Whenever we hear a phrase start with "The Battle of," our minds often automatically race to a military battle. Residents of the Chicago burb Barrington and organized crime buffs know better, however, when it comes to their local piece of real estate. The Battle of Barrington is an epic gunfight between organized crime and law enforcement... and it all happened just outside of Chicago!
Baby Face Nelson Develops a Quick Trigger Finger
Lester Gillis, a.k.a. Baby Face Nelson, was born in 1908 and seemingly never lost his childlike appearance. Looks, as well know by now, can be very deceiving, especially in his case. Nelson would eventually help John Dillinger escape from prison, leading to one of the most notorious partnerships in criminal history.
The two criminal estate agents nelson partners, along with several cohorts, teamed up to rob local banks as well as leaving a bloody path behind them. It took very little to instigate Nelson to pull the trigger to end anyone's life. For instance, Nelson once killed a man merely for cutting him off while driving, giving road rage a new meaning. Citizens were not the only victims to meet his wrath, however, as he needed little reason to open up on law enforcement when given the opportunity.
Little Bohemia was a sign of things to come. Nelson and company decided to take a mini vacation at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin. Their whereabouts were soon leaked to the local FBI office and a group of agents decided to try to take the gang down. Mistaking some regular customers for gang members, FBI agents opened up fire on their car, killing one member, wounding two others, which alerted Nelson and his gang as to their presence just outside the restaurant. True to form, Nelson would take on the agents and eventually kill one of them.
Nelson Rises to Public Enemy #1 and Meets His Demise
Nelson was not completely unknown before Little Bohemia incident, nor was he the top priority for the FBI. The shootout and death of an agent, however, changed that, and Nelson quickly found his way into the crosshairs of the FBI. Over the next few months, Nelson would continue his exploits to the ire of law enforcement. In July 1934, Dillinger was finally tracked down and killed, leaving Nelson as the true Public Enemy #1.
Everything would come to a head in Barrington on November 27, 1934. The day started as a car chase between Nelson and federal agents. As the chase went on, Nelson's car would eventually betray him and he was forced to leave the open road and take cover in Barrington's North Side Park.
The final shootout was witnessed by over two dozen people and is memorialized by a plaque in the park. Nelson was wounded early in the battle, but this did not deter him from trying to take out as many agents as possible before dying. Nelson was using a.351 rifle and pulling the trigger so quickly that witnesses thought he was actually using a machine gun. Before fleeing the scene to die in his bed, Nelson would be responsible for the death of two more agents, Hollis and Cowley.