FEBRUARY 2016

FEBRUARY  2016
The Immigrant Invasion, 1850

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Three

I have to keep reminding myself, how small the place was. It was less than a mile via Whitechapel Road between Aldegate (above, middle left) and the London Hospital (above, upper right). And from a midway mark on that road, less then a twenty minute walk in any direction encompassed all of Whitechapel, Spitafields and Waping, the three poorest parishes in London. 
Contained within that tiny circle were some 800,000 hungry, exhausted, sickly, desperate people, living short, brutal, filthy lives. Capitalism offered them few opportunities, and the ones it did demanded first that they take advantage of each other. Religion offered only the peace of resignation. Justice was a tool  the powerful used to remain poweful .
Life, liberty and happiness were available only if you could afford them. And the wealth of those that could rested largely on the backs of the people of the East End of London. The Victorian age was defined by its hypocrisy, the sins of its age no less gilded in London, than in Mark Twain's America.
Thus it was a short sad walk pushing the police ambulance from George Yard, a few block where Wentworth began Montague Street where the mortuary (above, green box, lower left) a half block from the Whitechapel Union Workhouse. 
About 7:00  that morning the cart was admitted through the Eagle Place gate (above) and then had to wait while the gate keepers sent for Robert Mann, the 53 year old workhouse inmate who was authorized to open the mortuary for incoming bodies.
In his life Robert Mann had been a dock worker, but either through injury or illness,  Robert's mind was injured and left easily confused.  He was no longer able to hold a job. He had lived in the Workhouse for almost a decade now. He helped in the kitchen, and in the men's ward of the hospital, mopping up, removing waste and bodies. That Tuesday afternoon, Robert opened the mortuary a second time to admit two nurses. They stripped and washed the body of the unknown murder victim, and were the first to clearly see the brutality done to her. 
When they were finished the nurses stood by while a photo was taken of the victim's pale blood drained face. Then they left the body under a sheet on the dissecting table in the post mortem room and Robert Mann locked the door behind them.
During late Tuesday afternoon, 7 August, 1888, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid had gone back to the Blackwell Building on George Yard (above), and started knocking on doors. First he re interviewed the Hewitts, the building superintendent and his wife, who lived on the ground floor. They confirmed what they had told Constable Barrett. The dead woman had never been a resident, and had never before been seen about the building. 
Inspector Reid then spoke to the woman in Apartment 37, Louisa Reeves, the wife of John Saunders Reeves, who had found the dead woman at 4:45 or 4:50 that morning. Lousia Reeves told Detective Reid there had been several fights on Wentworth street that Monday night, as was to be expected, what with it having been a “Bank Holiday”. It was the last holiday of the summer. The couple had heard the first shouting about 11:30, and then again half past midnight, and then a third fight broke out about 1:00 am. The couple had watched from their balcony overlooking Wentworth Street, while the police broke up all three brawls. one after another.

The resident of Apartment 35, Mr. Alfred George Crow, made his living as a licensed driver of a hackney cab. The Bank Holiday had been a busy work day for the 25 year old, and he did not get home until 3:00 am on the morning of Tuesday, 7 August. He had seen a “person” on the stairs, whom he assumed was sleeping. Since this was not unusual,  he took little note of it, going straight to bed. He did not realized a murder had occurred until 9 that morning, when he had gotten up, and gone out to buy either food or gin.
At 7:30 that night, Inspector Reid caught Mrs. Elizabeth Mahoney returning from her job at the Stratford matchbook factory, just behind the Workhouse. The 25 year old soft spoken woman and her husband John lived in Apartment 47, directly above Alfred Crow. She said they had spent the day celebrating with her sister, and had not returned home until about 1:40 that Tuesday morning. Elizabeth had paused in their apartment just long enough to take off her hat and cloak, before going downstairs again to buy some dinner (or gin) at a chandler's shop one block north on Thrawl Street (above). Elizabeth said the errand had taken no more than five minutes, before she came home again, climbing the same staircase just before two in the morning. She saw no one on the stairs, she said, living or dead, and did not learn of the murder until ten that morning.
Inspector Reid took note that no one heard any screams or shouting after one that morning, despite the Hewitts apartment being at the foot of the stairwell. And given Mr. Crow's and Mrs. Mahoney's testimony, the murder must have occurred between 2:00 am and 3:00 am. Because of the lack of calls for help, it seemed likely that the victim had known her killer. But until he knew the name of the first, he had little chance of finding the name of the second.
Reid wrote up a description of the victim, and had it dispatched to the news papers, who would publish it the next morning. The female victim was about 37 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall, with dark hair and a dark complexion, wearing an old dark-green skirt, brown petticoat, long black jacket, brown stockings, a black bonnet, and side-sprung boots. It was a proven, plodding police approach. But Inspector Reid was about to be offered a short cut that would throw his case completely off track.
The red herring appeared in the form of Police Constable Thomas Barrett, who showed up early for his  Tuesday evening tour at the Leman Street station.  Speaking to Inspector Reid, Barrett said he was bothered by an incident which occurred while he was walking his beat at 2:00 am on that Tuesday morning. He spotted a soldier loitering on Wentworth street (above), near the entrance to George Yard. Barrett thought he might be a guard to insure no interference with a robbery going on in the alley. When Barrett asked what he was doing there, the soldier confessed to “waiting for chum who had gone up the alley with a girl.” Because he believed the soldier, and because of the directive regarding street walkers, Barrett merely told the soldier to move along, and then continued his patrol. 
 Barrett described the soldier as a Private between 22 and 26 years of age, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with fair complexion, dark hair and a small brown mustache turned up at the ends. He was also wearing a good conduct badge. It had happened three hours before the body was discovered, but Barrett was sure he could recognize the soldier again. Might it not have something to do with the murder? Desperate for a lead, Reid thought it might.
On Wednesday, 8 August, Reid escorted Constable Barrett to the Tower, where members of the Guards were paraded for his inspection. Looking for the soldier he had encountered outside of George Yard Tuesday morning, Barrett picked out one man, and then another. Under questioning, both men proved to have separate but equally iron clad alibis  Reid was frustrated, but not surprised. The lead had led nowhere. 
That same morning, Wednesday, 8 August, 1888,  Dr. Timothy Robert Killeen walked the five blocks from his surgery to the Old Montague Street Mortuary to autopsy the body of the woman from George Yard. He was supposed to be assisted by a nurse from the Workhouse hospital ward, but none showed up. So the doctor relied on mortuary worker Robert Mann and his assistant James Hatfield, a 68 year old resident of the Workhouse. 
As usual for the Montague Street mortuary dissecting room (above) , conditions were horrible. The lighting was bad, the room un-vented,  and there was no ready source of water. Luckily it had been a cool summer, because every surgeon in Whitechapel dreaded doing an autopsy there in August.
Dr, Killeen now counted 22 stab wounds (above). The left lung had been penetrated in five places, the right lung in two places. The victim's fatty heart had also been pierced. The liver had been penetrated five times, the spleen twice, the stomach six times. 
All but one of the wounds had been inflicted by a pen knife, held, deduced Dr. Killeen , by a right handed person. But for some reason, on the death certificate (above), Dr. Killeen omitted any details of the savage wounds to the victim's throat, or the slice made just above her pubic bone.
Perhaps the savagery of the assault on the woman was affecting him. Perhaps it was the stench and dirty conditions in the mortuary. Perhaps after three years laboring in the cesspit that was Whitechapel he was finally feeling overwhelmed. If it was the latter, Dr. Timothy Killeen would be far from the first or the last doctor to be "burned out" in Whitechapel. Within the year, Dr, Killeen would return to his family home north of Limerick, Ireland. He never wrote about his time in Whitechapel, nor his brush with the murderer who would become known as Jack the Ripper.
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Sunday, February 07, 2016

THE FIRST DAY Chapter Two

I imagine the Florida and Mississippi boys – the called each other “boys” - regretted mocking the New York engineers that Tuesday afternoon, The stronger voiced had bellowed the 350 yards across the Rappahannock River, urging the brawny union men to come rest in the shade of the trees on their side of the river.  But about 1:00 p.m., when 4 batteries of Federal artillery finally arrived and begun to blast away, the laughter ceased. While rebel sharpshooters killed 6 sons of New York and wounded 18 more, the engineers persisted in unloading 10 pontoon boats at the river's edge. Then 2 companies of Vermont boys rushed to the river, and in broad daylight the engineers paddled them across the open water to the Confederate shore.
By now the Florida and Mississippi skirmishers had been reinforced, but the granite state boys charged with the the bullets whistling over their heads. As the engineers returned for more men, the 2 companies of Union troops captured the Confederate rifle pits, and 6 officers and 84 men. Surprisingly, the Vermont boys suffered just 7 wounded in the head-on assault. The Army of the Potomac may have suffered humiliating defeat in its last 2 encounters with the Army of Northern Virginia, but on this day, 5 June, 1863, it displayed audacity and a pugnacious spirit. 
By evening there was a full brigade of Vermont boys on the southern side of the river, and the New York engineers were stringing the pontoon boats together to assemble  2 bridges at Fredrick's Crossing (above) above where  Deep Run Creek (above, far right)  joined the Rappannock River, just below Fredricksburg, Virginia. But one of the Vermont officer's whispered a note of discontent about the successful operation, when he wondered, "Why they (the rebels) let our men quietly entrench themselves when it lay within their power to put them to a great deal of inconvenience, seemed strange at the time.”
Six months earlier, at the end of January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, had sent a very curious letter to the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, Major General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker. Usually such notes after promotions are designed to inspire confidence, but having suffered through 2 rounds of the arrogant George McCellan – the Peninsula Campaign and Antietam - the foolishness of General John Pope - Second Mananas – and the blundering of Ambrose Burnside – Fredricksburg – Lincoln was more sanguine about the Massachusetts General's abilities.
After reminding Hooker he was responsible for guarding Washington, D.C. and Harpers Ferry, Virginia, the President warned Hooker (above),  “...I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right...You have confidence in yourself ..You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside's command... you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country...I have heard...of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship...” 

Hooker had rewarded the president with the debacle of Chancellorsville, 18,000 Federal casualties, and a retreat back behind the Rappannock. “Fighting Joe” had not been relieved of his command at once because he still displayed a talent for taking care of his men. It was Hooker who had rebuilt the army after the bloody failure at Fredricksburg, by improving the supply lines, improving sanitary conditions in camp  
And he formalized the system of  24 and 48 hour passes in all units, even those in Washington, D.C. - where the workers in the legal houses of prostitution became known as “Hooker's Division”  The new army was so improved that within a month of Chancellorsville, it could display both elan and competency at Fredrick's Crossing, aka Deep Run Creek. And it was Joe Hooker who had dreamed up the cross river punch, and now he wanted to go further.
General Hooker (above) had not informed his superiors, General Henry Halleck and President Lincoln, of his intention to cross the river until two hours before launching the attack.  He justified his aggressiveness with balloon observations that several rebel camps on the west bank had disappeared. If, as Hooker suspected, Lee was moving north, Fighting Joe saw an opening.”I am of the opinion,” he telegraphed Lincoln, “that it is my duty to pitch into his rear...” Hooker suggested a “rapid advance on Richmond”, adding that the capture of the rebel capital would be “the most speedy and certain mode of giving the rebellion a mortal blow.”
Appalled, Lincoln replied at 4:00 p.m. that same Tuesday, the Illinois lawyer trying desperately to explain military reality to the West Point graduate. “If he (Lee) should leave a rear force,” telegraphed Lincoln, “it would fight in entrenchments and have you at (a) disadvantage” Lincoln then Americanized Napoleon's principles of warfare, explaining an army fighting with the Rappahannock at its back was “...like an ox jumped half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other. If Lee would come to my side of the river, I would keep on the same side, and fight him...” 
Forty minutes later Hooker's military superior, General Halleck, asked “Would it not be more advantageous to fight his movable column first, instead of first attacking his entrenchments, with your own forces separated by the Rappahannock?” Latter Halleck telegraphed that Lincoln had asked if he agreed with the President's military assessment. Halleck assured Hooker, “I do.”
And that was that. Still, Hooker was still reluctant to lose his glorious coup de main on Richmond, insisting on holding onto the bridgehead “for a few days”. But something else arose which distracted the Massachusetts native.
 Federal Brigadier General John Buford reported evidence that J.E.B. Stuart and his entire Rebel cavalry corps, almost 7,000 troopers (above),  had concentrated near Brandy Station in Culpeper County, Virginia.. Given the strain such a gathering of horses and men would place on the rebel supply train, it was obvious General Stuart must be preparing another raid into Maryland.
And Federal Major General Alfred Pleasonton  (above) suggested he take 7,000 blue coated cavalry and 4,000 infantry south of the Rappahannock to break up the raid before it started. On 7 June, 1863, General Hooker approved the operation, to “disperse and destroy" the rebel cavalry.
What neither Hooker nor Pleasanton,  nor even John Buford,  knew was that not only were the rebel cavalry gathering in Culpeper county, but so were the infantry corps of Generals Richard Ewell and "Old Pete" Longstreet -  54,000 men preparing for the invasion of Pennsylvania. And the Federal cavalry was about to poke their nose right into that hornet's nest. 

 - 30 -

Friday, February 05, 2016

CARPE DIEM

I begin by asking why is this day different than all others. That question in Jewish families, is the beginning of the Passover Seder. But if you have Celtic markers on your genomes, it is the beginning of Imm'ulk, the second quarter of the year. The first quarter is of course Sow'en – November through January – followed by Imm'ulk, then Bell'tan – May through July - and Loo'nassa – August through October. For some reason that is not the way they are currently spelled in English, but it is the way the Irish and Welsh pronounced them - approximately. As you might have noticed these is a pagan calendar, the way the ancient Celts marked time, and Imm'ulk was the season the female sheep start to drip milk from their teats. And, no, that is not why one of them is called a 'Yeww”. .
Lactating sheep may seem like a rotten reason to have a holiday, unless you are heavily invested in lamb futures, or, if sheep or goat milk makes up a large part of your children's protein intake. The word Imm'ulk in old Irish means “in the belly”, as in baby lambs, or goat kids. And that brings up the Celtic lady of fertility, Bree-id – again the phonetic spelling. The people of the pre-Christian British Isles, and particularly the center of the Bree-in cult around Kikdare, Ireland, felt the need to invoke a Goddess because the sheep drip seemed to begin about halfway between the Winter Solstice (December 22) and the Spring Equinox (March 21st), and a thousand years ago that seemed a magical and mystical event.  Today we know its just a little nut of coincidence, the product of the Earth's 365 and ¼ day elliptical orbit around the sun and its 23 degree angle of tilt. Change either of those numbers and you get a different coincidence.
In her yearbook – if she had one - Bree-id would have listed her interests as biology, poetry and heavy metal. Believe it or not, that made her a pacifist among the otherwise violent and argumentative Celtic gods, thus her association with fertility. When the Romans arrived they recorded her name as Brighid – which seems to be where the word “bride” came from - again fertility. The Christians faced a harder problem converting the Celts of Scotland, in part because they still had snakes. Their fertility spirit was Cailleach,  a shape shifter, AKA a hag. An ancient Scottish proverb says, “The serpent will come from the hole, On the brown Day of Bride, Though there should be three feet of snow, On the flat surface of the ground.” The Scots would not scan a good poet until Robert Burns in the 18th century.
The Scots told their children that on the first day of Imm'ulk the hag would go out to gather firewood for the rest of the winter. And since she also controlled the weather, if Caileach made the sun shine that day, it meant she was trying to gather lots of wood, which meant winter was going to last another month and a half or so. But if it was cloudy on the first day of Imm'ulk, then Caileach was planning on an early spring and she would not need sunlight for her search. In other words, if the old hag saw her shadow, it would be six more weeks of winter. And if that sounds familiar to you, its because that is the straight line, the set up to a joke retold year after year. Allow me to explain:
The Christians later co-opted the Irish goddess as Saint Brighid, spinning the story that she was the mother of St. Patrick, who drove the snakes out of Ireland. They just made that up of course, and later dropped her as a saint, but then they made up the part about the snakes and Saint Patrick too. But because the Romans recruited both Irish and Scottish Celt's as soldiers and used them on the Rhine River frontier, the blended legends of Brigid and Caileach became embedded in Germany. And because their German ancestors later became coal miners, and because the miners' ancestors later moved to America, drawn by jobs in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, where, for some reason, the Germans were called “Dutchmen”, that is how Irish ewes dripping milk from their teats, and an ugly old Scottish woman scrounging for firewood, combined to produce a local German immigrant festival celebrating the largest rodent in North America – Ground Hog Day.
See, a ground hog is a rodent, but its not a rat. They are much closer to a squirrel in need of weight watchers. And, without the expressive tails. This 4 to 9 pound animal, is actually a marmot. There are marmots living among the rocks and mountains of South Africa, and the Middle East, and central Europe, and along the foothills of the Himalayas. The ones living in North America are actually some of the smallest marmots anywhere, in part because living on flat ground, they are surrounded by foxes, wolves, coyotes, bears and hawks and eagles – all of whom find groundhogs very tasty. On the treeless great plains, they evolved into prairie dogs. And back east, they became groundhogs – grass eaters all. Look at it this way; if God were a rodent, cows would look more like ground hogs.
This plump, furry, generally irritated little beast is known by a number of nom-de-rodents. They sequel when injured and whistle to warn their mates (Ground hogs and Whistle-pigs), and the native Americans called them “wuchak” (woodchucks). They hibernate over winter below the frost line, emerging from their extensive Chateau marmots only in the spring. And since they don't have calendars, they respond to changing temperatures. When their dens warm up, they wake up and go looking for something green to eat. Any brief respite in winter like, say, around the end of January or early February, might draw some of the hungrier ground hogs to look for take out.  If it is an early spring, they get a jump on their fellows at early mating. If not, if its a normal or late spring, they become fuel, keeping hungry predators alive until real spring finally shows up - thus proving that individuality is an adaptation for the survival of the species, just not necessarily the species your in.
As far back as 1841 a local storekeeper in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania named James Morris had noted in his diary, “Last Tuesday, the 2nd... The day on which , according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as weather is to be moderate.” Again, that's the set up. The guy who delivered the punch line we are seeking was a local funny boy, a bachelor with a quick wit and the good German name of Clymer H. Freas. Clymer had been raised by his older brother, and after graduating from a local collage, he got a job working at the Punxsutawney Spirit, the only newspaper the town of Punxsutawney has ever had.
For decades, Punxsutawney,  halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers, had been a local center of the first great American pastime – guns, beer and shooting things. In this case the “things” were ground hogs, and the beer was referred to as “ground hog punch”. And after shooting the whistle pigs, the celebrants then barbecued and ate them. Surprisingly, spending a cold morning killing a large rodent did not catch on with the Pennsylvania womenfolk, but then I suspect they were not invited. But after the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad began regular service into town in 1883, lots of men from Pittsburgh began to journey the ninety miles to tramp through the woods around Punxsutawney, blasting away at the large non-aquatic beavers, while getting blasted themselves. The town, evidently, needed the attraction, since in the language of the Delaware Indians, Puixsutawney actually means “Town of mosquitoes”.
Young Clymer evidently did not participate in these festivities, because in February of 1886, he first mentioned Ground hog Day in the “Spirit” by merely noting, “up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow." However, next year the 22 year old Clymer was invited to his first ground hog soiree at the “hunting lodge” up on Gobbler's Knob, about a mile southeast of town. He had so much fun that two years later he was one of the founding fathers of the Groundhog Club, elected Secretary and poet laureate.
As poet he waxed lyrical about the 1907 GHD; “Promptly at 12:22 O'Clock...a rift was riven in the overhanging clouds and B're Groundhog sallied forth, casting a shadow which shot through a shimmering sheen and sent a shaft of effervescent and effulgent rays...”. Clymer went into more depth describing the speeches given later at the barbecue as “eulogizing the flesh of the only Simon-pure vegetarian on this planet, and each, under the subtle influence of partaken woodchuck and assimilated punch, grew eloquent and combed the earth sea and sky with metaphor and simile, couched in the most beautiful phraseology.” That particular celebration continued past one in the morning. Not a bad punchline.
However the ladies and children must have complained, because in 1909, they held what Clymer described as a “Circumgyratory Pageant of the Astrologers, Horocopists, Magicians, Soothsayers and meteorological Attaches”, also known as a parade. It had floats representing the four seasons and because you would have be drunk to stand outside in the dead of winter, they held it in August, and called it “Old Home Week”. But because there was a lot less drinking, and no groundhogs to justify the thing, it did not catch on.
By now Clymer was editor of the paper, and the groundhog day celebrations and his joke had begun filling hotel rooms and restaurants. It was now a serious matter, and as editor Clymer was expected to be a civic booster. It was around now that the groundhog became the town's official symbol, and Clymer named him “Punxsutawney Phil,  Seer of Seers,  Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire.” They stopped shooting the rodents (officially), and concentrated on the ridicules legend. But they would have to continue without their poet. In the teens, Bachelor Clymer married Miss Moss Rose Wall. And after that, as a man with responsibilities, he decided to put his skills for hyperbole to a job with more financial remuneration than that offered to a newspaperman and poet laureate. He abandoned Puxsutawney and its mid-winter freezing rodent festival, and moved to balmy Florida where he switched to selling swampland around Tampa. He died there in 1942.
But his work was done. The punch line for the joke had been written down, the dirty words removed, the telling civilized so as to render the joke acceptable to women and children. It didn't happen overnight, of course. In 1920, the first year of prohibition, Phil supposedly threatened not to offer another prediction for 60 weeks, unless he was given a drink. He was not, but he went right on predicting. A mere 37% accuracy rate (not much better than sheer chance) has so far failed to kill the joke, but it  now barely elicits a chuckle, but that will not kill it either. Besides, how much chuckle would a woodchuck chuckle, if a woodchuck could chuckle a chuck? That doesn't seem to matter, either.
The little town never had more than 10,000 residents, and after the mines closed, today it has barely 6,000. Still it is held together by a rodent. In the gift shop down at 102 West Mahoning Street, they sell “Gobbler's Knob Hot Chocolate Mix”, which you can drink from your “Amazink Shadow Mug”, featuring a “Punxsy Phil” and his shadow, which disappears when hot water fills the mug You can also buy Punxsy Phil Mardi Gras beads, and "Punxsutawney Phil in a Can." (above). Pull the pop top and a little plush Phil pops out, holding one of two signs predicting 6 more weeks of winter or not. You even buy a bag of Ground Hog Poop - actually its malted milk balls, but the kids love it.
You can head south on Highway 36, turn right on Woodlawn Avenue for about a mile to the crest of the hill, to Gobblers Knob. If you go there any day of the year other than Groundhog day you will likely find it abandoned, a empty stage set. The star resides year round downtown, in Barlay Square, at the memorial library, in his newly labeled Phil's Den, complete with below ground level window viewing. Human beings traveling hundreds, perhaps thousands,  of miles just  to see a marmot sleep is the real joke. And that is funny. Everybody should do it at least once.
Do Ground hogs laugh, I wonder?
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