The Hammonton hijacking is an event in the series pilot episode "Boardwalk Empire" and a pivotal happening in the first season. During the course of the Hammonton hijacking a shipment of 500 cases of Canadian Club whiskey bought by Arnold Rothstein is intercepted near Hammonton, New Jersey as it is being transported from Atlantic City to New York on January 18 1920, resulting in the deaths of four men and another's critical injury. ("Boardwalk Empire", "The Ivory Tower")
Antecedents[edit | edit source]
One night after the enactment of Prohibition in the United States, a shipment of whiskey is illegally imported by fishing Captain Bill McCoy as part of an arrangement with Atlantic County Treasurer Nucky Thompson. Following a meeting brokered by Johnny Torrio (who is nevertheless forbidden to get into the illegal alcohol business by his boss, Big Jim Colosimo), Thompson then sells the liquor on to Arnold Rothstein on the condition that Rothstein's men collect and transport it.
Rothstein arranges for his sister-in-law's nephew Simon to oversee transportation of the shipment and places his enforcer Davey Murdoch in charge of protecting the load. Three other men are recruited to transfer the cases from McCoy's boats to shore and then to load them onto trucks. ("Boardwalk Empire")
Development[edit | edit source]
The hijacking is masterminded by Nucky's frustrated and ambitious driver Jimmy Darmody. Darmody recruits Al Capone as an accomplice and uses Capone's connections as the driver for Chicago Outfit second-in-command Johnny Torrio to arrange for Torrio to buy the shipment behind Colosimo's back.
Darmody and Capone also recruit a third man, Billy Winslow, to drive them out to Hammonton, New Jersey and provide a decoy. They overturn Winslow's car to block the road and have Winslow pretend to have been knocked out in an accident. Their plan is to hold Rothstein's men at gunpoint and steal their vehicles when the convoy stops to help Winslow.
The convoy is halted as planned by the decoy, although they don't care for the "victim" and plan to leave him in the woods to die rather than alter their schedule. Murdoch and his men are still distracted by having to overturn the car however, and the hijackers manage to surprise and disarm them. The hijackers deviate from their plan when Capone is startled by a deer running through the woods. He opens fire on Rothstein's men and Darmody is forced to join in. They kill Murdoch and two of the others while Simon and another man flee into the woods. Darmody pursues and kills the unnamed man while Capone chases Simon. Capone shoots Simon in the abdomen and leaves him for dead ("Boardwalk Empire"). However, Simon survives the attack and manages to stumble upon an unsuspecting couple several nights later ("The Ivory Tower").
Capone drives the shipment to Torrio in Chicago while Winslow and Jimmy return to Atlantic City. Jimmy delivers a cut of his earnings from the resale to Nucky although Nucky was unaware of the plan beforehand. Jimmy claims Torrio was also unaware before buying the shipment but Jimmy appears to have been paid up-front.
When the bodies of Rothstein's four dead men are found in the woods Thompson has Hans Schroeder murdered as a scapegoat. Nucky's brother Eli Thompson, the Atlantic City Sheriff, carries out the murder and corroborates the cover-up. The papers call the shooting the "Woods Massacre" and report that Schroeder is responsible. However, Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden sees through the story and investigates the shootings independently. Simon survives for three days and is discovered in the woods by a holidaying couple, George Baxter and Claudia. He is taken to hospital where Van Alden takes over his custody. Simon dies while being transported to New York but not before Van Alden tortures him into identifying Jimmy. ("Boardwalk Empire", "The Ivory Tower", "Broadway Limited")
Consequences[edit | edit source]
The ramifications of the hijacking are far reaching: It coincides with the murder of Chicago crime boss "Big Jim" Colosimo and heralds the beginning of Torrio's dominance in Chicago; it causes a feud between Nucky and Rothstein that lasts for almost a year; and it causes Jimmy to go into hiding in Chicago. The hijacking also further damages the image of the Republican Party as the November 1920 Atlantic City local election nears, and while the Republican prospects improve after Nucky replaces incumbent Mayor Harry Bacharach as candidate for construction businessman Edward Bader and his own brother Eli Thompson as Atlantic County Sheriff with Deputy Ray Halloran, and presents the D'Alessio brothers as scapegoats for both Schroeder's death and the hijacking the day before voting, Thompson still has to recur to fraud to secure a Republican victory. This eventually leads to his arrest on February 13, 1921.