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"The 'Mutiny' at Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks," July 28, 1919
in front of the mess hall, and a prisoner sang a solo which was loudly cheered to several encores. Then the bell range to empty the mess all. As usual, the front rows stood up and started to file out. As the first men neared the door, they looked back and appeared somewhat hesitant and puzzled. There was a slight murmur of disapproval from the rear of the room. The man at the door wavered, stopped, then returned to their seats, then and then only, a large number of cries, There ain't no more, General Amnesty, sit down, etc.” But even then a cool head might have calmed the men. It was only a comparatively few hot heads who had shouted. The Office of the Day at his desk, near the door, dangled his legs nonchalantly over a chair and said nothing. A Committee man then unwittingly made a fatal psychological blunder. He called for silence and said, “Come on, men, remember your promise to the Committee, get up and go into the yard. You can’t sit in the mess hall for twenty four hours anyway” A number of men laughed, -- so far so good – then the mistake. “If you can’t go out into the yard, go back to your wings. Don’t sit here!” The idea had been sown. Soon the man were filing out of the mess hall laughing and chattering. Most of them went to the wings, although a large number filed out into the yard.
I wish to venture an opinion on one point here. Why did those first men hesitate near the door and come back to their seats when they saw the other men were still sitting? I know that the fact that only the first row got up struck me peculiarly at the time and made me sense the imminence of a strike as nothing else had done. Why should I have felt that way when it was customary for each row to start up only when the row ahead of it had filed out. The answer is, I believe, that every man who had been here for more than three months (and I with them) was a victim of a curious slip of the mind, a slip which did more to precipitate the strike at that moment than any other factor Unconsciously during the meal our minds had reverted to the conditions at the time of and following the January strike. At that time the custom at the sound of the bell was for everyone in the hall to get to his feet and stand while each row passed out, consequently when the first rows rose upon the sound of the bell, we sensed wrongly that everyone had struck. This falsely aroused the mob or herd instinct of solidarity, and together with the unfortunate one given by the Committee when he said “wings” precipitated the strike. This does not mean that there was not a great feeling of discontent, and that a strike was not anyway impending, for just as the poor food was only the occasion, and not the underlying causes of the strike, which was contained injustice and a desire for amnesty, so this psychological slip was the immediate factor which brought the strike at that moment,