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Short Rounds
The Moyamensing Street Killers
During the 1830s and 1840s many "Native Americans” (i.e., whites of AngloSaxon descent and Protestant faith), became concerned for the future of the nation, given that the bulk of new immigrants were largely Irish and German, and many of them Catholics. In many urban areas, this resulted in the formation of street gangs that supported politicians favoring nativist causes. In several cities these gangs – which often included mature men and even "pillars of the community" – engaged in patriotic activities such as burning Catholic churches and convents or rampaging through immigrant neighborhoods. Naturally, this sparked a response from the newcomers, particularly the Irish, who formed gangs of their own, so that at clashes between the nativists and the immigrants were common. These gangs often adopted colorful names such as "Plug Uglies," a name derived from the nickname given certain hoodlums employed by volunteer fire companies. One such gang was Philadelphia's Moyamensing Street Killers, notorious for their riotous behavior. Of course, as good patriots, they were willing to answer the call if Uncle Sam should get into a war. Thus, when the MexicanAmerican War broke out, the entire gang volunteered en masse.
The men formed a company which they called “The City Guard,” which was mustered into the service as Company D of the 1st Pennsylvania. Of course, they never actually referred to themselves as anything but the “Moyamensing Street Killers,” usually abbreviated to just “The Killers.” They were a very rowdy bunch. Temporarily stationed at Pittsburgh while awaiting movement down the Ohio, they engaged in such socially redeeming activities as street brawls with local toughs, in which they generally came off victorious. On one occasion they forced their way into a theater and broke up the performance. Such behavior naturally led several times to clashes with the police, in which the Killers were not always successful, so that some members ended up as guests of the city. When the regiment reached to New Orleans, the Killers continued their nefarious activities, waylaying passersby in the streets, looting some homes and shops, and engaging in riots with volunteers from other states, all in fun, of course. The local gendarmes proved even tougher than the Pittsburg variety, and most of the company actually ended up in jail at one point. Upon their release, the company commander seems to have attempted to impose some discipline, to which the men responded by promptly forcing him to resign by the simple expedient of threatening to kill him.
When they finally did get to northern Mexico, where they served on occupation duty, the Killers fully lived up to their reputation. One of them – a lapsed Irish Catholic named John O’Brien – robbed a priest, taking even his gold crucifix. Apprehended and tried before a court martial, O’Brien was provided with several often contradictory alibis by his mates and got off. A comrade who had attempted to rape a Mexican woman was not so lucky and was hanged.
Discharged at the end of the war, the “Killers” made their rowdy way back to Philadelphia, where they resumed terrorizing their neighbors. Their contribution to the war effort was virtually nil.
The French Army Ration, Morocco, 1908
The French Army in Morocco during the early twentieth century developed an interesting approach to issuing rations to the troops. As was the case in most colonial enterprises, the army was composed partially of French troops and partially of Moroccans. In most colonial ventures, European armies adopted different ration scales for their “metropolitan” and their “native” troops. Not so the French in Morocco. In fact, there was virtually no difference between the rations issued French troops and those provided to Moroccans. 
Per Capita Ration Issue 
Cycle 
Item

Allotment 
Daily


Bread 
750 gr.


Beef or mutton 
400 

Coffee 
21 

Sugar 
16 

Wine 
½ liter * 

Pocket money

5 centimes 
Weekly


Wood 
400 gr. 

Charcoal 
400 

Company fund 
20 centimes

* NonMoslem troops only. 
Ration calculations were per soldier, but divided into daily and weekly issues, which were actually made to the company. The normal procedure was that the company commissary sergeant drew the rations, and then issued them as appropriate to the troops, who actually prepared their own rations in small mess groups.
The ration was designed to be efficient, to save money and to prevent cultural problems. In fact, it was “culturally neutral.” This went beyond not issuing wine to Moslem troops. Most European armies of the day issued pork as often – or more often – as they issued beef or mutton. By omitting pork completely from the standard issue, the French avoided the problem of having to worry about which troops got what rations. This was also reflected in the “company fund.” The money was provided to the troops to buy condiments, vegetables, seasonings, and other items that their particular cultural culinary preferences dictated; so French troops might indulge in a little cheese from time to time or Moroccans a little chili.
Chiefs vs. Indians
Generally, even in major countries, a smaller army has a higher ratio of officers to enlisted soldiers than a larger army. Smaller armies are usually peacetime armies, and the surplus of officers provides a cadre for wartime expansion. Of course, especially in countries under authoritarian rule, the army is less of a national asset than a tool of the dictator. In such cases, the Supreme Guide often finds it useful to provide jobs for loyal supporters or their offspring in the officer corps. In such armies, the ratio of officers to enlisted soldiers is often wildly skewed.
One of the “best” examples of this is the Guatemalan Army in 1917.
At the time, Guatemala was being run by Manuel José Estrada Cabrera, who had assumed the presidency in 1898, on the assassination of his predecessor. Early in his “administration” Estrada had been faced with an extensive rebellion, but he had managed to put it down with assistance from fellowdictator, Porfirio Diaz of Mexico. By 1917, Guatemala was firmly under his thumb, and the active army numbered no more than 6,136 officers and enlisted personnel. This was sufficient to maintain control of the country’s 1.5 million people, roughly one soldier for every 250 citizens. Given that the principal threats to national security were internal unrest – unlikely after the supression of the 1906 rebellion – or an attack by one of Guatemala’s equally small neighbors, a balanced force of that size would have provided a valuable asset in the event of mobilization. This was, however, not a “balanced force.”
In 1917 Guatemalan Army had on active duty,
4935  Enlisted Soldiers 
358  Enlisted Musicians 
649  Company and Field Grade Officers 
17  Brigadier Generals 
10  Major Generals 
There were approximately eight enlisted personnel for every officer in the army. And there were 220 field and company grade officers and enlisted men in the army for every general. If the reserves were called up, the situation did get a little better; the army grew to about 35,000 men, including 26 brigadier generals and 12 major generals, which meant that there were approximately 920 officers and enlisted men for every general, still a rather unbalanced ratio, but actually better than what the French Army had during the Waterloo Campaign, about 700 for every general.
By the way, in 1920 Estrada’s little army proved insufficient. Inspired by the success of the Mexican Revolution, widespread protests agains Estrada’s aurhoritarian ways led to massive public demonstrations, and he chose to flee the country.

