Little Bohemia: Remembering Constable, Carl C. Christensen

Constable Carl Christensen With His Bullet Riddled Jacket; Made To A Post Card He Later Sold - Courtesy James NielsenThe FBI raid to apprehend the Dillinger gang at Manitowish Waters, WI in April, 1934 was as tragic as they get within the law enforcement arena. For decades it's been the well known story of the "Little Bohemia" Lodge and the resulting shootout with Bureau agents and the gang members.  

In addition to the accidental wounding and killing (1) of local workers, the raid cost the life of Special Agent (SA), Carter Baum and also resulted in the severe wounding of SA J. C. Newman and local Constable, Carl C. Christensen. If we examine the facts of the raid as it unfolded, the official account will reveal the odds were against law enforcement. The overall details of what actually happened and the resulting conclusions of the recorded event are extensive.

Newman recovered from his head wound and remained with the FBI until retirement, having attained the rank of Special Agent In Charge of various field offices. So, whatever happened to the Constable? The bravery of Christensen should not be underestimated nor should the man be lost to history. 

Christensen (not related to CCC worker, Carl J. Christensen, also involved in the overall melee), was in the same vehicle with Newman and Baum. Newman and Baum had left the scene of the Bohemia shootout together under instructions to secure help in setting up local roadblocks and more. They subsequently met with Constable Christensen who volunteered to provide them assistance in the unfamiliar, and dark landscape of Manitowish Waters. With the three of them driving off, within about ten minutes, their vehicle was ambushed by "Baby Face" Nelson who was in the process of escaping the lodge. It nearly cost Christensen his life. Taking on eight rounds from Nelson's Thompson submachine gun, he laid by the nearby fence listening to SA Baum take his last breath. Henry Kuhnert was going to go with them, but his statement reveals Baum changed his mind. Whatever the fate of Henry Kuhnert that day had he gone, we'll never know.  (Kuhnert is believed to have been a deputy according to Newman's account.)  

Official FBI/Hospital Report of Christensen's WoundsIn the aftermath, Christensen spent about eighteen months recovering from his wounds. In 2014, his nephew, Mr. James Nielsen, answered our questions about whatever happened to Carl Christensen. He wrote us in part:

After several months in the hospital and to the doctors amazement, he became well enough to again return home to his resort business called The Chateau, now as somewhat of a famous person. He had been given some money from the Federal Government, somewhere around $3400.00 and had photographs of the lamb skin coat he had been wearing the night of the ambush. It displayed several bullet holes, 8 of which had hit his body from his chest to his hip to his foot. The one which had lodged in his hip the doctors decided to leave as surgery was more offensive than just leaving it be. Carl made a good living selling the picture of himself holding his coat that he had turned into a post card and of coarse his notoriety did nothing but increase his vacation reservations at The Chateau..  His coat and many pages of diary or scrap book were given and are now on display at the Koller Memorial Library in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. 

Carl and his wife Ann eventually returned to Racine, Wisconsin to continue his carpenter contracting business and purchased a home 1 block north of the home my mother and father lived in. This gave me an opportunity to spend a great deal of time with Carl, especially after my father had died unexpectedly at a very young age. His business in the late 1950's and early 1960's did very well with Carl literally building hundreds of high end homes in the most respected parts of Racine. My last letter from Carl was in 1992 telling me of the surgeon he found near his retirement home in Florida that had agreed to surgically remove that bullet Baby Face Nelson had given him 58 years preceding. It had migrated down into his leg and had been giving him a great deal of pain. 

Christensen passed away in Florida in 1994, with his wife Ann having died previously. The Christensen's had one son, Carl, Jr. who is also now deceased. 

More about the Constable is here:

A photo of Constable Christensen in later life can be seen at our photo gallery.