking garage to check out a shipment of bootlegged whiskey.  Seven of Moran’s men arrived at the S-M-C Cartage Company garage on Clark St on February 14, 1929.  Shortly after, five more men arrived, two dressed as Chicago police officers.  Witnesses in the neighborhood were then startled by the chatter of tommy-gun fire.  After several uneasy moments, the two “policemen” emerged with two other men with their hands in the air.  As the situation appeared under control, no one called the police.  It wasn’t until later that afternoon that a dog which had been tied to the bumper of a truck by Moran’s mechanic, alerted the neighbors that something else may be amiss.  Police finally arrived to find seven bullet ridden and bloody bodies, all facing the brick wall.  Shockingly, one of the victims was still alive and was rushed to the hospital, the authorities hoping to glean some information from him.  When attempting to question him, the only response they got was something along the lines of, “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.”  The gangster who was shot in the back by rivals refused to give up any information about his murderers, adhering to the mafia code of silence, omerta.

What had happened here?  Why had seven members of one of Chicago’s most powerful gangs, no doubt well armed, allowed themselves to be disarmed and shot and in the back?  The answer is simple.  With Moran’s thugs waiting for the supposed shipment of booze, five of Capones men, two dressed at cops, arrived.  The North Siders, assuming this to be a routine sting operation and assuming the “officers” to be relatively harmless, willingly gave up their weapons and turned to face the wall as ordered.  Upon doing so, the three men in plain clothes emerged and machined gunned them down.  To diffuse any panic in the neighborhood, the two fake cops would leave the garage and make a show of arresting the plainclothes men and they could make a clean getaway.  Technically, this is all speculation as the only witness to survive refused to talk and the killers were never apprehended, but in all likelihood that is what occurred.

While the plan succeeded in killing seven of Moran’s men, it failed to kill the man himself.  He did not arrive on time (I suppose if you’re a gang boss you’re always on time) to the garage and when he finally did arrive, he saw the stolen police car outside and, wisely, did not go in.  Once he heard the gunfire, he fled.  The massacre did however weaken Moran and his power quickly faded.  He died in prison as a pauper in 1957.

For Capone, the aftermath was damaging as well.  He was probably at the zenith of his power at that point, but the pogrom served to increase his notoriety, not necessarily a good thing for a gangster, especially with the federal government.  Though he was never charged for the murders, he was in Florida at the time, there was little doubt, among law enforcement and the public, that he was behind it.  This was in part to Moran’s statement to a newspaper, “Only Capone kills like that!”  The federal government doubled its efforts to put Capone behind bars by whatever means it could, and he was eventually convicted of tax evasion and served seven years of an eleven year sentence, much of it on Alcatraz.  After his release he lived in Florida, his criminal empire withered from the repeal of Prohibition and his mind deteriorating from the affects of syphilis.  He died in 1947.

 Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Old Posts Added

I finally imported all the old posts from my two previous history blogs, The Halls of History and Answers to Josh’s Cold War Questions.  If you missed those posts from yesteryear check out the archives.  Unless you don’t like to live in the past, in which case WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE!?

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First Battle of Bull Run

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This is my last discussion board question from my American History class.  The class is over and I got an A.  Did I mention that already?  Anyway, for the next eight weeks I’ll be taking a class on Ancient Rome, so the focus of this blog will shift for a while.  I am hoping to finish part three of the WWI question soon, so look for that as well.

1) How does the USA commonly refer the battle to (what is it called)? Is there a different name that CSA used for the battle? [Most Civil War battles have two names – one the North used and one the South used]

The battle is known as the Battle of Bull Run, or sometimes the First Battle of Bull Run as there were two battles in the same area. In the CSA it was known as the Battle of Manassas or Frist Battle of Manassas.

2) What were the events that lead to the battle? In other words how did the course of the war lead to this battle? [This should be several paragraphs long and explain the strategic and tactical considerations at that point.]

Bull Run was the first major engagement of the Civil War, after Fort Sumter. In July of 1861 a sizeable Confederate force under the command of General Beauregard was stationed just 25 miles from Washington D.C. at Masnassas Junction. The newspapers and the public were calling for action soon, but Union General Irvin McDowell knew his army was not prepared yet for battle. President Lincoln however encouraged him to strike the also green, and smaller, Confederate force. Lincoln’s hope was that a Union victory would lead to a speedy capture of Richmond and would thus end the war. McDowell gave in and commenced attack on July 21.

McDowell’s plan was to attack Beauregards main force of about 20,000 men with his approximately 30,000. Meanwhile, a Union force of about 18,000 would keep the 9,000 men of the Confederate Army of Shenandoah under Joseph Johnston at bay.

As the Union army marched toward the enemy, they were trailed by citizens of Washington who brought along picnic baskets to lunch on while they watched the battle.

The Federals at first had the advantage, hitting the Confederate left which was only held by a brigade of 600. The line was reinforced, but soon crumbled. As the men were fleeing they came upon Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Virginia Regiment. Jackson refused to retreat and was determined to give the advancing Federals “the bayonet.” Jackson’s stand served to reverse the battle and the advancing Unionists were met with intense fire and soon broke and ran, literally, back to Washington D.C.

3) Where and when did the battle take place?

The battle took place July 21, 1861 near Manassas Junction in Virginia.

4) Who were the commanders on both sides?

For the Union, the commanders were Irvin McDowell and Major General Robert Patterson. For the Confederates the commanders were General Beauregard, General Johnston, and Stonewall Jackson.

5) How large and what type of forces were on both sides? List the number of soldiers. If there were ships, what were the names of the ships and what kind of ships were they?

Both sides had forces of about 30,000 troops. Most were infantry.

6) What was the aftermath of the battle? In other words how did this battle affect the course of the war? [This should be several paragraphs long and explain the short term and long term affects.]

Immediately after the battle, there’s was fear in Washington that the Confederate army would march to the capital unmolested. This did not happen. The battle shattered any hopes of a quick war. Lincoln replaced General McDowell with George McClellan who would build up a strong force around Washington, but was reluctant to put it into action.

7) List your sources in APA format

First BAttle of Bull Run. n.d. Retrieved on January 20, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Bull_Run.

Kennedy, David, Cohen, Lizabeth, Bailey, Thomas. The American Pageant. 2002. Houghton Mifflin: New York

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