Scandal On Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused

Scandal On Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused

by Marian E. Lindberg
Scandal On Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused

Scandal On Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused

by Marian E. Lindberg


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The captain wore a see-through dress. No dispute about that. Even the captain admitted that in a certain light, guests at the party could see the outline of his body through the muslin shift. Months later, a lawyer would press for details: Was the dress tied at the waist? What color and length were the captain's socks? Did others treat him "as if you were a woman"?(From Chapter One, "Cross-Dressing For Halloween")

The carefree parties on Plum Island drew the ire of Maj. Benjamin Koehler, yet he would be the man arrested and accused of "immoral conduct" at the end of 1913. Koehler, a West Point alumnus and Philippine War veteran, had been tasked with bringing discipline to the 700 men living at Fort Terry, a sprawling post on a beautiful island off New York's coast. He lived on officers row with his sister, an educated and independent woman who, like her brother, was unmarried. Little did the devoted siblings know that Fort Terry would soon be the stuff of front-page headlines, with Ben Koehler at the center of them—and not for his dutiful service to his country.

The claims that Fort Terry's commander had groped male subordinates shocked the Army and Koehler's supporters, but the accusers were smart, triggering one of the first high-profile instances of federal legal process against a high-level military officer. Well before "homophobia" was a term, Koehler struggled to prove that the accusers were lying in a trial rife with innuendo and ill-informed ideas about how a "homo-sexualist" would behave.

Thoroughly researched, involving historical figures as contrasting as Theodore Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony, Scandal on Plum Island follows Koehler from respected officer to vilified outcast and turns up provocative information about his defense. His story is set in the context of changing standards of masculinity as the action moves from America's heartland to New York City, the Philippines, San Francisco, eastern Long Island, and government offices in Washington, D.C. In addition to telling a fast-moving and compelling story, Scandal on Plum Island speaks directly to modern discussions of gender norms, testimonial injustice, the high cost of stereotypes, and other issues of pressing concern.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781732491274
Publisher: East End Press
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 1,133,583
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Marian Lindberg grew up on Long Island, attended high school in Concord, MA, and began her career as a reporter for The Buffalo Courier-Express covering the criminal justice system, local government, and environmental issues. Lawyers proved to be some of her most informed sources, leading Lindberg to become a lawyer herself. She went on to represent writers, reporters and other communicators and participate in high profile first amendment and civil rights cases. In 2005 she began handling land preservation deals for an international environmental organization and traveled to Brazil to research a family story of murder in the Amazon. The resulting book, The End of the Rainy Season: Discovering My Family's Hidden Past in Brazil won an Elle readers' prize. In her latest book, Scandal on Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused, Lindberg applies her legal and research skills to tell the little-known story of an unmarried Army major portrayed as an out-of-control "homo-sexualist" in a sensational 1914 court-martial on a small island off the eastern end of Long Island.

Table of Contents

Part 1

1 Cross-Dressing for Halloween 3

2 Perversion 7

3 Embryo Generals 13

4 Islands 22

5 Mock Battle, Real Death 29

6 Three Sons at Risk 35

7 Single in San Francisco 41

8 Plum Island 49

9 Grudges Take Hold 55

Part 2

10 A Chill in the Air 63

11 Living with a Man 69

12 Ladies "Wearin' Pantaloons" 76

13 The President Disapproves 88

14 Hatched on Plum Island 93

15 A Hurried Investigation 100

16 Long Walk from Quartermaster Dock 106

17 A March, then a Brawl 114

18 Orders 120

19 All Hail Washington 123

Part 3

20 The Meaning of "Start" 139

21 Unthinkable 143

22 Confusion 145

23 An Old Nemesis Returns 150

24 "Any Such Tendencies" 155

25 A Clever Witness 165

26 Ungrateful Guest 174

27 An American Dreyfus? 180

28 Irregularities 188

29 A Fake Letter Makes the Rounds 193

30 A Little Shutter and a Green Shade 201

31 So Much Talk about Fat Boys 208

32 Psychology Makes an Appearance 219

33 Female Advocates 225

34 Details, Details 234

35 The Accused Speaks 239

36 Manliness 261

37 Deliberations 274

38 Speculation 278

Part 4

39 Smear 285

40 Hawarden 295

41 Federal Action 303

42 A Home at the Prince 310

Epilogue 328

Acknowledgments 335

Notes 337

Index 387

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