Monday, April 20, 2015

End of the Agnello clan

April 20, 1872 (details from Chapter 3 of Deep Water): 

New Orleans Mafia leader Joseph "Peppino" Agnello was shot to death during a gunfight at the Picayune Tier, a preferred docking spot for Sicilian lugger vessels and ships involved in the fruit trade.

Successor to the leadership of his murdered brother Raffaele's underworld organization, Joseph Agnello was wounded in several assassination attempts from 1870 to 1872. More than once, he was reported to be near death but miraculously recovered. 

He finally met his end after gunmen cornered him on the dock. Agnello tried to escape by jumping aboard the moored schooner Mischief, but after some exchange of gunfire a large-caliber horse-pistol slug fired by Joseph Maressa struck him in the midsection. 

The slug passed through Agnello's body and ripped a gaping hole in his back.

The murder of Joseph Agnello apparently concluded a four-year New Orleans underworld civil war between the Agnello-dominated Palermo-born Mafiosi and a rival group composed of crime figures from Messina and Trapani. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

124 years ago: Eleven prisoners killed

March 14, 1891: One day after a jury refused to convict the accused assassins of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy, an angry mob assembles on Canal Street. Under the direction of political leaders, the mob marches to Orleans Parish Prison, where the Hennessy assassination defendants remain incarcerated. A carefully selected and well armed execution squad enters the prison and murders eleven men, including Joseph P. Macheca. 

(Two men are taken outside the prison walls and hanged. The hangings are performed sloppily, and several attempts are made before the victims lives are extinguished.) 

The execution squad and its political leaders describe their eleven victims as members of the New Orleans Mafia. However, recognized Mafia leader Charles Matranga and his chief lieutenant - both held within the prison - are spared. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

124 years ago: None convicted

Court Clerk Richard Screven reads the jury verdict
in Judge Joshua Baker's courtroom.
124 years ago today (March 13, 1891): The trial of nine men accused of the assassination of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy concludes without a conviction. Much of the city is enraged as the jury acquits six defendants and announces a deadlock on the remaining three. 

Joseph P. Macheca, Charlie Matranga, Bastiano Incardona, Antonio Bagnetto, Antonio Marchesi and Asperi Marchesi are acquitted. A mistrial is declared for Manuel Polizzi, Antonio Scaffidi and Pietro Monastero.

The defendants, all widely suspected of membership in the Mafia criminal society, continue to be held at Orleans Parish Prison overnight on a legal technicality. Their release is expected the following day.

City political leaders hastily arrange for a morning gathering of New Orleans residents on Canal Street.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tampa Mafia magazine

An article written by Deep Water coauthors Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon appeared in a recent issue of Tampa Mafia magazine. The article deals with a confession of sorts written years after the 1891 Crescent City lynchings by one of the men involved.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

1874: Armed rebellion in New Orleans

On this date in 1874, Joseph Macheca played a critical role in the White League victory over a militia/Metropolitan Police force controlled by Louisiana's Reconstruction Era state government. The conflict stemmed from contested elections that resulted in the creation of competing state administrations and legislatures.

Following failed negotiations, Republican forces led by former Confederate General James Longstreet and Metropolitan Police "General" Algernon Badger moved several thousand men into position on the downtown side of Canal Street. Badger commanded hundreds of Metropolitan Police, along with 12-pound cannons and Gatling guns, in a location between the Customs House and the levee.

The White League paramilitary forces assembled uptown and hoped to lure Republican forces from their positions at the edge of the French Quarter. Shouted taunts, snipers and a quick attack and retreat failed to entice Longstreet into an advance.

Captain Macheca's Company B of Second Regiment "Louisiana's Own" made the decisive move. Using an approaching train as cover, Macheca's 300 men (the roster of his Company B at Jackson Barracks Military Museum lists only 120) advanced along the levee and flanked Badger's position.

As Company B swarmed in from the levee, most of Badger's men fled back into the French Quarter. Badger himself fell wounded and was protected from further injury by Macheca and his men. (Some wished to hang the wounded Badger as a traitor.)

Though Republican positions melted away into the French Quarter, the White League did not pursue. The White League victory was not complete until the following morning, Sept. 15, when White League Colonel Angell began to probe across Canal Street. In the French Quarter, Macheca's men were found to be in possession of key Republican positions, thousands of seized weapons and two artillery pieces, and hundreds of surrendered prisoners.

Democratic forces retained control only for a short time, as President Grant moved the federal military into the area to support the return of the Republican government. White League supporters, viewing the conflict in New Orleans as a battle against oppression, later named the fight, "the Battle of Liberty Place."

A number of Macheca's men later became key figures in the New Orleans Sicilian business community and the Sicilian underworld organization.

Read more about the Battle of Liberty Place and the early days of the American Mafia in New Orleans - Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia

Monday, September 9, 2013

1874: Organizing opposition to LA's Republican state government

On this date in 1874 - Joseph Macheca calls to order the first meeting of the Cosmopolitan Democratic Club in New Orleans. The group elects P. Torre Jr. as its president and Macheca as its grand marshal. The 'club' is a paramilitary order dedicated to the overthrow of Louisiana's Republican state government.

Similar organizations were forming throughout the New Orleans area in opposition to state and federal Reconstruction policies. Known collectively as the White League, the conservative Democratic forces soon would take up arms against state militia and police controlled by the Republican governor (Battle of Liberty Place).