Scandal On Plum Island by Marian E. Lindberg
|Title||Scandal on Plum Island|
|Author||Marian E. Lindberg|
|Language||English, Spanish, and French|
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"? The carefree parties on Plum Island drew the ire of Maj. Benjamin Koehler, yet he would be the man later 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 garrison 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 become the stuff of front-page headlines, with Ben Koehler at the center of them--and not for his patriotic efforts. The claims that Fort Terry's commander had engaged in homoerotic behavior shocked the Army and Koehler's many supporters, but the accusers were smart, triggering one of the first high-profile instances of federal legal process against an alleged homosexual. Deeply researched, involving historical figures as contrasting as Theodore Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony, Scandal on Plum Island traces Koehler's career from respected officer to vilified outcast and turns up provocative information about his defense. Moving from America's heartland to New York City, the Philippines, San Francisco, the east end of Long Island, and government offices in Washington, D.C., his story is a warning about the high cost to individuals and society when people and governments police the sexual orientation of others who seem different. Involving a toxic mixture of egos, malice, and changing standards of masculinity [over a century ago], Koehler's experience speaks directly to modern discussions of gender norms, damaging stereotypes, and the fundamental misunderstandings that divide our country.