1862 August 06 Confederate ship blown up by crew The C.S.S. Arkansas, the most feared Confederate ironclad on the Mississippi River, is blown up by her crew after suffering mechanical problems during a battle with the U.S.S. Essex near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Arkansas‘s career lasted just 23 days. In August 1861, the Confederate Congress appropriated $160,000 to construct two ironclad ships for use on the Mississippi. Similar in style to the more famous C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack), the ships were both 165 feet long and 35 feet wide, and were constructed in Memphis. Since a labor shortage delayed completion, they were not finished when the Union captured Memphis in May 1862. One ironclad was burned to prevent capture, and the Arkansas was towed south to the Yazoo River. Lieutenant Isaac Brown, the ship’s commander, showed great innovation and determination in completing construction of the craft. A sunken barge loaded with railroad rails was raised so that the rails could be bolted to the hull of the Arkansas, and local planters opened their forges to the builders. On July 12, the work was completed and Brown steered the ship down the Yazoo and into the Mississippi. The Arkansas came out of the Yazoo with guns blazing. She ran off three Union ships, inflicting heavy damage on two of them, and ran a gauntlet of 16 Union ships, damaging several as she slipped down the river toward Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Union commander, Admiral David Farragut, was furious that a single ship could cause so much damage to his flotilla, so he sent his ships in pursuit of the Confederate menace. At dusk, Farragut marked the position of the Arkansas as it lay anchored at Vicksburg. In the dark, he sent his ships one by one past this position, and each ship fired a volley into the spot where the Arkansas should have been. But Brown had fooled the Yankees by moving his ship after dark. The Arkansas sparred with two other Union ships on July 22, successfully running off the ships but suffering damage to her engines. The ship was ordered south to Baton Rouge on August 3 to support Confederate operations there, but the Arkansas suffered more engine problems and ran aground. While the crew worked on repairs, the U.S.S. Essex steamed up for a confrontation. The Arkansas set sail, but a propeller shaft broke and left the vessel circling helplessly. She ran aground again, and the crew blew up the ship before the Essex could move in for the kill. Although the Arkansas was never defeated, unreliable engines doomed the craft to an early death. 1902 August 06 Mobster Dutch Schultz is born Arthur Flegenheimer, who will go on to become one of New York’s most feared criminals under the name “Dutch Schultz,” is born in the Bronx. Thirty-three years later, his life came to a violent and bloody conclusion when he was shot down in the men’s room of the Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey. After dropping out of grade school, Flegenheimer joined a local gang. He stole the nickname of another thug and from then on was known as either Dutch Schultz or “the Dutchman.” He soon became involved in bootlegging, bringing liquor down from Canada during the early Prohibition years, and making his own beer. Within a few years, Dutch Schultz was one of the biggest gangsters in New York, employing as many as 100 gunmen to enforce his rackets—one of whom, Legs Diamond, split from Schultz and started his own operation. When Diamond’s gang began hijacking Schultz’s liquor shipments, a full-scale war broke out. On December 19, 1931, the war ended abruptly: Diamond was shot 17 times by one of Schultz’s hit men. Schultz reportedly quipped, “Just another punk caught with his hands in my pockets.” With Diamond’s competition eliminated, Schultz’s operation was clearing an estimated $20 million a year. In 1933, prosecutors charged Schultz with tax evasion. After the trial was moved to a small upstate New York town, Schultz hired a public relations firm to change his image. He donated a lot of money to charity and briefly gave up his expensive wardrobe. The act worked: Schultz was acquitted. However, when he returned to New York City, the authorities were more determined than ever to bring him in. In a meeting with several other major organized crime figures, Schultz demanded that they kill Thomas Dewey, the city’s special prosecutor. But, not wanting to draw any more attention to their own illegal operations, the other leaders decided to eliminate Schultz instead. On October 23, 1935, Schultz was plotting to kill Dewey with his gang at the Palace Chophouse when Charlie “Bug” Workman walked into the restroom and shot him as he was washing his hands. Workman then proceeded to kill three others in the Schultz gang. But Schultz did not die instantly. He was delirious and rambled to police officers trying to identify the killer. Eventually, he slipped into a coma and died soon thereafter at the age of 33. 1930 August 06 Joseph Force Crater becomes the missingest man in New York On August 6, 1930, New York Supreme Court judge Joseph Force Crater vanished on the streets of Manhattan near Times Square. The dapper 41-year-old’s disappearance launched a massive investigation that captivated the nation, earning Crater the title of “the missingest man in New York.” Born to Irish immigrants in 1889, Crater grew up in Pennsylvania and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1916. As he worked his way up from a lowly clerk to a successful lawyer, he cultivated numerous political connections throughout New York City. In April 1930, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Crater to the state bench, passing over the official candidate put forth by the powerful and corrupt Tammany Hall political machine. Rumors swirled that Crater, whose alleged fondness for showgirls had already earned him a shady reputation, had paid off the Tammany bosses for his lucrative new job. A few months later, on August 3, 1930, Crater returned to New York from a trip to Maine, leaving behind his wife, Stella, and promising to return within a week. His law clerk later reported that, on the morning of August 6, the judge destroyed various documents, moved several portfolios of papers to his Fifth Avenue apartment and arranged for $5,000 to be withdrawn from his bank account. That evening, he left his office, bought a ticket to the Broadway comedy “Dancing Partner” and shared a meal with his lawyer friend William Klein and a showgirl named Sally Lou Ritz at a Manhattan chophouse. His dining companions claimed they last saw Crater walking down the street outside the restaurant, presumably on his way to attend the play. News of Crater’s disappearance broke on September 3, triggering a dramatic manhunt and investigation. The missing judge’s suspicious behavior in the days leading up to his disappearance spawned rampant speculation that he had fled the country with a mistress or been a victim of foul play. His sensational story captured so much media attention that the phrase “pulling a Crater” briefly entered the public vernacular as a synonym for going AWOL. Comedians, meanwhile, seized upon the unsolved case as fodder for their standup routines, using the line “Judge Crater, call your office” as a standard gag. At his wife’s request, Joseph Force Crater was declared legally dead in 1939. In 2005, New York police revealed that new evidence had emerged in the case of the city’s missingest man. A woman who had died earlier that year had left a handwritten note in which she claimed that her husband and several other men, including a police officer, had murdered Crater and buried his body beneath a section of the Coney Island boardwalk. That site had been excavated during the construction of the New York Aquarium in the 1950s, long before technology existed to detect and identify human remains. As a result, the question of whether Judge Crater sleeps with the fishes remains a mystery.