G.A.R. Annual Encampment 1892
The Benjamin Stone Jr., Post No. 68, Department of Mass., G.A.R. decided to participate in the twenty-sixth annual encampment of the G.A.R. to be held in Washington, D.C. in 1892. The committee appointed to make the post's arrangements for the trip asked for and received the authority to present an entertainment to raise money. At the next Post meeting it was reported that a comrade of the Post had been accused of robbing a hen-roost, and that he would be tried by a packed jury, composed of well-known citizens of Dorchester, at Winthrop Hall on the evening of March 7, 1892.
The following account of the "Trial" was published in the Dorchester Beacon, March 12th, 1892.
Oakman O.K. Perjury Punished.; Virtue Victorious; Jury Judiciously Judge.
The terrible nervous tension under with ex-Representative Henry P. Oakman has labored--concealing it from the world beneath as unruffled exterior--relaxed Monday night when the jury of eminent men adjudged him innocent of purloining a Plymouth Rock rooster from a well-known Ashmont provision man. Winthrop Hall was crowded to its utmost capacity, when court was opened by Constable Fennessy; two or three cases were continued or defaulted as the case might be and the celebrated case of the Commonwealth vs. Oakman reached. The prisoner was led in by the constable and the indictment read by Clerk F.P. Isinglass alias Ingalls. Judge C.F. Hall of the Lower Mills had hold of the throttle valve. The case was prosecuted by Thomas P. Barry, Esq., of Trull Street, and the prisoner defended by Capt. A.V. Newton, Esq., of Worcester. A jury was impanelled from the audience, and the double lives described by Dr. Mitchell or Robert Luis Stevenson paled into nothingness beside the surprises in store for the audience. The decree of the law of course compelled the jurymen to answer to their right names. "Benjamin Harrison!" Called the clerk and behold! one whom most visitors at the City Hall had supposed to be Clerk J. Mitchell Galvin took his seat in the jury box; "James G. Blaine!" and the man who answered responds also to the roll-call when W.H. West is called on Beacon Hill; the stalwart and muscular form of Postmaster Jones strode through the audience when the name of John L. Sullivan was called; and the rotund physique of Alderman Otis Eddy responded to the call for Grover Cleveland; that rabid Democrat, ex-city architect Harry Atwood, apparently leads a double life with Governor Russell and Mr. Shepard W. Snow with Rising Sun Morse. Other surprises came when N.C. Rockwell appeared as Jay Gould, Capt. Merrick of Station 11 as George Fred Williams, Wesley E.A. Legg as Tom Reed, Geo. L. Burt as Gen. Butler, Major C.A. Young as McKinley, and the editor of this paper as the great financier John Sherman, a peculiarly consistent double life, for if anything tends to developing one's financiering ability, it is to run a suburban paper. To detail the crazy, topsy-turvy evidence of the witnesses, the absurd cross-examinations, the impossible pleas of counsel, the open bribery of judge and jury, the one-sided charge of the judge, would be but to give a long list of crazy and absurd things that a dozen bright men could say. The testimony was punctuated with local hits, a live rooster said to have been filched from F.P. Jaques of Ashmont and a ferocious canine said to have been hanging to the coat tails of the thief, but when put in evidence, found to be a little skye terrier with yellow ribbon and tremendous bangs were shown as damning proof, and free whiskey, fine cigars, oranges and peanuts were handed around without stint. The witnesses were Henry C. Short, John S. Murray, Clarence H. Knight, Edward P. Jackson, Robert B. Palfrey and Clarence E. Swan. The jury--James G. Blaine foreman--found after due deliberation, "Not Guilty!" for the prisoner, and the plaintiff, after a scathing denunciation by the judge, was sentenced like the witches of old, to be weighted and thrown into the water, where, if he sank he would drown and if he floated he must be possessed of the devil and would be taken out and hanged. The affair was a great success financially and otherwise.
Nearly 200 people went on the excursion to Washington including all the officers of the Post, nearly one hundred other comrades and fifty members of the Woman's Relief Corps and other friends.
Post Commander and author Edward P. Jackson wrote the following poem for the souvenir publication commemorating the trip.
War and the Warrior
You may say what you will of the Demon War,
Of his havoc in forest and village,
Of his riding rough-shod over justice and law,
Of his barbarous slaughter and pillage,--
You may weep, you may wail, over torture and death,
Over prison and famine and ravage;
But the soldier of Liberty never drew breath
With the hand or the heart of a savage.
His sabre was keen, and his rifle was true,--
Like their master, they flinched not from duty,--
But he pitied the foeman his gallant hand slew,
For he fought not for slaughter or booty.
And when the foul dragon of Treason was dead,
And the vanquished for quarter were kneeling,
The hand which the death-dealing bullet had sped
Was stretched forth in mercy and healing.
Though War be a demon, his henchmen in blue,
Who made Washington ring with their greeting,
Bore hearts in their bosoms warm, loyal, and true,
With love and fraternity beating.
Source: Historical Souvenir of Benjamin Stone Jr., Post No. 68, Department of Mass., G.A.R. Twenty-sixth National Encampment, held in Washington, D.C. September, 1892. Dorchester: Post No. 68, 1892.
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Created: January 8, 2005 Modified: February 19, 2007