Careful in the Use of the Liquor
The Last Full Measure; The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers, Richard Moe, 1993
King [the regimental sutler] also provided liquor for the officers, a service that understandably rankled many of the enlisted men. One night several of them decided to liberate a keg of whiskey from King's tent. Without detection they carried it to a nearby field, where it was tapped, half emptied—into the men's canteens—it is not recorded how much disappeared on its way from the keg to the canteen—and then buried for future retrieval. The theft was soon discovered, and the lieutenant of the guard was dispatched to apprehend the guilty parties. Alarmed, the perpetrators sought the help of their sergeant, who had not been part of the plot. He reproved them for the act, but he was not about to let them down. He observed that the lieutenant was making his way down the row of tents, determining the number of occupants in each, and then calling for that number of canteens.
Returning to his own tent, the sergeant discovered that only two canteens besides his own were empty, so he had to think fast. According to Lochren, the lieutenant "soon approached and called for him. 'Sergeant, how many men have you?' 'Fourteen.' 'Pass out their canteens.' With a peremptory order from the sergeant to the men to pass up their canteens rapidly, an empty canteen was passed to the officer, smelled of, and dropped at his feet as a second one was handed him, while a man, lying down where he could reach safely in the darkness, passed the dropped canteen back to the sergeant, to be presented to the officer again, and thus the three canteens were each examined five times and nothing found. The culprits were never discovered, although the experience "frightened the boys, and made them careful in the use of the liquor."