CAITLIN MCCAULEY | FEATURES COLUMNIST
Valentine’s Day has been known to sometimes resurrect quite broken and bloodied hearts. The holiday has the bloody history to prove it, beginning with the holiday’s very namesake, St. Valentine. He was a Roman Catholic priest whose hallmark (and the reason he is associated with love) was marrying couples in secret after Roman Emperor Claudius outlawed marriage, an effort to increase the size of the Roman army. St. Valentine was eventually discovered and put to death by the Roman Empire, by being beaten to death and then beheaded. Roughly 200 years after his death, Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 the feast day of St. Valentine in 496 AD.
Feb. 14, 1779 was a year of even more bloodshed than Valentine’s death sentence. In Georgia, amid fighting in the Revolutionary War, the Patriots defeated the British Loyalists despite being outnumbered by nearly 400. This was a major victory for the Patriots, who suffered fewer than 10 fatal casualties.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, Ill. is one of the most famous occasions of bloodshed to occur on Feb. 14. In 1929, the infamous Al Capone sent a gang of men disguised as Chicago police officers to the headquarters of gangster “Bugs” Moran to murder members of the North Side gang. Moran did not enter his building, by chance of seeing the officers enter. Thinking his men were being arrested, he chose to stay away, when in fact they were being killed by Capone’s men. When real policemen arrived on the scene, Moran’s gang refused to give the names of the men who had shot them, keeping their code of silence as was typical of Chicago mob violence of the 1920s.
Last but certainly not least, Feb. 14 is the anniversary of the United States’ first major defeat in World War II. Fighting against troops in the Kassarine Pass in North Africa, Axis troops arrived with reinforcement tanks, killing over 1,000 American troops. This was the first major loss the United States experienced when fighting in World War II.
Despite the over-commercialization of Valentine’s cards, chocolates and red roses, the holiday of lovers has a far darker history than its face value suggests.