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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Some people like to trick out their cars or trucks with special tires, wheel covers, soup up engines, tint windows, etc. Me, I decided to do something different completely different, like change three outside door locks. It’s not something I normally would have considered, but the idea came to me recently after someone, under cover of darkness, took a screwdriver and punched out the locks on my car. At least the person or persons were kind enough to leave one door untouched, which allowed me access through the right rear passenger’s door. This is not the first time I’ve had a car vandalized and I realize in the scheme of things it’s small potatoes. Taking into account that the Washington area is rife with murders, rapes, carjackings, home invasions, assaults, etc, I consider myself fortunate to have gotten off with an insurance deductible and car rental charge. The police certainly took that attitude. While the officer was polite and thorough in taking my report, and maybe it was my imagination, I could have sworn she was trying to stifle a yawn. The new car locks? They didn’t do anything to improve the appearance of my car. In fact they look just like the old ones, which leaves me to believe I have absolutely no imagination when it comes to upping the head turning quotient of my ride.

Which brings me to what would appear to be another case of larceny and an event, which, perhaps surprisingly, caused more upset than the damage to my car. I tried to be fair and demonstrate patience, but both have worn thin. So the gloves are off!

I was impressed enough by North and South Magazine, which I had been buying off the shelf, to sign up on their Web site for a one year subscription. That transaction was completed and charged to a credit card on October 29, 2006. When I hadn’t received any issue(s) in the mail by the middle of December, I began sending Emails requesting advice on what had happened to my subscription. The fourth Email finally drew a response accompanied by an apology regarding the “holiday” rush and an assurance my first issue would go out in the mail around January 9th. It’s close to a month later and still no magazine. I was in a bookstore the other night and held the latest issue of North and South in my hand. I was tempted to buy it, because I really do like the magazine, but….Just consider me a customer lost.

In his book Civil War Justice, Union Army Executions under Lincoln, Robert Alotta, documented 14 men who were executed for various crimes in 1862. They included seven convicted murders, two deserters, one rapist, one mutineer, one who struck a superior officer, one whose offense was not listed, and Frank Newton, who, after being discharged from the 13th Connecticut Infantry, was hung as a civilian for stealing.

In light of Newton’s execution, Private James Bennett of Co. C of the 18th Massachusetts should have considered himself fortunate that he didn’t meet the same fate. Charged with stealing $1.73 from a tent mate, Bennett was court martialed on December 2, 1862 and sentenced to forfeit a month’s pay and “to be paraded eight consecutive days (hours) each day for one week before the Guard Station with the placard marked ‘Thief’ attached to his person.” Had it been left to the sole discretion of Lt. Col. Joseph Hayes, Bennett might have received much more severe punishment. In an order read to the entire Regiment, Hayes made clear his disapproval of Bennett’s actions.

The crime of stealing which in civil life is among the most serious known to the Civil Court becomes among soldiers especially abominable. A man that will steal from his comrad [sic] and tent mate is deserving of a fate hardly less than “Death.”
To steal from anyone is a great crime but to steal from a trusting and unsuspecting friend shows in him that commits the crime a shocking depravity and manner.
It is earnestly hoped that no more of this nature will stain the records of this Regiment.

Four days after his completing his sentence Bennett was wounded in the leg at the battle of Fredericksburg. Whether he interpreted this as a sign of further retribution is unknown, but it's at least open to speculation. There’s no information as to how members of the Regiment treated Bennett following his conviction, but one can imagine that elements of trust were, at the least, slow in being restored, if ever. That mistrust and suspicion continued unabated lends credence to my theory that Bennett transferred to the U.S. Navy on April 22, 1864 for those reasons.


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