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Anthology of Louisiana Literature

Benjamnin F. Butler.
Butler’s Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benjamin Butler.

Publishers’ Preface





Captured Negroes declared to be “Contraband of War” — Story of the Origin of the Phrase — Possibly not good Law, but a Handy Expedient — Sensation Created — Some remarks concerning Mr. John Hay as a Historian — Difficulty in obtaining horses — Decides to dislodge Confederate Forces at Bethel — Order for detail of the Movement — Gross mismanagement of Plans — Union Troops fire upon each other — In Front of the Breastworks — Orders disobeyed and attack given up — Enemy’s condition investigated — Battle of Bull Run — General Wool sent to Fortress Monroe — Attack on the Forts at Hatteras — Their Surrender — Midnight Ride to Washington — Telling welcome news to the President — A Waltz en Dishabille — Goes home to Lowell — The Battle of Bull Run critically considered . . . 256



Finds Recruiting at a standstill in New England — Reason: only Republicans made Officers — Interview with the President on the subject — Obtains authorization to raise troops — How Democratic-Colonels were obtained — A Connecticut regiment, Colonel Deming — A Vermont regiment, Colonel Thomas — A New Hampshire regiment, Colonel George, almost — Ex-President Pierce Plows with the Heifer — Lincoln’s Bon Mot — A Maine regiment. Colonel Shepley — A Massachusetts regiment. Colonel Jones — Establishes Camp Chase at Lowell — Governor Andrew flatly refuses to appoint Jonas French Colonel or Caleb Cusliing Brigadier — Trouble — Hastern and Western Bay State regiment recruited — “Connecticut over the Fince” — How riotous soldiery were disciplined — Seizure of Mason and Slidell — We should have fought England, and could have beaten Her — Interview with Lincoln — Believes in moving on the Enemy in Virginia — The President drops a hint — McClellan gets a “Yankee Elephant” out of the Way . . .294



Sailing to the South — Ashore on the Shoals of Hatteras — A Narrow Escape — A Maine Chaplain’s Cowardice — Yankee Ingenuity stops a leak — Arrival at Ship Island — Making ready for the Attack on New Orleans — Hampered but not delayed — Below Forts Jackson and St. Philip — Porter’s Mortar-Boat Fiasco — Cutting the Chain Cable — How Farragut passed the Forts — Army goes down the River and up the Coast and moves against the Forts from the Rear — Circumstances of their Surrender to Porter — Testimony of the Confederates — Some remarks concerning Porter . . . 337



Entering New Orleans — The City untamed — Meeting the City authorities at the St. Charles Hotel — Howling mob surrounds the building — “Tell General Williams to clear the streets with Artillery” — Proclamation to the Citizens — Buying sugar to ballast vessels — Property burned at instigation of Confederate leaders — Alone responsible for conduct at New Orleans — Utterly destitute condition of people — Providing Provisions and Employment — Approach of Yellow Fever Season — Alarm of Troops — Disease investigated, with Theory as to Cause — How the City was cleaned and Kept clean — Just two cases of Fever that Summer — Further consideration of Yellow Fever subject — How It was fought at Norfolk and New Berne two years later — One thing West Point needs . . . 373



Conduct of Women of New Orleans toward Northern Soldiers described — Some Examples — Butler’s personal Experience — Spitting in Officers’ Faces — “I’ll put a Stop to This” — General Order No. 28 comes out — It does put a Stop to it — How it affected the Wife-Whippers of England — “Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense” — Reward offered for Butler’s Head — The Other Side: The Noble Women of New Orleans — Trouble with “Neutrals” and Whipper-Snapper Consuls — Assessing wealthy Confederates to support the Poor — Mumford tears down the Stars and Stripes — Is Arrested and Sentenced to Death — Butler threatened with Assassination — The Wife’s appeal — Mumford hanged — Eight Years later — Depredation harshly punished — Butler’s wonderful Spy system — A Spy in every Family — Negro servants tell all — Some amusing Instances — “I want that Confederate flag, Madam, for a Fourth of July Celebration in Lowell” . . 414



What was Ordered — Mobile of no Consequence — Baton Rouge seized — Farragut and Williams advance upon Vicksburg — Halleck asked for aid — He refuses — Some Strictures on his conduct — Digging the Canal at Vicksburg; — Fall in the River — French Vessel before New Orleans — An International Episode: France to recognize the Confederacy, liberate New Orleans, be given Texas and capture Mexico — Butler meets the Emergency — The Forts strengthened — Justification found for firing on a French Flat — The Loyal and Disloyal Citizens put on Record — All Arms ordered Given Up — Porter’s Bombardment of Vicksburg — Battle of Baton Rouge — Admiral Porter’s Brother — “Lying is a Family Vice” — General Phelps’ resignation — General Strong at Pontchatoula — Louis Napoleon again — Admiral Reynaud at New Orleans — Negro Regiments organized — Weitzel’s Expedition — His objection to Negro Soldiers answered — Twelfth Maine at Manchac Pass . . . 454



Becomes his own “Secretary of the Treasury” — Debased condition of the Currency — Compelling the Banks to pay out Specie — Curbstone dealers in Confederate money — Their Course a reliable news Barometer — Street Disturbances — Case of Mrs. Larue — No money to pay the troops — Farragut’s Appeal for influence — Adams Express Company called on — An Army self-supported — Banks’ subsequent Troubles — “General Butler didn’t give Reasons for his Orders” — The Confiscation Acts enforced among the Planters — Congressional Election — Count Mejan, the French Consul — Major Bell administers Justice — Intimations of Recall — Napoleon’s demand and Seward&rsquop;s compliance — General Banks arrives — Butler in Washington, seeking Reasons — Interviews with Lincoln, Stanton and Seward — Double-dealing of the latter shown — Farewell Address — Davis proclaims Butler a felon and an outlaw — $10,000 Reward — Lincoln desires Butler’s services — Return to Lowell . . . 604

General Butler has said in his introduction that every point is to be proven. This has necessitated a large staff of workers to carefully search the records of the War Department, and the consequent proof corrections have occasioned a long delay in the publication of the work, and required the reprinting of many folios. The work has in consequence been increased in number of pages and illustrations not originally announced or contemplated, making, we trust, valuable and interesting additions.

The historical documents have been placed in an appendix with references at the bottom of each page, thus elucidating and proving all statements, and adding accordingly to the value of the work as an authentic autobiographical history. The object of placing these documents in an appendix was to retain the logical sequence of historical events and not to break the thread of the story. Among the vast amount of data it is very possible that some errata may appear in the first edition, but mistakes will be duly rectified in the subsequent editions.

An impression prevails that by waiting a short time after the publication of a popular book sold by subscription, it may be bought at reduced prices at bookstores, dry-goods stores, news stands or as premiums for periodicals. This impression owes its inception to the practice of some publishers, who, for reasons — probably of a financial nature — have found it to their advantage to reduce the price of subscription books, after the first popular sale is over, and place them in bookstores, expose them in public libraries, and even permit them to be advertised and given as cheap premiums for periodicals, newspapers, etc. Besides this, of late years there has been a constant effort by bookstores and dry-goods stores to sell standard subscription books below cost as an advertisement.

It is not surprising that the public sometimes looks with distrust upon the promises of subscription book publishers, or their agents, who, having pledged themselves that the original price shall be maintained, have in many cases deliberately broken faith.

In consequence we feel it incumbent upon us to offer the public something of more value than promises, which are the poorest possible collateral.

The following guarantee will, we trust, convince subscribers of our sincerity, and we feel confident that the plans we shall adopt will enable us to enforce it.


Butler’s Book is published as a subscription book and to be sold by us only as such through our agents, and at prices appearing in our prospectus or on our circulars.

Should we at any time offer or advertise this work for sale in book-stores, dry-goods stores, etc., at reduced price, or sell it to be sold, or given away as premiums for magazines, newspapers, etc., we agree to refund to each subscriber the difference between the regular retail price and such reduced price.

(Signed,) A. M. Thayer and Co. Boston, Mass., Feb. 1, 1892.

This guarantee, which appears in every copy, is, we believe, the first guarantee of a tangible, monetary value ever given to subscribers of subscription books, that the promises made by publishers or their agents are to be carried out.

To protect our subscribers and agents, we consulted the most eminent legal talent, and in answer received the following letter from General Butler, which will doubtless be received with more than ordinary interest, containing as it does the opinion of a lawyer second to none in the world: —

Boston, Oct. 5, 1891.

A. M. Thayer & Co., 6 Mt. Vernon St., Boston, Mass.

Gentlemen: — I have taken note of the performances now going on by publishers of important books, who, after they have made solemn engagements that their books shall be sold only by subscription, and put enormous prices on them upon that pledge, by which assurance the reading public have made purchases to the amount of some millions of dollars, have turned around, and, advertising that the exact copyright work will be given to anybody who will subscribe for a magazine or newspaper, as a chromo as it might be termed, has heretofore been used. Now, I don’t want my book used as a chromo, and I know you would not do it, and you have sent a guaranty to me that it shall not be done, and that, as far as I am concerned, is quite sufficient. I think you may well do so, because it is my belief as a lawyer that these publishers are liable to their subscribers for the difference between the chromo price and the subscription price of these works, and if I had not gone out of the law business, I should like to undertake the present job of collecting it in behalf of these subscribers to these several works.

Therefore, I will stand by you and aid you in every way to prevent any such occurrence as is now going on, to the utter destruction, I should suppose, of the business of selling valuable books by subscription, a method which is of great value to the public.

Truly yours,

(Signed)      BENJ. F. BUTLER.

All agents for Butler’s Book enter into an agreement : —

“Not to sell or deliver directly or indirectly, a copy of this work to anyone who does not actually subscribe for it for his own private use, and not for resale, and not knowingly to supply a copy, directly or indirectly, to any bookstore, bookdealer, news agent, or public library, nor be accessory to the same being done in any manner, and not to sell or to supply copies to anyone beyond the limits of his own territory and that the ownership of the book remains in the hands of the publishers until actually delivered and paid for by the subscribers for whom it was intended and ordered.”

By virtue of this agreement this book remains our property until delivered to the bona-fide subscriber, who has purchased it under a contract for personal use and not for resale, as contained in our prospectus. Ownership in it reverts to us if used by subscriber for any other purpose; besides he becomes legally liable for any damages done us or our business by transfer.

If, therefore, any copy is sold or delivered by the agent to dealers or other persons for resale or exposure in public libraries or for purposes other than private use, he transfers property that does not belong to him, for which offence both agent, subscriber, bookseller, or receiver are liable.

Thayer. In case any book is found in a bookstore, dry-goods store, public library or other place it will be easy to determine by Thayer and Col., publishers, Boston, Mass. reference to our records into whose hands the book was given and we will at once call the guilty parties to account. Each book contains a stamp of the Publishers & Booksellers’ Protective Association, registered and numbered consecutively, placed in plain sight onside of the cover and a corresponding stamp so placed and combined with the book that the mark cannot be erased or tampered with without destroying the book. We keep a record of these numbers and so will know to whom each individual book has been consigned.

We do not sell the book to the agent whom we employ to take subscriptions on our behalf. It is consigned and remains our property until it reaches the subscriber and is paid for by the subscriber. The agent not being the owner of the books consigned to him, cannot lawfully do anything, except deliver them to bona-fide subscribers within the territory assigned to him as specified in his certificate of agency contained in the prospect to the inspection of every subscriber. If he sells or delivers to dealers or to persons outside of specified territory, he transfers property that belongs to us and not to him.

We are able by means of the precautions here described to protect the rights of the author, agent, and subscribers. We request every person finding a copy of this book in any store or public library to immediately inform us, giving registered number of the book and address of place where found. Any expense incurred in this matter will be cheerfully refunded.

Unscrupulous persons may remove these pages so as to make the excuse that the above-mentioned facts were not duly brought to the notice of every party. This guarantee and notice being permanently attached to each book makes it a legal notice. Should any party remove the same from the book he will be liable for prosecution for the above-mentioned offence and also for the mutilation of a copyrighted work. In order to prevent this and to enable every purchaser to know that the book has been tampered with, we have placed a notice on a number of pages at the beginning of the work.

Trusting that all will co-operate with us to the utmost in securing the fullest possible protection, we are

Very truly yours,

A. M. THAYER & CO., Publishers,

Boston, Mass.


To The Good And Brave Soldiers Of The Grand Army Of The Republic,

This book is dedicated by their comrade, a slight token of appreciation of the patriotic devotion to loyalty and heroism with which they endured the hardships and fought the battles of their country during the War of the Rebellion, erve its existence and perpetuity as a nation of freemen, the proudest exemplar of a people solely govern themselves, able to sustain that government as more powerful than any nation earth.

Upon our efforts and their success depended the future of free institutions as a governmental power, giving the boon of liberty to all the peoples.

Other republics have flourished for a season, been split in fragments, or merged in despotisms, and failure would have closed forever the experiment of a government by the people for the people.

Benj. F. Butler
Benj. F. Butler

THE Preface of is usually written after the book is finished, and is as usually left unread. It is not as a rule, therefore, either a convenience or a necessity. I venture to use it at the outset as a vehicle for conveying the purposes of writing this book at all.

Having lived through and taken part in a war, the greatest of the many centuries, and carried on by armies rivalling in numbers the hosts of Xerxes, and having been personally conversant with almost all, if not all, the distinguished personages having charge and direction of the battles fought, and with the political management which has established the American Republic in power, prosperity, glory, and stability unequalled of any nation of the earth, I have been very frequently called upon by those who are, in their relations to me, personal friends, and to whom I am endeared by life-long kindnesses, to give what knowledge I have of the course of conduct in the action of national politics and the causes which led up to so great results.

I have also had my attention called to consider whether it might not be well for me to give a somewhat connected narrative of matters of which I had personal cognizance, and of some of the more important of which I had personal conduct.

I have been asked to give memories and reminiscences of those matters which concern in part my private life which would interest them, and to set forth many facts and occurrences would throw light upon the history of the country, especially during the momentous period 1860-1880. The real influences by which many were governed have not, in several instances, been exhibited to the country, and the true bearing of these influences and these motives on the great struggle have not been made apparent. Finally I desire to correct much of wrong done to myself by a prejudiced representation of facts and circumstances as to my own acts in the service of the country, especially in connection with the conduct of its armies. Therefore, I have thought it but just to myself and posterity that the true facts as I know them should be brought out.

All these considerations have compelled me to undertake at this late day of my life the labor of preparing the material necessary to be expended in writing this book, and of putting it in proper form.

Perhaps it would be well in addition to show how the book is written: Wherever facts are set out I have intended that it should be done with literal and exact accuracy, so far as they depend upon my knowledge, and in as they are exact memoranda of events; but where any fact is detailed upon the testimony of others,

I have endeavored to verify it by consulting and making known the citations of the authority in the text or in the notes. I have thought it the better way, however, to make careful examination of the accounts stated in other publications, and to draw from them in my own manner, any point which may be subject to contradiction in regard to the accuracy of the fact stated. And where I know a fact exists I say so, and where I believe it to exist from information and belief, I have given the source from which I derived that belief, if I doubt as to its truth or challenge its correctness.

Wherever opinions are expressed upon men, their character and conduct, and the motives which influenced them, they are my own opinions and I hope not capable of denial as such. Whether those opinions are correct, well founded or proper in any respect, is open to the fullest criticism.

As to my personal acts, and doings, and omissions to do, “I have in naught extenuated,” but I have reserved to myself the privilege of explaining and exhibiting my motives and feelings. In regard to others I have “set down naught in malice,” reserving to myself, however, the privilege of saying in regard to any man personally what I think it is right to say of him, however harsh the criticism may be, and of giving a true definition ofter in whatever distinct terms that criticism calls for.

In speaking of events, I have, as far as possible, put them in juxta-position, and with such bearings upon each other that they shall consist, in so far as they may, of items of history, which may aid others to reach the truth, when the time has come in the far future for the truth of history to be exactly written.

I admit frankly that this book should have been written before, so as to reap the advantage of being able to apply to my compatriots in their lifetime, and to verify the facts, as far as necessary, herein described. But being still in active business in the ardent pursuit of my profession, which has always been the pleasantest occupation of my life, I could not find the time in which it could well be done. But the delay has one ad: I have outlived most of my compatriots having to do with the events treated of, and my mind is free from almost every possible prejudice, and in a position where the temptation is strong to obey the maxim, de mortuis nil nisi bonum, so that I trust nothing will be said save where it is necessary to the cause of truth. For truth may be told, without interfering with that maxim, just as well as the facts concerning the life of Julius Caesar may be written.

Finally, I am conscious of but one regret for this delay, and that is that in the course of nature it is not probable I shall live so long as to be able to hear all the criticisms, as I am certain many will be made, upon this book, so that I can reply to them, attempting to correct everything that is wrong or mistaken in such criticisms, in justice to those that may be affected by such mistakes, as well as to answer any misstatement after made against the matter of the book, or any attempted contradiction of any fact stated therein, or any new offshoot of calumny against the author.

I hope that my days may be prolonged for such a purpose.

Benj. F. Butler
Grand Parade



ONTHE day after my arrival at the fort, May 23, three negroes were reported coming in a boat from Sewall’s Point, where the enemy was building a battery. Thinking that some information as to that work might be got from them, I had them before me. I learned that they were employed on the battery on the Point, which as yet was a trifling affair. There were only two guns there, though the work was laid out to be much. larger and to be heavily mounted with guns captured from the navy-yard. The negroes said they belonged to Colonel Mallory, who commanded the Virginia troops around Hampton, and that he was now making preparation to take all his negroes to Florida soon, and that not wanting to go away from home they had escaped to the fort. I directed that they should be fed and set at work.

On the next day I was notified by an officer in charge of the picket line next Hampton that an officer bearing a flag of truce desired to be admitted to the fort to see me. As I did not wish to allow officers of the enemy to come inside the fort just then and see us piling up sand bags to protect the weak points there, I directed the bearer of the flag to be informed that I would be at the picket line in the course of an hour. Accompanied by two gentlemen of my staff, Major Fay and Captain Haggerty, neither now living, I rode out to the picket line and met the flag of truce there. It was under charge of Major Carey, who introduced himself, at the same time pleasantly calling to mind that we last met at the Charleston convention. Major Carey opened the conversation by saying: I have sought to see you for the purpose of ascertaining upon what principles you intend to conduct the war in this neighborhood. I expressed my willingness to answer, and the major said: I ask first whether a passage through the blockading fleet will be allowed to families and citizens of Virginia who desire to go North to a place of safety.

General Benjamin F. Butler.
General Benjamin F. Butler.

The presence of the families of the belligerents, I replied, is always the best hostage for their good behavior. One of the objects of the blockade is to prevent the admission of supplies and provisions into Virginia while she is hostile to the government. Reducing the number of consumers would necessarily tend to defeat the object in view. Passing a vessel through the blockade would involve so much trouble and delay, by way of examination to prevent frauds and abuse of the privilege, that I feel myself under the necessity of refusing.

Will the passage of families desiring to go North be permitted? asked Major Carey.

With the exception of an interruption at Baltimore, which has now been disposed of, travel of peaceable citizens through to the North has not been hindered; and as to the internal line through Virginia, your friends have, for the present, entire control of it. The authorities at Washington will settle that question, and I must leave it to be disposed of by them.

I am informed, said Major Carey, that three negroes belonging to Colonel Mallory have escaped within your lines. I am Colonel Mallory’s agent and have charge of his property. What do you mean to do with those negroes?

I intend to hold them, said I.

Do you mean, then, to set aside your constitutional obligation to return them?

I mean to take Virginia at her word, as declared in the ordinance of secession passed yesterday. I am under no constitutional obligations to a foreign country, which Virginia now claims to be.

But you say we cannot secede, he answered, and so you cannot consistently detain the negroes.

But you say you have seceded, so you cannot consistently claim them. I shall hold these negroes as contraband of war, since they are engaged in the construction of your battery and are claimed as your property. The question is simply whether they shall be used for or against the Government of the United States. Yet, though I greatly need the labor which has providentially come to my hands, if Colonel Mallory will come into the fort and take the oath of allegiance to the United States, he shall have his negroes, and I will endeavor to hire them from him.

Colonel Mallory is absent, was Major Carey’s answer.

We courteously parted. On the way back, the correctness of my law was discussed by Major Haggerty, who was, for a young man, a very good lawyer. He said that he doubted somewhat upon the law, and asked me if I knew of that proposition having been laid down in any treatise on international law.

Not the precise proposition, said I; but the precise principle is familiar law. Property of whatever nature, used or capable of being used for warlike purposes, and especially when being so used, may be captured and held either on sea or on shore as property contraband of war. Whether there may be a property in human beings is a question upon which some of us might doubt, but the rebels cannot Contraband of War. Col. Mallory’s three negroes before Gen. Butler at Fortress Monroe. take the negative. At any rate, Haggerty, it is a good enough reason to stop the rebels’ mouths with, especially as I should have held these negroes anyway.

Contraband of War
“Contraband Of War.”
Col. Mallory’s Three Negroes before Gen. Butler at Fortress Monroe.

At headquarters and in the fort nothing was discussed but the negro question, and especially this phase of it. The negroes came pouring in day by day, and the third day from that I reported the fact that more than $60,000 worth of them had come in; that I had found work for them to do, had classified them and made a list of them so that their identity might be fully assured, and had appointed a commissioner of negro affairs to take this business off my hands, for it was becoming onerous.

I wrote the lieutenant-general that I awaited instructions but should pursue this course until I had received them. On the 30th I received word front the Secretary of War, to whom I had duplicated my letter to General Scott. His instructions gave me no directions to pursue any different course of action from that which I had reported to him, except that I was to keep an accurate account of the value of their work.

But the local effect of the position taken was of the slightest account compared with its effect upon the country at large. The question of the disposal of the slaves was one that perplexed very many of the most ardent lovers of the country and loyal prosecutors of the war. It afforded a groundwork for discussion which yielded many excuses for those who did not desire the war to be carried on. In a word, the slave question was a stumbling-block. Everybody saw that if the work of returning fugitive slaves to their masters in rebellion was imposed upon the Union troops, it would never be done; the men would simply be disgusted and finally decline the duty. Our troops could not act as a marshal’s posse in catching runaway negroes to return them to their masters who were fighting us at the same time. What ought to be done? Nobody made answer to that question. Fortuitously it was thrust upon me to decide what must be done then and there, and very fortunately a few moments’ thought caused to flash through my mind the plausible answer at least to the question: What will you do? I do not claim for the phrase contraband of war, used in this connection, the highest legal sanction, because it would not apply to property used or property for use in war, as would be a cargo of coal being carried to be burned on board an enemy’s ship of war. To hold that contraband, as well might be done, by no means included all the coal in the country. It was a poor phrase enough; Wendell Phillips said a bad one. My staff officer, Major Winthrop, insisted it was an epigram which freed the slaves. The truth is, as a lawyer I was never very proud of it, but as an executive officer I was very much comforted with it as a means of doing my duty.

The effect upon the public mind, however, was most wonderful. Everybody seemed to feel a relief on this great slavery question. Everybody thought a way had been found through it. Everybody praised its author by extolling its great use, but whether right or wrong it paved the way for the President’s proclamation of freedom to the slaves within eighteen months afterwards.

Plan of Fortress Monroe.
Plan of Fortress Monroe.

There has been, so far as I know, in the several histories, but one very belittling account of the origin of this method of disposing of captured slaves used in war, and that one is the emanation of malice and ignorance in Abraham Lincoln, a history, a book which was written by one man with two pens. Mr. John Hay says : —

Out of this incident seems to have grown one of the most sudden and important revolutions in popular thought which took place during the whole war. General Butler has had the credit of first pronouncing the opinion formulating the doctrine, that under the course of international law the negro slaves, whose enforced labor in battery building was at the time of superior military value to the rebels, are manifestly contraband of war, and as such confiscable by military right and usage. There is no word or hint of this theory in his letter which reports the Mallory incident, nor any other official emanation of it by him until two months afterwards, when he stated casually that he had adopted such a theory. Nevertheless it is very possible that the idea may have come from him, though not at first in any authentic or official form. It first occurs incidentally in a newspaper letter from Fortress Monroe of the same date of the Mallory incident: Again, the negro must now be reported as contraband, since every able-bodied negro not absolutely required on the plantation is impressed by the enemy into military service as a laborer on the various fortifications.

Whether the suggestion was struck out in General Butler’s interview with the flag bearer, or at general mess table in a confidential review of the day’s work; or whether it originated with some imaginative member of his staff, or was contributed as a handy expedient by the busy brain of a newspaper reporter, will, perhaps, ever remain a historical riddle.

This double-named historian has stepped out of his way to attempt to rob me of the authorship of this theory of disposing of such captured slaves. As he evidently did not understand the matter about which he was speaking, he has noted the fact that I did not ask, in my letter to General Scott the morning after I met Colonel Mallory’s agent, as to this theory or use the word contraband, and has produced it as evidence that the phrase was not used by me in the interview as to captured slaves. If he had read my letters to General Scott he would have seen that I was asking from him instructions how to deal with the whole question of negro slavery during the war.

As I have already said, I have never claimed and never believed that contraband alone would cover that. That was the popular belief, not mine. I was asking Scott for instructions as to what I should do with the slave men, women, and children, sick and well, who came to me. I did not need any instructions from Scott or Cameron, neither of whom were lawyers, as to the legal question of the law of nations concerning captured slaves when used by their masters in actual warfare.

The question put and argued in those letters was: What was I to do with the slave population of the whole country who came to me voluntarily, men, women, and children. I had $60,000 worth of them. That question included the slaves of loyal men. In this matter I wanted the sanction of the government.

I had adopted a theory on this question for myself in Maryland, and got rapped over the knuckles for it by Governor Andrew. I had learned what manner of man Scott was, and I was desirous to take instructions from him for my action but not for my law.

If Mr. Hay had stopped at the point where he was led to doubt my authorship of contraband because I had not mentioned it to Scott, and was so misled, no more would need to be said. The sin of ignorance God winks at, and I should follow that example.

But having been a newspaper man himself, and this being a great question of international law, which has never yet been settled, and which, as he argues, contributed largely to the freeing of the slaves, he goes on to suggest that probably it was written by a newspaper reporter, because he finds the whole theory stated in a newspaper letter written at night after my return to the fort.

The whole matter of the interview with the flag of truce officer was the common talk of all, and the reporter was writing the current news. Yet Mr. Hay suggests it might have come from an imaginative staff officer. Why a staff officer ? Mr. Hay, this was a matter of the laws of war. As the general was supposed to have some knowledge upon that subject, why didn’t you state in your History that you thought it probable the general arrived at such a conclusion of law rather than it should have originated with an imaginative staff officer or be contributed as a handy expedient by the busy brain of a newspaper reporter ?

If Mr. Hay had desired to write History and not simply to make a book suggesting historical riddles, he could easily have ascertained regarding the matter by writing a simple note either to Major Carey, who is an honored citizen of Richmond, Va., or to his associates bearing that flag, or to myself. If he had put the question to me I should have answered: A poor thing, sir, but mine own. If he had inquired of Major Carey, that gentleman would have answered that contraband was the ground upon which I refused to release Mallory’s slaves and that we then discussed the whole question together.

Mr. Hay, read this: —

Richmond, Va., March 9, 1891.

Gen. Benj. F. Butler, Washington, D. C.:

Dear Sir: — I have received, through a friend, your request to furnish a detailed statement of the facts in regard to the introduction of the term contraband, as applied to the slave population of the United States, about the beginning of our Civil War; and as my recollection is very distinct, I give it for whatever it may be worth to you as to the truth of history.

The term was employed by you at a conference held between us, on the Hampton side of Mill Creek Bridge, on the evening of May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia had voted on the ordinance of secession, but before the ratification (though anticipated) was definitely known. I was then in command, at Hampton, of four volunteer companies of about two hundred men (one of them artillery without guns), very poorly equipped, and almost entirely without ammunition, who had never been in camp, and who dispersed to their homes in the town and neighborhood every night; and you were in command of the United States troops (said to be about ten thousand) at Fortress Monroe. As there were no Virginia troops at that time between Hampton and Richmond (a distance of ninety-six miles), save three companies of infantry at Yorktown, and two companies, perhaps, organizing at Williamsburg, and as it was thus evidently important for us to preserve the peace, I had instructions from General Lee, then commander-in-chief of the Virginia troops, to avoid giving any provocation for the commencement of hostilities; to retire before your advance, if attempted; and to obstruct, as far as possible, your progress by burning bridges and felling trees across the public roads, until reinforcements could be sent to Yorktown. At night, after the election (May 23), Col. C. K. Mallory, of the One Hundred and Fifteenth Virginia Militia (with other citizens), called at my headquarters, and asked me to take some steps for the recovery of one of his slaves, who had escaped to Old Point, and had been held there by you, and put to work in the service of the government. I promised to do what I could, and accordingly sent to you, next morning, a communication under flag of truce (the first I believe of the war), deeming that course advisable in view of the critical condition of affairs, and asked for a conference with you, which was promptly granted, 3.30 the same day and Mill Creek Bridge being named as the time and place of meeting.

We met at the time and place appointed, and for several hours riding up Mill Creek to its head, and back again, via Buck Roe, by a slight detour to Fort Field Gate, we discussed many questions of great interest (to me at least), among them the return of fugitive slaves who had gone within your lines. I maintained the right of the master to reclaim them, as Virginia (so far as we knew) was a State of the Union; but you positively refused to surrender them (or any other property which might come into your possession), claiming that they were contraband of war; and that all such property would be turned over to your quartermaster, who would report to the government, to be dealt with as might be subsequently determined. Failing in the accomplishment of my mission, we parted when it was quite dark, and returned to our respective posts.

I have frequently mentioned these facts, with many other incidents of the conference (some serious and some amusing) to members of my family and friends; and as it was the first time I had ever heard the term contraband so used, I have always given you whatever credit might attach to its origin.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

M. B. Carey.

If Mr. Hay had looked in the New York Tribune, of which he was once editor, he would have found a letter written that day at Fortress Monroe, after I had my interview with Major Carey, and in that letter he would have read the following: —

Three slaves, the property of Colonel Mallory, commander of the rebel forces near Hampton, were brought in by our picket guard yesterday. They reported that they were about to be sent South, and hence sought protection. Major Carey came in with a flag of truce and claimed their rendition under the fugitive slave law, and was informed by General Butler that under the peculiar circumstances he considered the fugitives contraband of war, and had set them to work inside the fortress.

Mr. Hay, you do not speak of anybody who ever said anything to the contrary of the “contraband” thought being mine: why not, if you ever heard anything to the contrary? Upon the whole do you not think this exhibition of facts which I have made as to the manner of your writing “History” shows that you wrote very carelessly and negligently your “History” of Abraham Lincoln? If it is all written like this specimen, — for I have not read it all because I know more about Abraham Lincoln than you ever did, — God help poor Lincoln’s memory thus to go down to posterity. You can’t weigh a load of hay with fish scales, you know.

Speaking of phrases, they will stick to the man they belong to. This one will stick to me in spite of all efforts to the contrary, and I know of another phrase which will stick to you in spite of all yours, because no Christian gentleman will ever claim it, and no man of good literary taste will ever permit it to be ascribed to him. The phrase I refer to is the only thing that ever made your poem “Little Breeches” famous, while making, perhaps, its author infamous: —

Is a derned sight better business
Than loafing around The Throne.

I made requisition on General Scott for horses, for artillery, for wagons, and for tents and camp equipage, as my command was largely unprovided for in that regard. At last I sent my brother to Washington to get authority to buy some. He got it, and went to Baltimore and bought one hundred and twenty-five very good horses. Meanwhile I had sent to my home for nine horses of my own, which were coming as soon as they could be got there. Orders were left that the horses obtained by my brother should be sent on after him to Fortress Monroe; but he was not an old campaigner, and did not know that there were as many horse thieves in the army as there were out of it. The next day, his horses not coming, he went to see what the matter was, and found that one hundred and odd had been taken to Washington, so it was very lucky that mine from home had not got there. This loss of horses for my artillery was of very serious consequence to me and a serious loss to the country. If I could have had a few horses so that I could have mounted my artillery and picked out a few of my best soldiers Marching contrabands to work at Fortress Monroe. From a drawing. for cavalry under an experienced cavalry officer, and thus have had the ground reconnoitred and some guns served to meet the enemy’s guns at the time of the attack on Big Bethel, that encounter would have resulted in an entirely different way and in perfectly certain victory for the United States troops.

Contraband of War
Marching Contrabands to Work at Fortress Monroe. From a Drawing.

There was a point nine miles from the fort and on the road leading from Hampton to Yorktown, which I learned the rebels intended to entrench and hold, because they expected a move towards Richmond to be made very soon. The insane cry of On to Richmond had been continually sounded by Mr. Greeley and his coadjutors. After carefully reconnoitring the position, I concluded upon an attack.

A creek crossed the road close by the church known as the Bethel. The bridge over this creek was attempted to be commanded by a slight fortification some half a cannon-shot distance beyond. Col. D. H. Hill, of North Carolina, held it with five hundred men. Our negro scouts reported them two thousand in number, and they really thought there were as many as that, for a negro scout had to be a veteran in the war before he learned that two hundred men were not a thousand, and that five hundred were not two thousand. So upon the point of numbers I was satisfied; and I was further convinced that there were no more than one thousand in Yorktown, that might possibly come to Bethel, as they afterwards did.

After the most careful and thorough preparation, and a personal reconnoissance of the lay of the country by Major Winthrop, I came to the conclusion to attempt to take this post, and I drew up with his aid the following order for the detail of the movement : —

A regiment or battalion to march from Newport News, and a regiment to march from Camp Hamilton, — Duryea’s. Each will be supported by sufficient reserves under arms in camp, and with advanced guards out on the road of march.

Duryea to push out two picket posts at 10 P. M.; one two and a half miles beyond Hampton, on the county road, but not so far as to alarm the enemy. This is important. Second picket half as far as the first. Both pickets to keep as much out of sight as possible. No one whatever to be allowed to pass out through their lines. Persons to be allowed to pass inward toward Hampton, unless it appears that they intend to go roundabout and dodge through to the front.

At 12, midnight, Colonel Duryea will march his regiment, with fifteen round cartridges, on the county road towards Little Bethel. Scows will be provided to ferry them across Hampton Creek. March to be rapid, but not hurried.

A howitzer with canister and shrapnel to go.

A wagon with planks and material to repair the Newmarket bridge.

Duryea to have the two hundred rifles. He will pick the men to whom to entrust them.

Rocket to be thrown up from Newport News. Notify Commodore Pendergrast of this to prevent general alarm.

Newport News movement to be made somewhat later, as the distance is less.

If we find the enemy and surprise them, men will fire one volley, if desirable, not reload, and go ahead with the bayonet.

As the attack is to be by night, or dusk of morning, and in two detachments, our people should have some token, say a white rag (or dirty white rag) on the left arm.

Perhaps the detachments who are to do the job should be smaller than a regiment, three hundred or five hundred, as the right and left of the attack would be more easily handled.

If we bag the Little Bethel men, push on to Big Bethel, and similarly bag them. Burn both the Bethels, or blow up if brick.

To protect our rear in case we take the field-pieces, and the enemy should march his main body (if he has any) to recover them, it would be well to have a squad of competent artillerists, regular or other, to handle the captured guns on the retirement of our main body. Also spikes to spike them if retaken.

George Scott to have a “shooting iron.”

Perhaps Duryea’s men would be awkward with a new arm in a night or early dawn attack, where there will be little marksman duty to perform. Most of the work will be done with the bayonet, and they are already handy with the old ones.

There was a small negro church called Little Bethel which stood in advance of Great Bethel a short distance. That was in no way fortified, and sheltered a few men.

I could not go with the command myself and it was not proper that I should; but I selected as commander my officer next in rank, General Pierce, of Massachusetts. I very much wished to devolve the command on Colonel Phelps as certainly the more competent officer, but there were unfortunately one or two colonels outranking him that were no more qualified than General Pierce, and I did not like to do these officers an apparent injustice. Besides I did not deem the enterprise at all difficult.

Newport News was nearer Bethel, and my proposition was that the regiment there should start later than the two regiments from Camp Hamilton, and that at a well-known junction of the road they should meet, advance as fast as possible, capture Little Bethel, which could easily be done, and then all make an assault at daylight upon the entrenchments at Great Bethel. To be sure of having the march properly timed, I ordered the signal to be given at Newport News. There were four very small howitzers which were to be drawn by the men, for want of horses to take up larger guns.

With six of our men to one of the enemy I could not conceive how there could be any possibility of not marching at once over the works; and if the troops had marched steadily forward the rebels would not have stayed a minute.

Everything was utterly mismanaged. When the troops got out four or five miles to the junction where the regiments were to meet, it being early dawn and the officers being very much scared, Colonel Bendix mistook the colonels and staff of the other regiment for a body of cavalry, and fired upon them. The fire was returned; and by that performance we not only lost more men than were lost in the battle, but also ended all chance for a surprise.

The two regiments marched forward, the main force remaining behind. Duryea took Little Bethel, which had been abandoned. With two hundred rifle-men supporting Greble and his cannon, Duryea went forward with his Zouaves to a piece of timber, and opened fire in answer to the enemy’s artillery. Greble advanced his guns within three hundred yards of the enemy’s battery. He was pretty soon left by the Zouaves, who took shelter in the woods. That was no harm, as nobody came out from the entrenchments to disturb him. He silenced one of the enemy’s guns, and substantially all of them, when by the last discharge of a gun by the enemy he was instantly killed.

From that time there did not seem to be a head more than a cabbage head to undertake to do anything, except it might be Winthrop. Greble held his position an hour and a half, while the main body of the troops stood about a half mile from his position waiting for the officers to form a plan of battle. They carefully disobeyed orders, which were, as has been seen, to go right ahead with fixed bayonets and fire but one shot, and they did not do even that. If they had only marched steadily forward, as I have said before, the enemy would have fled.

The plan that they at last agreed upon was well enough, only an exceedingly contrary one. They decided not to attack the rebel position in front, but to endeavor to go around it. Therefore it was agreed that Duryea should hold his place where it was, in apparent support of Greble’s battery; that Colonel Townsend should march obliquely to the left beyond the woods so that he might strike the Yorktown road and attack the enemy in his rear and cut him off from Yorktown; that at the same time Bendix should march by his flank obliquely to the right and then go across a little stream easily fordable, and form a junction with Townsend in the rear of the enemy’s entrenchments; and that would result either in the enemy taking flight or being captured.

But as Townsend moved up, a portion of his command got a little ahead of him on the other side of a stone wall. When he saw them, he took them for a body of the enemy trying to flank him, and at once concluded to retire. He did retire, leaving Winthrop near the fort in expectation of instant victory. Winthrop did not know that the order had been given for the retirement of Townsend’s troops. Winthrop sprang upon a log to take a view of the situation, and see how matters stood. He was supported by one private. All the rest of his support had retired under orders. As he stood up in full view, a rifle shot from the enemy killed him instantly. Meantime Duryea and Bendix were trying to pass to the left of the enemy’s entrenchments to be ready to spring upon them when Townsend had got to his position; and that was all that was done.

A council was called and all the colonels but Duryea voted to retire, and Pierce gave the order. The ground it was put upon was that the troops with long marching were hungry. They had actually marched eleven miles; and if Pierce had given the order for them to sit down and take lunch, the enemy would have run away (as is now known they did do), because they would have supposed we had come to stay. A few volunteers headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Warren remained on the field until they could pick up all the wounded. They brought off Greble’s gun, and then had to drag the wounded in wagons nine miles.

Upon the return to the fort the stories that were brought back were sufficient evidence of the great alarm. Pierce said that there were between four and five thousand of the enemy.

These statements will perhaps be better summed up in the way they finally got into the Northern press, through a communication addressed to me: —

Men cannot be required to stand in front of a rampart thirty feet high, before the muzzles of mounted guns, loaded with grape and canister and musket balls, doing nothing. When they are commanded to march through fire and reach the ditch, they must be provided with the means to cross it, or jump into it, and sticking their bayonets into the slope of the scarp, form with them ladders by means of which the more active can mount the parapet. But before men are sent into a position — recollecting that every ditch will be swept by a flank fire — they must not only be instructed in their duties, but supported by a steady fire upon the enemy.

As a specimen of the stories reported back, I have a vivid memory of an extraordinary one told me by one of the bravest young men I ever knew. He was then not even a private in the army, but he begged of me the privilege of going with the expedition and carrying a musket. His father was a warm friend of mine and I took his son in my charge when I first started, using him as a sort of private secretary to take care of my papers and copy some of them. I afterwards appointed. him a lieutenant when I raised my troops for the New Orleans expedition. He went down there with me, became a very efficient officer, distinguished for bravery and dash, and in two years was made a brigadier-general for his defence of one of the forts on the Mississippi River against a very superior force of the enemy. He was a very level-headed gentleman in every particular. I think I left him in the Department of the Gulf as a lieutenant-colonel. There his promotions were got under other commanders. Yet in the evening of that day at Great Bethel, after I had spent several hours hearing all sorts of stories, he came into my office and said: —

“General, do you want me to tell you anything of the fight up at Great Bethel?”

“Yes, I do,” said I; “I have heard nothing but the account of men who seem to have been frightened almost to death. I don’t believe you were.”

“But I was, General, yet I think I can tell you what I saw. I cannot tell you anything about the two regiments shooting at each other going up, because I was not there at that time; I was with Duryea’s regiment. Well, we took Little Bethel, and that was not anything to take; the rebels had run away. Then we marched up into the woods to support Greble’s battery, and we remained there a while. As we came up to the woods the enemy began to fire at us and the balls at first went over our heads into the trees. Well, we could have stood that, but, General, they fired ‘rotten balls.’”

“You mean shells, I suppose?”

“Well, yes; that is what they told me afterwards they were; but they would strike a tree and burst, and the pieces would drop around among us. I guess if they had been regular balls the men would have stood it, but they broke and scattered to the woods. It seemed as if they might as well scatter as anyway; because there was nobody came out of the fort at us.”

“Well,” said I, “I am glad to see a man who got near enough to see what the fort was.”

It was a very large fort, I should think some thirteen feet high, and they had mounted on it some fifteen or twenty guns. There was a ditch in the front, and if we had got up to it it would have been impossible for us to have climbed up so as to get in it.

“Do you know anybody that got nearer to it than you?”

“No; there were some as near. But Winthrop went clear up farther than any of us, and then he. went back to the main body of the troops.”

That was the least exaggerated report that I got of the fort. Some reported as many as thirty guns. As a matter of fact, there were three six-pounder field-pieces, and the fortification was so low that they had to dig an excavation to let the wheels down so as to bring the top of the parapet above the top of the gun carriages so as to protect them from our fire. Afterwards I rode my horse at full trot over those thirteen feet high parapets.

I sent quite early in the evening to have George Scott, who was to have a “shooting iron” and accompany Winthrop, and found him The contraband of War. meeting of Gen. Butler and Maj. Carey at Union picket lines next Hampton. mourning bitterly for his loss. I asked him if he was afraid to go up that night to Big Bethel and see who were there and how many there were. He said he would go up, and I gave him a light basket containing some restoratives and bandages if he should find any wounded. He started with alacrity. I told him to get back as soon as he could, and to have me called at whatever hour of night. Returning before daybreak he reported to me, and from the nature of the report, I had no doubt of its truth. He had gone on to the field, and had looked around in the woods to see if he could find any wounded or dead men, but found none. He crept up carefully near the works and listened to hear any noise of a sentinel or anybody. Not hearing anything, he cautiously advanced until he got up to the breastwork, and then, after carefully looking it over, he went into the work, and found not one soul there. The enemy had retired, and nobody to this day, as far as I can ascertain, knows whether the rebels went before our men did or afterwards.

Contraband of War
“The Contraband of War.”
Meeting of Gen Butler and Maj. Carey at Union Pickett Lines next Hampton.

It may be worthy of note that the same thing happened at the battle near Manassas Junction, known as the battle of Bull Run; after the fight both armies ran away, so that there was no armed force on the battle field, as I have been informed, and correctly, I believe.

It will be seen that the affair at Bethel was simply a skirmish, and not even a respectable one at that, either in the vigor of the attack or in the loss of men. We lost quite as many men by the fire of Colonel Bendix upon Colonel Townsend’s regiment of foot, mistaking it for cavalry, as we lost altogether at Bethel.

When the plan of the expedition became fully known and the condition of the place which was to be attacked was ascertained, nobody criticised the movement, as there were two regiments to go into the fight with a brigadier-general in command. I had but one brigadier-general, General Pierce, and I had to give him the command. Yet while no blame could seem to attach to me, a senseless cry went out against me, and it almost cost me my confirmation in the Senate. Of course every Democrat voted against me, and so did some of the Republicans, for various reasons. I suppose I should have failed of confirmation if Colonel Baker, then senator from Oregon, who had been detailed to do duty with me at Fortress Monroe, had not been in his seat and explained the senselessness of the clamor. But one senator from my own State voted for me, the other, the senior senator, voting against me because of my difference with Governor Andrew on the slave question.

In the meantime neither horses nor artillery came. I did, however, get a very valuable reinforcement of a California regiment and a half, at the head of which was Colonel Baker, who had had some experience in Mexico as an officer. We agreed to attempt, as soon as our horses and artillery should come, an expedition that would reflect credit on both of us, and we determined that neither should blame the other if it failed, because both would go together.

I asked, on the 23d of May, for a few artillery and cavalry horses with their equipments. These were not received from Washington until July 21, and then only after every possible exertion on my part even to the extent, as we have seen, of causing them to be bought by my own agent and having them brought on to Washington.

This was not negligence, as I at first supposed, but studied unjust treatment. I should not venture to say this did I not have it in a letter from a man in Washington who knew everything that was done about army headquarters, — a bold soldier, an officer, a general. As he is yet alive I do not give his name; but the letter has been published now more than a quarter of a century and no man has ever dared to question it. It is as follows: —

June 8th I received your letter and despatch, and, contrary to your orders, I read both to the President, under the seal of confidence, however. I have told him that ——— would never let you have any troops to make any great blow, and I read the despatch to show that I understood my man. He intended to treat you as he did ——— , and as he has always treated those whom he knew would be effective if he gave them the means, retaining everything in his own power and under his own immediate control, so as to monopolize all the reputation to be made.

I have been a little afraid lest you might attempt more than your means justified, under the impression that you would otherwise disappoint, the country. But I am pleased to see that you have not made this mistake. You must work on patiently till you feel yourself able to do the work you attempt, and not play into your enemies’ hands, or those of the miserable do-nothings here, by attempting more than in your cool judgment the force you have can effect. You will gradually get the means, and then you may make an effective blow. Unfortunately, indeed, the difficulties increase as your force increases, if not more rapidly. We have forty thousand men, I believe, and provisions and transportation enough to take them to Richmond any day, and yet our lines do not extend five miles into Virginia, where there are not, in my opinion, men enough to oppose the march of half the number to Richmond. Old ——— is at ——— with twenty thousand men, and is moving as cautiously towards the Potomac as if the banks were commanded by an army of Bonaparte’s best legions, instead of a mob, composed for the most part of men who will only wait for an opportunity to desert a flag they detest. This war will last forever if something does not happen to unseat old ———. ——— in the West, with sixty thousand men under canvas, has not made a movement except let a few regiments march up the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, at the urgent solicitations of the people. So we go. Congress will probably catch us without our having performed any service worthy of the great force we have under pay.

I grumble this way all the time, and to everybody, in the hope that I may contribute to push on the column. I am very much in hopes we shall be pushed into action by the indignation of the people, if not by our own sense of what is due to the cause we have taken in hand.

On the day that I received my horses and artillery and was preparing to start on our expedition, the battle of Bull Run was fought. I had ascertained before, from a private source, that I was not to have any aid before the battle of Bull Run, and that some of my troops were to be withdrawn. Immediately after that battle, which was predestined to disaster on our side, as I shall take leave to make plain hereafter, an order came on the 24th of July that all my effective forces should be removed to Baltimore together with Colonel Baker. They had become so frightened at Washington that they supposed the secessionists of Baltimore would rise, while there was no more danger of it than there was of an outbreak at Boston. In fact, there never was at any time during the war so much of an outbreak at Baltimore as there was at Boston when the draft riots occurred; and that Boston outbreak was put down by a young officer of mine, Lieutenant Carruth, with two pieces of artillery, served by men who had not yet been mustered into service.

Of course this move of Scott ended all hope or expectation that anything further would be allowed to be done at Fortress Monroe. To make it sure that nothing more would be done, as Scott thought, he soon afterward sent a man to relieve me from command that could not do anything but simply occupy the position of commander of that department, and leave me to do the work, and restrain me from doing anything.

General Wool’s condition and Scott’s knowledge of it will appear in the following correspondence: —

Fortress Monroe, August 8, 1861.

Col. Thomas A. Scott, Assistant Secretary of War:

Dear Sir: — May I ask if you have overlooked the order signed by the President for the raising of five thousand troops? I pray you get this thing through for me, and I will be obliged forever and ever. I am losing good daylight, now that the three months men are being disbanded. Can you not add this to the many kind courtesies of our friendship?

Truly yours,

Benj. F. Butler.

Headquarters of the Army, August 8, 1861.

Major-General Wool, U. S. A., Troy, N. Y.:

It is desirable that you repair to and assume command of the department of which Fortress Monroe is the place of headquarters. It is intended to reinforce that department (recently reduced) for aggressive purposes. Is your health equal to that command? If yes, you will be ordered thither at once. Reply immediately.

Winfield Scott.

Headquarters Department of Virginia,
Fortress Monroe,
August 11, 1861.

Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott:

General: — I have the honor to report the safe return of an expedition under Lieutenant Crosby, of my command, upon the Eastern shore, for the purpose of interrupting the commerce between the rebels of Maryland and their brothers in Virginia. I also enclose herewith a copy of a report of a reconnoissance of the position of the enemy, made from a balloon. The enemy have retired a large part of their forces to Bethel, without making any attack upon Newport News. I have nothing further of interest to report except the reception this morning of an order that Brevet Major-General Wool is directed by the President to take command of the Department of Virginia.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

There had been great complaint in the New York Times that General Wool had not been given some place where his great experience would have a fair chance to benefit the country. It was argued by the Times in an editorial after the battle of Bull Run, that there should be a dictator who should take Lincoln’s place and carry on the war, and that George Law should be that dictator. As this was not done at once, there was a cry that the great State of New York should have another major-general in the army. It was urged that there was in New York a major-general of the regular army — General Wool — who had lived for a great many years in a state of retiracy, and that he should have a command in the army suited to his rank, and that it was the duty of the President to have him assigned to such command.

Now, the President well knew that General Wool could not do anything, simply because he was too old and infirm, a fact that he knew as well as anybody. It was evident, too, from Scott’s letter that he also knew it, because he wrote Wool telling him that if his health would allow it, it would be desirable that he should be sent to Fortress Monroe. Thereupon Wool came there; but there was no order to relieve me, and I was not at liberty to leave the department.

Wool got there on the 17th of August, and I turned over the command to him. There was nothing I could complain of. A very much older soldier, and a very efficient military officer when he was younger, was ordered to command in my department; and although he had been assigned only to the Department of South Eastern Virginia, yet I supposed that meant the whole Department of Virginia and North Carolina. At any rate, I did not choose to struggle on that point, and so I turned over the command to him, using these words: — “No personal feelings of regret intrudes itself at the change in the command of the department, by which our cause acquires the services in the field of the veteran general commanding, in whose abilities, experience, and devotion to the flag, the whole country places the most explicit reliance, and under whose guidance and command, all of us, and none more than your late commander, are proud to serve.”

Thereupon General Wool, who was lieutenant-general by brevet, immediately put me in command of all the troops in the department except the regulars.

Headquarters Department of Virginia,
Fortress Monroe, Va.,
August 21, 1861.

Special Order No. 9.

Major-General B. F. Butler is hereby placed in command of the volunteer forces in this department, exclusive of those at Fortress Monroe.

His present command at Camps Butler and Hamilton will include the First, Second, Seventh, Ninth, and Twentieth New York Regiments, the Battalion of Massachusetts Volunteers, and the Union Coast Guard, and the Mounted Rifles.

By command of Major-General Wool:

C. C. Churchill,
First Lieutenant, Third Artillery,
Actg. Asst. Adjt.-Gen.

To show what General Wool thought as to my not having done any more, I take leave to transcribe his first letter to General Scott, August 24, three days after he was put in command: —

Headquarters Department of Virginia,
Fortress Monroe Va, August 24.

Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott, General-in-chief:

General: — Allow me to ask your attention to the condition of the troops in this garrison. Of seven companies of artillery we have but six officers. It is reported to me that seven of the artillery officers have been appointed in the quartermaster’s and commissary departments. I have been compelled to take Captain Churchill for assistant adjutant-general. This leaves but five artillery officers. Notwithstanding, however, Captain Churchill, although his duties are exceedingly onerous, attends to the duties of his company. From this circumstance, not finding a volunteer officer fit for the duty, I have been compelled to take Captain Reynolds, of the Topographical Engineers, for aide-de-camp, which I request may be approved. I require two more, as the assistance of Captain Reynolds is indispensable in the office of the acting assistant adjutant-general.

The Tenth New York Regiment is attached to the garrison of Fortress Monroe, but is wholly unfit for the position. As soon as I can make the arrangements, I intend to exchange this regiment for another and a better one.

To operate on this coast with success (I mean between this and Florida) we want more troops. At any rate, I think we ought to have a much larger force in this department. If I had twenty or twenty-five thousand men, in conjunction with the navy, we could do much on this coast to bring back from Virginia the troops of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; but the arrangements should be left to Commodore Stringham and myself. I do not think it can be done efficiently at Washington. We know better than anyone at Washington attached to the navy what we require for such expeditions.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

John E. Wool,

My friends, a great many of them, were very much disturbed by this position of things. They said that this action of General Scott was intended to slight me; that I was made second in command, and that I ought to resign at once and go home, and the people would set it all right; that Scott had never blamed me for the reverse of even a platoon under my command except at Bethel, and that there the movement was well planned and failed only because it had to be carried out by somebody else than myself, so that at any rate I was not to blame.

I told all my friends that I did not feel aggrieved at all; that I would beat Scott at his own game, as indeed I was already prepared to do; that he had sent Wool down without any instructions; that Wool could not go anywhere or do anything; that Wool did not like Scott any better than Scott did me; that Wool wanted all the work done by some one else while he had a nice place in the camp, and I wanted to do all the work I could do and have somebody else take the responsibility.

I had been watching the building of Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark. I had had some loyal North Carolinians for many weeks in the forts at work, and I proposed, as soon as I could, to take the forts, for they were very important. But it would be of no more use for me to ask Scott for any troops with which to do it than it would be to attempt to fly. No, he would not even let me take the troops I had or any part of them.

Therefore, as soon as General Wool got fairly in his saddle, I explained to him these matters about the forts at Hatteras, and the great necessity of taking them. Now he was an officer in the regular army and I knew would never attempt such an expedition without a great many men with him; it must be a great expedition. Therefore I said nothing to him about how many men I thought it would need. I assured him, however, that there could be no danger of any attack either upon Newport News or Fortress Monroe, because I had sent up a balloon over a thousand feet so as to examine the whole country round about, and found that Magruder had retired to Bethel and Yorktown with his troops, and given up his expedition against Newport News. This, by the way, was the first balloon reconnoissance of the war.

I also told Wool that in his assignment Scott did not mean to let him do anything any more than he did me. I set out to him the exact condition of things in regard to Hatteras, and informed him that the navy was very anxious to make the attack, and if it were done while he was in command of that department, it would result in great glory to him as the first considerable success of the war. After my consultation with him, an order was drawn as follows, which he signed: —

Headquarters Department of Virginia,
Fortress Monroe, Va.,
August 25, 1861.

Special Order No. 13.

Major-General Butler will prepare eight hundred and sixty troops for an expedition to Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, to go with Commodore Stringham, commanding Home Squadron, to capture several batteries in that neighborhood. The troops will be as follows: Two hundred men from Camp Butler and six hundred from Camp Hamilton, with a suitable number of commissioned officers, and one company (B) of the Second Artillery from Fortress Munroe. They will be provided with ten days rations and water, and one hundred and forty rounds of ammunition. General Butler will report, as soon as he has his troops prepared, to Flag-Officer Stringham, and he will be ready to embark at one o’clock to-morrow. As soon as the object of the expedition is attained the detachment will return to Fortress Monroe.

Captain Tallmadge, chief quartermaster, will provide a detachment of eight hundred and sixty men for the expedition to Hatteras Inlet, with a suitable quantity of water for ten days consumption, and the chief commissary of subsistence, Captain Taylor, will provide it with rations for the same length of time. These officers will report the execution of these orders by ten o’clock to-morrow if possible.

By command of Major-General Wool:

C. C. Churchill,
First Lieutenant, Third Artillery,
Act. Asst. Adjt.-Gen.

Armed with the order we left Fortress Monroe at one o’clock on Monday, August 26. The last ship of our fleet but the Cumberland arrived at Hatteras about 4 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. We went to work landing troops that evening and put on shore all we could, 345, when all our boats became swamped in the surf. Our flat boat was stove, and also one of the boats from the steamer Pawnee. We therefore found it impracticable to land more troops. The landing was being covered by the guns of the Monticello and the Harriet Lane. I was on board the Harriet Lane directing the landing of the troops by means of signals, and was about landing with them, when the boats were stove. We were prevented from further attempts at landing by the rising of the wind and sea.

In the meantime the fleet had opened its fire upon the nearest fort, which was finally silenced and its flag struck. No firing was opened upon our troops from the other fort, and its flag was also struck. Supposing this to be a signal for surrender, Colonel Weber, who was in command on shore, advanced his troops up the beach. By my direction the Harriet Lane was trying to cross the bar so as to get in the smooth water of the inlet, when the other fort opened fire upon the Monticello, which had proceeded in advance of us.

Early the next morning the Harriet Lane ran in shore for the purpose of covering any attack upon the troops. At the same time a large steamer was observed coming down the sound. She was loaded with reinforcements of the enemy, but she was prevented from landing. At eight o’clock the fleet opened fire on the forts again, the flag-ship being anchored as near as the depth of water allowed and the other ships coming gallantly into action. Meanwhile I went with the Fanny over the bar into the inlet. As the Fanny rounded in over the bar, the rebel steamer Winslow went up the channel having on board a large number of rebel troops, which she had not been able to land. We threw a shot at her from the Fanny, but she proved to be out of range. I then sent Lieutenant Crosby on shore to demand the meaning of the white flag which had been hoisted. The boat soon returned, bringing the following communication from Samuel Barron, late captain in the United States Navy: —

Fort Hatteras, August 29, 1861.

Flag-Officer Samuel Barron, C. S. Navy, offers to surrender Fort Hatteras, with all the arms and munitions of war; the officers to be allowed to go out with side arms and the men without arms to retire.

S. Barron,
Commanding Naval Defences Virginia and North Carolina.

A verbal communication also was sent by Barron stating that he had 615 men in the fort and one thousand more within an hour’s call, but that he was anxious to spare the effusion of blood.

To both the written and verbal communications I made reply as follows, and sent it by Lieutenant Crosby: —

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General U. S. Army, commanding, in reply to the communication of Samuel Barron, commanding forces at Fort Hatteras, cannot admit the terms proposed. The terms offered are these: Full capitulation; the officers and men to be treated as prisoners of war. No other terms admissible. Commanding officers to meet on board flag-ship Minnesota to arrange details.

After waiting three quarters of an hour Lieutenant Crosby returned, bringing with him Captain Barron, Major Andrews, and Colonel Martin, of the rebel forces. Upon being received on board the tug Fanny, they informed me that they had accepted the terms proposed in my memorandum, and had come to surrender themselves and their command as prisoners of war. I informed them that inasmuch as the expedition was a combined one of the army and navy, the surrender must be made on board the flag-ship to Flag-Officer Stringham as well as to myself. They went on board the Minnesota, and the capitulation was agreed to.

I will mention in this connection that at the moment that my terms of capitulation were under consideration by the enemy, the transport Adelaide, crowded with troops, had grounded upon the bar; but by the active and judicious exertions of Commander Stellwagen she was got off after some delay. At the same time the Harriet Lane, in attempting to enter over the bar, had grounded and remained fast. Both were under the guns of the fort. This to me was a moment of the greatest anxiety. By these accidents a valuable ship of war, and a transport steamer, with a large portion of my troops, were within the power of the enemy. I had demanded the strongest terms, which he was then considering. He might refuse, and, seeing our disadvantage, renew the action. But I determined not to abate a tittle of what I believed to be due to the dignity of the government, nor even to give an official title to the officer in command of the rebels. Besides, my tug was in the inlet, and at least I could carry on the engagement with my two rifled six-pounders, well supplied with Sawyer’s shells.

The harm to the enemy by this capture was very great. We had 715 prisoners, one thousand stand of arms, thirty pieces of cannon, one ten-inch columbiad, a prize brig loaded with cotton, a sloop loaded with provisions and stores, two light boats, a schooner in ballast, five stand of colors, and 150 bags of coffee.

But this was not all the damage inflicted upon the enemy. As long as we kept control of the sea, we could hold that post for all time with a small force. That was exactly what we did do, and with a very small force — less than one thousand men. By so doing we controlled the whole coast of North and South Carolina in the sounds, and held the water communication from Norfolk to Beaufort, South Carolina. Burnside’s expedition afterwards never could have been sent out had we not held Hatteras.

The wonderful stupidity at Washington desired Hatteras Inlet stopped up, so that nothing could get into or out of it. So the fleet had supplied itself with two sand-laden schooners to sink in the inlet, where the sands floating around would have soon made dry land.

When I came there I saw the importance not only of having the inlet open but of guarding and defending it. I had positive orders from Washington to sink the sand vessels. With my usual hazardous bravado I came to the conclusion to disobey orders and not sink the vessels. I could do that with some safety, I thought, provided I got to Washington and carried the news of the capture myself.

Accordingly I had the wounded placed on board the transport steamer Adelaide, and had this vessel detached by leave of Flag-Officer Stringham of the navy, — a gallant officer, an energetic man, and a thorough gentleman, who had shown great capability and courage in that expedition, and who was rewarded for it soon after by being detached from his command and sent up to the Charlestown Navy Yard, near Boston, to superintend the repairing of hulks. He was to remain at Hatteras with the fleet to supply and defend the fort, until he should hear from me; and so I steamed night and day to Fortress Monroe.

Reporting to General Wool, I got leave immediately to go to Washington, or, as he expressed it, he sent me to Washington to report the matter, he agreeing with me that it was very necessary to hold Fort Hatteras and keep the inlet open. I went up the bay to Annapolis and left the wounded there, arriving there at a late hour in the evening. I immediately made requisition for a train to take myself and staff to Washington, and we started at eleven o’clock at night.

When we reached the junction of the Elkton Railroad with the Baltimore & Ohio, nineteen miles from Washington, I was informed that I could go no further that night. I asked why not, and the officer in charge said that they had no train in which to send me.

“I have a train of my own to go with,” I replied.

“Well,” said he, “I have been talking with your engineer, and he says it is dangerous to go.”

“Well, I hope you haven’t frightened him so he won’t go,” I replied. Going to the engineer I said: “Won’t you go to Washington with me?”

“If you say I shall go, I shall go, General, but it is dangerous.”

“Oh, well,” I said, “I have not come here for safety. Why is it dangerous?”

He said that it was because there was only one track open, and there might be freight trains coming out of Washington, and that we might run into them, as they started some time about midnight.

“Well,” I said, “we will detach all the cars and I will go with you on the engine;” and jumping on the engine, with one member of my staff, the rest remaining behind as there was no room for them, I said: “Let her go.”

“Shall we go slow,” said he, “so that we shall find out when a train is coming before we reach it, in time to back out?“

“With only your engine you ought to back out very quickly.”

“Oh, well,” said he, “but I want your directions.”

“Very well; let her go as fast as she can go.“

“Then,” he says, “hold on to your cap, General,” and we went that nineteen miles in forty minutes, and got into the depot at Washington five minutes before any train started out.

Dropping a twenty-dollar gold piece in the hands of the engineer, I got off, woke a sleeping negro in a carriage, and told him to drive up to Postmaster-General Blair’s house, opposite the White House, as fast as he could. As I drove up I saw Mr. Blair and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Fox, sitting together in his study. I went in. Fox knew that I had gone on the expedition to Hatteras, for it was one in which he was much interested. When he saw me he cried out: “Where from?” Contraband of War

Gustavus V. Fox,
Ass’t Secretary of United States Navy. From a photograph.

“Direct from Hatteras.”

“What news?”

I stated the result of the expedition. He was very much elated, and asked me to go right over and tell the President about it.

“We ought not to do that,” said I, “and get him up at this time of night. Let him sleep.”

“He will sleep enough better for it; so let us go and wake him up.”

We went over to the White House and got the watchman up. It took us some fifteen minutes to do it, and I remember remarking to Fox that if I was on the other side I could have come here and captured the President and carried him off. Then we went up into the Cabinet room. The President was called, and when our errand was hinted to him he immediately came in in his night shirt.

Everybody knows how tall Lincoln was, and he seemed very much taller in that garment; and Fox was about five feet nothing. In a few hurried words, without waiting for any forms or ceremonies, Fox communicated the news, and then he and Lincoln fell into each other’s arms. That is, Fox put his arms around Lincoln about as high as his hips, and Lincoln reached down over him so that his arms were pretty near the floor apparently, and thus holding each other they flew around the room once or twice, and the night shirt was considerably agitated. The commanding general was entirely overcome by the scene, and lying back on the sofa roared with the most irresistible merriment.

It was the first considerable success that the navy had anything to do with up to that time, or, indeed, the army either, except at Baltimore and Annapolis. The President shook me very warmly by the hand, and when I ventured to speak about what I had not done, he said: “You have done all right, you have done all right. Come to-morrow at ten o’clock and we will have a Cabinet meeting over it.”

I retired, and at ten o’clock the next morning I made my report to the President in Cabinet meeting. Among those present was General McClellan, whom I then saw for the first time. I explained the whole situation, giving reasons why I had not obeyed orders and stopped up Hatteras Inlet, and also stating the necessity for holding Fort Hatteras. On the next day I had the pleasure to report to my chief, General Wool, whom I never saw as such afterwards, that the Cabinet had voted unanimously that he should hold Fort Hatteras and Hatteras Inlet.

I had opened the way through Annapolis for the troops to save the capital; I had fulfilled my mission at Fortress Monroe; and by taking Hatteras I had atoned for capturing Baltimore and wiped out Big Bethel, all in a campaign of four months and fifteen days, besides showing the administration and the country the best way out of the slavery question. In all this time nobody else had done anything except to get soundly thrashed at Bull Run. Therefore I asked the President, as I had not been home since I left there on the 16th of April, if he would be kind enough to relieve me and allow me to go home. His farewell when he shook my hand was characteristic: —

“You have a right to go home, General, for a little rest, but study out another job for yourself.”

I may truthfully say, with pride and gratitude, that my road home was an ovation, but for a while my position was an extremely annoying one. Four months and a half before, the young lawyer had left Boston where he could go anywhere and everywhere and not be disturbed by anybody. The general now came back, and was not allowed to go anywhere or do anything without somebody interfering with him and insisting upon his being here or going there, with an enormous quantity of stuffing and feasting. It was so sudden a change from perfect freedom to a perfect slavery of kindness — from taking his constitutional walk in the morning any and everywhere, to not being able to go anywhere without a carriage, because he could not go through the streets for the multitude of hand shakings and greetings that he had to undergo — that it was hardly enjoyable.

It will serve, I hope, some future student of the art of carrying on war with volunteer troops, — and I am inclined to think that they are the only troops that we will use in large numbers in the future, on this side of the Atlantic at least, — if we examine some of the causes of the nation’s failure at the battle of Bull Run, which had greater results and a more substantial effect on the country than any other in the war, except, perhaps, the battle of Gettysburg.

The battle ought not to have been fought at that time by any officer. It was a predestined and foredoomed defeat. It was fought under every condition, of difficulty and discouragement with which it was possible to surround a battle. It was urged on in a manner and under an influence disgraceful to the common sense of mankind. The New York Tribune set up a clamor day by day, which had no foundation save in the half-addled brain of its editor, a man who had not strength enough to stand a political defeat in after years without going idiotically insane. His cry of “On to Richmond” was repeated by other newspapers, and in this way a great pressure was brought to bear upon the Cabinet, to which they more or less reluctantly yielded.

Scott, too, was practically about to retire and give way to some younger general as commander of the Army of the Potomac, and practically as commander-in-chief. He saw in the movement towards Richmond the last chance of having any fighting done under his command; and as he wished to go out in a blaze of glory, he consented to it.

It is but fair to McDowell to say that he was reluctant to fight the battle. But he was urged on to fight it, as is shown by his report, for the very reason that he should not have fought it. He says: —

I am somewhat embarrassed by the inability of the troops to take care of enough of their rations to make them last the time they should, and by the expiration of the term of service of many of them. The Fourth Pennsylvania goes out to-day, and others succeed rapidly. I have made a request to the regiment that they remain a few days longer, but do not hope for much success. In a few days I shall lose many thousands of the best of this force.

It is made very clear that for those very reasons he should not have fought the battle then. Substantially all his troops were going home soon and would not fight. They had been out for their three months, as they had engaged to be, and like schoolboys they were notching the days on a stick when they would go home.

McDowell was a captain three months before. He had had no experience in fighting troops. He was a brave man, but that was the last time he would get a chance to fight there at the head of the Army of the Potomac.

He speaks in that report of the men being well disciplined. An older general than he, I venture to disagree with him. Troops do not get disciplined in ninety days, especially if that is to be their term of service.

There are two conditions under which fresh troops, new troops, and especially volunteer troops, will fight well. The first is: When they are brought into the field for the first time and know nothing about the meeting; when they think that a regiment cut to pieces is not more than one third left alive, and when they really think they are to fight up to about that point. Under such circumstances they will fight well even if they hardly know enough of the school of the soldier to load their muskets rightly.

When in the course of conversation I have stated to some officers with what readiness new volunteers go into action if called upon to act at once, I have had occasional doubt expressed, the doubters agreeing that they knew nothing on the subject. This has led me to examine the matter with considerable care, and I am confirmed in my opinion by the action of raw troops in several instances from my personal knowledge. But I think one of the very best illustrations I can give of the action of raw troops is in the case of a single Maine regiment, the First Maine Heavy Artillery, afterwards Eighteenth Maine. The regiment was raised and sent to Washington to guard the forts. It had never been in the field, nor heard a hostile shot. It was moved forward as fast as possible and joined Grant’s army the night before the battle of Spottsylvania Court House. It went in eighteen hundred strong, and when it came out it was with a loss of four hundred and eighty-one killed and wounded, twelve of whom were officers, and five missing.

They were put into several battles, including Cold Harbor, down to the time of the crossing of the James, June 12. On the 18th of July, having about twelve hundred men fit for duty, it was ordered to make a charge in double rank, and came out losing six hundred and thirty-two killed and wounded, thirteen officers being killed and twelve others wounded. And I was told by an officer of that regiment that after that time they would not have assaulted a pig-pen.

The trouble comes when you put volunteers in camp, especially in the face of the enemy, and let them hear camp rumors, camp gossip, camp ghost and scarecrow stories about masked batteries and black horse cavalry. As if black horse cavalry were any more effective and terrible than white horse or sorrel horse cavalry! And yet, during our war, the black horsemen were always the ogre of our soldiers. Nor did the men ever stop to reflect that a masked battery did not do any harm as long as it remained masked, and that when it was unmasked and began to fire it was no worse to encounter than a battery of the same size that had never been masked. Men so instructed will not fight at all; they are full of all manner of surprises; they will run at nothing and be surprised at everything. And that was the condition of McDowell’s army as far as the three months men were concerned, and none but the regulars had been in the service more than three months.

The other condition under which men will fight, is after they have been in the service long enough and got sufficiently disciplined to know how to fight; have had their first scare in a battle, and have learned that a regiment cut to pieces means a regiment that has lost one man in ten. Then they will fight better and better as long as they remain in the service, if they have proper officers, who treat them kindly and justly.

Then the three months officers were always worse than the men. They were of necessity to be more exposed in action than the men. They generally had good homes and nice places to go home to, and a great many of them would say if they got out of this action they would never get into another.

Then there was another matter: Everywhere among green troops there is a chronic disposition to over-estimate the number of the opposing troops. The first duty of the commander should be to find out exactly how many troops there are in the bodies opposed to him. It is exceedingly easy to do that, but it was never done in the beginning of the war; and the fearful imaginations of officers multiplied their opponents wonderfully.

We have already seen that at Great Bethel, General Pierce and his men believed the fortifications, instead of being four were fourteen feet high, that the four guns were twenty, and that the five hundred rebels in the fortification were four or five thousand. And on the other hand, the rebels believed that the Yankee force of General Pierce that they saw was five thousand men, when there were really but eight hundred.

And so at Bull Run. The entire Union force, sick and well, was 35,732 men; whereas there is a printed estimate reported by the Confederate authority of 54,140. After the battle, the officers in charge of the prisoners captured by the rebels, having made a calculation by asking the prisoners what regiments or batteries they belonged to, gravely reported the Federal force on the field that day at 63,000.

And so exactly about everything else. The total actual loss of the United States troops in killed, wounded, and missing was 1,107. The total loss on the Confederate side, as reported by the rebel general, Joe Johnston, was 1,897. He naively concludes his report in that regard with the statement that the loss of the enemy could not be ascertained, but must have been four or five thousand.

There was another matter: Both sides left the field, and both sides in their reports lied about the manner of leaving. Either side could have pursued the other; certainly the Confederate troops could have come into Washington without difficulty if they had chosen to come.

Again, Bethel and Bull Run are alike in another thing: In Bethel our people retreated because they thought they saw large numbers of reinforcements coming up. At Bull Run our troops retreated in disorder and gave way because they saw the cars coming in from Harper’s Ferry loaded with Johnston’s troops of the Army of the Shenandoah, and so they gave up all for lost. And the general idea of the people to this day is that the coming up of Johnston’s army from Harper’s Ferry on the afternoon of the battle as a surprise reinforcement was the cause of the loss of Bull Run.

Now, the reports on both sides show that Johnston evaded Patterson at Harper’s Ferry in obedience to an order sent him on the 17th, and that he and all his army got down to Bull Run on the night of the 19th, and were in front of McDowell on the 20th; and so far from Joe Johnston’s men coming into the action late on the 21st, and our men running away from them, these men bore substantially the whole brunt of the battle during the day, and lost more than twice as many men as did the rebel Army of the Potomac.

Besides, and in addition to all these disadvantages of the conduct of the battle, Johnston’s force had been allowed by Patterson to escape him entirely, and Patterson never thought of following him up. If he had followed him up he could have been in Johnston’s rear or on the left flank of the rebel army at the battle of Bull Run. But what could Patterson do? The rebel army had gone away from him, and he did not know they were gone until three days afterwards. He thought there were thirty-five thousand men before him, when there had been less than nine thousand, and they had gone down to operate on McDowell’s right.

The battle of Bull Run illustrates every vice, weakness, and incapacity of officers and men, who were good and true undoubtedly, but in a condition in which they will never fight. So bad was it all that one might reverently believe that a special Providence ordered it, so that slavery might be wiped out. Because if we had beaten at Bull Run, I have no doubt the whole contest would have been patched up and healed over by concessions to slavery, as nobody in power was ready then for its abolition.



MY return home under the circumstances related in the preceding chapter gave opportunity for occurrences at once very novel and diverting. When I got to Lowell, my friends and neighbors insisted upon showing me every honor and attention, which were accepted as tokens of personal friendship and regard. But there was another thing which I never heard of or read of before, and which showed me a curious phase of human nature. As I have said before, I had lived in Lowell from boyhood. I knew perhaps of its citizens, men and women, as many as anybody else, and I think more of them knew me by sight than any other citizen. But now persons whom I had known would halt on the sidewalk to see me pass; would get in my way to examine me and look me over (and this refers to both sexes); would surround me in depots and other public places and hem me in without a word, as if determined to see what change had been made in me, — whether I was the same man who went away a few months before. Particular friends, men that I had known, would do the same thing with doubtingness. It afforded a curious spectacle, and sometimes the sensation was not altogether pleasant.

For the first day I supposed it might be my uniform, and so I went back and got into my lawyer’s coat, trousers, and slouch hat, thinking that would set them all right. But it didn’t; and it has hardly ceased to be the case yet. I think I at last came to know what hero worship meant.

I have mentioned that just before being relieved from Fortress Monroe I had sent a little reconnoissance into Eastern Virginia on the peninsula to see if that section could easily be separated from the rebel State. I had communicated with General Scott, and I found soon after I got home that General Dix was permitted to gather a force with which to make my expedition. I say “my,” because the dates will show who originated it. Again, I found that General McClellan had awakened to the necessity and usefulness of an expedition to North Carolina via Hatteras and the Sounds, and that he had detailed General Burnside to come up here and raise troops for that purpose.

There were things enough to be done, but there began to be great difficulty in getting troops enough to do those things. This was because recruiting had come to an absolute standstill. Senator Henry Wilson, who was the chairman of the Committee of Military Affairs of the Senate, had openly said in the Senate that no more troops were needed; that recruiting ought to stop. He was also on General McClellan’s staff. But Wilson did not echo the wishes of his chief, for even then McClellan was demanding more troops for the Army of the Potomac.

My attention being called to this matter of recruiting, I examined it with some care. I found that the war was dwindling into a partisan one. The governors of States insisted upon having all the troops under their own administration and control. They thus obtained the appointment of all the officers of regiments, including the colonels. The governors of substantially all the States were Republicans, and the army was being recruited almost entirely by the friends and protégés of the Republican governors. These men enlisted their Republican neighbors and associates, and then, to eke out their companies so that they could be put at the head of them, they recruited all the scallawags there were in their neighborhood, and not unfrequently robbed the houses of correction and the State prisons, the governor pardoning the prisoners on the condition that they should enlist.

It struck me very forcibly that if this thing went on, it would very soon become a party war, and if that took place it would be very disastrous because it might bring about a division of the North.

Perhaps I can better explain all I mean about this by stating exactly what I did about it. I think I had spent about seven days in Massachusetts when I was invited to speak in Faneuil Hall, at a meeting to promote the prosecution of the war. I wrote to that meeting that I could not attend because I went in for vigorous prosecution of the war, and as evidence of it I had gone.

When I reached Washington I called upon the President. He received me very kindly and conversed with me about several matters which interested him. One of them was upon the question of punishing desertion by death. I had observed how much the army was losing by desertion and that there was no punishing for that crime. I advised him very strongly to punish deserters ruthlessly by death, until, in the Army of the Potomac at least, desertion should be stopped. At this time men were deserting and going home, and then selling themselves for substitutes or enlisting to fill the quota of some other town, getting large sums of money to go back again. Some of them even would desert from the troops of one State and get appointed officers of the troops of another State.

The President was a good deal disturbed by the arguments I put before him, but at last he came round and said, with a face that showed a very sorrowful determination: —

“How can I have a butcher’s day every Friday in the Army of the Potomac?”

“Better have that,” said I, “than have the Army of the Potomac so depleted by desertion that good men will be butchered on other days than Friday.“

But we never convinced each other on that subject; it was the one subject on which we agreed to disagree. That I was right and he was wrong I may have occasion to show hereafter.

“Mr. President,” said I, after we had finished discussing the matter of desertions, “when I accepted the commission with which you were kind enough to honor me, I told you that we had disagreed in politics, but that so long as I held the commission I should fully and faithfully sustain all the acts of your administration, and when I felt that I could not do that, I would return the commission. But you asked me to promise to lay before you any matter upon which I disagreed with you, before I took that step. Accordingly I have come here to lay before you your method of carrying on this war as it strikes me, and to put before you what I think must be the result if some change is not made. 1 can speak freely, because the thing to which I wish to call your attention is not your fault but your misfortune, and were it not for that fact it would be deadly to your administration and your cause.”

“To what do you refer?”

“To the method in which your armies are being raised. I, as you know, had nothing to do with recruiting a single soldier, but I have lately been at home looking into the matter. I find all the good men of your army are Republicans as a rule, or are all scallawags, State prison birds, and other vagabonds, picked up to fill out enlistments. As I told you, I am a Democrat. Now there are no Democrats as privates or subordinate officers going into the war. There are none going in as officers except they are West Point men, who are made colonels of regiments at once, although in the course of their profession they would have had to work twenty years before they would have obtained that rank. The subordinate officers have gathered up what men they could from their Republican neighbors. The Democrats in their localities, not having any confidence in their politics and looking substantially upon the war as a Republican war, are taking no part in it.

“This seems to me to be bad statesmanship. The President of the United States can raise, as he has the right to raise, volunteer troops of the United States. When he employs the militia of the United States as such, he must employ the militia of the States; but he has full right to enlist volunteers to carry out special objects of the war.

“Think of it a moment, Mr. President. Suppose the governors of the States should refuse to raise any volunteers; would not the President of the United States have a right to draft men for the service of the United States, and when he drafts such men could he not appoint officers to organize and draft them without the leave of the governors of the States? Furthermore, if the present methods of recruiting go on until the election, which is next year, and then you have a million of men or so in the field, you will be short that number of Republican votes because your voters will be in the field.

“You may perhaps get the States to pass laws, by constitutional amendment or otherwise, that your soldiers may vote outside of the State, yet that would be attended in ordinary election with a great deal of mischievous trouble and quite probable delay. Your aim should rather be to get every Democrat possible in the war. Get leading Democrats and they will bring in their rank and file, their clientele, who believe in them and would rally about them.”

He said: “There is meat in that,” which, by the by, was a favorite expression of his; “but what would you advise me to do?”

“Well, I will begin with myself; I am out of a job. I have a movement in mind that I hope you will put in my hands. But it cannot be done, and you cannot even put it in anybody’s hands, until you get some men; and it ought to be begun at least early in the spring, the preparation being made for it during the coming fall or winter. Give me the authority and the money to organize and pay the troops with, and I will go to New England and enlist six to ten thousand men. I will have every officer a Democrat, — that is, if I can have the appointment of the officers, subject to your approval. I won’t reject any Republicans that want to be enlisted, but I will have four fifths of every regiment good, true Democrats, who believe in sustaining the country and in loyalty to the flag of the Union, and who will fight for their country under command of officers I shall choose. And if I succeed, you had better try it in a good many other States.”

“Well, but what will you do with the governors?”

“I won’t have any difficulty with the governors of any of the States in New England but one. I will try not to have any difficulty with him, but I do not believe I shall succeed, but I shall enlist as many men as I want notwithstanding him.”

“I suppose you refer to Governor Andrew?”

“I do; and if he knows the project in which I am enlisting he will not only try to stop it in our State, but he will try to interfere with it everywhere. He is covering your table now with complaints of your administration and of your manner of carrying on the war. I shall be glad if you will assist me in this by asking the governors to aid me and appoint such officers as I desire to have appointed.”

Said he: “I think you had better do it; draw such an order as you want.”

And thereupon I drew one and had it signed by the Secretary of War, and approved by the President. The order was as follows: —

Maj-Gen. B. F. Butler is hereby authorized to raise, organize, arm, uniform, and equip a volunteer force for the war, in the New England States, not exceeding six (6) regiments of the maximum standard, of such arms, and in such proportions, and in such manner as he may judge expedient; and for this purpose his orders and requisitions on the quartermaster, ordnance, and other staff departments of the army, are to be obeyed and answered. Provided the cost of such recruitment does not exceed in the aggregate that of like troops now or hereafter raised for the service of the United States.

I came home, and the first New England State I struck was Connecticut. Her chief magistrate was Governor Buckingham, than whom a nobler, truer, or more loyal man did not exist. I told him I wanted to enlist a regiment under that order.

“Well, General,” said he, “whom do you want for colonel of your regiment?”

“I want Mr. Henry Deming, late mayor of Hartford.”

Be it known that Mr. Deming was with me at the Charleston convention. He was a thorough Democrat, and even a little more pronounced on the slavery question than I was. As mayor of Hartford he had called the city council together to consult if my troops should be allowed to go through Hartford on the way to the war. He was a true, loyal man, who did not believe in having a war, but who was a patriot to the core. He died the first Republican representative to Congress that was ever elected in the Hartford district.

“Why,” said the governor, “Deming will never go to the war in the world.”

“Well, Governor, if you offer him the appointment and he doesn’t go, it will be his fault and not yours, won’t it?”

“Oh, well, I will appoint him if you desire, but I don’t think it will do any good; you will have to select somebody else, I guess.”

“It may be so,” I said; “I guess I will go and see Deming.”

So I walked over to Mr. Deming’s office, called upon him, and after the usual chat between old friends, I said: “Deming, I am going to raise a regiment in Connecticut for a special service, and I want a good man for colonel, — I want you.”

“Well, if you do, you cannot have me, because Governor Buckingham would never appoint me.”

“Then I suppose if he would, you would serve with me. I cannot tell you now what the service will be, but it will be a highly honorable one, and I hope a fortunate one. You had better not let this great war go by without taking a hand in it in behalf of the country, for the sake of your posterity.”

“But do you think Governor Buckingham will appoint me?”

“If he won’t, you will have done your duty. But I think he will; I think he will not only appoint you but will let you nominate to him every officer of your regiment, and will expect you to raise the men, — and I expect you to raise them Democrats, every one of them, like you and me.”

“General, you are wild.”

“Very well,” I said; “put on your hat and let us go over and see the governor, and see whether I am wild or not.”

So we walked over together, and I said: —

“Governor, I spoke to you this morning about raising a regiment in Connecticut for special service. Now I want to recommend to you as colonel of that regiment to raise the men, my old Democratic friend, Mr. Deming, whom you know very well, and I want you to give him full sway in raising his men and nominating the officers, because I want a Democratic regiment out of Hartford.”

“I hope you will get it and another one too,” said the governor; and then to Deming: “If you will serve, I will have your commission made out at once.”

It was done, and Colonel Deming took his oath of office. I walked down with him to his house and congratulated him upon his appointment, with which he was as pleased as a child with a rattle.

I went thence to Vermont and met Governor Fairbanks. I talked to him pretty much as I had to Governor Buckingham. I told him that I wanted two gentlemen who had been my associates in the Charleston convention appointed colonel and lieutenant-colonel of a regiment which I desired to raise in Vermont.

“You shall have them,” said he.

“And I want from Vermont a battery in addition, — you have good horses here, — and I will have my men select their own horses; I have a right to pay for them. The cause of the War.

The Cause of the War.

To this he agreed. Col. Stephen Thomas was appointed colonel of that regiment.

I then came down through New Hampshire, and met Governor Roby; and he agreed that I might have my selection of colonel of the New Hampshire regiment. I had in that State a very long-time Democratic friend, Capt. Paul R. George, who had been a quartermaster under General Cushing in the Mexican War, and was afterwards appointed chief quartermaster of General Scott’s division, in which he served through that war. We were the warmest personal friends, and I had in mind for the colonelcy his brother, Lieut.-Col. John H. George, a staff-officer of the governor. Lieutenant-Colonel George was a very close friend of Ex-President Pierce, then alive, and was one of the best advocates in New Hampshire, and one of the most reliable Democrats. I saw him, explained what I wished to have done and have him do, and said to him: —

“You have a family growing up around you. Don’t you let it be said to them that their father took no part in the war for his country.”

John consented to go. When his brother Paul heard of it he was overjoyed. We had it all arranged; but when Colonel George informed Pierce of it, the ex-president stood out bitterly against it, and said everything he could say to dissuade the colonel from accepting the position which the governor was ready to give him.

Notwithstanding Colonel George’s high respect for Pierce, he felt it was the turning-point of his life, and he remained firm in his intention of raising a regiment. But Pierce looked upon the going to war of his law partner at the head of a New Hampshire regiment as having a significance of great weight to the Southerners as to the unity of sentiment of the North. He determined to prevent it, and as a means “he plowed with the heifer.”

Mrs. George, the wife of the colonel, and the mother of several young children, would have been left in somewhat straitened circumstances, as then appeared, if the colonel went to the war. Therefore Pierce represented to her that life in camp was very dangerous to the morals, and destructive to the requirements and business of a lawyer, and that the war was likely to be a long one, and that her husband’s business would be entirely broken up, and that his connection with the army would be distasteful to his clients, and would entirely destroy his influence as a rising politician in the State. Also, that as Colonel George was a very brave, daring man, he would be very likely to get killed in action, if he did not die by disease.

All this matter was reported to me by his brother, the captain, who said that he was afraid that his brother’s wife would keep him at home. “But,” said he, “I will try one thing to prevent it. He knows that I have been married so many years that I am not likely to have any children. My wife is a woman of good fortune of her own, and I will go to Mrs. George and tell her that if she will let her husband go to the war, I will make my will in favor of himself and of herself and children, not to be revoked in case of his death, so that his family, in case of disaster to him, shall at least have substantially all that I have got for their future support.”

He did go and make that offer, which of course was duly reported by the wife to General Pierce. The ex-president met it by saying that there could be no will that might not be revoked, and that the captain might revoke it in case of her husband’s death, and that in fact it was no provision at all. So that Pierce beat us, and I lost my colonel and my regiment from New Hampshire, for I knew no other man who I believed would have raised a regiment of Hunker Democrats for the war in New Hampshire at that time.

Don’t let me be misunderstood. A great many Hunker Democrats enlisted for the war and fought nobly and bravely. But those who were men in position were deterred, from the fact that they could hold no place in the war as officers, and the cry went out from the “copperhead” press that this was to be a Republican abolition war, and not a national one. Meanwhile a regiment was raised by Governor Roby in the usual way, and a young West Point lieutenant was appointed colonel. But McClellan took the regiment away from me to Washington, and soon gave the colonel a very considerable promotion. This young man was afterwards captured, together with sixteen horses, — an event which gave rise to Lincoln’s famous bon mot of that time. When the capture was reported to him, he said drily: “Well, I can get brigadiers enough, but where am I to get sixteen horses?”

While negotiations were going on for the New Hampshire regiments I came to Massachusetts and called upon Governor Andrew. I had called soon after my first arrival home to pay my respects, but now I disclosed to him my business. He said that he had promised the first two regiments that he should raise to Captain Sherman, who wanted to make an expedition to Port Royal, and he desired me to wait until those regiments could be got ready, before I commenced to recruit. I said to him that I wanted two regiments from Massachusetts because I was quite sure I could not get any from Rhode Island, and that I would wait until I had visited Maine before I commenced recruiting in Massachusetts. We parted amicably enough. I did not say anything to him about my idea of recruiting a regiment of Hunker Democrats, because I was almost certain that he would not agree to appoint Democratic officers. He had detailed one at the very first of the war, and had been sorry for that detail ever since.

I then went to Maine and saw Governor Washburn. I told him I wanted a regiment and a battery, and that I wished that he would appoint as the colonel, George F. Shepley, Esq., who had been United States Attorney for Maine. He was a Democratic leader and had been with me in the Charleston convention.

“Certainly,” said the governor; “what a good thing it would be if Shepley would only go.”

“I have seen him,” I replied, “and I can assure you that he will.”

For the command of the battery I recommended Captain Thompson, one of the best artillery officers that I ever knew, as well as one of the most pronounced Hunker Democrats. But I may say here that when he got to New Orleans and saw the iniquities of the system, he turned out the most virulent opponent of slavery in my command, save Phelps.

I then went to Rhode Island, and was treated with great courtesy and consideration by the governor. He told me that he much regretted he could not aid me in recruiting a regiment in Rhode Island, because General Burnside, a citizen and afterwards senator of that State, was getting ready an expedition to make an attack upon North Carolina through Hatteras Inlet, and the governor promised that he should have every Rhode Island man who could be raked or scraped together in the State. I told the governor that I appreciated fully his situation so far as to agree that I had no claim upon him compared with that of his own general.

I returned to Massachusetts and saw Governor Andrew once more. He said that he had appointed Colonel Jones, who had led the Sixth Regiment through Baltimore, to raise a regiment to be denominated the Twenty-Sixth Massachusetts, and that Colonel Jones already had the regiment partly raised, and that he would assign that regiment to me, and I could encamp it where I chose. He further said that I could then go on with my recruiting, and that he would turn over a skeleton regiment for me to recruit.

A skeleton regiment meant one there was nobody in but the principal officers. I knew some of the men who proposed to be officers of that regiment, and in any view of the matter I should just as lief not have them. However, all I said was: —

“I will accept Colonel Jones’ regiment, and we will go to work. I will confer further with you, with your leave, as to the second regiment. I suppose you will take my nomination of its officers.”

To this he made no reply, and we again parted amicably.

I procured the Agricultural Fair Grounds, within a couple of miles of my house at Lowell, as a place of encampment, and named it Camp Chase, and in a few days I got a large number of recruits. I was fully content with Colonel Jones, of whom I had a very high appreciation. He was well known as a leading Democrat, and still remains in that position as lieutenant-governor of the State of New York. Meanwhile, except for those recruits who came to me because of their respect for my position, and because of their confidence in me and my officers, recruiting had substantially ceased in the State. It was difficult to get many soldiers.

Massachusetts was very far behind in her quota, and she always remained so until she imported Germans in large numbers to fill up her ranks, and, in the latter part of the war, sent down to Virginia and paid money to have negroes whom I had enlisted in the service of the United States and duly mustered, credited to the quota of the several towns of Massachusetts. When this last performance came to my knowledge, some of the agents who were doing it went into the guard-house, and those who were not put there ran away home, and that fraud was stopped. And with all that under the performances of her administrative officers, Massachusetts had the disgrace of a draft, intensified by a draft riot, which had to be put down by force of arms.

All of my recruits were credited to the State, and I suppose I may modestly and loyally suggest that it would have been better to allow me to recruit some few Democrats, — and an event happened which would have brought thousands of Irishmen into my ranks, — than to have had these disgraces of Massachusetts, which otherwise might have been the foremost State in the Union in everything to sustain the government, as she was the first under the lead of a Democrat to go to the defence of the capital.

As soon as I got my camp properly established I called upon Governor Andrew again and informed him that upon reflection I preferred not to have the second regiment made up of recruits as they would be recruited by the State officials; that I preferred to have them, if I could get them, a regiment of Democrats, every officer to be a Democrat, and especially the colonel, and I explained to him my reasons. I told him that I had the permission of the President to have the recruiting of a New England division of Democrats, and I wanted them of the most pronounced and well-known type; that I should want in addition a battery of artillery and a squadron of cavalry similarly officered; and that I desired to recommend the officers to him for his appointment, subject, however, to the withdrawal of anyone whom he did not choose to appoint for reasons affecting his character and standing.

“Whom do you want for colonel?” said he.

“I think Col. Jonas H. French will make as good an officer as anyone I know.”

“Why,” said the governor, “French helped break up a John Brown meeting.”

“Yes,” said I, “that is why I want him. He showed a disposition to fight somebody if necessary, and I guess he can get most of his friends who went to that meeting to go with him.”

“You cannot have him,” answered the governor.

“Do you know anything against him?”

“That is enough; I do not want anybody to enter the war for the Union who holds such sentiments.”

“But I do want exactly that kind of men to compose my command.”

I then named over the colonels and officers — for their names had not yet been made public, — whose appointments I had secured from the governors of the other States, and told him that the other governors had made no objection. Governor Andrew was very much astonished.

“And Governor,” I added, “I want you to recommend the Hon. Caleb Cushing, who was president of the Charleston convention, as a brigadier-general to go with me into war.”

“He is a friend of Jeff Davis,” was the reply.

“Yes,” I said, “and immediately after the firing upon Sumter he put himself in his speech at Newburyport wholly on the side of the Union.”

“Well,” said the governor, “I certainly shall not do that.”

“Oh, well,” I said, “I know he some time ago called you a one-idea’d abolitionist, and that was true, although it was not a pleasant thing to say. But certainly his ability and his position in the country would seem to entitle him to the place if he would take it, and I think he will.”

“But I will not appoint French, and I will not appoint any other officer of his way of thinking in a Massachusetts regiment.”

“Very well,” Governor, “I shall appoint him, on the authority given me by the President, and he will recruit a regiment.”

“He won’t if I can help it.”

“He will, Governor, if he can with my help.”

Thereupon I left him, and although I called upon him once afterwards, I never saw him again to confer with him until the campaign was over.

He immediately came out with various orders in the newspapers, abusing me and my enterprise of recruitment. I went to Washington and saw the President and General Scott, and in order that I might not be overruled by any military order of Governor Andrew as commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts militia, I asked for the creation of the military department of New England, and that the department be placed under my command. An order to this effect was given me on the 1st of October, in the following words: —

The six New England States will temporarily constitute a separate military department, to be called the Department of New England; headquarters, Boston. Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler, United States Volunteer Service, while engaged in recruiting his division, will command.

Soon after this an order was issued by the governor or some member of his staff, that the family of no soldier who enlisted under my command should have State aid.

Recruitment was drooping very much. But, feeling certain that Massachusetts would in any event pay State aid to all the soldiers who fought the battles of their country in her ranks, independent of any personal spite of her governor, who had the good quality of cultivating malignity as a parlor plant, I started a recruiting camp at Pittsfield in the western part of the State. It was under Lieutenant-Colonel Whelden, a good Democrat, and in a remarkably short time he put the camp into the finest possible order. I went up to review the regiment, and found it a very considerable one. Then, in order that my soldiers should not be discouraged on account of their wives and children, I published a letter, in which I guaranteed State aid to the families of every one of my recruits. This letter was in the following words: —

Camp Seward, Pittsfield,
Jan. 7, 1862.

Lieut.-Col. Whelden, Commanding Western Bay Regiment:

Colonel: — I have been much gratified with the appearance, discipline, and proficiency of your regiment, as evidenced by the inspection of to-day. Of the order, quiet, and soldierly conduct of the camp, the commanding general cannot speak in too much praise.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of season, opposition, and misrepresentation, the progress made would be creditable if no such obstacles had existed.

In the matter of the so-called State aid to the families of the volunteers under your command, I wish to repeat here, most distinctly, the declaration heretofore made to you. I will personally, and from my private means, guarantee to the family of each soldier the aid which ought to be furnished to him by his town, to the same extent and amount that the State would be bound to afford to other enlisted men, from and after this date, if the same is not paid by the Commonwealth to them as to other Massachusetts soldiers; and all soldiers enlisting in your regiment may do so upon the strength of this guarantee.

I have no doubt upon this subject whatever. The Commonwealth will not permit her soldiers to suffer or be unjustly dealt with, under whosoever banner they may enlist.

The only question that will be asked will be, Are these men in the service of their country, shedding their blood in defence of its Constitution and laws? If so, they stand upon an equality with every other man who is fighting for his country, and will be treated by the State with the same equal justice, whatever may be the wounded pride or over-weening vanity of any man or set of men.

I love and revere the justice, the character, the equity, the fame, and name of our glorious old Commonwealth too much to doubt of this for a moment, and will at any time peril whatever I may have of private fortune, upon the faith engendered by that love and reverence.

Accept for yourself, personally, and for your officers, my most earnest thanks for the energetic services which you have rendered in the recruitment of your excellent regiment.

Most truly your friend,

Benj. F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

That was thought by some newspapers to be a very risky and hazardous undertaking on my part. But again they were mistaken; there was no risk in it. The towns paid the State aid, and as every town wanted every soldier enlisted in it to be credited to its quota, I knew they would, as they did, pay the State aid, and there was neither risk nor hazard about it. Besides I knew a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, and therefore I got an order from the War Department that all troops enlisted under my command should have a month’s pay in advance, and the governor could not get any such inducement. My enlistments were for special service, and he had declined to enlist anybody for that special service.

My enlistments went on. Besides Colonel Jones’ regiment I raised two other regiments in Massachusetts, and named them the Eastern and Western Bay State Regiments. I appointed the officers, and they reported to me and were duly recognized and received their pay, and sailed with me for Ship Island.

I also got another regiment very curiously; and I give the story, because it will show what discipline can do.

Passing through Connecticut I called upon Governor Buckingham, who said to me: “You can do me a great favor, General.”

“What is that, Governor? I will do it if it is possible.”

“I have almost a regiment, something more than eight hundred men, all Irishmen, enlisted and encamped here near Hartford. I cannot get the regiment up to a thousand men so as to have it mustered in and have officers appointed. They are naturally good men, but they have been idle here for months, and they are wholly without discipline and without control. They are an actual nuisance. I wish you would take them in your division, and then there will be one more regiment for you; and you can take them to your camp where you can control them; I cannot control them here any longer.”

“Governor,” said I, “I will send an order for them by my quartermaster and his assistant, with directions to have them brought in the cars to Lowell, if you give an order that they shall march.”

“I will, and with pleasure.”

So the Ninth Connecticut was sent for. Their fame preceded them, and their conduct on the route to Lowell fully justified their fame. They managed to tear the roof off of all the cars of the train which they were in. They so delayed the train that when they got to Groton Junction, twenty miles from Lowell, it failed to connect, and they had to stay there all night. Groton Junction was a little village, and they proceeded to ransack it for liquor, and they found some barrels of it, which they brought away with them. When they arrived in Lowell the next morning, under charge of a detachment which had been sent for them, they were lying packed in the cars like herring in a box. They were tumbled into army wagons and carried up to the camp. I happened to be there when they came in. I had their officers called to me, and I looked them over. They seemed to be good enough men, and only one or two were any the worse for liquor. Their colonel was a very superior man.

As I rode down town, I got a note from the mayor informing me that a special meeting of the city council had been called, and an appropriation voted for the expense of employing five hundred special constables to keep the peace against the Connecticut regiment. I told the mayor and aldermen to keep their constables out of the way or they might get hurt, and that I would take care that the peace was kept.

There was around our camp a board fence, some nine feet high. I put the usual number of sentries on the inside, but I doubled the number outside the fence. I directed the officer of the guard to instruct his sentries on the inside not to have any quarrel or trouble with the men unless they were attacked. But the picket guard on the outside were to be instructed, whenever they saw a man swinging his body over the fence, to poke him back with their bayonets, using the bayonet on that part of him where they would have the most room, and to do it effectually.

The next morning, as usual, I went up to the camp. It was reported to me that the men behaved well enough until about midnight, when they woke up pretty hungry and very dry. The night was not very dark, there being a small moon. They looked around and saw the fence. After a while a body of them got together, and raising the cry “Connicticut over the fince,” they rushed against the fence and climbed up. But the first man that swung over was put back on the point of a bayonet, and so on until it was found not to be a pleasant entertainment. In fact, they had to stay where they were, and to put up with coffee the next morning.

I caused them to be paraded in a hollow square, and walked into the square and told them that I would have no more such conduct as that of the previous night; my orders would be enforced to the letter, and they had been treated more leniently than they ever would be again. I then called the officer of the guard to bring to me the man who first put one of the jumpers back over the fence with his bayonet. He came up blushing and looking as if he did not quite know what would be cone with him. I said to him: —

“My man, can you read and write?”

“Yes, General.”

“You have done your duty well. Mr. Officer of the Guard, report this soldier to the colonel and tell him to appoint him sergeant.”

Then, addressing the men, I said: —

“Now, my men, I am going to put the guard to-night around the outside of this fence with their muskets loaded with ball cartridges, and if any of you attempt to get over the fence that way again I will make the man who first shoots one of you a lieutenant.”

I never had any serious trouble with the Ninth Connecticut. They would get a little liquor, but that was done very ingeniously. Generally my officers of the guard found them out. One of their tricks, I remember, was very curious: A great, portly woman used to come in to see them — and she seemed to have a good many friends among them, — and they would gather about her chatting and evidently in perfect accord. But the officer of the guard observed that one or two who stood behind her seemed to have their heads bowed down. An investigation showed him that our visitor had a very considerable sized rubber tube wound all around her person under her dress. This tube had been filled with liquor, and was provided with a faucet which was concealed under her cape, and for a consideration anybody could take a pull at it long enough to get a good drink. She was cautioned not to visit the camp, and dismissed.

Their ranks were filled up, and I took considerable personal pains to see that they were well cared for and well taught.

The effect of that discipline exhibited itself in this. When I occupied New Orleans I wanted to encamp a regiment in Lafayette Square, a small park in the centre of the city. The streets around it were inhabited by the best families. I chose the Ninth Connecticut. They remained in camp about three months, and so well did they conduct themselves that when I was about to move them elsewhere and put another regiment in their stead, because they had had a soft place long enough, I had a very large petition presented to me of all the neighbors of their camp to have them remain. Their conduct was so exemplary, their care of the children who went to play in the park so tender and kind, that the inhabitants hoped that I would allow them to stay, as they did not think I could send them another regiment that would please them so well.

When the Ninth Regiment was on Ship Island, a party of them was sent out to the upper part of the Island to relieve a detail from the Twenty-Sixth Regiment, who were cutting wood. It was foggy when they came to the place of meeting, and as the two bodies of men came near each other of course the first thought was they must be Confederates, each seeming so to the other. Both began to get ready for a fight, when an Irishman of the Ninth said: “Be me sowl, I believe, Captain, that these are the Twenty-Sixth’s boys. Let me find out; I will give them the countersign.”

“Mike, you fool, what countersign have you?”

“Oh, aisy, Captain;” and he stepped forth and cried out: “Connicticut over the fince.”

The men on both sides broke out into roars of laughter, and all danger of a collision was averted.

Meanwhile Governor Andrew, aided by the two Massachusetts senators, Sumner and Wilson, was doing everything he could to move the President and Secretary Cameron to interfere with my authority to make enlistments. The governor wrote most personal and abusive letters regarding me to the senators, and then published them. I do not think it affected Wilson much, because he had been a Whig, a Know-Nothing, and a Free-Soiler, according to the changes of parties, and did not take Abolitionism much to heart; but Mr. Sumner did everything he could do to disturb me and to serve Andrew.

Sumner had plenty of leisure for this sort of thing. Although he was in the Senate for more than a quarter of a century, ten lines of laws upon the statute books of the United States drawn by him are yet to be found.

There was one thing that affected my recruiting favorably, more than all Governor Andrew’s performances did unfavorably.

On the 7th of November, 1861, Commodore Wilkes, with the San Jacinto, captured the Trent, having on board Mason and Slidell, the rebel emissaries to England and France. The Trent was an English passenger boat, — and of course a mail steamer, — and England was in name neutral. That is to say, her people were with the North, her government held itself apparently impartial, and her aristocracy and monied class were entirely with the South. Captain Wilkes treated the Confederate commissioners very fairly and properly; and through his courteous kindness to the passengers of the Trent and the owners of the vessels he committed a mistake in point of law which it was claimed rendered his capture illegal. This mistake consisted in not bringing in the vessel, so that he might submit his capture to the courts. He did not apparently know that this was necessary, and, in order not to discommode the considerable number of English passengers by bringing them to the Andrew Jackson Butler. United States instead of letting them go on to England, — probably thinking that the owners of the Trent might also be considered, — he did not bring the vessel in as a prize.

Andrew Jackson Butler
Andrew Jackson Butler

These proceedings of Wilkes created the most intense excitement. There was great glee on the part of the true Americans of this country when it was learned that the rebel emissaries had been captured. There was great sorrow on the part of the South, except that they believed that England would undertake to resent the seizure, as she did, and then their sorrow turned to joy. After England did undertake to interfere, there was regret for the seizure on the part of the timid and nervous good people of the North.

The manner and course of action of the government of England was wholly unprovoked, unjustifiable, and in violation of the courtesies due between friendly nations, and in disregard of her own conduct in like cases. The usages of diplomatic propriety demanded of her that she should, without offensive expression, or action, or implication of any sort, call upon this country to explain the capture of the rebels, or to indicate what claim would be made by the United States upon the men thus captured, and what reparation or apology, if any, we would make to England for a wholly unintentional violation of her dignity. On the contrary, the British Cabinet flew into a passion. They ordered a considerable force of troops to be sent to Canada, and ordered a large number of vessels sent to Halifax, and they sent over to Canada a little general who was not then (or ever) a general. And this they did before our government could know officially or properly what had been done.

To appreciate the utterly useless folly of this movement of troops and vessels on the part of Great Britain, we have only to reflect that the capture was made on the 7th of November. She could not possibly have got her troops started until the first of December, and then her ships and troops could never have got farther than Halifax, as the ice of winter would have sealed up the St. Lawrence and all the other rivers of Canada.

England ought also to have remembered that at one time in the case of one of her rebellious provinces, Quebec, she found herself in this same difficulty in sending her troops over to put down the rebellion, and had to ask the consent of our government to let the troops pass over our territory. Now if they were forced to go to war about the Trent matter they would have to ask the same courtesy of our government to get their troops into Canada, unless they forced their way over our territory, and that was a game at which two could play.

It is almost a ludicrous event that, in fact, England was forced to ask our consent in this case, that her troops might pass over our territory, landing them at Portland, to fight us upon their arrival on her own ground, and that our government consented, which was a poignant sarcasm upon the use the troops would be to her in Canada.

Gen. Caleb Cushing was the ablest international lawyer of this country, and he had the reputation in Europe of being the ablest in any country. He was with me at that time, and I could have had his services as brigadier-general in the expedition to New Orleans, had not his appointment by the President been rejected by the Senate. This was done because Wilson, who was chairman of the Military Committee of the Senate, was afraid of Andrew, and Andrew had demanded the rejection of Cushing because he was not a “one-idea’d Abolitionist” as Andrew was.

General Cushing examined with me the questions of law and precedents involved in the Trent affair; and we came to the conclusion, as did the Secretary of State after reading that paper (I do not say because of), that against England there could be no doubt what the law of nations in such cases was, if she would take her own interpretation.

I need not pause to give more than a single English precedent: —

Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, a delegate to the first Congress and a prominent patriot, accepted the mission from our Revolutionary Government in 1778, of minister to the Hague, got on board a [French neutral vessel, and proceeded on his mission. He was captured by an English frigate and carried to England. His papers were taken from him, and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for three years, not being allowed to communicate with his family or his country. He was exposed to every indignity, and regained his liberty only when the War of the Revolution ceased after the signing of the treaty of peace between England and her former rebels. More than that, England declared war on Holland on the ground of the papers her officers took from Laurens.

From the first England would look at the Trent affair only as a cause of war. The whole country desired that our government should hold Mason and Slidell, and for a time we did hold them. But after much consideration Mr. Seward, always fearful that England would do something against us, consented to return Mason and Slidell, upon the ground that the Trent, although captured, was not brought in. That was a subterfuge on our side, and a sneak on England’s side. If the capture of these men was such an offence against the dignity of England, simply letting them go did not seem much of a reparation of that wounded pride, being on a technical point only. It seemed to me to be a good deal like this: A man is arrested for being a thief and counterfeiter. He and his friends bluster loudly against that charge and demand his release. The captor says: “Well, I will let him go, as there is a technical defect in the warrant; and the rescuers are satisfied.”

For myself, I am obliged now to declare, as I did then, that it was the most fatal mistake on our part that could have been made, not to have a war with England if she chose. Oh! says one, we would have had the whole English army upon us. To that I answer: England of her own soldiers has never had more than twenty-five thousand men on any one battle-field. The time has gone past for buying Germans to fight her battles. We had more soldiers starve at Andersonville than England had men at Waterloo — and a larger part of those at Waterloo were commanded by an Irishman. We were raising armies by hundreds of thousands. If England had attacked us, the vast advantage would have been that it would have made our war a foreign war, in which everybody must have taken part, North and South, who was not a traitor to his country. No Democrat or Copperhead party could have resolved against the war in that case. It would have been a war in which everybody must of necessity have engaged, in one form or another, to save the life of the country. Whoever fought for England and against us at the South would have been a traitor to his own portion of the country. Canada would not have been in our way at all. Ninety days would have enlisted Irishmen enough to take Canada. That could have been taken by contract. It was the beginning of winter; the frost had made a bridge over every stream, and a road for march could be built many miles a day to any place. The Canadian barns were all full and would have been depositories of forage. There would have been no difficulty about our soldiers eating the pork and bacon there stored up for winter use, and the cattle there would not have been running loose.

I said when I began this topic, that it was a source of aid to my recruitment. So it was, for when patriotic Irishmen began to learn that there was a chance for war with England, they came to me in squads. And if I had said to them: “Yes, I want you to march to Canada and take that first, and then for the western coast of Ireland, or against any Englishmen we can find against us down South,” I could have filled up not only one or two regiments in Massachusetts, but eight or ten. No Copperhead would have hesitated to go into my ranks in such a war. We could have had no hesitation in setting free the whole negro population of the South to enlist and fight our battles against England.

But, says another, England with her fleets would have bombarded our cities and blockaded our ports. As to the bombardment of our cities, that is a bug-a-boo which might have been more potent then than it would be now. We have since demonstrated that bombardment does not do a great deal of harm to a city. We bombarded the little city of Charleston for eighteen months steadily, and we did not do $50,000 worth of actual damage; we did not kill as many men in Charleston as we burned tons of powder. There will be no more bombardments of forts even, since the fiasco of Porter at Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Bombardments as matters of importance in war will take their place with bayonet wounds and sword cuts.

I was casting my eye the other day over a page of the consolidated report of the wounds received at the battles of North Anna, from May 21 to May 26, 1864. In these engagements the total strength of the army was 51,659, and the whole number of wounded was 1,046. There was just one bayonet wound and no sword cut. Yet we all remember we were told how reckless the enemy was in charging upon our men “sword in hand and with bayonets fixed.”

As to the expenses of the bombardment of our cities: If England had declared war, by the rules and laws of war that act would have confiscated all the debts our people owed to the subjects of the crown of England, and also all property of English citizens in this country. I think that would have quite offset the loss of plate glass in Broadway by a bombardment.

As to the question of soldiers: A Russian fleet lay in our harbor month after month, waiting and ready to take part with us whenever we should say that Great Britain was our declared as well as our actual enemy. England would have wanted all her soldiers, and all that she could have got or paid for, to take care of the Indies against Russia. And the Russian fleet would have made a very respectable defence, and would now, for New York harbor.

It may not be out of place here to say that the certain confiscation of many millions of debts the South owed to the North was a great inducement to the commercial classes of the South to go into the Rebellion.

If the administration had had the courage to make such war with England what it would and ought to have been under the circumstances that I have above set forth, our Rebellion would not have lasted two years, and would not have cost one quarter what it did in men and money.

But, says another, England would have raised the blockade of the South, and would have imported into the rebel States everything that their people wanted. Assuming that could have been done, there are several answers. When England had raised the blockade of the Southern States she would have blockaded the Northern ports. That would have prevented the balance of trade between our country and Europe — which was against us all the time, impoverishing us many millions of dollars It would have stopped the great number of old and young men with their families going to Europe to live, their large expenditures, another source of depletion of our resources, all being in gold.

We had within the United States every material to make munitions of war, and the war had not progressed far before we did make them all. In fact, we were absolutely obliged to throw away the Austrian and Enfield rifles we at first purchased abroad for use here. We should have then discovered exactly the capabilities which each section of our country had as to its resources for carrying on the war. Our blockade made the South entirely economical. Our open ports made us exceedingly extravagant. If England had opened to the world the trade for cotton and tobacco with the South, it would have excited the desire for those luxuries claimed to be necessities, and paved the way to the indulgence in them.

When we shut up the ports of the South, during the four years of the war, we raised for them ten crops of cotton. That is to say, our blockade raised cotton from ten cents, its price at the beginning, to one dollar a pound at its close. The price of tobacco, too, was increased six fold. A great storage of cotton and tobacco in the South was the foundation of their European loans. Cotton and tobacco were all the property they had to use for that purpose, and their government held it and did so use it. The last loan was the “Cotton loan,” which could not have been taken for a dollar if this article had not been kept in the South, and its price raised by our blockade.

Indeed, in all the markets of the world for the production of cotton goods, cotton so increased in price during the war that it was a serious temptation to England to acknowledge Southern independence in order to get cotton to supply the industries of Manchester. The South did not suffer for arms, neither heavy ordnance nor infantry, weapons nor munitions, during the latter years of the war. The greatly enhanced price of cotton made blockade running immensely profitable; and as the Confederate government had half of all the cotton which ran the blockade with which to buy arms and munitions of war, that supplied the South very fully.

It will be remembered that at the opening of the war the wise men who governed the country through the newspapers, taught us to believe that war would so disorganize the labor of the South and diminish its agricultural productions that the South would be quickly impoverished, not being able to raise crops with which to obtain any supplies from abroad. And this stated fact was to be greatly relied upon to cripple the South. The results were exactly to the contrary.

The first conscription act of the rebel congress enrolled into some sort of military service every man between the ages of sixteen and sixty. But the owners of twenty slaves were exempted, so that, in the first year of fighting, cotton and tobacco production were not materially interfered with, and in addition, as we have seen, our blockade raised the price of every pound of cotton and tobacco ten and six fold respectively. This was to our great disaster. Mr. Lincoln saw this, and once said to me, at a later period in the war, that if he could have his way he would let everything be imported into the South save munitions of war and provisions. I am fully of the belief that one cause of the extravagant bitterness shown toward the North by the Southern women of the higher classes, was that our blockade compelled them to wear home-made, and therefore unbecoming, dresses.

Any intelligent reader, looking upon these facts, will agree with me that a war with England would not have changed the result in this country except to have brought it about much sooner. Of men England had no supply worth notice, and besides, Russia was watching for her opportunity to wrest from England her Indies.

Let me also add in passing, that there need never be any fear of war by England with this country in the future. She and her citizens are pouring money into American investments by the millions of dollars annually, thereby giving bonds in billions of money to keep the peace with us and be of good behavior to all the world.

England had statesmen fully capable of appreciating all the propositions above set forth, and was guided by them in the determination of questions of war between England and this country.

In view of this, I am, and ever have been, firmly of the opinion that war with England over the Trent affair was utterly impossible. Following her whole course of diplomacy, she relied upon her bullying a weak-kneed Secretary of State into complying with an unjust demand, and accepted a subterfuge for an apology.

The Trent discussion, which lasted from the 15th of November to the 23d of December, 1861, caused a delay in my embarkation for the South because I had not my troops ready early enough to take General Dix’s place in the expedition to the eastern peninsula.

The attention of the government had also been called toward Mobile, but an expedition thither did not seem to be a matter which would make a diversion of the enemy’s plans. General McClellan suggested Texas, and asked me to get up a paper on Texas, showing its condition, capabilities of being attacked, and what would probably be the result of its occupation. Myself and staff went to work, each on a special kindred topic, to examine fully and with great care the relations of Texas to the war. The general was pleased to compliment our report.

Meanwhile Captain David D. Porter had been for some time preparing a quantity of mortar vessels to bombard southern forts. Indeed he had reported that they were all ready, but he did not actually get them ready for months.

The navy desired an expedition made against New Orleans for the capture of the Mississippi River, and Mr. Lincoln was anxious that a fleet should go up the river and open that great avenue of transportation. This would relieve the western men along its banks by bringing the trade back to New Orleans.

I caught at the idea at once when it was made known to me. But it was necessary to conceal the movement, and accordingly after I was assigned to it, I talked Mobile louder than ever, and gave out that my expedition was to go to Ship Island, near Mobile. But Ship Island was equally as effective against New Orleans. Ship Island was selected by Pakenham for a rendezvous for the British fleet in his attack on New Orleans when defended by Jackson, and by carefully examining his reports to his government, it was easy to get the knowledge necessary for a movement in that direction.

I had my transportation all engaged and was ready to make sail whenever the matter was decided, when a telegram came: —

“Don’t sail; disembark the troops.”

It had never occurred to me to put my troops on board vessels until the day when they should actually start, for it ought not to be ten hours work to break camp and embark. I could not tell what this telegram meant, and I went immediately to Washington. There I found that the Mason and Slidell matter was in such a condition that it might (as it should have done) result in war with England if she so desired. And if it did, I should have to send down and bring back the part of my troops that had been sent to Ship Island instead of carrying any more there.

We waited some twenty or twenty-five days after the 23d of December, when Seward had given his official answer upon the Trent matter, before it was finally decided, and the decision officially communicated to our government by England.

During that time, preparations were all completed, camps were broken up, men were got on board ships, horses were forwarded, and two thousand troops remaining at Boston, belonging to my expedition, were shipped, and the Constitution sailed for Fortress Monroe. When I reached Washington General McClellan consented to have appointed such staff as I asked for, and after consultation with me, made out my orders. But for some reason then unexplained they were not issued, and the expedition did not start.

Whenever a thing that I do not understand happens, I always investigate. Anxious to know why the orders had not been issued, I looked the matter up. I found that General McClellan was very much averse to having the number of men I needed taken away from the army around Washington. He very much wanted two hundred thousand men there, and he had but one hundred and ninety thousand. He did not care with that force to move against the rebels, who had more than two hundred thousand men as he believed. In fact, he had been peremptorily ordered to move against the enemy on the 22d of February, and disobeyed the order. For all this, I could not understand why such an important movement as that assigned to me should remain unattended to for so many days. I guessed what was the matter, and remained on the ground at Washington, leaving my troops with the Constitution at Fortress Monroe. But I took care to have them disembark from the vessel and put them on land.

There was but one ear in Washington that was always open to me, the President’s. He was then embarrassed, as I happened to know, from the fact that he could not get McClellan to move. Even the President himself was doubtful about the number of troops on the other side of the river. It so happened that I was a warm friend of Senator Wade, who was chairman of the Committee on the Conduct of the War. He was very anxious to have a movement, and was chafing under the inactivity very much. He asked me my opinion about the rebel force opposite Washington. He summoned me before the War Committee, and I had to give it under oath. Not only that, but I was made to give my reasons for the opinion, and I happened to have some to give. They were dated the 12th day of February, 1862, and appear in the report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War.

Following is my estimate, taken from the report: —

This is as the army was posted in the morning, including the Army of the Shenandoah, then in the field.

It will be seen that, whether the estimate be taken by brigades or by regiments and corps from States, we come to nearly the same result, and we are warranted in believing the assertion of Beauregard in his official report that the whole number of the army at Manassas was less than 30,000 after the junction of Johnston.

Suppose the whole number of regiments to be filled up, taking the highest number from each State, then the whole army raised by the Confederate States, wherever situated, would be, on that day, as follows: —

This must have been the entire force of the Confederate Army, as we know that the Mississippi numbers are militia numbers, and that the North Carolina numbers are also militia, because I captured the 7th North Carolina Volunteers at Hatteras, on the 28th of the following August, and they had been organized but a week.

But it may be asked, How do we know that these were not the earlier regiments, and others of much higher numbers had been raised and in service elsewhere; or that large reserves were not left at Manassas, and not brought up?

Beauregard also says, in his report of the battle of Blackburn’s Ford, July 18, Rebellion Record, Part X., page 339: —

“On the morning of the 18th, finding that the enemy was assuming a threatening attitude, in addition to the regiments whose positions have already been stated, I ordered up from Camp Pickens (Manassas), as a reserve, in rear of Bonham’s brigade, the effective men of six companies of Kelly’s Eighth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, and Kirkland’s Eleventh Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, which, having arrived the night before en route for Winchester, I had halted in view of the existing necessities of the service.

With any considerable force at “Camp Pickens” (Manassas), would this regiment either have been stopped en route, or the effective men of six companies only ordered up as a reserve?

In his report of Bull Run, July 21, Beauregard also speaks of the intrenched batteries at Manassas being under the command of Colonel Terret.

Is it possible that the rebels have been able to more than quadruple their forces in the last six months, with the whole world shut out from them, over what they did in the first six months?

All which is respectfully submitted.

Benj. F. Butler.

February 11, 1862.

There was understood to be some feeling between General McClellan and the President because McClellan did not move, his excuse being all the while the small number of his troops and the great excess of those of the enemy. McClellan, however, held everything with a high, strong hand, and what he wanted he had. The Committee on the Conduct of the War were known to be very much opposed to him, as he certainly was to them. This fact is now known, but at that time it was only conjectured. A short time after it became known that I had given my testimony before the committee, General McClellan asked me if I had any objection to telling him what the substance of my testimony was. I told him that I had not the slightest objection. I did not know at that time what his testimony had been, and certainly not what his estimate was, for while in Washington I had been very busy about my own affairs. He appeared very much surprised at my testimony. He questioned me as to the source of my knowledge. I told him that of personal knowledge I knew nothing of course, but I sketched to him how I made up my calculations. He said that I must be wrong, that he knew that there were a great many more troops than that. I answered squarely: “Well, your knowledge of course ought to be vastly superior to the best verified calculations upon which I have come to my opinion.”

I handed him my analysis of the number of troops which had been in the battle of Bull Run, which number had been substantially verified by actual reports, and then added my further calculations upon the same basis, and made in two different ways, to show that Abraham Lincoln. From Portrait. those rebel troops could not have been much more than doubled within the succeeding six months. My conclusion was that there were not more than sixty-five thousand effective troops opposite Washington.

The rebel general, Joe Johnston, moved off his troops in March, just before McClellan made his movement from Washington against them, and Johnston’s report as published in the “War Correspondence” now shows that I was not five thousand out of the way, not reckoning the small force that was below Alexandria. But I did not include the “Quaker” guns, i. e. the wooden ones, that were mounted in the rebel intrenchments near Centralville, and McClellan’s bureau of information had evidently included in their estimate the number of men required to man these.

I thought as we parted that General McClellan did not seem quite as cordial as when we met.

When I saw Mr. Lincoln, as I did within less than two days, he put to me the same question as to the number of troops. I told him that if he would take it without asking my reasons for it I would be glad to tell him, but if he required me to go over the reasons, I must get the paper containing my calculations, or a copy of it. He said that was not worth while. I briefly sketched the reasons, and in answer to his questions I replied, in a very emphatic manner, that I felt as certain of my estimate within a few thousand as I could of anything in the world.

“Assuming that you had one hundred thousand effective men in Washington,” he said, “and were permitted to move over the river to attack, would you do it?”

“Certainly I would, Mr. President, and if it was of any use I would ask for the privilege. But you have abler commanders than I, Mr. President, and what I want is to go off with my command to New Orleans.”

“I won’t say, General, whether I will let you go or not.”

I then began to plead a little and said: “Why not let me go? You have got enough troops here, and I am only to have some regiments from Baltimore.”

I agree with you, he answered, as to the number of troops we have got here; that is not the reason for your detention.

I at once pressed for the reason why I was not permitted to go, and thereupon I found that an order had been issued by General McClellan to disembark my troops at Fortress Monroe, and to return them to Baltimore.

I immediately began to look the matter up. I telegraphed to Fortress Monroe, and was told that no such order had come there. Adjutant-General Thomas told me that such an order certainly had been issued and forwarded by General Dix to General Wool, at Fortress Monroe. I applied to General Dix, and he said that he had sent such an order forward. Looking farther, I found that one of General Dix’s staff officers had put it in his coat pocket and forgotten it, — a most inconceivable thing.

I determined to bring the matter to a focus at once. I went to General McClellan and told him about the order and asked him to revoke it.

“Why are you so anxious about this expedition?” he said to me.

“Because I think I can do a great deal of good for the country. Besides, I want to get away from Washington; I am sick of the intrigues and cross purposes that I find here. Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton seem to me to be about the only persons who are in dead earnest for a vigorous prosecution of the war.”

“Ah,” said he, “and what evidence have you of that?”

“What both say and how they say it, — although I do not put too much confidence in what any man says. The President asked me how many troops I believed there were on the other side of the river, and I gave him the number as I gave it to you.”

“What did he say to that?”

“He asked me how certain I felt, and I told him I felt very certain. He asked me whether I felt so certain that I would be willing to lead an army of one hundred thousand troops from Washington to make an attack on the rebels in Virginia.”

“What did you say to that?”

“I said I did not desire to have anything to do with the Army of the Potomac; that I wanted to get away from here, and I then renewed my application to him to give me my order to go to New Orleans.“

“He did not give you the order?”

“No; he told me he did not know yet whether he would or not. I said to him in substance that I hoped he didn’t detain me because it was a necessity to have around Washington the few troops that I should take away from Baltimore. He said that was not the reason; that regarding the number of troops opposed to us across the river he believed nearly as I did. He told me that I might call any day after to-morrow, being the 22d of February and a holiday. Therefore I said: ‘I suppose there will be no movement made to-morrow.’ He said: ‘Well, General Butler, I think you had better call on me the day after to-morrow, and we will see what will come out of this.’”

I looked General McClellan in the eye and said: “General, shall I call on you before or after I call on the President?”

“Better come before,” said he.

I went to my hotel, and after listening to an address in the House, I spent the next day in packing up my effects, not many, because I had come to the conclusion that I was going somewhere. I also notified two of the gentlemen of my staff who came with me, and two more who were in Washington, that I wanted them ready to go with me at a day’s notice.

On the morrow I took a carriage and drove to the headquarters of the army shortly before ten o’clock. I was admitted to the general’s presence, and he met me very cordially, and handed me a sealed envelope.

“Therein,” said he, “you will find your instructions about your expedition to New Orleans, and you may go as soon as you can get ready to so do.”

“I thank you very much, General,” said I, “for the relief you have given me in letting me go away from here. I will endeavor by my actions to do you and the army all the credit I can.”

I called on the Secretary of War, and found the President with him. I stated to them the facts. Mr. Stanton was overjoyed. The President did not appear at all elated, but shook hands with me with a far-off, pensive look.

“I shall need some funds undoubtedly,” I said to Mr. Stanton. “Please ascertain how much and send to me by the quartermaster and commissary, who will follow me and bring whatever it is supposed I will need.”

“Why not take your requisition yourself?”

“In the first place, I do not want any charge of the money. In the second place, Mr. Stanton, to be honest with you, my orders cannot be countermanded after I get to sea, for I am going to take New Orleans or you will never see me again.”

“Well, said he in the presence of Mr. Lincoln, you take New Orleans and you shall be lieutenant-general.”

I bowed and left.

I stayed in Washington long enough to have a little bird sing to me that General McClellan’s father-in-law and chief of staff, R. B. Marcy, had said: “I guess we have found a hole to bury this Yankee elephant in.”

The night of the 24th of February I left for Baltimore to go to Fortress Monroe, and at nine o’clock on the evening of the 25th I stood on the deck of the good steamer Mississippi with my wife and some of my staff officers beside me, and gave orders to “up anchor for Ship Island.” I had sixteen hundred men on board with me, and the enormous sum of seventy-five dollars in gold in my pocket with which to pay the expenses of the expedition.



IT was my intention to call at Fort Hatteras in my steamer, the Mississippi, to take off General Williams, who had been in command there and who had been detailed to me as a brigadier-general, at my request.

The sea was calm and the night beautiful, with a light southwest wind blowing. As we were to go around Cape Hatteras, a course always difficult of navigation on account of the trend of the eddy of the Gulf Stream toward the shore, I stayed on deck for some considerable time and then observed that the captain was below. It startled me a little. He had been waiting days in port, and so had no occasion to make up for any lost sleep, and I thought a careful and prudent man would have remained on deck, especially as the rebels had extinguished all the lights in the light-houses on that coast. I knew that the shoals from Cape Hatteras extended out a great distance, much farther than any sight in such a night would reach.

Toward morning the wind increased, and then not far from us the breakers became visible. I directed the captain to be called, and he put us about and stood for the east. Not only that, but he stood east until morning, and those who wanted to see a gale at sea were fully satisfied. The sun, however, came out bright, and the captain took an observation at meridian and went into his room in the deck-house to calculate his position. No land was in sight. He gave his calculation to me, and I looked at the chart and was satisfied that, if everything went well with us, we should have no difficulty in weathering Cape Fear and Frying-Pan Shoals, which extended some thirteen miles out. During the night the wind lulled, and those of us who had been kept up the night before sought early rest and quiet.

The captain joined me at the breakfast table, and said, as he sat down: “Well, General, I think I made quite a mistake yesterday in my observation. I am inclined to think I am twenty miles farther east than the observation showed.”

“Well,” I said, “that is a good mistake, because it gives Frying-Pan Shoals a wide berth.”

A few minutes later, and while I was still seated, I felt the vessel strike something and apparently pass over it, with a peculiar grating sound which everybody who has been at sea knows. I thought we must have struck a sunken wreck or a whale. The captain immediately rushed up the companion-way, and I followed him. Upon reaching the deck and looking around we saw land within five or six miles of us. Evidently we were where we ought not to be. I then heard the captain give the order, “Let go port anchor.” “Port anchor, sir.“ “Yes; let go,” and immediately the port anchor was ordered over. It struck bottom almost instantly, showing that the vessel was aground. The whole thing had been so easy and so quiet that it substantially disturbed no one on the ship.

I stopped into the captain’s room and motioned him to follow me.

“We are on the shoals, Captain?”



He put his thumb on the chart, a condensed chart of the whole coast, covering several miles, and said: “We are here.”

“But exactly where, Captain?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you told me this morning that you thought you were several miles further east than your calculation showed you to be, and you were far enough east by that. Now, how came you here?”

“I cannot tell, General.”

“Have you been on deck before this morning, Captain?”

“No, sir; I went directly from my berth to the breakfast table.”

“Do you know what is the state of the tide?”

“I do not, General.”

“Can you find out?”

“I can by examining the nautical almanac.”

I stepped to the door and called one of my staff, Captain Davis, and said: “Davis, we are ashore here, and I should like to know what is the state of the tide; look at the nautical almanac and find out.“ Turning again to the captain of the vessel, I asked: “Captain, what depth of water have we under us?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, said I, get your dipsy [deep sea] lead and come forward with me. We seem to have struck forward.”

We went forward together and met the mate, and upon sounding found that we were in fourteen feet of water. We were on a sandbank which seemed to me to be quite a round bank just above the foremast. The vessel drew eighteen feet of water.

As I went aft, three or four of the officers and some of the men gathered about me and said: “General, this captain is a secessionist, and he got us ashore here on purpose; he is a Baltimorean.” A very deep and savage murmur began to circulate among the men, for the matter seemed to have been talked over. Fearing trouble, I stepped to the quarter deck, called the adjutant, and ordered the best drilled company I had to be paraded on the quarter deck. Lieutenant Fiske, afterwards General, a most steadfast officer, was put in command. The men were instructed that they should load their muskets with ball cartridges. Then, turning to a squad of the men who had followed me aft, I said: “Men, we are in considerable peril on board this vessel. There must be the most perfect order, and I think we can get out of it. Lieutenant Fiske, fire upon any man that attempts to leave this vessel without orders. Adjutant, order every officer to put on his side arms and revolver. Orderly, hand me mine.”

The men had just scattered forward when Lieutenant Fiske came aft and said: “General, the water is rising very fast in the forward hold, which is my compartment. My men’s berths are all being flooded.”

I ordered the mate aft and said to him: “What is the matter in the fore hold?”

“Nothing,” said he, “except that when the captain ordered the anchor to be let go the ship forged around on to a fluke of the anchor and it has gone through the side, making a hole about five inches square.”

“Very well,” I said, “she has got water-tight compartments.” I turned to the captain and said: “Do you know whether the valves that close all the water-tight compartments are in order?”

“No,” he said, “I have never tested them.”

I turned to the mate and said: “Mate, can you tell by going below?”

“Oh, yes; very easily.”

“Find out and report to me.”

While he was gone I turned to the captain and said: “I don’t think your life is safe here, sir. The men were a good deal infuriated toward you even before they learned of your conduct with the anchor. Step into your room, sir, and don’t attempt to come out of it or have a conference with anybody without orders. Lieutenant Fiske, put a sentry at the captain’s door, and don’t let him out or anybody confer with him, except by my order.”

Meanwhile one of my staff came to me and said: “General, when I was forward among the crew I heard the sailors say that the mate and the engineer would take boats and get ashore.”

I at once instructed him to have good men to guard the boats, and let no one interfere with or touch them without my order.

“Bring the mate and the engineer aft,” said I, “and clear the quarter deck.”

The engineer and mate came aft, and I began to talk with them, I found the engineer very quick and prompt to answer everything about his engine. He said that it was in good condition; that it worked until after the anchor was thrown and then stopped regularly, and he had no doubt that it would work now. I talked with the mate and found him almost a dote. He attempted to answer only a single question, and that we put to him theoretically about some ordinary matter about the ship’s tackle. Beyond that he did not seem to know anything.

I directed the mate to go forward and put everything in order on board the ship. I went into the engineer’s room to have him start the engine and keep it running, in order to work out, by the motion of the propeller, the sand from under the after part of the ship. I asked him to take great pains to see that the engine and propeller worked well and regularly, which he promised to do.

Meanwhile Captain Davis reported that we had struck about two hours after the change of tide, now at ebb. Then, looking at my situation, I became almost overwhelmed and distracted. Here I was, in an iron ship of fifteen hundred tons, with a hole in her so large that the water rose in the forward water-tight compartments just as high as the water on the outside; no officer to advise me; the captain under guard; the mate suspected, if not worse; no one on board who had any more nautical knowledge than myself, and with me more than fifteen hundred of my soldiers, whose lives depended upon what I might do — because it was certain that the ship could not lay there an hour after the sea rose, and her position was such that she would break up and we should all perish.

As I sat with my hand covering my face, I felt a light touch on my shoulder. I looked up and Mrs. Butler was standing beside me. “Cheer up,” she was saying; “do the best you can, resume your command, and perhaps all will be well.”

It may be thought very singular that it had never occurred to me that my wife was in the stateroom below. It was enough. I jumped to my feet and became again the general commanding. Almost the first thing I did was to call a sailor who seemed to be intelligent, and send him to the mast-head to look out for any passing vessel. Our masts were quite tall, as the steamer was brig-rigged. Then my attention was drawn to the shore. There lay Fort Macon within five miles of us; horsemen were riding up and down the beach, artillery was being exercised, and with my glass I could see that we were great objects of interest to those on shore, who could conceive of us only as an enemy there for the purpose of attack. I called two of the gentlemen of my staff and told them to keep watch of the movements of the people on shore, not knowing that they might not organize a boat expedition against us if they found out our condition. I thought, however, I would discourage that idea as much as I could; so I ran up the flag, and, clearing away my six-inch Sawyer rifle, I trained it in the direction of the fort and fired. The shot being the range of some three miles, I thought that would be sufficient information to the enemy that they had better not get within that distance.

I then directed my staff and the mate to have the hatches taken off and the ship lightened, although to raise her to fourteen feet from eighteen feet seemed substantially impossible, especially with our forward hold full of water.

The next thing done was to throw over from the medical stores all the alcohol of every kind that we had on board, except a very small package which was sent into the general storeroom for safe keeping. Details of soldiers were busy lightening the ship by throwing everything overboard to that end.

As I came from below, after having the package of liquors stored away and the door locked, I had a good laugh, notwithstanding our situation, when I saw going overboard several packages of mosquito netting with which my staff proposed to protect themselves against the enemy on Ship Island.

Then came these thoughts: What is the use of trying to float the ship? Who knows where the channel is by which we can get out? These shoals extend some thirteen miles from the shore. There is a middle channel here, I know, for I passed through it when I went down to the Charleston convention. How shall I find the channel, and how shall I mark it when I do find it?

The men were then lightening the ship by throwing overboard barrels of pork and bags of grain. With the assistance of the mate, crew, and some of the men we started the hoops of the pork barrels so as to take the heads out without injury, and delivered the contents to the fishes. In like manner we emptied the grain over-board but kept the bags. After replacing the heads on the pork barrels and making them tight, we got some cordage and made gaskets around the barrels so that we could hold them. We then put one empty oat sack inside another and put eight-inch shells inside the double bags thus formed. Then with some marling stuff we tied the double bags very tight and secured each one to a pork barrel by a cord which was left thirty feet long. We got a couple of these on board one of the ship’s boats, and Major Davis and some of my soldiers who could row were sent out to row around the ship and find a place where the water was at least eighteen feet deep and then to try to mark a channel, dropping our shells overboard for anchors, and so anchoring our barrels for buoys at the proper spots.

At this stage of the business we heard from aloft: “Sail ho.”

“Where away?”

“Broad off.”

One of my staff ran up to the mast-head with his glass and reported her as a steamer coming toward us, flying the Confederate flag. This, of course, was wrong, but it always looked like a Confederate flag, whoever looked at it.

Calling in one of the boats, I directed Major Bell to put himself in full uniform and go out and speak the steamer. If she should prove to be a United States vessel he was to have her come and help us, and he could inform us a good way off, if she were, by swinging his cap from the quarter deck.

“But, General, suppose she is a &sdquo;reb’?”

“Then God help you, Major.”

He raised his cap and went over the side of the vessel.

We stopped all our efforts except to keep the pumps manned and work them with full details of men. Our men worked with a will. We kept that going until late in the afternoon, when the water began to come in faster than we could pump it out. Thereupon I took great pains to scold the soldiers whose detail could not pump the water out as those who did it in the morning, so that there was a great deal of rivalry at the pump brakes. The fact was that the tide had been running out in the morning and was now running in again; but it was better the men should be kept busy.

We made preparations to receive the incoming vessel, whether friend or foe. She came within fair gun-shot, approaching cautiously and slowly. Then she stopped, and with our glasses we could see Bell waving his cap. We then saluted her with our flag, and the vessel’s gig came alongside with Major Bell accompanying Capt. O. C. Glisson, who was welcomed by me on deck. He reported that he was the commander of the United States steamer Mt. Vernon, and that he was stationed at Cape Fear River as a blockader. I then told him our condition. He examined it, shook his head, and said that he was afraid we could never get the vessel up high enough to start her, but he would try to see if he could pull her off. I said to Captain Glisson:—

“You see I am without an officer who knows how to take charge of this ship. I cannot at present release the captain from his confinement and I must have an officer. Now, pray loan me one of yours.”

“I am pretty shorthanded in regard to officers,” he replied. “I can let you have a regular officer, and will, if you prefer; but I have a volunteer officer who has been for some years in command of a whaler from New London, who I think would be best for you, if you can have the confidence in him that I have.”

“Certainly,” said I.

“Then,” said he, “I will detail acting master Sturgis;” and he came on board and navigated the vessel to Ship Island.

Captain Glisson informed us that just ahead of us was the channel, by which, if we could reach it, he could tow us down, and we could anchor in the lee of Cape Fear. He did his very best, but broke his warps and almost got his own vessel aground.

Meanwhile the wind from the southeast rapidly increased, and the sea began to grow turbulent, the waves striking heavily against the ship. I asked Glisson whether he could take on board the Mt. Vernon a portion of my troops. He said he did not know how many he could carry, but would try to take on as many as three hundred men. I had the Western Bay State Regiment of Massachusetts and the Fifteenth Maine Regiment commanded by Col. Neal Dow. In order to deal fairly with everybody, I took as many lucifers as there were companies and cut the heads off of some. Then I allowed first an officer of one Maine company to draw out a match, and then an officer of one of the Massachusetts companies, and so on until all the companies had drawn. Those drawing the five shortest were to be taken on board the Mt. Vernon. It so happened that they were five of the Maine companies. I turned to Colonel Dow and said: —

“Colonel Dow, you had better go with these men on board the Mt. Vernon. They will be safe there.”

“And leave you here, General?”

“Oh, yes; I must stay here.”

“Unless you order it, I shall do no such thing. I shall stay with the majority of my regiment and stand by you; and he did.”

Captain Glisson’s boats not being many nor large, it made his crew a great deal of labor to transfer these men, especially as the sea began to roughen very considerably. When a wave struck the ship she groaned and quivered a good deal, and we hoped that the sand would settle under her and keep her up somewhat. To aid that I got our men in two lines, cleared the decks as well as we could and then I stood on top of the house and gave orders by which the men at double quick were run backwards and forwards as fast as they could, so as to shake the ship out of the sand. We kept that going for a long time. At last Captain Glisson came back in his gig and said: —

“General, I cannot take any more men; they are packed in my ship like herrings in a box. I have come back for you and Mrs. Butler.”

“I will go down and see Mrs. Butler,” said I.

The men stood at halt. I found her in our state-room. I explained the situation and told her that I had come for her and her maid; that I must stay and see the matter out, although I had little hope that the ship would live out the night; that it certainly would not if there came on a blow, but my duty was with my men.

“I cannot go and leave you here,” she at first said.

“Stop a minute,” Sarah, said I. “We have three children. Is it best to have them lose both father and mother, when one can be saved?”

“I will go,” she said.

We came on deck, and with a kiss we parted.

The sea was so uneasy that it made it difficult for the captain to get up to the side of the vessel, so he waited in his boat a little distance off. When I stepped on the house the eye of every soldier was upon me. I hailed the boat.

“Captain,” said I, “I will be obliged to you if you will take Mrs. Butler and her maid. They can be of no use here. But as for me I shall be the last man to leave this ship.”

That decision was received by the men with very tumultuous and heart-spoken cheers, to which I answered: “Attention: double quick, march,” and the tramp went on over the decks with renewed briskness.

I had no heart to see Mrs. Butler leave me, and wishing to be sure not to give way I kept my head turned steadily forward, as she went on. An officer came up and spoke to me. He was the chaplain of a Maine regiment. I will not give his name though I ought to. “General,” said he, “if you desire, I will accompany Mrs. Butler on board the Mt. Vernon.”

“Oh, no, chaplain,” I said, “you need not trouble yourself to do that. Captain Glisson is a gentleman and will see that she has every attention.”

“General, I prefer to go.”

“The devil you do! Look here, chaplain, the government has trusted the bodies of fifteen hundred of its soldiers to my care, and their souls to your care, and if your prayers are ever going to be of any use it will be about now, as it looks to me. You cannot go, sir,” and I turned away.

Night was closing down. The high tide was approaching, and the vessel was more and more uneasy. We put all the sail that we could upon her but did not “sheet it home,” that is, so set it that it would draw and exert any force on the ship. We got up all the steam we could. I went to the side of the vessel, dropped over the dipsy lead, a large, heavy ball of lead held fast to the bottom by its weight, and then drew the cord to which it was attached up to a mark on the ship’s rail. Then, waiting until the wind lulled a moment, I gave the order: “Sheet home; jingle the engine bell.” I watched with breathless anxiety whether, with all the means of moving we could possibly have, and with all the tide that we could have, the ship would move.

The hold was full of water, and this, which we thought was our destruction, proved to be our salvation. The force of the sails and the pressure of the propeller started her; her weight broke down the bank of sand on which she was resting, and she moved forward into deep water. All was well and we were safe, and cheers uprose from that vessel, the like of which I never heard before and shall never hear again.

The stern of the ship was at least three feet higher than her bow, but we followed the Mt. Vernon to the mouth of Cape Fear River, and anchored. Here we lay quietly all night.

I made a thorough examination of the ship after she was put to rights, and found that her engine was all right and that her forward bulkhead would probably hold the pressure of water if it were stayed and supported somewhat with braces of joists. Accordingly, I decided we would try to go to Port Royal, if the Mt. Vernon would accompany us, where we hoped to be able to repair. Suspecting our men would be nervous because we appeared so much out of trim, and thinking that it would give them much confidence and comfort if I brought Mrs. Butler on board again to go in our vessel to Port Royal, I rowed to the Mt. Vernon. As I approached the quarter deck, whom should I see on her deck but my chaplain of the long flowing curls and Byronic collar. Hardly waiting for the exchange of proper courtesies with Captain Glisson, I sprang to the chaplain and said: —

“How came you here?”

“I came over last night.”

“In what?”

“With Captain Glisson.”

“What? In the last boat with Mrs. Butler?”

“Yes, General.”

“After I ordered you not to?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go below at once and write your resignation. I will accept it, and don’t let me ever hear of your trying to get into the army again. Go.”

I then told Captain Glisson what the man had done. He said he never would have brought him away from the ship if he had known that; he understood that I wanted the chaplain to come.

While this conversation was going on the chaplain came up with his resignation.

“Very well, chaplain,” said I, as I looked it over, “I will send your discharge to your post-office. Now, Captain Glisson, you can keep this fellow or throw him overboard, just as you choose; I wash my hands of him. I haven’t any more use for him, although he may be the Jonah that went overboard and saved the ship.“

Captain Glisson took myself and wife back in his boat, and, having had a belief that I should bring him back with me, I had made preparations that he should have the best breakfast that the Mississippi could serve — and she was pretty well provided.

There was no incident on the trip to Port Royal to which I need pay any attention. True, we had a thunder storm with vivid lightning, which left the sailor’s fireballs attached to the yards of the rigging, much to the horror of our landsman soldiers. We attracted great notice in the fleet, being a vessel coming with her nose apparently in the water.

Consultation was had with the naval officers how our ship could possibly be repaired there, and in that consultation Captain Boutelle, of the Coast Survey, then in command of the little steamer Chancellor Bibb, gave me most effective aid. We were towed to Seabrook up Skull Creek, which was deep, but only wide enough to turn the vessel around in. The place was a sea island cotton plantation which the owner’s family had deserted, an excellent place in which to encamp our troops. It also had a small wharf to which we could fasten the ship.

There we went through the great labor of unloading everything from the hold of the vessel, fore and aft, and as we had about thirteen hundred tons of coal on board when we started, that was no small labor. Then the difficulty was to get this water out of the forward hold. There were valves which could be opened so as to let the water flow through each bulkhead into the well of the vessel where it could be pumped out by the engine. As the vessel had been fitted out and loaded under the command of Captain Fulton whom I still held under arrest, I found it necessary to release him and engage his help. He was then and there investigated by a board of inquiry and restored to his command, Mr. Sturgis having gone away with Captain Glisson. We then found that the captain had put in no water-ways to conduct the water from the water-tight compartments, so that it might run through freely without spreading over the compartments. We further found that the lower hold had been filled up with coal, and in consequence, there was so much coal dust in the well that it would not do to pump it out lest we should disable the pumps, — another evidence of the captain’s inefficiency.

Therefore we rigged the pumps on the forward deck, but found that in spite of all we could do the water came in faster than we could pump it out. We tried spreading a sail over the forefoot of the vessel so that it might be sucked into the aperture in the hull and thus partially stop the leak, but that was found useless. A diver was sent down, and he found the hole to be in what the ship builders call the garboard streak, — in this case the lower iron plate just above the turn where the keel joined the vessel’s bow, so that it was impossible to prevent the water coming in at the open space between the keel and the point where the sail would strike the side of the ship. The ship carpenters gave up in despair, — they were wooden-ship carpenters, — and my expedition to Ship Island and New Orleans seemed to have come to an end.

At last, after much thought, I hit upon this device, — which I will describe, at the expense of a page perhaps, for the benefit of whoever may find himself in like situation. I sent the diver down again and found the size and character of the hole. I then took a sheet of iron such as that with which the vessel was plated, about sixteen inches long, twelve inches wide, and about three eighths of an inch thick. I had a hole put through each corner, and then had it cushioned on one side with oakum finely picked, and covered with a couple of thicknesses of the stoutest canvas. I had the cushion soaked with melted tallow. I then tied four light, long lines to the punctures at the corners and carried two of them on one side under the rigging and chains that fastened the bowsprit, and brought them under the keel of the vessel. I then hauled up on the lines on one side until I got the cushioned side of the plate about opposite the hole and a little above it, with the other lines pulling up on the other side of the ship, thus holding it loosely. I then sent down a diver and he shoved the plate over the hole and held it there for a second while we hauled in on both sides and made it fast where it was. Then we began to pump. I sent the diver down again to press the plate against the hole if it was in the right place. Fortunately it was, and then the suction of the pump held the plate there firmly. Then we fastened our lines so as to assist in keeping it in the same place whether we pumped or not. This being done, it was not a long job to pump out the water, for the cushion on the plate was sucked into the hole which had been punched inwards by the anchor, and held it substantially tight, only a little water leaking through the broken part of the sheathing plate.

I then turned the job over to the carpenters to stop up the hole tightly inside, as they said they could do it. We then went to work to get our cargo on board, as it did not leak enough to do any harm, and we got ready to start. Before we started of course we took off this plate because it would be very easily driven off in the seaway. When this was done the simple pressure of the water stove the carpenters’ work all to pieces, and the water came in the hole apparently faster than ever. We replaced the plate over the hole, pumped out the water again, and I undertook a little job of blacksmithing.

I had the engineers with their cold chisels cut out the little pieces of plate that had bent inwards, and smooth the rough hole inside where it had been punched in. Then I took another plate cushioned just like the first one and placed it on the inside. I put two jackscrews between the iron keelson and the sheathing of the ship over the hole, and then bound those screws so as to hold the cushion plate over the hole, as strongly as I dared to. I then put a couple of joists from the timbers above and wedged them in firmly so that the jackscrews should not work up, and I thought I had the thing reasonably tight. But as I was going up to camp I saw a barrel of rosin. I brought it down to the wharf and melted it; built a box about two feet square, one side of which was the keelson and the other side opposite the sheathing of the vessel, the box just holding the plate and jack-screws in it. I then filled the box up with hot rosin, and when it cooled and became perfectly solid I did not believe that the hole would start again. I was so confident of it that I left off the outside plate at once, and no more water leaked in than would make a stream the size of a goose quill.

And the Mississippi was run from Port Royal to Ship Island, and from Ship Island to New Orleans, and from New Orleans back to Ship Island in 1861: view of Island and fleet, Fort Massachusetts. View of Island from Fort.

Boston before that hole was any further repaired, and it never gave way.

Ship Island is an island of white sand thrown up by the winds and waves. It is between five and six miles long, and is about ten miles distant from the Mississippi coast. At the upper part of it there is some soil on which is a growth of pine which serves at once for the fuel and for the timber required. This eastern end of the island rises to some considerable height above the waters of the Gulf. The western end is more flat and rises only a little above the sea, in places less than two feet, and in case of any considerable sea, the waves wash over it. It was about 1843, if I recollect aright, a place of seaside resort for the people of New Orleans, many of whom had built cottages there and occupied them, when a storm, accompanied by rain and lightning, drove the water over the island and washed off substantially all the inhabitants.

The United States, at the breaking out of the war, had partly finished a fort upon the island called Fort Massachusetts.

Fort Massachusetts

At the time of the arrival of my troops there was not a house on the island. We brought some section houses to be put up for hospital purposes and to cover stores and supplies, but we relied for shelter upon our tents.

The sand of the island was of dazzling whiteness and drifted about in every wind storm as if it were snow. We had been told that this drifting sand was very dangerous to the eyes, and therefore all the officers and some of the men had provided themselves with blue and green glasses to keep the sand out of their eyes.

I was warned that it would be impossible to maintain ourselves upon the island because there was no fresh water there. But I had learned from the experience of the British in the war of 1812, that they had obtained their fresh water from that island for their army. Furthermore, I knew that as a general rule on all flat sand beaches on the southern coast just raised above high tide, by digging a hole in the sand and putting a headless barrel into it so that the bottom of it would be even below tide-water, the barrel would soon be filled with very passable soft, fresh water, up even to the height of the tide, and I relied upon that means for my supply of water.

The fact was found to be as it was stated to me. By placing barrels as I have indicated, a supply of water, wholesome and but very slightly brackish, was furnished for a considerable time. But I learned another fact about it; and this was that after a few days the water would become impure, emitting a very perceptible and offensive odor of decaying animal matter, and then that barrel would have to be abandoned. But it was very little trouble to put down another barrel in the immediate neighborhood of the first, which for a time would give us reasonably pure fresh water, so that difficulty as to the water was not serious.

I investigated the causes of this change in the water and came to the conclusion that the water we drank was rain water, which had sunk into the sand and been prevented by capillary attraction from flowing into the sea. When an opening was made, it percolated through the sand into the barrel. But this sand itself had been thrown up by the sea, and while in the sea had attracted to itself the adhesive animalculae with which sea water is filled. Thus it contained animal matter, and this was carried into the barrels by the rain water, and, after a few days’ exposure to the sun, it putrified, destroying the water in which it was found.

We also found upon experiment that we were entirely mistaken in our idea that the sand would affect our eyes, and consequently our provision of spectacles and glasses was a useless one. But this attracted my attention: We found that when the wind blew the sand flew with great ease and rapidity, and sprinkled everything. Indeed, in the storms it banked up about our tents and on our plankwalks, exactly as the snow would do in a northern climate. Why, therefore, it should not affect the eyes as the shifting sands in the Desert of Sahara do, as I have read, I could not understand. In my younger days I had been something of a microscopist, and I had taken my telescope and microscope, as well as other scientific instruments, when I came on the expedition. Upon examining the sand I found that the reason it did not affect our eyes was that every particle of sand that I could find was globular in form, like the larger shingle of the beaches, where it is rolled about and washed by the waters. Being globular, it had no sharp corners with which the eye might be scratched, and when the sand got into the eye it worked out without injury, like the little pebble called an “eye stone,” or a flax seed, which is in some parts of the country used for the same purpose.

Notwithstanding all my unfortunate delays I found that I was quite in season in my arrival at Ship Island. Indeed, I had to wait there not only for the admiral’s fleet to get to the mouth of the Mississippi, but some fourteen days more, while the ships were being worked over the bar.

When I contemplated my position at Ship Island it seemed as if I had an herculean task before me. In the first place, I learned that the fleet could not go to the mouth of the Mississippi for want of coal. Their boiler grates burned only anthracite coal, and no sufficient quantity of coal had been ordered to fill them up and supply them with what was necessary to go up the river to New Orleans. There, if they took the city, there was plenty of coal, yet it had not been taken into consideration that it was soft coal and could not be used under the boilers with any effect. A supply had been sent by the Navy Department, but Admiral David G. Farragut. From a photograph. the schooners carrying it had been dispersed and nobody knew where they were, whether above or below the water. It would take more than thirty days to send up word to the Navy Department at Washington and get a supply of coal back. Flag-Officer Farragut, as was then his rank, was almost in despair at the delay. I was enabled to relieve him, however, because I had chartered a very large number of ships with a provision that they should be returned in ballast.

Admiral David G. Farragut
Admiral David G. Farragut

Now the usual way of ballasting a ship is to fill it up with stones, take them to the end of the voyage, and then throw them overboard. But I had to return the vessels in ballast. I saw that anthracite coal was steadily rising in the market when our equipment was forwarded from Boston, and I assumed that if I ballasted all my ships with anthracite coal the coal would be worth more when it got back to Boston after having gone down to Ship Island, than it was when I put it on board, and so something very considerable might be saved to the government. I had therefore directed my quartermaster to buy coal enough and put it on board to ballast all the ships on their return voyage.

“Well, Admiral,” I said, “I guessed that somebody might want coal and so I brought a large quantity with me. I have twenty-five hundred or three thousand tons that I can let you have as fast as you can put it on board your ships, and I will ballast back again with dry sand if I can find nothing else.”

“Why, this is almost providential,” the flag-officer said.

“Yes,” I answered, “I provided it.”

“But,” said he, “how can you in the army let the navy have the coal? Your army regulations are against it, are they not?“

“I never read the army regulations,” said I, “and what is more I sha’n’t, and then I shall not know I am doing anything against them, If the navy uses the coal for the benefit of the government, I, as a lawyer, know that the government will never get the pay for it out of me again.”

It took days to get the coal matter settled. I may refer to this again, for the result of this proceeding on my part brought upon me great obloquy, as my accounts were not regular.

Another trouble at the same time came upon me, which might have had somewhat fearful results. It was another example of the fact that a junior officer, except in case of dire necessity, ought never to interfere with the action of his senior officer without orders. What General Phelps did, as we shall see, was done honestly and, as far as he knew, properly; but it might have entirely nullified our whole expedition, and possibly have turned back most men.

I had chartered the Constitution at three thousand dollars a day. She could steam fifteen miles an hour, and before I left Washington I had sent her to Ship Island twice, once with three thousand men and a second time with five thousand men, with thirty head of cattle on her guards for fresh meat, and three months’ provisions for my command in her hold. I relied upon her to be the great transport ship of my expedition. On both voyages she made quick time, landing her troops and provisions with safety. After she had discharged the second time, she lay there some days, under a daily demurrage of three thousand dollars, waiting for me to come. But I was so baffled by the intrigues at Washington, and afterwards by the perils of the sea, that I did not get to Ship Island until the last of March, while I was expected there the first of February.

After waiting some time for me to come, General Phelps thought it a pity that the government should be losing three thousand dollars a day and the boat there doing nothing. Accordingly he ordered her home, never once thinking how, in an emergency, he was to get away from there without any steamer, — for she was the only steamboat he had. Sometime before this he had written a proclamation freeing the negroes. He excused himself for sending the steamboat home on the ground that he was afraid that my expedition had been broken up, never considering, I repeat, how he and his eight thousand men were to get home, if it had been. He would have found himself without any means of transportation by steamer, if I had put my men on sailing vessels, as I had to do afterwards, for I had no steamer there except my little headquarters yacht, the Saxon, and the Mississippi, with a five-inch hole in her nose.

This also stared me in the face: I had sent down food and necessaries for a three months’ stay. These were rapidly being consumed. I had left orders with my quartermaster and commissary that after I had been two months’ away from Boston they should send me provisions for ninety days more. But before the time arrived for them to act, they were deprived of their commissions, their appointments being rejected by the Senate. This was done by the influence and the malignity of Governor Andrew and his crew of patriots simply upon political grounds. Although I made requisition for a new quartermaster and commissary to be sent to me as soon as it could be done, they did not get to me until after I had been in New Orleans more than thirty days.

Thus I was left without the services of a quartermaster and commissary who knew anything about the details of the expedition or its Map of lower Mississippi River provisions. I should have had no notice of what had happened or of the difficulty I was in, for none was given me, had not my brother taken passage in a sailing vessel and come down, giving me the information. He had also, upon his personal responsibility, shipped provisions enough to carry me along, and had given notice to Mr. Stanton that provisions must be sent. These came in due time; otherwise a starving army would have landed in a starving captured city.

Mouth of the Mississippi
Map of the Lower Mississippi River.

Again: I hoped to have been at the island two months earlier. I had brought with me more than one hundred Massachusetts mechanics to build boats with which to get through the bayous, lagoons, and morasses in the rear of Fort Jackson or St. Philip, as the case might be, and to construct scaling ladders with which to assault the parapets, rafts on which field artillery could be transported to aid us in our siege operations, and flats in which to transport provisions in those shallow waters. For I had foreseen that had we brought army wagons to New Orleans they would hardly have been of use, so I had but four or five.

All this, if I were to support Farragut, was to be done in seven days. Fortunately it took him fifteen days and more to get over the bar at the Sou-West Pass at the mouth of the river, and eight days more were consumed in waiting for that superbly useless bombardment, which Farragut never believed in from the hour when it was first brought to his attention to the time when the last mortar was fired.

But through the energy of Lieutenant Weitzel, my chief engineer, those accessories of the expedition were fully got ready and put on board ship, with a large number of fascines or fagots for filling up ditches.

In two days after the bombardment commenced I had six thousand troops in the river in different sailing vessels, and I had more in the Great Republic, a sailing ship of three thousand tons burden, which could not get over the bar. The army was all ready.

The plan of operation against New Orleans had been agreed upon in a consultation between Flag-Officer Farragut, Captain Bailey of the navy, who afterwards led one of the divisions by the forts in the Cayuga, Major Strong, my chief of staff, Lieutenant Weitzel, and myself, Captain Porter not being present. The plan then adopted was substantially the one carried out, which resulted in the capture of the city: —

  1. Captain Porter, with his fleet of twenty-one bomb-schooners, should anchor below the two forts, Jackson and St. Philip, and continue to fire upon them until they were reduced, or until his ammunition was nearly exhausted. During the bombardment, Captain Farragut’s fleet should remain out of fire, as a reserve, just below the bomb-vessels. The army, or so much of it as transportation could be found for, should remain at the mouth of the river, awaiting the issue of the bombardment. If Captain Porter succeeded in reducing the forts, the army would ascend the river and garrison them. It would then be apparent, probably, what the next movement would be.
  2. If the bombardment did not reduce or silence the forts, then Captain Farragut, with his fleet of steamers, would attempt to run by them. If he succeeded, he proposed to clear the river of the enemy’s fleet, cut off the forts from supplies, and push on at least far enough to reconnoitre the next obstruction.
  3. Captain Farragut having passed the forts, General Butler would at once take the troops round to the rear of Fort St. Philip, land them in the swamps there, and attempt to carry the fort by assault. The enemy had made no preparations to resist an attack from that quarter, supposing the swamps impassable. But Lieutenant Weitzel, while constructing the fort, had been for two years in the habit of duck shooting all over those swamps, and knew every bay and bayou of them. He assured General Butler that the landing of troops there would be difficult, but not impossible; and hence this part of the scheme.
         Both in the formation of the plan and in its execution, the local knowledge and pre-eminent skill of Lieutenant Weitzel were of the utmost value. Few men contributed more to the reduction of the city than he. There were few more valuable officers in the service than General Weitzel, as the country well knows. Section of Mississippi River, showing defences of forts Jackson and St. Philip at time of bombardment.
  4. The forts being reduced, the land and naval force would advance toward the city in the manner that should then seem best.
Fort Jackson
Forts Jackson and St. Philip.

The first day’s bombardment set fire to the wooden barracks and officers’ quarters, which burned all night. Porter ceased firing while the burning was going on, supposing that the fort would be destroyed. But that fire had the same effect as when the enemy fired on Fort Sumter and set fire to the same class of buildings. They supposed that Sumter must surrender on account of that fire. But that fire, and this one, too, only cleared the fort of obstructions and obstacles. Of the fact that the fort had neither been disabled nor surrendered Porter received information the next morning by a prompt and vigorous response to the fire of the mortars, and at 11.30 a rifle ball from the fort pierced one of his schooners and sunk it in twenty minutes. This bombardment went on for six days. How little harm was done appears from the report of the Confederate Brigadier-General Duncan, who had charge of the forts, in his report to General Lovell of the Confederate army: —

Heavy and continued bombardment all night and still progressing. No further casualties except two men slightly wounded. God is certainly protecting us. We are still cheerful, and have an abiding faith in our ultimate success. We are making repairs as best we can. Our barbette guns are still in working order. Most of them have been disabled at times. The health of the troops continues good. Twenty-five thousand thirteen-inch shells have been fired by the enemy, one thousand of which fell in the fort. They must soon exhaust themselves; if not, we can stand it as long as they can.

Duncan evidently made this report to show his men’s courage and stimulate the hopes of the people in New Orleans. It is a very good specimen of the kind of report that is sent out by some commanding officers for people to read. Not twenty-five thousand shells were thrown altogether, but five thousand only. Not one thousand struck inside the fort, but only three hundred during the whole bombardment, and at the time of Duncan’s report the last day’s firing had not been counted.

Duncan’s report reads exactly like some of the magazine war articles written by our officers who wish to establish reputations for bravery and endurance, but are somewhat economical of truth. As Duncan was educated at West Point he was taught in the same way as were these officers who write magazine articles and war books.

There had been two days’ bombardment, when consideration had to be given to another defence of the rebels, — a chain cable across the river. This barrier had at first been made of logs fastened by shackles end to end, so as to float upon the surface. It had been thrown across the river in the early spring, the chain of logs being within point blank fire of Fort Jackson and the other end on the bank near Fort St. Philip. This barrier had been found impracticable, because the floating timber and brush caught on the chain, and the pressure of the water soon parted it, the river being very high and the current swift. That made a resort to some other expedient necessary. Several schooners were anchored thirty yards apart in a line extending across the river. Heavy chains — which had been taken from Pensacola and Norfolk Navy Yards — were securely fastened together in a long cable. One end of this having been made fast on shore, the chain was carried across the schooners from one to another, being affixed to the foremast of each one, and so on across the river, where the chain was as securely fastened on the other shore. This chain allowed the driftwood floating down the river to run through between the schooners without doing any damage.

The question was, how shall the chain be gotten rid of? By this time the naval men, and especially Farragut, had come to the conclusion that Porter would exhaust his shells a long time before he would substantially damage the forts, and therefore, upon consultation, the plan of a night attack, before arranged, was agreed upon.

Diagram of Fort Jackson
Diagram of Fort Jackson.

Fort Jackson from Google Maps
Fort Jackson on Google Maps.

The plan was that the fleet should start nearer midnight than dawn, and should advance in two columns or divisions. If the ships passed the forts, the troops were to go out upon the Gulf side and work up the Maumeel Canal in boats, and then, when we had a sufficient force there, we were to assault Fort St. Philip from the rear, and the fleet was to assist us from the river.

There had been a wonderful omission by the rebels of any preparation of defence for Fort St. Philip in the rear; they had mounted no guns to cover the side towards the Gulf. True, it was for several miles a marsh covered with water and short shrubbery, but still, troops who were in earnest could get through it, as Lieutenant Weitzel informed us. Under the cover of night, in a boat from the Saxon, I sent Captain Everett, of my Massachusetts battery, to reconnoitre in the rear of St. Philip from one of the many little bayous [guts] which run out from the river into the Gulf. The first night he went in he explored enough to find that he could get anywhere he wanted to in the rear of the fort without being noticed. The next night he took a slightly heavier boat and some men, and went behind Fort St. Philip again. He ascertained that there were no guns mounted which would prevent our boats coming up the Maumeel Canal, and the only possible difficulty that he noted was the lack of depth of water in the upper canal to float a heavy launch.

The third night after the burning of the buildings in the fort Captain Bell was detached with the Pinola and Itasca. The Pinola was to blow up, by means of torpedoes fired by electricity, one of the hulks which floated the chain, while the Itasca was to board the next schooner, cut the chain and also the cable by which the schooner was anchored, and let the hulk swing round by the force of the current, to be held by the schooner anchored next to it. This would leave a passage of about one hundred and eighty feet, if both were successful.

There was a great rush of water driven down the river by the wind, and although a petard was thrown upon the deck of the hulk, yet her engine being stopped, the Pinola was swept away so quickly as to break the electric connection, so that the petard was not exploded.

In the meantime, the Itasca had laid herself alongside the next schooner near the middle of the river, and had made fast thereto. At that moment, she was discovered. Both forts opened fire upon her, but the darkness and smoke so covered her that the men worked in perfect safety. The chain was cut with sledge and chisel and the cable that held the hulk was slipped. Instantly the Itasca and the schooner were carried down by the wind and tide, taking the end of the chain with them and swinging around to the eastern shore under the fire of both forts. Here the Itasca grounded hard and fast by the bow. The Pinola, however, came to her rescue, and after an hour’s tugging, started her, and both boats came down in triumph without a scratch.

Immediately after, an immense fire-raft was sent down by the enemy. Perhaps a word to describe that contrivance of war would not be wasted. This fire-raft was an immense flat boat such as was used for bringing coal down the Mississippi. It was about two hundred feet long, forty feet wide, and six feet deep. It was filled, from stem to stern, full of light wood and cotton, well saturated with pitch and turpentine, the wood being packed cobhouse fashion, so as to burn easily and freely under the strong wind. The raft came through the opening in the chain, passed the Hartford within fifty feet, scorching the men on deck, just grazed the Scioto, and went on its way to the lower division of the fleet. Here the mortar men in their boats grappled it, towed it to the shore, and made it fast.

Four days’ bombardment had passed. Four thousand shells had been used, costing the government fifty dollars for each shell, irrespective of the expense of exploding them as fireworks. Still there was no sensible diminution of the fire of the forts.

Farragut had at first determined to make his attempt to run past the forts on the early morning of the 23d, the sixth day of the bombardment, but was delayed. The fire of the mortars on the sixth day was slow; the forts answered not a gun. The men at mast-head, with their glasses, descried twelve rebel steamers around the bend above the forts. The day was spent on both sides in getting ready. By an accident two of our gunboats had been partially disabled, requiring great efforts to put them in trim, which was finally done. The chain cables of the gunboats and ships were fastened in festoons up and down the sides of the vessels on both sides, so as to protect the engines and boilers.

On the evening of the 23d, arrangements were made for the fleet in five divisions to take part in running by the forts. The mortar boats were to remain in position, and aid the attack with the quickest fire possible. How quick that fire was, I had personal inspection. Following Farragut’s division up to the forts in my headquarters boat as he went by, I came within six hundred yards, and saw eleven mortar shells, their fuses burning, in the air at the same time.

The six small steamers belonging to the mortar fleet, Porter commanding, — the Harriet Lane, Westfield, Owasca, Clifton, Miami, and Jackson, the last named towing the sloop of war Portsmouth, — were to engage the water battery below Fort Jackson, but were not to attempt to pass the forts.

The Hartford, Richmond, and Brooklyn, Farragut commanding, were to advance upon Fort Jackson.

The Cayuga, Pensacola, Mississippi, Oneida, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo, and Wissahickon, Capt. Theodorus Bailey commanding, were to proceed along the eastern bank and attack Fort St. Philip as they passed.

Captain Bell, commanding the third division, which consisted of the Scioto, Iroquois, Pinola, Winona, Itasca, and Kennebec, was to advance in the middle of the river and push on to attack the enemy’s fleet above the forts.

The night was still, and a light breeze up river brought with it a haze, which clung to the water.

At two o’clock, a red light was run up the Hartford’s mast-head, the signal to weigh anchor and advance. From the starting-point to a point in the river above the range of the guns of the forts the distance was five miles. The current was a strong three-mile current, and the order was not to attempt to advance faster than four miles an hour. My headquarters boat, the Saxon, took position in the line of advance immediately behind Farragut’s division.

Lieutenant Weitzel, at Farragut’s request, had stated to the assembled commanders the condition and formation of the forts. He said they both were very low down, especially Fort St. Philip, and that the gunners of all the batteries had been for days firing the guns at a very high elevation to reach the fleet below, and probably would retain them in that position. Therefore he advised that the guns of the fleet be fired very low down, or they would fire over the forts. He also suggested that if both divisions, as they passed the forts, were to go by within fifty yards of them, the guns of the forts would probably fire over them, while they, with grape and canister, would drive every rebel from his guns.

The moment Farragut’s guns opened fire, the smoke settling down made it impossible to see anything one hundred yards away, except the bright flashes, or hear anything save the continuous roar of cannon of heaviest calibre. It is vain to attempt to give a description of the appalling scene. The best one I ever heard was given by my staff officer, Major Bell, in answer to a lady who asked him to describe it. He said: “Imagine all the earthquakes in the world, and all the thunder and lightning storms together, in a space of two miles, all going off at once; that would be like it, madam.” Five Views of Forts Jackson & St. Philip

Forts Jackson and St. Philip, Five Views.

It is needless to tell of individual gallantry and courage where all did so well, but I may say that the Hartford bore the brunt of the battle. The gallant Farragut stood in the fore-rigging with his glass in his hand. He was under the fire of both forts at the same time. The rebel ram pushed a fire-raft against his ship’s side, setting her on fire fore and aft. Even then he did not call away his gunners from the guns, but ordered his fire-brigade to attend to the flames. Attacked by one of the enemy’s gunboats, he set out to destroy her with a single broadside. Receiving all the time the fire of the enemy and giving them broadside after broadside, while at the same time pushed ashore by the fire-raft and struggling to get his vessel off in the darkness, not even knowing where he was, made a cluster of dangers and exigencies, at once difficult and terrible, sufficient to tax the greatest energy, courage, quickness of perception, and coolness of thought and judgment of any man in any war before or since.

Meantime our fleet destroyed and sunk all of the enemy’s vessels, including the ram Manassas. One boat we lost, the Varuna, which was pierced by the ram. She sunk, but not until Captain Boggs had tied her to a tree.

Reaching quarantine, above the forts, Captain Bailey of the Cayuga captured the rebel regiment which had been stationed there to prevent my landing. All that had not run away surrendered, and, as Farragut said, “I paroled them, for I determined to hasten on and could not take them along, and so left them to the tender mercies of General Butler.”

Of all this, we below the forts knew nothing. Even the Kennebec, which had got afoul of the cable and had returned, and the Itasca, which had got a shot in her boiler and came back, could give us no information. But as the sun rose up in the heavens in the clear calm of a beautiful April morning, Farragut flashed back the signal of his triumph and victory by covering his entire fleet with flags and signals, as in the celebration of a gala day. That told the story.

My boat being partially disabled by accident, I went on board the Harriet Lane. She was firing away at the sinking ram Manassas that came floating down, but was already riddled and burning, so that the ammunition so spent was wasted. Here I borrowed of Porter the Miami. She had been a New York ferry-boat, and answered my purpose very well, for I wanted a boat to carry as many troops as possible. Then I started down the river.

With my glass I could see the rebel ram Louisiana lying at a point just above and at the side of Fort St. Philip. She had not moved from the place in which she had anchored after coming down from New Orleans a day or two before. Two steamers near her seemed to be her tenders. Before the Miami got ready, the mortar fleet started down the river to the passes.

The Miami was slow, besides steering very wildly. When I got to the head of the passes, that is, where the Southwest Pass, the South Pass, and Pass a l’Outre, to the easterly, form several means of passage from the river to the Gulf, all my troops and steamers, under the personal command of General Williams, went up to the rear of Fort St. Philip, and I made my headquarters on Sable Island.

I was delayed twenty-four hours by the Miami running aground, and I was much in need of light draft steamers, for which I had made requisition on the quartermaster-general on the 24th of February. That requisition had never been answered, and, in fact, I never received any assistance from that department, by its sending me anything, from the 24th of February to the 8th of May. I was enabled at last to disembark my troops and form a column of yawl boats in which they were conveyed up the Maumeel Canal as far as we could go. Then we left the boats and waded for miles up the levee near the quarantine station, for the purpose of attacking Fort St. Philip in the rear. To get there I myself waded in the water above my hips for nearly two miles — which was not unsafe but unpleasant. Here, Captain Smith, of the naval vessel Mississippi, which had been detained by Farragut to hold that station, kindly conveyed a detachment of my soldiers across the river, where we established ourselves by entrenchment across the levee.

To understand the purpose of this movement, it should be told that the only way to get up the river by land on either side was to go up its bank close to the water’s edge. Here frequently there was no passable ground more than sufficient for a carriage road. So that when I had taken possession of the west bank of the river there was no earthly hope that the troops in the forts could get to New Orleans.

On April 27, the majority of the garrison of Fort Jackson mutinied against their officers, either spiked the field-pieces or turned them against their officers, and deserted and came up five miles and surrendered themselves to my pickets. The day afterwards the officers surrendered the forts, having substantially no garrison, to Captain Porter, most of whose vessels were twenty-five miles below.

While they were making terms for capitulation in the cabin of Porter’s vessel, the naval officer in charge of the rebel ram Louisiana let her loose and set her on fire, and she floated down and blew up quite near the Harriet Lane. This was the ram that Porter was so afraid of. Before this she had never moved a foot from Fort St. Philip, having no motive power. When reproached by Porter for this act of perfidy, the Confederate officers replied that they were army officers surrendering the forts; that they had no control over the naval officers.

As soon as the forts surrendered, I ordered General Phelps to get his ships towed up by Porter’s mortar fleet, and take possession of the forts. This was done, since Porter was no longer afraid to have his mortar boats come up the river, the lively ram having been destroyed.

On the 27th, after the garrisons of the forts were captured at my pickets, I went on board the Wissahickon, Captain Smith, which was at quarantine, and joined Farragut at New Orleans, to consult with him as to the next move to be made.

Meantime Farragut had gone up the river, engaged the rebel battery at English Turn, and routed them with a broadside, and also the battery at Chalmette, being the fortified line that Jackson defended against Pakenham when he appeared before the city. All the rebel troops under Lovell ran away across Lake Pontchartrain, and very many citizens took steamers and went up the river to Alexandria and elsewhere, having burned and destroyed immense quantities of cotton, sugar, rosin, tobacco, and coal.

Lovell and Twigg having run away, Farragut called upon the city government to surrender and to hoist the United States flag in token thereof on the United States public buildings. This the mayor declined to do, making the excuse that he was not a military officer. Farragut then sent Captain Bailey and Lieutenant Perkins ashore with a party of marines and hoisted the United States flag over the United States mint, but did not leave it guarded except that he had howitzers in the main-top of the Hartford which bore upon it.

On the day before I got up to New Orleans a party of ruffians, headed by one Mumford, pulled down Farragut’s flag, trailed it on the ground through the streets, tore it in pieces and distributed the pieces among the mob for keepsakes, their leader wearing a piece of it in the buttonhole of his coat as a boutonniere.

As we neared the city the next day the morning papers were brought to me on board the Wissahickon containing a description of this performance with high encomiums upon the bravery and gallantry of the man who did it. After having read the article, I handed the paper to Captain Smith and said: “I will hang that fellow whenever I catch him,” and in such matters I always keep my intention.

I think a proper ending for this chapter, for the purpose of showing exactly how untruthfully and villanously Capt. David D. Porter behaved through this whole transaction of the capture and surrender of the forts, will be an extract from my official report written to the Secretary of War on the 1st day of June, the truth of no word of which for twenty-eight years was ever disputed, and then only by Porter in an interview in a newspaper, the authenticity of which he afterwards denied, and after I had put it before him as a statement of fact he never replied to it: —

I have read Commander Porter’s official report of the surrender of the forts; and here permit me, for the sake of my brave and enduring soldiers of the Twenty-Sixth Massachusetts and Fourth Wisconsin regiments, who waded in the swamps in the rear of Fort St. Philip up to their armpits in water in order to cut off its garrison and get ready to assault the enemy’s works, to put the truth of history right before the War Department and the country by the simple enumeration of the facts that it was due to their efforts and that of their comrades, and to those alone, that Forts Jackson and St. Philip surrendered when they did. No naval vessel or one of the mortar fleet had fired a shot at the forts for three days before the surrender, and not one of the mortar boats was within twenty-five miles at that time, they having sailed out of the river from prudent consideration of the prowess of the ram Louisiana, which was supposed to be “lively” near the forts. A majority of the garrison of Fort Jackson had surrendered to my pickets the night before the officers made a surrender to Commodore Porter and obtained from him better terms than has been or ought to be given during the war to a rebel officer or soldier, and under those terms the rebel General Duncan claims a right to be and is in the army of Beauregard, giving “aid and comfort,” and only holding himself “not to serve in arms,” which are the terms of his parole. I send a copy of the terms of capitulation. I do not wish to take from the well-earned and well-deserved consideration due to the navy for their brilliant exploit in running past Forts St. Philip and Jackson. I have borne and shall ever bear testimony to their courage and gallantry on that occasion, but after that no shot was fired until the surrender, and the forts could have been held for weeks, if not months, so far as the bombardment was concerned, for in the judgment of the best engineering skill they were then as defensible as before the bombardment. I will not permit too great meed of praise on the part of anybody to take away the merit fairly due my brave soldiers, who endured so much hardship and showed as much bravery as the most gallant tar of them all, for we landed within five miles above the forts and lively ram, protected by only two gunboats, while the mortar boats, protected by seven gunboats, retreated twenty-five miles below the forts and out of the river.

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ON the morning of the first day of May, having determined to disembark my troops, or as many of them as had then arrived, and take possession of the city at sundown, I issued the following order: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, May 1, 1862.

General Order No. 15.

  1. In anticipation of the immediate disembarkation of the troops of this command amid the temptations and inducements of a large city, all plundering of private property, by any person or persons, is hereby forbidden, under the severest penalties.
  2. No officer or soldier will absent himself from his station without arms or alone, under any pretext whatever.
  3. The commanders of regiments and companies will be held responsible for the strict execution of these orders, and that the offenders are brought to punishment.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

George C. Strong, A. A. General.

It may be asked why we waited until near sundown. When troops are taking possession of a city where there is possibility of assault by a mob, it is always best that it should be done in the dark. The general then always knows where his troops are, and how many of them there are, while the mob can have no concerted action, and are not able to organize any in the dark. If your column is fired upon from houses, the flash will show every window from which the missiles come, and those windows can instantly be filled with returning bullets. Furthermore, the column, unless it is too long, can be protected in the street better in the dark than in daylight.

None of my troops up to this time had ever received or given a hostile shot, and I thought it would give them more confidence if I should lead the column, as I did at Baltimore. But this time I went on foot, as I had no horses.

We marched without opposition to the Custom House, an immense granite building covering some acres and making a complete citadel. Having disposed of my troops, I returned to the St. Charles Hotel with one company of the Thirty-First Massachusetts as a headquarters guard. My officers having taken possession of the hotel, I returned to the steamer Mississippi, brought Mrs. Butler on shore, and took her to the hotel in a carriage.

The hotel keeper informed my adjutant-general, Major Strong, that he was afraid to have us come there lest some of the waiters should poison our food. Strong observed in his hearing: “Well, General, if we are poisoned, the one who survives the longest will have a lively recollection of him who keeps this hotel.”

After breakfast I sent a staff officer to the mayor of the city, asking that he and the representatives of the city government call upon me at the hotel. The mayor at first said: “No; tell General Butler if he wants to see the city government he will call upon them.” The officer said to him kindly but significantly: “You had better not have me deliver that message to General Butler, for if you do I shall have to bring you to him in a way that may be unpleasant.”

The city was untamed. The mayor came down to the hotel about two o’clock, and was received by me in the ladies’ parlor, which was in a corner of the building on the first floor. It was a large room and looked out upon a balcony. Both streets, St. Charles and Common, were packed with a very clamorous and obstreperous mob. They did not seem to be the canaille. They interrupted our consultation by their noise very considerably. Lieutenant Kinsman came in and reported that a Union man, Mr. Somers, who had once been recorder of the city, and who had taken refuge on board the Mississippi, had just been brought off to the hotel. I directed that he should be taken down to the Custom House for safety. As he was well known to the mob, I thought it was dangerous for him to have to go through the mob without a strong force, and I directed Lieutenant Kinsman to take my headquarters guard at the St. Charles down to the Custom House with him. The appearance of Somers, guarded, raised the greatest confusion, and we had to wait in our conference, looking out the window at the scene, while the little bunch of troops, gallantly led by Lieutenant Kinsman, took Somers through the crowd. Then the mob gathered about the hotel again, and resumed its shouting and offensive noises. At that moment Captain De Kay crowded through the mob into the hotel. His uniform was almost torn off him.

The St. Charles Hotel
St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans

Touching his cap, he said: “General Williams’ compliments, and he bids me say to the general commanding that the mob is getting unruly, and asks for orders as to what shall be done with them.”

“Give my compliments to General Williams, I answered quietly, and tell him to clear the streets at once with his artillery.”

The captain left with the message. The members of the city government all sprang to their feet, crying: “Don’t, General; Don’t give such an order as that.”

“Why this emotion, gentlemen?” I said. “The cannon are not going to shoot our way, and I have borne this noise and confusion as long as I choose to.”

“Wait a while, General, wait a while,” they said, “and we will go out and speak to the people and advise them to go away, and they will disperse.”

“Very well,” I said, “so they do disperse, I do not care as to the means; go out and try your hand at it.”

And so the mayor made them a speech from the balcony, but they jeered him to his face. Then another spoke, and they chaffed him, calling him all sorts of abusive names, and the speech-making rather increased the uproar.

I stood, a little withdrawn from the window, looking across the street, and I saw a man on the sidewalk having a piece of a United States flag in his button-hole. I inquired who he was and was answered that that was Mumford who had torn down the flag, and that it was a piece of it he wore in his button-hole. I told my orderly, who was standing near me, to take a look at the man so that he would know him if he saw him again.

Then the mob raised the cry: “Where’s old Butler? Let him show himself; let him come out here if he dare.” The cry was echoed around for a moment: “Where’s old Butler?”

I thought it my privilege to answer that call. I stepped forward on the balcony in full sight, with my cap in my hand, and looking on the crowd, as unmoved as possible, said: “Who calls me? I am here.” That answer brought a hush, and just at that time a wonderful noise directed my attention up St. Charles Street. The cause of it was in a moment apparent. The Sixth Maine battery, a finely equipped artillery company with six Napoleons, under Captain Thompson, had been encamped in Tivoli Circle. St. Charles Street, down which the battery was coming, was at that time paved with foot square granite blocks, which were in a very uneven condition. Thompson was one of the most dare-devil furious riders I ever saw, and he was leading his battery down the street as if there were nobody in it, every horse driven at the fullest speed and the bugles sounding the charge. No one who has not seen such a charge can imagine the terrible noise and clamor it makes, the cannoneers clinging to their seats, and the wheels of the guns bounding up inches as they thunder over the uneven stones. As I said, the mob was hushed. They turned their eyes on the approaching avalanche and then sought safety in flight. By the time Captain Thompson saluted as he went by, the whole street was cleared; and when he came “into battery” at the corner, with three guns to clear each street, the scene was as quiet as a children’s playground.

From that hour to the time I left New Orleans I never saw occasion to move man or horse because of a mob in the streets of the city.

By arrangement our conference was adjourned until evening, when I could read my proclamation to the city officials. I had a little difficulty in getting it printed. I had it ready early the evening before, that it might come out in the morning papers. I sent it to the office of the True Delta by a couple of staff officers, and they were told by those in charge that it could not be printed without the order of the proprietor, who was absent. The next morning at eight o’clock, the officers appeared at the office and saw the proprietor. He said that he could not permit it to be printed, even as a handbill. They bowed and retired, and in a short time returned with a squad of men who took possession of the office, stacked arms, took off their coats, and went to work at the cases and press, and in a very short time had printed as many copies of the proclamation as were wanted. While they were doing that, the following order was issued: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
May 2, 1862.

General Order No. 17.

The proprietors of the New Orleans True Delta having refused to print the proclamation of the major-general commanding in this department, the publication of that paper is suspended until further orders.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

George C. Strong, A. A. General.

This brought the proprietor to headquarters with a very proper and humble apology, and the order of suspension was revoked.

There were several attempts on the part of the people not to have any intercourse with our soldiers, nor to trade with them. One of the privates went into a shoe store to buy a pair of shoes and asked the price. They were three dollars. He offered the gold for them and the man replied that he would not sell shoes to a d — d Yankee. The next day the provost marshal put a red flag over the shoe store door and sold its contents at auction. That shopkeeper’s experiment was not a happy one. But very soon there was no uncivil treatment received by our soldiers except from the upper class of women.

But to return to our meeting. I read my proclamation to the city officials. Pierre Soulé, late United States senator and minister to Spain, was put forth as their spokesman. Mr. Soulé did not complain of the proclamation except so far as it foreshadowed the occupation of the city. He said that he knew the temper of the people, and their gallant courage, and they never would submit to it, and I should be putting myself and command in great danger if I did not remove my troops from the city. I replied to him in substance that I was surprised to hear threats made in that conference. I had heard them all my life by Southern men in political conventions, but here they were out of place. He replied to me that he had always looked upon me as a friend of Southern rights. To that I answered: “You do rightly. I am a friend to Southern rights now, but I came here to put down Southern wrongs.” I then stated to the officials that I desired to go about my work in the field, and should be glad to have the co-operation of the city government in carrying on the government of the city so that I should not have to occupy my time with such details; that if they would pledge me their honor that nothing should be done to aid the Confederacy, and if the city government would occupy itself with attempting to relieve the sufferings of the people of the city, I should be glad to have them take charge of its government, especially as I knew the people were starving for supplies that could not be got from any known source. I further stated to Mr. Soulé: “I learn that we have captured a thousand barrels of Alexandria beef. I will turn that over to the city government to be fed out to the people. I will also give safe conduct to a steamboat to bring from Mobile, and elsewhere, the flour and provisions you have already purchased there [flour was then sixty odd dollars a barrel in the city], provided there shall be nothing come out of this which shall aid the Confederacy, and that the members of the city government give me their solemn assurance that this will be their course of conduct.” That being agreed to they left, with the understanding that I should not interrupt the business of the city government.

The following is a copy of my proclamation: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
May 1, 1862.

The city of New Orleans and its environs, with all its interior and exterior defences, having been surrendered to the combined naval and land forces of the United States, and having been evacuated by the rebel forces in whose possession they lately were, and being now in occupation of the forces of the United States, who have come to restore order, maintain public tranquility, enforce peace and quiet under the laws and Constitution of the United States, the major-general commanding the forces of the United States in the Department of the Gulf, hereby makes known and proclaims the object and purposes of the Government of the United States in thus taking possession of the city of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana, and the rules and regulations by which the laws of the United States will be, for the present and during a state of war, enforced and maintained, for the plain guidance of all good citizens of the United States, as well as others who may heretofore have been in rebellion against their authority.

Thrice before has the city of New Orleans been rescued from the hand of a foreign government, and still more calamitous domestic insurrection, by the money and arms of the United States. It has of late been under the military control of the rebel forces, claiming to be the peculiar friends of its citizens, and at each time, in the judgment of the commander of the military forces holding it, it has been found necessary to preserve order and maintain quiet by the administration of Law Martial. Even during the interim from its evacuation by the rebel soldiers and its actual possession by the soldiers of the United States, the civil authorities of the city have found it necessary to call for the intervention of an armed body known as the European Legion, to preserve public tranquility. The commanding general, therefore, will cause the city to be governed, until the restoration of municipal authority and his further orders, by the Law Martial, a measure for which it would seem the previous recital furnishes sufficient precedents.

All persons in arms against the United States are required to surrender themselves, with their arms, equipments, and munitions of war. The body known as the “European Legion,” not being understood to be in arms against the United States, but organized to protect the lives and property of the citizens, are invited still to co-operate with the forces of the United States to that end, and, so acting, will not be included in the terms of this order, but will report to these headquarters.

All flags, ensigns, and devices, tending to uphold any authority whatever, save the flag of the United States and the flags of foreign consulates, must not be exhibited, but suppressed. The American ensign, the emblem of the United States, must be treated with the utmost deference and respect by all persons, under pain of severe punishment.

All persons well disposed toward the Government of the United States, who shall renew their oath of allegiance, will receive the safeguard and protection, in their persons and property, of the armies of the United States, the violation of which, by any person, is punishable with death.

All persons still holding allegiance to the Confederate States will be deemed rebels against the Government of the United States and regarded and treated as enemies thereof.

All foreigners not naturalized and claiming allegiance to their respective governments, and not having made oath of allegiance to the supposed government of the Confederate States, will be protected in their persons and property as heretofore under the laws of the United States.

All persons who heretofore have given their adherence to the supposed government of the Confederate States, or have been in their service, who shall lay down and deliver up their arms and return to peaceful occupations and preserve quiet and order, holding no further correspondence nor giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, will not be disturbed either in person or property, except so far, under the orders of the commanding general, as the exigencies of the public service may render necessary.

The keepers of all public property, whether State, National, or Confederate, such as collections of art, libraries, museums, as well as all public buildings, all munitions of war, and armed vessels, will at once make full returns thereof to these headquarters; all manufacturers of arms and munitions of war will report to these headquarters their kind and place of business.

All rights of property, of whatever kind, will be held inviolate, subject only to the laws of the United States.

All inhabitants are enjoined to pursue their usual avocations; all shops and places of business are to be kept open in the accustomed manner, and services to be had in the churches and religious houses as in times of profound peace.

Keepers of all public houses, coffee houses, and drinking saloons, are to report their names and numbers to the office of the provost marshal; will there receive license, and be held responsible for all disorders and disturbance of the peace arising in their respective places.

A sufficient force will be kept in the city to preserve order and maintain the laws.

The killing of an American soldier by any disorderly person or mob, is simply assassination and murder, and not war, and will be so regarded and punished.

The owner of any house or building in or from which such murder shall be committed, will be held responsible therefor, and the house will be liable to be destroyed by the military authority.

All disorders and disturbances of the peace done by combinations and numbers, and crimes of an aggravated nature, interfering with forces or laws of the United States, will be referred to a military court for trial and punishment; other misdemeanors will be subject to the municipal authority, if it chooses to act. Civil causes between party and party will be referred to the ordinary tribunals. The levy and collection of all taxes, save those imposed by the laws of the United States, are suppressed, except those for keeping in repair and lighting the streets, and for sanitary purposes. Those are to be collected in the usual manner.

The circulation of Confederate bonds, evidences of debt, except notes in the similitude of bank notes issued by the Confederate States or scrip, or any trade in the same is strictly forbidden. It having been represented to the commanding general by the city authorities that these Confederate notes, in the form of bank notes, are, in a great measure, the only substitute for money which the people have been allowed to have, and that great distress would ensue among the poorer classes if the circulation of such notes were suppressed, such circulation will be permitted so long as any one may be inconsiderate enough to receive them, till further orders.

No publication, either by newspaper, pamphlet, or handbill, giving accounts of the movements of soldiers of the United States, within this department, reflecting in any way upon the United States or its officers, or tending in any way to influence the public mind against the Government of the United States, will be permitted, and all articles of war news, or editorial comments, or correspondence, making comments upon the movements of the armies of the United States, or the rebels, must be submitted to the examination of an officer who will be detailed for that purpose from these headquarters.

The transmission of all communications by telegraph will be under the charge of an officer from these headquarters.

The armies of the United States came here not to destroy but to make good, to restore order out of chaos and the government of laws in place of the passions of men; to this end, therefore, the efforts of all well-disposed persons are invited to have every species of disorder quelled, and if any soldier of the United States should so far forget his duty or his flag as to commit any outrage upon any person or property, the commanding general requests that his name be instantly reported to the provost guard, so that he may be punished and his wrongful act redressed.

The municipal authority, so far as the police of the city and crimes are concerned to the extent before indicated, is hereby suspended.

All assemblages of persons in the streets, either by day or by night, tend to disorder, and are forbidden.

The various companies composing the fire department in New Orleans will be permitted to retain their organizations, and are to report to the office of the provost marshal, so that they may be known and not interfered with in their duties.

And, finally, it may be sufficient to add, without further enumeration, that all the requirements of martial law will be imposed so long as, in the judgment of the United States authorities, it may be necessary. And while it is the desire of these authorities to exercise this government mildly, and after the usages of the past, it must not be supposed that it will not be vigorously and firmly administered as occasion calls.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

Geo. C. Strong, A. A. Gen., Chief of Staff.

When Farragut came up the river to be followed by my troops, Lovell deserted the city with some eight or nine thousand men, some under arms and some otherwise. He encamped at Pontchatoula, about eighty miles from the city, to which he was taken by cars.

When the government became established, the men who were forced to go with Lovell returned, so that his command dwindled down quite one half. The men came back to New Orleans, put on citizens’ clothes, and went about their business.

In the interval between the evacuation by Lovell and Farragut’s arrival, a panic had seized the city, exhibiting itself in the destruction of property. Cotton, sugar, tar, rosin, timber, and coal were set on lire, and all the ships and vessels that could not be taken away with a few exceptions were burned. There was even some talk among the citizens of burning the city. Some of the Confederate leaders favored it on the ground that there was a large foreign interest in the city, especially French, and that if the city were destroyed it would bring the war so home to them that France would try to cause it to be ended by intervention.

This destruction of property was also done on the outside of the city upon the ground that the supplies, especially cotton, would be destroyed by us upon capture. To allay this fear I issued General Order No. 22: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
May 4, 1862.

General Order No. 22.

The commanding general of the department having been informed that rebellious, lying, and desperate men have represented, and are now representing, to honest planters and good people of the State of Louisiana that the United States Government by its force has come here to confiscate their crops of cotton and sugar, it is hereby ordered to be made known by publication in all the newspapers of this city that all cargoes of cotton and sugar shall receive the safe conduct of the force of the United States; and the boats bringing them from beyond the lines of the United States force may be allowed to return in safety, after a reasonable delay, if their owners so desire, provided they bring no passengers except the owners and the merchandise of said boats and the property so conveyed, and no other merchandise except provisions, which such boats are requested to bring a full supply of for the benefit of the poor of the city.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

George C. Strong, A. A. General.

When that order was published, my enemies and the enemies of the country — they were not two classes then — immediately announced that I was using my troops in New Orleans for the purpose of private trade and speculation. It will be observed that the order says “property shall have safe conduct,” but I had to buy upon my own personal credit, for I had no public money on hand. So I opened a credit with Mr. Jacob Barker, a banker, who, upon pledge of the supplies purchased, advanced money on my purchases.

After I had landed my troops I had a large number of transport vessels that had to be returned to New York and Boston in ballast. General Beauregard had called on the people to bring to him all their plantation and church bells to be cast into cannon, and those and some old rejected guns were everything I had with which to ballast all those ships. There was nothing to be found in New Orleans with which to ballast a vessel, as they never had occasion to ballast ships upon the outward voyage, because they always went out with cargo. The only other thing that could be had with which to ballast a vessel was white sand, and that would have to be brought in boats from Ship Island, more than one hundred miles off. The demurrage which the government must then pay by its charter for the delay in ballasting with sand would be many thousand dollars.

My first purchases of sugar were to the amount of $60,000. This gave such confidence to the merchants that they made application to my brother, who was my agent in carrying on these transactions, to allow them to put their own sugar on board the vessels as ballast, paying a reasonable freight, consigned to New York. This I agreed to and established the freight at ten dollars a hogshead. One half of this was his commission for doing the business, he not being an officer of the government. It would have been better to have paid ten dollars a hogshead for leave to carry it than to have to ballast. I sent both the church bells and the old cannon, but they were only a flea bite of what was wanted.

Nothing could have done as much for the pacification of the merchants of New Orleans as did these transactions.

Some of the northern journals of that day will show articles which would have deterred a fainter-hearted man than myself from continuing. Yet I got all my ships off with just freight enough for ballast, and then, upon my recommendation, on the 1st of June the port of New Orleans was opened, postal communication with the rest of the country reestablished, and a collector of customs appointed for my department. Meantime I reported to the War Department as follows: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
May 16, 1862.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War: —

In accordance with the terms of my order No. 22 I have caused to be bought a very considerable quantity of sugar, but as yet very little cotton. This has gone very far to reassure the planters and factors. They are sending their agents everywhere into the interior to endeavor to stop the burning of the crops.

Nobody can be better aware than myself that I have no right to buy this property with the money of the United States, even if I had any of it, which I have not. But I have bought it with my own money and upon my individual credit. The articles are sugar, rosin, and turpentine. I have sent these as ballast in the several transport ships, which otherwise would have to be sent to Ship Island for sand. These articles will be worth more in New York and Boston than I paid for them here through my agents. If the government chooses to take them and reimburse me for them I am content. If not, I am quite content to keep them and pay the government a reasonable freight. Whatever may be done the government will save by the transaction. I only desire that neither motives nor action shall be misunderstood.

Benj. F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

All this action of mine was approved of by the Secretary of War, as will appear by his message of June 10, which I shall give later on.

I was very much puzzled to know whether this policy of burning the crops was that of the rebel government or of an insane wretch, one Thomas O. Moore, governor of Louisiana and commander-in-chief of its militia, who issued some crazy orders once as to hanging instantly without trial any person who should be found to have my pass in his possession.

Upon examination I now find the evidence conclusive that this burning of the crops was a premeditated and preconceived design of the rebels, pervading the congress and the executive. A question arose in the mind of General Lovell whether they should burn any other property than Confederate, leaving the property of foreigners untouched. But it was determined by the cabinet and Jefferson Davis that the property of foreigners should also be destroyed, in order to inflame foreign nations against us as the cause of loss, so as to make them interfere in behalf of the South — somewhat illogical but certainly true.

The burning of property substantially ceased, and I purposely refrained from seizure or interference with it until the country got quieted down, and only returned to the policy of seizure afterwards because of the confiscation acts of our Congress.

One thing I may say here as well as elsewhere, that from the hour I left Washington in February, 1862, to the hour of the despatch given below, I never received any direction or intimation from Washington or anywhere else how I should conduct the expedition or carry on the administration of the government in that department; and by no word ever afterwards was the confidence and high praise therein expressed by my official superiors as to my proceedings in New Orleans withdrawn. Following is the despatch referred to: —

War Department,
June 10, 1862.

Maj.-Gen. Benjamin F. Butler,
      Commanding, etc., New Orleans:

General — Your interesting despatches, announcing the brilliant success of your expedition, as well as those sent by Colonel Deming and Mr. Bouligny, were duly received. No event during the war has exercised an influence upon the public mind so powerful as the capture and occupation of New Orleans. To you and to the gallant officers and soldiers under your command, the Department tenders cordial thanks. Your vigorous and able administration of the government of that city also receives warm commendation.

With admiration for your achievements, and the utmost confidence in your continuous success, I remain,

Truly yours,

Edwin M. Stanton,     
Secretary of War.

Again, this is evidenced by a very highly prized letter of Mr. Lincoln asking me to come to him even before I returned to my family.

Another matter that required instant attention, even in the midst of the flame and smoke of burning property, was the absolutely starving condition of the people of New Orleans. It was difficult enough to get supplies, even while the army of Lovell was there; but after the news of the bombardment and passage of the forts, nothing came into the city and everything went out. The fleeing inhabitants almost took their kneading troughs and the contents on their backs, — as did the children of Israel, — as they fled to the surrounding country, which was wholly without supplies. Flour was sixty dollars a barrel, and little to be had at that. The condition will be described in a word, as it was to me by the Hon. Thomas J. Durant, leading Unionist and formerly the attorney-general of Louisiana: “General, you will understand to what we are reduced when I tell you that the day before you landed, all that my children had to eat was two ginger cakes got from a confectioner.”

The city authorities had depended on supplies of flour purchased in Mobile and Alexandria, but the ascent of our fleet and the presence of our gunboat, the New London, on the waters of the Gulf, had prevented the delivery.

On the 3d of May, at my first meeting with the city government, this condition of suffering and starvation was brought to my attention. I had already learned that we had captured a thousand barrels of beef salted at Alexandria and furnished for the rebel troops, but which they could not take with them. I immediately ordered this to be turned over to the committee of the city government, to whom Pierre Soulé was added. This I did upon the solemn pledge that all such provisions should be used only for a supply for the inhabitants of the city. On the morning following, I issued General Order No 19: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
May 3, 1862.

General Order No. 19.

The commanding general of this department has been informed that there is now at Mobile a stock of flour purchased by the city of New Orleans for the subsistence of its citizens. The suffering condition of the poor of this city, for the want of this flour, appeals to the humanity of those having authority on either side.

For the purpose of the safe transmission of this flour to this city, the commanding general orders and directs that a safe conduct be afforded to a steamboat, to be laden with the same to this place. This safe conduct shall extend to the entire protection of this boat in coming, reasonable delay for discharge and return to Mobile. The boat will take no passengers save the owners and keepers of the flour, and will be subject to the strict inspection of the harbor master detailed from these headquarters, to whom its master will report its arrival.

The faith of the city is pledged for the faithful performance of the requirements of this order on the part of the agent of the city authorities, who will be allowed to pass each way with the boat, giving no intelligence or aid to the Confederates.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

George C. Strong, A. A. General.

On the succeeding day, I issued an order directing safe conduct for bringing, from the Red River, provisions which had been purchased there by the city, and a similar order to the Opelousas Railroad Company to bring to the city such provisions and such supplies as it might, and made safe conduct for the agents, messengers, and employees of the vessels and the railroad. Provisions were at once brought in from these several sources and the immediate and pressing necessities of the citizens were relieved.

Fac-Simile letter of Abraham Lincoln.
Fac-Simile letter of Abraham Lincoln.

Before the war, I had met gentlemen of the South whose word I would take implicitly. I believed them men of honor, and they were so. But the dire crime of treason seemed to have obliterated the consciences of quite all of them, as well as of the foreign officials who resided among them, just as the man who makes up his mind to dishonor the wife of his friend, also prepares his conscience to permit his perjury to defend himself and her in the crime. Sir Walter Scott treats this, in a public speech, as the acknowledged duty of a gentleman. So, in the South, no pledge or engagement made with a Yankee was held to be binding.

Benj. F. Butler in 1863.
Benj. F. Butler in 1863.
Engraved from a Life-size Bust.

The most flagrant instance of this was in the case of the McRae, captured at Fort Jackson. She was the only Confederate gunboat that had not been destroyed by Farragut’s fleet in its passage of the forts. The enemy asked that she might be sent up under a flag of Benj. F. Butler in 1863. engraved from a life-size bust. truce as a cartel to carry their wounded officers and men to the city. Of course she was to return and deliver herself up, because, as she was then, with Farragut’s fleet above and below her, she could not possibly have escaped. This arrangement was made between Captain Smith, commanding the Mississippi at the quarantine, and the officers of the Confederate navy. They deliberately caused holes to be bored in the steamer, as she lay in the river after they had landed from her, and sunk her. They took care to keep themselves out of New Orleans after I came, for if I had found them there, they would have been deprived of future opportunity to do any more rascality, and by the most effectual means.

I soon learned that the committee, with the assent of Soulé, had smuggled the one thousand barrels of beef intrusted to them across the lake to feed Lovell’s troops at Camp Moore and left their fellow-citizens to starve, and that the boats sent to Mobile for provisions had been made despatch boats for the carrying of mail under the direction of the French consul, and of treasonable correspondence giving information to the rebels as to the condition of military and naval affairs in the Department of the Gulf.

Charles Heidsieck, a partner in the French firm of Heidsieck & Co., producers and venders of champagne, disguised himself as a bar-keeper, in order to pass backward and forward on the supply boats as a messenger and spy. This was known to some of the committee of the city government, and by a conforming coincidence the same sort of use was made of the boats bringing the city’s provisions from Alexandria, and also for another purpose which was not to our disadvantage.

After my proclamation giving assurance that the gold in the banks of New Orleans would be safe, these banks sent in to the Confederacy at Richmond for safety rising six millions in gold. This was part of the thirteen millions which they had at the time of the passage of the forts. One of the banks wanted to get its gold back, and so brought it in barrels of beef by the provision boats. It may be well to say in passing, that the gold thus sent away all the banks very much wanted to get back again, and applied to the rebel government for leave to have it sent, and applied to me for permission to have it returned and delivered to them. Memminger, the secretary of the rebel treasury, refused that permission, and the Confederate government took possession of the gold as “a sacred trust.” But that gold afterwards was carried off from Richmond when Jeff Davis escaped, and at his capture was plundered by those having it in charge.

Of course these modes of bringing provisions to the city had to be stopped on account of the abuses made of the privileges granted. This, of course, brought the city again almost to the verge of starvation. The city government had not voted a single dollar for the relief of the poor. There were one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. There were more paroled rebel soldiers in the city than the general had troops within fifty miles of his headquarters. The families of many of those who had gone to Shiloh, Richmond, and the other Confederate armies, were all left behind, generally in a state of destitution. What was to be done?

It was attempted to meet this exigency by the following order: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
May 9, 1862.

General Order No. 25.

The deplorable state of destitution and hunger of the mechanics and working classes of this city has been brought to the knowledge of the commanding general.

He has yielded to every suggestion made by the city government, and ordered every method of furnishing food to the people of New Orleans that government desired. No relief by those officials has yet been afforded. This hunger does not pinch the wealthy and influential, the leaders of the rebellion, who have gotten up this war, and are now endeavoring to prosecute it, without regard to the starving poor, the workingman, his wife and child. Unmindful of their suffering fellow-citizens at home, they have caused or suffered provisions to be carried out of the city for Confederate service since the occupation by the United States forces.

Lafayette Square, their home of affluence, was made the depot of stores and munitions of war for the rebel armies, and not of provisions for their poor neighbors. Striking hands with the vile, the gambler, the idler, and the ruffian, they have destroyed the sugar and cotton which might have been exchanged for food for the industrious and good, and regrated the price of that which is left, by discrediting the very currency they had furnished, while they eloped with the specie; as well as that stolen from the United States, as from the banks, the property of the good people of New Orleans, thus leaving them to ruin and starvation.

Fugitives from justice many of them, and others their associates, staying because too puerile and insignificant to be objects of punishment by the clement Government of the United States.

They have betrayed their country.

They have been false to every trust.

They have shown themselves incapable of defending the State they had seized upon, although they have forced every poor man’s child into their service as soldiers for that purpose, while they made their sons and nephews officers.

They cannot protect those whom they have ruined, but have left them to the mercies and assassinations of a chronic mob.

They will not feed those whom they are starving.

Mostly without property themselves, they have plundered, stolen, and destroyed the means of those who had property, leaving children penniless and old age hopeless.

Men of Louisiana, workingmen, property-holders, merchants, and citizens of the United States, of whatever nation you may have had birth, how long will you uphold these flagrant wrongs, and, by inaction, suffer yourselves to be made the serfs of these leaders?

The United States have sent land and naval forces here to fight and subdue rebellious armies in array against her authority. We find, substantially, only fugitive masses, runaway property-burners, a whiskey-drinking mob, and starving citizens with their wives and children. It is our duty to call back the first, to punish the second, root out the third, feed and protect the last.

Ready only for war, we had not prepared ourselves to feed the hungry and relieve the distressed with provisions. But to the extent possible within the power of the commanding general, it shall be done.

He has captured a quantity of beef and sugar intended for the rebels in the field. A thousand barrels of these stores will be distributed among the deserving poor of this city, from whom the rebels had plundered it; even although some of the food will go to supply the craving wants of the wives and children of those now herding at Camp Moore and elsewhere, in arms against the United States.

Capt. John Clark, Acting Chief Commissary of Subsistence, will be charged with the execution of this order, and will give public notice of the place and manner of distribution, which will be arranged, as far as possible, so that the unworthy and dissolute will not share its benefits.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

Geo. C. Strong, A. A. Gen., Chief of Staff.

Under this order 32,400 men, women, and children had these provisions distributed to them, under a system which ensured that the food went to the weakest every day. These were all poor whites; the blacks were otherwise provided for. My supplies for the army having arrived from New York, I directed my commissary “to sell to families for consumption, in small quantities, until further orders, flour and salt meats, viz.: pork, beef, ham, and bacon, from the stores of the army, at seven and a half cents per pound for flour, and ten cents for meats, city bank notes, gold, silver, or treasury notes to be taken in payment.” Flour went down from sixty to twenty-five dollars a barrel in the course of thirty days, and for those who had means to purchase, starvation was not possible.

But still the question of how the poor were to be fed ultimately, and at whose cost, pressed back upon me, and that was complicated with another question which was, how the health of the city was to be guarded and preserved. The yellow fever had always within the memory of man been the scourge of New Orleans, returning every summer with such virulence as to drive from the city all unacclimated persons who could get away. In 1853, the victims of yellow fever were so numerous that there were no means of burying them, and so they were removed by cremation, their bodies being piled up for that purpose in heaps. And yet, even after that terrible warning, no method or means of prevention in the future had ever been had. The reason for this is best told in the words of a leading editorial in the True Delta, the proprietor of which, it will be recollected, was so ardent a secessionist that he refused to print my proclamation. The editorial was printed after he was disciplined for his secession conduct.: —

“For seven years past,” said the True Delta, of May 6, “the world knows that this city, in all its departments, — judicial, legislative, and executive, — has been at the absolute disposal of the most godless, brutal, ignorant, and ruthless ruffianism the world has ever heard of since the days of the great Roman conspirator. By means of a secret organization emanating from that fecund source of every political infamy, New England, and named Know-Nothingism or ‘Sammyism,’ — from the boasted exclusive devotion of the fraternity to the United States, — our city, from being the abode of decency, of liberality, generosity, and justice, has become a perfect hell; the temples of justice are sanctuaries for crime; the ministers of the laws, the nominees of blood-stained, vulgar, ribald caballers; licensed murderers shed innocent blood on the most public thoroughfares with impunity; witnesses of the most atrocious crimes are either spirited away, bought off, or intimidated from testifying; perjured associates are retained to prove alibis, and ready bail is always procurable for the immediate use of those whom it is not immediately prudent to enlarge otherwise. The electoral system is a farce and a fraud; the knife, the slungshot, the brass knuckles determining, while the sham is being enacted, who shall occupy and administer the offices of the municipality and the commonwealth. Can our condition surprise any man? “We accept the reproach in the proclamation, as every Louisianian, alive to the honor and fair fame of his State and chief city, must accept it, with bowed heads and brows abashed.”

The condition of peace, order, and quiet to which the city had been brought at this time, is also certified to by the New Orleans Bee, another secession paper. The Bee of May 8 said: —

The federal soldiers do not seem to interfere with the private property of the citizens, and have done nothing that we are aware of to provoke difficulty. The usual nightly reports of arrests for vagrancy, assaults, wounding, and killing, have unquestionably been diminished. The city is as tranquil and peaceable as in the most quiet times.

About the fourth day after my proclamation, I drove out in a calash with my wife one morning to take a look at the condition of the city and its suburbs. We took no guard save an orderly on the box. General Kinsman of my staff was with us. We went up the river in a street parallel with it and about one hundred yards from it. A little way up the river we came upon the “basin,” a broad opening or pond for the reception of canal boats. A canal extended from this point across to Lake Pontchartrain. As we approached the “basin,” the air seemed filled with the most noxious and offensive stenches possible, so noxious as almost to take away the power of breathing. The whole surface of the canal and the pond was covered with a thick growth of green vegetable scum, variegated with dead cats and dogs or the remains of dead mules on the banking. The sun shone excessively hot, and the thermometer might have been 120°. We turned to the right and went down along the canal as far as Lake Pontchartrain, finding it all in the same condition until within a few rods of the lake. We drove back by a very different route.

I sent immediately for the city officer charged with the superintendence of the streets and canals, and responsible for their condition. He was an officer whom I had not seen. He reported immediately.

“You are the superintendent of streets and canals, are you?”

“Yes, General.”

“What is the matter with the new canal at the head of it and all along down?”

“Nothing, that I know of, General.”

“Have you been up lately to the head of it?”

“Yes; there yesterday.”

“Didn’t you observe anything special when you were there?”

“No, General.”

“Not an enormous stink?”

“No more than usual, General; no more than there always is.”

“Do you mean to tell me that the canal always looks and stinks like that?”

“In hot weather, General.”

“When was it cleaned out last?”

“Never, to my knowledge, General.”

“Well, it must be cleaned out at once, and that nuisance abated.”

“I cannot do it, General.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know how.”

“Very well, your services are no longer required by the government for the city. I will find somebody who does know how. Good-morning, sir.”

I had learned that the rebels were actually relying largely upon the yellow fever to clear out the Northern troops, the men of New England and the Northwest, with their fresh lips and clear complexions, whom they had learned from experience were usually the first victims of that scourge. I had heard also (I hope it was not true, but yet I believe it) that in the churches prayers were put up that the pestilence might come as a divine interposition on behalf of the brethren. Every means was taken to harass my naturally homesick officers and soldiers with dire accounts of the scourge of yellow fever.

I had also heard, but did not believe it true, that General Lee relied for the defence of Louisiana and the recapture of New Orleans, upon the depletion of our troops by yellow fever; but, alas! it was true, as shown by the following correspondence: —

Headquarters Department No. 1, C. S. A.,
Camp Moore, La.,
May 12, 1862.

Governor Thomas O. Moore:

Sir: — . . . With reference to your want of knowledge of my plans, it has probably escaped your mind that I read to you yesterday that part of my letter to General Lee which related to my future course of action, and it seemed to meet the approval of Judge Moise and yourself. It was simply to organize a central force of 5,000 men, which, in connection with corps of Partisan Rangers, might succeed in confining the enemy to New Orleans, and thus subject him to the diseases incident to that city in summer. If I cannot organize that central force, I fear that I shall be compelled to abandon that plan and be driven from the State; and it was the possibility of this result which induced my note of this morning.

Respectfully your obedient servant,

M. Lovell,    
Major-General Commanding.

This letter shows that this question was submitted to Lee on or before the 12th of May, and that it was agreed to by Governor Moore and Judge Moise; and there is nothing in the “War Correspondence” which shows that it was ever objected to by Lee.

I ought to state what the dangers were. It is well known that persons having had the yellow fever and thus becoming acclimated, are no more liable to a recurrence of the disease than in the case of that other scourge of armies, the smallpox.

In the year 1853, beginning August 1, excluding those that were not liable to have the yellow fever and those who had gone out from New Orleans for the summer, the population open to the disease was thirty thousand only. On the first week in August there were 909 deaths from yellow fever; on the second week, 1,282; on the third week, 1,575; and on the fourth week, the deaths in one day, the 22d of August, were 239; so that, from the 28th of May, there were 7,439 certified deaths by yellow fever. Many hundreds died away from the city and up the river, and many died on the steamers, while attempting to get away. These figures do not include those who died in the suburbs, Algiers, Jefferson City, Ætna, and Carrollton. Thus, of 30,000 total, one in every four died.

No conversations went on in the presence of my officers other than descriptions of the incidents of the attacks of the terrible fever in 1853, when its dead lay in heaps because of the inability of the living to inter them.

An instance was reported to me which was quite laughable. Near the lower boundary of the part of New Orleans known as French-town, which was then, perhaps, the most filthy of all, a poor soldier from Maine, homesick, dreaming of the pure air and bright land-scape of his native State and pining to return thereto, was pacing his weary beat. Naturally he listened to the conversation that went on around him, and accordingly he was attacked in this way: Two newsboys stood near him and one said: “Jack, have you heard the news?” “No, Tom, what is it?” “Got the yellow fever prime down in Frenchtown; two Yanks dead already. It will sweep them all off.”

No surgeon in my army ever saw a case of yellow fever or had any instruction in meeting this hideous foe. A panic seized many of my officers. There were still other reasons for them to pine for home. New troops were being raised, and as the Army of the Gulf had acquired some reputation, the governors of all States, save Massachusetts, were glad to get officers from my army to promote into these new regiments. So, if they could but get home, they would find safety, promotion, and happiness. They were becoming downcast, and I feared the effect of this very despondency in increasing the liability to the disease.

I asked one old New Orleans physician if there were any means of keeping the fever away from the city. He told me there was none. I asked him if there were no means of preventing its spreading over the city. He told me he knew of none, after it once got there. The quarantine might be of some advantage, but if the fever ever got into the city, especially under the circumstances, the city having been occupied by armed forces for many months and being in a horrible condition as to cleanliness, he saw no reason why the disease would not spread with irresistible fury, as so many unacclimated persons were confined there. I asked him if he had any authorities upon the peculiarities of the disease. He said that the best book he knew of was the description of the rise, progress, and decline of the disease in 1853, by Professor Everett, who had written upon the matter very intelligently. I asked him if he would loan me the treatise and he assented. I asked him if he would attach himself to my headquarters as a physician. He said to me that it would be his ruin to do such a thing.

My medical director had been chosen for me and sent down to serve under me. He was a gentleman of very high family and respectable acquirements, but had had no long service in the army or elsewhere. I talked with him about this disease and discovered that he was utterly at sea.

Meantime, as soon as I would listen to them, at orderly hours every day there were applications by officers for leave of absence to go home, under every excuse and every sort of pretence. Some men whom I knew to be good men would come to me with excuses and reasons that they should be furloughed. Only one of my staff officer, went home, and he did not come back. Fortunately nobody could go home without my written pass.

My own patience broke down under the continual perplexity of these applications, for I was continually tried with certificates of ill health from every kind of a physician. I may relate a single incident: An officer whom I knew to be a brave and respectable man, — one who would have gone to the cannon’s mouth, I have no doubt, upon a simple order, — got terribly frightened about yellow fever. He came to me with two or three certificates, by which he hoped I would be induced to give him a leave of absence. At last he brought one from the surgeon of his regiment, who I knew would probably sign anything that his major desired. It was very carefully worded, declaring that the officer’s state of health was such that there was great danger that his life would not be spared longer than thirty days. That was a safe certificate to give, because all of us were then in danger that our lives would not be spared more than thirty days, if as long. I looked my applicant straight in the eye and said: “I differ in opinion with your doctor, and I am going to try an experiment. I shall keep you here thirty days, and if you die in that time I will beg the doctor’s pardon for doubting his skill; if you don’t, it will be just as well as though you had gone home.” Imagine his disgust and his hard feeling at the moment. But we lived to be afterwards the very best of friends. He did not die nor was his life in any more danger than mine.

I found a map showing the localities of the city; the portions where the yellow fever usually raged being indicated by heavier shading. I found by the professor’s book that the fever had usually originated in the immediate vicinity of the French market. I rode around and examined the French market and a number of other localities, and I thought I detected why it raged in those spots; they were simply astonishingly filthy with rotting matter. In the French market the stall women were accustomed to drop on the floor around their stalls all the refuse made in cleaning their birds, meats, and fish. Here it was trodden in and in. This had been going on for a century, more or less.

The fact that the disease flourished so much in the vicinity of decaying and putrid animal matter led me to the conclusion that this prolific cause of the typhus and typhoid fever must have something to do with el vomito. Upon my further diagnosis of the disease I found that it had also the peculiar characteristics of the congestive fevers caused by malarial exhalations from decaying vegetable matter. It seemed to me, as near as I could get at it, two intermingled or conjoint fevers affecting the patient’s system at the same time. Therefore I argued that if we could get rid of the producing causes of either one of those species of fever we might not have a yellow fever even if the people were subjected to the cause of the other fever. Examining further, as well as I could, it seemed to me that it was nearly impossible in New Orleans to remove the seeds or germs of malarial fever, — the fever called in the West fever and ague, — because vegetation blossoming in February died in August, and under the hottest possible sun was soon decaying. Moreover, the vegetable growth was so enormous that in the summer it was present in a decaying condition everywhere. Therefore to attempt to get rid of the decomposed vegetable matter would be impracticable.

Turning my attention to the decaying animal matter and filth, I came to the conclusion that this could be disposed of so that the city would not be covered with an atmosphere impregnated with those germs of disease which cause ship or jail fevers the world over, emanations from the human body being the most prolific source of them. I learned that New Orleans was a city very easy to clean of that sort of matter. It had no sewers, but only drains, which were above ground and could easily be gotten at. I found that these ditches and drains had not been cleaned for many years.

There were three canals or bayous which ran from the river through the city into Lake Pontchartrain, a shallow lake, four or five miles away, into which the salt water flowed through the rigolets or straits leading in from the Gulf of Mexico. There were numerous fresh water streams running into the lake which very considerably freshened the water.

I learned from an old engineer that the lake had another peculiarity. The difference in the tide in the Gulf of Mexico rarely exceeded eighteen inches. The blowing of the winds into the Gulf and out of the Gulf overcame the difference of tides. So with the lake; a good, strong, north wind, called a “norther,” would blow the waters of the lake out into the Gulf so as to lower the lake two and one half feet. Again, the south wind would bring a quantity of salt water back into the lake.

All the drainage of the city flowed into the lake through the drains from the houses, and all the water pumped from the Mississippi River by the Commercial Water Works also flowed into the lake through these open drains.

It must be borne in mind that the banks, or levees, of the Mississippi River are some sixteen to eighteen feet higher than the city. When the river is full, one standing in the streets looks up to a ship in the river as he would look up to the top of a house. In the dry time, the water falls away about the same distance, exposing to the sun a wide expanse of “batture,” or silt, brought down from above. I am not at all sure that this last is hurtful.

Putting these facts together, I came to the conclusion to try to prevent the yellow fever.

First, I established at the quarantine station, seventy miles below New Orleans, a very strict quarantine, wherein thirty-two and sixty-eight pound shots should be the messengers to execute the health orders. Vessels were required to stop below Fort St. Philip, about five miles below the quarantine establishment, and there be inspected by the health officer, who would report to me by telegraph the condition of the vessel, passengers, crew, and cargo. The officer at Fort St. Philip was to allow no vessel to go up without my personal order, by telegraph or in writing, and this was not given unless the quarantine physician, upon examination below, reported a clean bill of health in every respect. If any vessel attempted to evade quarantine regulations and pass up without being examined, the vessel was to be stopped if there was power enough in the fort to do it. I required that the term quarantine should be used literally, and any The levee at New Orleans. vessel found with sickness on board, of any malarial kind, or with ship fevers, should stay down forty days and not come up again until reinspected. Before this, it had been possible, under the State laws, for such a vessel to come up at the end of ten days, if a dishonest surgeon chose to certify that the vessel would be all right in that time, — a fact he could not know.

The Levee at New Orleans
The Levee at New Orleans.

One further regulation: No vessel which had come from an infected port, i. e., a port where the yellow fever was prevailing, whatever the condition of her health, should be allowed to come up under forty days.

Having shut the door against our destroying enemy and fastened it securely, I engaged the most competent medical director in the matter of yellow fever there was in the country, Doctor MacCormick, who fought it in New Orleans through the siege of 1853. Before he came I procured a perfectly competent quarantine officer, to whom I was to pay double the salary of the State quarantine officer upon the ground that I did not need his services between the middle of November and the middle of May. This quarantine officer was engaged under a specific contract that he was to have no responsibility for himself and his assistants, except to make true reports of the condition of the vessels, after a full and intelligent examination. And as the health and lives of so many would be dependent upon the truth of those reports, he was notified that any remissness in his duty would be punished with the heaviest punishment known.

The next requirement that complicated the matter was the necessity of doing all this at once. Therefore, on the 4th of June, I sent the following message to the military commandant and the city council of New Orleans: —

New Orleans, June 4, 1862.

To the military commandant and City council of New Orleans:

General Shepley and Gentlemen: — Painful necessity compels some action in relation to the unemployed and starving poor of New Orleans. Men willing to labor cannot get work by which to support themselves and families, and are suffering for food.

Because of the sins of their betrayers, a worse than the primal curse seems to have fallen upon them: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread until thou return unto the ground.”

The condition of the streets of the city calls for the promptest action for a greater cleanliness and more perfect sanitary preparations.

To relieve, as far as I may be able to do, both difficulties, I propose to the city government as follows:

I. The city shall employ upon the streets, squares, and unoccupied lands in the city, a force of men, with proper implements, and under competent direction, to the number of two thousand, for at least thirty working days, in putting those places in such condition as, with the blessing of Providence, shall insure the health as well of the citizens as of the troops.

The necessities of military operations will detain in the city a larger number of those who commonly leave it during the summer, especially women and children, than are usually resident here during the hot months. Their health must be cared for by you; I will care for my troops. The miasma which sickens the one will harm the other. The epidemic so earnestly prayed for by the wicked will hardly sweep away the strong man, although he may be armed, and leave the weaker woman and child untouched.

II. That each man of this force be paid by the city from its revenues fifty cents per day, and a larger sum for skilled labor, for each day’s labor of ten hours, toward the support of their families; and that in the selection of laborers, men with families dependent upon them be preferred.

III. That the United States shall issue to each laborer so employed, for each day’s work, a full ration for a soldier, containing over fifty ounces of wholesome food, which, with economy, will support a man and woman.

This issue will be fully equal in value, at the present prices of food, to the sum paid by the city.

IV. That proper muster-rolls be prepared of these laborers, and details so arranged that only those that labor, with their families, shall be fed from this source.

V. No paroled soldier or person who has served in the Confederate forces shall be employed, unless he takes the oath of allegiance to the United States.

I shall be glad to arrange the details of this proposal through the aid of Colonel Shafer, of the quartermaster department, and Colonel Turner, of the subsistence department, as soon as it has been acted on by you.

The reason of this calling upon the city was that I proposed to expend on this work part of the taxes of the city.

I had made the acquaintance of Col. T. B. Thorpe, and we agreed upon the following plan for having the city cleansed and kept clean: —

The occupant of every house was to see that everything within and without its courtelige was cleansed to the acceptance of Colonel Thorpe’s inspector, within twenty-four hours of daylight after being served with notice. The outside walls of buildings which were not painted were required to be thoroughly whitewashed with a wash containing a solution of lime, alum, and salt. No refuse of any sort was to be deposited in the yard of any house, but some kind of a receptacle acceptable to the inspector was to be placed on the premises, into which everything of that sort must be put, and on two given days of the week that receptacle was required to be set out at the edge of the street opposite to the area door: four mule teams or army transportation were to pass through every street on the days designated, and into proper vessels in the wagon the house receptacles were to be emptied. Each wagon was to have with it a cask of chloride of lime, and the receptacle having been emptied was to be examined. If found clean and sweet it was to be set back; if not, it was to be cleansed and disinfected with chloride of lime by those having the wagon in charge. Nothing of any description whatever was to be thrown into the streets or on outlands. Any infraction of these orders was to be punished by imprisonment in the parish prison.

It may be said, it was impossible to enforce such orders. On the contrary, it was perfectly possible when one was in earnest. To show that it could be done, let me give two instances: —

The day of the first publication of the order, a secession trader, after having made some disparaging remarks upon the order, said: “We will see whether if anybody throws anything into the street he is to be put into the parish prison,” and thereupon took from his desk a quarter sheet of white paper, stepped to his door and called out to a policeman as he threw it into the street, “You see me do this.” The policeman informed me, and I sent for the man. He admitted throwing the paper into the street, but claimed it was his privilege. I told him the streets were made to pass through, and while he took his privilege I would take mine and pass him through the streets into the parish prison to stay three months. There was no more wilful throwing of things into the street.

Another was the case of one of the fashionable ladies of New Orleans, who had a very dirty area. Such a thing as underground drainage for water closets was not known in that city. The excrement was deposited in a deep square box. When that box got full it was drawn out and another one put in its place. Not unfrequently the one drawn out was allowed to stand for months in the area, exposed to the sun. That was the condition in part of this high-toned woman’s “back yard,” as we call it in New England. My inspector called upon her.

“Did you receive an order?”


“Well, marm, — he was a full-toned Yankee — why didn’t you clean up your back yard?”

“My back yard is as I choose to have it, and it won’t be altered at the order of any Yankee.”

“Well, marm, falling now fully into the Yankee drawl, I’m sorry, but you must go and get your calash and fix up a little, and I guess you had better take a shirt with you, for I shall be obleeged to take you to jail, and that would be an awful thing, wouldn’t it, to do to such a fine lady as you are?”

“I shall not do anything of the sort,” said she.

“Oh, well, marm, I am very sorry, but I am very busy, too, taking out his watch. I have just got three minutes I can wait upon you to get your calash and shirt, and if you don’t do it by then, why I must take you along without them.”

“She burst into tears and said: You know I cannot do this work now.”

“Oh, well, if a fine lady like you should give me her promise that her yard would be cleaned by to-morrow afternoon I could take her word for it.”

The next afternoon the back yard was in apple-pie order.

Thus having got protection from filth in the future, the next requisition was to get rid of the filth that had accumulated. A party of men went down to the French market with an order, accompanied by a few bayonets, which did not do any work. The man who appeared to be in charge was told that the market must be cleaned out at once. The superintendent said that he could not do it. “Very well, then, we shall do it and charge the expense to you.” That market had been built by the Spanish, and a pavement had been laid in it. At the time we entered New Orleans, so I was informed, the actual decaying animal matter trodden into the bottom of that market extended up on the supports of the stalls fourteen, eighteen, and twenty-four inches above the pavement. While this cleaning was being done we were waiting a “norther.” The city water-works had been ordered to put their whole pumping force on the streets and flush them as well as they could with water, one after the other, and aided by a body of two thousand men to clean out all the drains and ditches, to get a flow of water down these ditches into the canals and bayous. And then a “norther” came, and blew the water out of the lake, and thus got a draft down the canal. Then men with brushes, hoes, rakes, and other implements followed the water down, clearing the canal and making it perfectly clean, until substantially a clear stream of water flowed through it. The same thing was done with each of the three canals, thus clearing off every place where after careful inspection anything like human excrement or decaying animal matter could be found.

We had one great aid. When it rains in New Orleans, it rains hard. The water comes down in “bucketsful” and the streets are flushed all over. So when the drains were all cleared, it immediately ran off and thus aided us in our work.

I pause here to pay a just tribute to Col. T. B. Thorpe. His life labors had been anything but in the line of this great performance. He was an author and an artist, and not inferior in either calling. The city of New Orleans, as well as the writer, owes him a debt of deepest gratitude, for in addition to doing this work he inaugurated the system by which food was distributed to the thirty-two thousand families who could not get it elsewhere.

I had also adopted the theory that the yellow fever was not indigenous to the climate of New Orleans, and that its seeds had to be brought there. If they were retained there through the winter at any time, it was because they had been so covered up and protected, probably in woollen clothing, as not to feel the effects of a winter’s frost. Then, if these seeds germinated, there could be only a sporadic case here and there if there were no atmosphere in which they could flourish.

I know of but one parallel to this in the vegetable kingdom, although there must be many; but this I know experimentally: In a properly prepared bed one may raise mushrooms by impregnating the soil with small bits of other soil containing the reliquae of the growth of mushrooms, called mushroom spawn. In such a bed mushrooms will be grown in quantity in a single night. If the bed is not properly prepared they will never grow. The bed may be made as rich as possible with one kind of fertilizer or dressing only, and mushrooms will never grow. Another bed may be made just as rich with another kind of fertilizer, and the mushrooms will not grow. But if both of these kinds of fertilizer are mixed together in one bed, then the mushrooms will grow and thrive wonderfully. So all manner of animal exhalations only in a confined atmosphere will produce plenty of typhus fever. Vegetable exhalations in a like close atmosphere will produce congestive fevers, but none of the typhus type. But putting together both the animal and vegetable exhalations under like conditions, and adding a germ of yellow fever, that scourge will be propagated and will permeate the territory just as far as the atmosphere containing those conjoint elements shall extend.

Fortunately for my theory, I had a confirmation of it. A little tug came over from Nassau, a port which was interdicted because the yellow fever prevailed there. The captain and his vessel being examined by the health officer, it was found that she was loaded with barrelled provisions from New York and that she had stopped at Nassau only to take on coal. It was sworn to, also, that she took on nothing else, especially no passengers, and no part of the crew came from Nassau. They all came from New York, and the tug stopped nowhere, and they all seemed to have been afraid to go on shore at Nassau on account of the fever. As I did not believe that yellow fever could be brought in soft coal, and as the tug had provisions which were needed, I allowed her to come up to New Orleans without the forty days’ quarantine.

About four or five days after she got to New Orleans, my medical director came in one morning at orderly hours with a look of great concern upon his face. He had never possessed faith in my ideas about the prevention of yellow fever.

“General,” said he, “I am sorry to tell you that you have got two cases of yellow fever down in Frenchtown.”

“Ah! Where did they come from?”

“There were two passengers on board the little tug that came from Nassau.”

“You must be mistaken, doctor. It was sworn expressly that there were no passengers on board, and certainly none from Nassau,” and I called for the report, which was at hand.

I found that I was right, but the oath had been false.

“Well, doctor,” I said, “here is a little order to the lieutenant of the provost guard to have a squad of sentries around that square down in Frenchtown in which these yellow fever patients are. Doctor MacCormick, you will post them. Let nobody go in or out except you accompany them or they bring my written order. Take your acclimated men and have those sick men attended to carefully. Burn everything that they see, almost, for we must prevent the fever from spreading if we can. Orderly, take these orders to the quartermaster and have him see to it that bright fires at the four corners of the square are kept burning day and night, supplied with tar barrels and pitch, so as always to keep an upward current of air.”

Topographical Map.
Topographical Map.
Survey between Lake Ponchartrain and Mississippi River.

My orders, I have no doubt, were obeyed, and the fires were kept burning. At the end of six days the men died. The next day everything in and about the building which could possibly have anything to do with yellow fever germs, was at night put on one of the fires. The fuel was piled about it until a very large fire was built. Then the whole heap was allowed to burn to ashes. Those were the only cases of yellow fever in New Orleans that year.

I was obliged to cremate the bodies of the dead for the safety of the living, as they would have been buried above ground. Nobody is buried underground in New Orleans, but the places of interment are little brick receptacles which are not always particularly tight.

Now I do not pretend that in all that was done by my order in New Orleans, exactly proper surgical and medical courses were taken. I do not mean to say that I used anywhere nearly correct and proper surgical and medical practice in my treatment of the disease. And I do not attempt to defend it either, as the best way of dealing with the yellow fever. Far be that from me. I only did what was the best thing I could find to do when I was obliged to do something.

But I will say that in 1864, two years afterwards, I applied exactly the same method in the city of Norfolk, Virginia, a port which the yellow fever never before shunned when it came to the Atlantic coast. In 1857, if I get the date right, there was more than a decimation of its unacclimated inhabitants by the yellow fever, and a great many thousand dollars were subscribed that year by the good people of the North to aid the distressed place. It had not improved any in cleanliness in 1864, for it had been in military possession for four years by the troops of both sides, — and I am afraid both equally nasty, — until it was the filthiest place I ever saw where there were human habitations of a civilized order.

In 1864 there were two hundred and fifty odd deserters, thieves, and vagabonds condemned by the military court to hard labor for a great many months at Fort Norfolk, which was down the river some distance from the city of Norfolk. On visiting them I found they had nothing on earth to do but to gamble all night and sleep all day, and they made hard labor of that. I set them to work in the streets of Norfolk, in the Massachusetts House of Correction uniform with scarlet cap, so that they could not desert, and gave orders that they should be required to clean the city after the manner of New Orleans, and that they should thus work off ten days in every thirty of their sentences.

I went over twice on purpose to see them after they got to work, and a better gang of workmen I never saw, and as far as they had gone, a cleaner performance was never seen.

I observed only one thing that needed correction. The sidewalk was lined with a committee of citizens who amused themselves by chaffing the laborers. I went home and the next day the commander of the gang had an order that if any man loitered on the streets, talking or interfering with the laborers at work, he should be put into their uniform and set at work among them. That was done and the sidewalk committee adjourned.

The result of it was that the experiment was more successful than in New Orleans. There I kept the yellow fever down at the passes, where whole ship’s crews were dying, and where there were very many cases. But they were never allowed to get up beyond the quarantine. At Norfolk, however, military necessity required me to run two steamers a week backward and forward between Norfolk and the fever-stricken town of Newbern, North Carolina, a small country town on the Neuse liver. Newbern is in a region surrounded by resinous pines, and I had always supposed that a more healthy place could not be found in North Carolina. It had never occurred to me that they could have yellow fever down there, although I knew that they had a great deal of congestive fever because of the lowlands in the bottom of which was the river. Indeed, my attention had not been drawn to that question at all, for Newbern was an inland town in a pine region. But to my horror and astonishment in the latter part of July yellow fever struck Newbern, and as my recollection is now, — and it will be of little consequence whether I am right or wrong, — one half of the people, white and black, died or were afflicted with this fell disease. The troops had to be called away from there and we lost many soldiers with the scourge.

I gave orders to have extra care taken that nobody should come up on the boats through Dismal Swamp canal from Newbern until proper means of fumigation and cleansing had been taken, and I was fortunate enough to have no case at Norfolk. I was extremely solicitous to know what was the condition of things which caused the yellow fever in Newbern, and after the frosts came I went down there. When I got within two miles of the place I met an awful stench, as of the unclean and uncovered filth of camps. I rode around the town, a circle of three miles and better, and I found the whole town encircled with the remains and debris of the camps of the regiments that had been located around it. Newbern had been held for nearly three years by the Union and rebel troops alternately, commanded by officers who had been taught nothing of sanitary science.

This science is not taught at West Point. The want of its proper application to the troops in the field kills more men than are killed by bullets, for it takes nearly a man’s weight in lead to be shot away at him before he is killed.

I found that the ditches had never been filled up, but when they got unbearable the colonel would move his camp. This smell of human excrement, itself in decay, pervaded all Newbern, in full conjunction with the exhalations of the decaying vegetable matter. I instantly ordered a force detailed to remove these nuisances and I have never heard, although I have made inquiry, that there has been a case of yellow fever there since, nor could I, upon inquiry, learn that there had ever been one before that summer.

I have been thus particular in describing all these matters of my experience with the yellow fever because I have no knowledge or memory that it has ever been treated of before so extensively in any military work. Having engaged with it myself, — scientifically or not, yet effectually, — I have gone into all these details in the hope that military men and physicians will examine the question. Perhaps if they find that yellow fever can be controlled, someone may get an appointment to West Point as an instructor in a new branch of military science, which instruction may save a great many lives.

In aid of this I will give another instance of the breaking out of yellow fever, although I cannot speak of it from personal observation in this case, for I was not present.

Sometime in 1876 — I may be wrong as to the date, but I will not be as to the facts — I heard that on the Bayou Teche, which is a little gut extending from the Gulf up into Louisiana, of course entirely filled in the summer with decaying vegetable matter and thus a very unhealthy place as far as congestive fevers are concerned, the yellow fever suddenly burst out with greater virulence and destructivenesss than anywhere else. A congressional colleague of mine in that locality, — his name has escaped me, — wrote me to know what was the cause of yellow fever. I asked him whether there had been any decaying animal matter in that neighborhood, and to write me stating all the circumstances. He wrote back that a train of cars loaded with Texas cattle had been derailed there shortly before the yellow fever appeared; a very considerable number of the cattle had been killed and maimed, and they were skinned and their bodies thrown into the bayou, where they lay rotting under the hot sun. I wrote him at once my idea of the causes of the disease. There has never been any trouble with the yellow fever there since that time.

I had very great credit, much more than belonged to me fairly, — for I hope I have stated just how much belonged to me, — for what I did in New Orleans in connection with the yellow fever, but quite as much was done in Norfolk for which I never got any credit at all. But whether I deserved any or not, I did the best I could.

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IT must not be inferred that the several matters of which I treat at so much length followed one another in point of time. They were all going on at once, each pressing upon the other and each interfering with doing the other, and requiring the utmost industrious diligence. Crowding in upon us from the first moment of our occupation came a matter which at first seemed would be an annoyance only, but which speedily grew into an affair of most serious consequence, and one causing much discussion. This discussion was generally in the shape of animadversion, for the critics had not the slightest idea of the merits of the question at issue.

From the second day after we landed, we had the men of New Orleans so completely under our control that our officers and soldiers could go anywhere in the city without being interfered with. I may say here, and challenge contradiction, in behalf of my gallant comrades, that from the time we landed until the time I left New Orleans, no officer or soldier did any act to interfere with life, limb, or property of any person in New Orleans, unless acting under perfectly explicit orders so to do.

One result of our conduct was that any of us, from the highest to the lowest, went where he pleased without insult or hostile act by any man in New Orleans. Insomuch was this true that for myself, I walked or rode by day or by night through the streets of New Orleans anywhere I chose between Chalmette and Carrollton without any attendant or guard, or pretence of one, save a single orderly in attendance.

But not so with the women of New Orleans. On the evening of the third day after our occupation of the city, the colonel of the Thirty-First Massachusetts Regiment called upon me and said: —

“General, as I was walking down Canal Street, a young lad, of say ten years, in the presence of his mother, who is the wife of one of the first lawyers, rushed from her side and spit all over my uniform. What am I to do?”

“Nothing, Colonel; I think the matter will be easily remedied. Orderly, give my compliments to Mr. P. and tell him that I would like to see him.”

Mr. P. called on me. I had known him as a fellow-practitioner in the Supreme Court of the United States. I had never heard that he was in any way a violent secessionist, but I had heard that his wife was exceedingly interested on the side of the rebels, and had been ordered out of Washington by the Secretary of War for some treasonable acts. I said to him: —

“I want to say to you that one of my officers has complained to me that, this afternoon your son, a boy old enough to know better, came from his mother’s side and spit over this officer’s uniform as he was passing by. Of course that cannot be permitted; but, as it was the act of a boy and perhaps of a boy not realizing what he was doing, I have sent for you to say that I shall leave the correction of that act to you.”

Pretty soon, complaints of treatment from women of all states and conditions and degrees in life came pouring in upon me. When a soldier or an officer was passing along quietly on the sidewalk (these acts seemed rather the more venomous towards the officers) a woman coming the opposite way would turn out in the carriage way, take great pains to hold her skirts aside as if she feared they might be contaminated if they touched the soldier, and accompany this act with every possible gesture of contempt and abhorrence. On one occasion, a woman, when about to pass two officers on the sidewalk, flung herself off the sidewalk just before she got to them, and so impetuously that she threw herself down in the gutter. The two officers immediately proceeded to do what was their duty, — to help her up. She refused their assistance, and said that she would rather lie there in the gutter than be helped up by Yankees. She lived to repent of it afterwards, and to tell the story in the presence of many Yankees. Again, an officer would get into a street car where there were two or three women perhaps in the other end of the car, and they would immediately jump from the car with every sign of disgust, abhorrence, and aversion.

There were five or six women leaning over a balcony on one occasion when I was riding along quite near it, with one officer only between me and the balcony. I was face to the front, and of course people turned out to see me more or less as I went through the streets. Just as we were passing the balcony, with something between a shriek and a sneer, the women all whirled around back to with a flirt which threw out their skirts in a regular circle like the pirouette of a dancer. I turned. around to my aid, saying in full Women of New Orleans insulting Federal officers. voice: “Those women evidently know which end of them looks the best.” That closed that exhibition.

Women of New Orleans Insulting Federal Officers.
Women of New Orleans Insulting Federal Officers.

The question pressed upon me: How is this course of conduct to be changed? How is this to be stopped? We have a very few troops in the midst of a hostile population of many thousands, including more than twice our number of paroled Confederate soldiers. Many of these women who do this are young, and many are pretty and interesting, and some have a lady-like appearance. Now, I know that a police officer in Boston can hardly arrest a drunken woman in the street without causing a very considerable excitement and commotion, which very quickly expands into something like a riot if she appeals for help and has a prepossessing appearance. Some of these women desire to exhibit what they call their patriotism, and there are many of them who would be very happy to be arrested for any insult put upon a Yankee officer or soldier and have it so published. Much more will be the danger of riot if Yankee soldiers arrest the women of New Orleans on the streets for the acts which these women think proper to do as their part in carrying on the war. An order for arrests in these cases — simple arrests and transportation of “these ladies” — would be a source of perpetual turmoil at least, and possibly ripen into insurrection.

I waited sometime in the hope that this epidemic among the women would die out. But it did not; it increased. At last, on one Saturday, Flag-Officer Farragut had been invited ashore by Colonel Deming, who was in command of the troops in the city, to take dinner with him and his friends, in compliment of Farragut’s great achievements. Colonel Deming went to the levee to meet the flag-officer when he landed, and they walked up arm in arm in full uniform. While going along one of the principal streets, there fell upon them what at first they took to be a sudden and heavy shower; but it proved to be the emptying of a vessel of water upon them from the balcony above, and not very clean water at that. Of course the vessel was proof that this was done by one of “the ladies of New Orleans.”

A city could hardly be said to be under good government where such things were permitted or attempted by any class of its inhabitants.

On the next day, the Sabbath, one of my officers dressed himself in full uniform, took his prayer-book in his hand, and was on the way to the church to attend divine service. As he was walking quietly along he met two very well dressed and respectable looking women, and, as a gentleman should, he withdrew to the outer side of the sidewalk to let them pass by. As he did so, one deliberately stepped across in front of the other and spit in his face.

Now, what could he do? Anything but take his kerchief and clean his face? I never heard but one other suggestion, and this was made by one of his fellow staff, who said: “Why didn’t you do something?” “What could I do, Davis, to two women?” “Well,” said Davis, “you ought to have taken your revolver and shot the first he rebel you met.”

But, to be serious, the colonel said to me: “General, I can’t stand this. This isn’t the first time this thing has been attempted towards me, but this is the first time it has been accomplished. I want to go home. I came here to fight enemies of the country, not to be insulted and disgusted.”

“Oh,” I said, “you can’t resign. I’ll put a stop to this.”

“I don’t think you can do it, General,” was the reply.

I took it into very serious consideration. After careful thought and deliberation as to the best method of meeting this unique but dangerous entanglement, and running over in my mind a form for the order, I remembered that for the purpose of revision of city ordinances, I had once read an old English ordinance, which I thought, with a few changes, mutatis mutandis, might accomplish the purpose. There was one thing certain about it; it must be an order that would execute itself, otherwise it would stir up more strife in its execution by the police than it would quell. Therefore, after full consideration, I handed to my chief of staff, to be put upon the order books, the following order: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
May 15, 1862.

General Order No. 28.

As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

Geo. C. Strong, A. A. G., Chief of Staff.

Strong said, after he read it: “This order may be misunderstood, General. It would be a great scandal if only one man should act upon it in the wrong way.”

“Let us, then,” was the reply, “have one case of aggression on our side. I shall know how to deal with that case, so that it will never be repeated. So far, all the aggression has been against us. Here we are, conquerors in a conquered city; we have respected every right, tried every means of conciliation, complied with every reasonable desire; and yet we cannot walk the streets without being outraged and spit upon by green girls. I do not fear the troops, but if aggression must be, let it not be all against us.

My troops were New England soldiers, and consequently men well bred in every courtesy toward women, for a well behaved woman can safely travel alone all through New England. I did not fear that any one of them would conduct himself in such a way that he could not look me in the face and tell me of it if I asked him. I was not afraid on that score. I was only afraid the order would not be understood by the women.

There was no case of aggression after that order was issued, no case of insult by word or look against our officers or soldiers while in New Orleans.

The order executed itself.

No arrests were ever made under it or because of it. All the ladies in New Orleans forebore to insult our troops because they didn’t want to be deemed common women, and all the common women forebore to insult our troops because they wanted to be deemed ladies, and of those two classes were all the women secessionists of the city.

The order was, as it was intended to be, self-executing. And now, after all these years, I challenge the production of any authentic evidence that the order was not a message of good to the good, and of fear to the bad who required it. I do not believe any man of ordinary sense, of clear judgment, ever did misunderstand it or misinterpret how the order intended that such women should be dealt with, or that it was the slightest suggestion that she be dealt with in any other way than being put in the hands of the police.

It was read by Beauregard to his army at Corinth, to inflame the Southern heart; but the only effect that it had upon him and them, so far as I have any evidence, was that almost immediately afterwards, on June 10 and 15, his entire army dissolved. It was post hoc if not propter hoc. He was taken sick, resigned his command, and went to Bladon Springs to recover.

Palmerston, however, got up in Parliament and denounced the order as unfit to be written in the English language. The only possible objectionable phrase in it was part of an ordinance of the city of London, from which I adapted it. Palmerston’s indignation even went so far, and the women-beaters and wife-whippers of England were so shocked, that they called upon their government to represent their condemnation of the order to our State Department. When their minister here brought it to the attention of our Secretary of State, Mr. Seward answered him in that easy and perfect manner with which he could turn away an application without leaving an opportunity for the interlocutor to gather offence. I quote from Seward’s “Life,” p. 139: —

Mr. Stewart, in a very courteous manner, verbally expressed to me the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government, that General Butler’s order concerning the females of New Orleans who gave offence to the Union soldiers was an improper one, in respect to the expressions employed in it.

I answered him that we must ask his government, in reading that proclamation, to adopt a rule of construction which the British nation had elevated to the dignity of a principle and made the motto of their national arms — Honi soit qui mal y pense. [Evil to him who evil thinks.]

I perhaps might have said the same thing as Mr. Seward, but the difference between him and me would have been that I should probably have added, — “especially when a king was establishing the ‘Order of the Garter’ as an emblem of good conduct.”

Palmerston said my government would revoke the order when it heard it. It did not hear of anything else for many weeks, but the order was never revoked, but, on the contrary, the government gave my administration its highest sanction. The President did not confer on me, however, the “Order of the Garter.”

On account of that order a reward of ten thousand dollars was offered for my head; and a gentle, soft-hearted little Southern lady published that she wanted to subscribe her mite to make the reward sixty thousand dollars, so that my head would be sure to be taken.

My critic, in writing Lincoln, a history, deems that the order was well enough itself, but indefensible as a matter of taste. Indeed, I had hoped that I had distinguished myself in one thing, if no more, and that is that I did not carry on war with rose-water, — a pleasant thing to do, but I did not do it. That is enough to say, as he and myself differ upon another question of taste, to which I have already adverted. These women, she-adders, more venomous than he-adders, were the insulting enemies of my army and my country, and were so treated.

I have given too much space to the necessary contact I had with bad women and their adventures. But I take a little space to show that I was capable, although denominated a beast and outlaw, of dealing with the good, charitable, and religious women in a manner worthy of myself and my government. The following letter will explain itself: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
Sept. 2, 1862.

Madame: — I had no information until the reception of your note, that so sad a result to the sisters of your society had happened from the bombardment of Donaldsonville.

I am very, very sorry that Rear-Admiral Farragut was unaware that he was injuring your establishment by his shells. Any injury must have been entirely accidental. The destruction of that town became a necessity. The inhabitants harbored a gang of cowardly guerillas, who committed every atrocity; amongst others, that of firing upon an unarmed boat crowded with women and children, going up the coast, returning to their homes, many of them having been at school at New Orleans.

It is impossible to allow such acts; and I am only sorry that the righteous punishment meted out to them in this instance, as indeed in all others, fell quite as heavily upon the innocent and unoffending as upon the guilty.

No one can appreciate more fully than myself the holy, self-sacrificing labors of the sisters of charity. To them our soldiers are daily indebted for the kindest offices. Sisters of all mankind, they know no nation, no kindred, neither war nor peace. Their all-pervading charity is like the boundless love of “Him who died for all,” whose servants they are, and whose pure teachings their love illustrates.

I repeat the expression of my grief, that any harm should have befallen your society of sisters; and I cheerfully repair it, as far as I may, in the manner you suggest, by filling the order you have sent to the city for provisions and medicines.

Your sisters in the city will also farther testify to you, that my officers and soldiers have never failed to do to them all in their power to aid them in their usefulness, and to lighten the burden of their labors.

With sentiments of the highest respect, believe me, your friend,

Benjamin F. Butler.

Santa Maria Clara,
            Superior and Sister of Charity.

I had learned to reverence these good and devoted women, and after the war, when I had served with them in the field and learned more of their good offices to the soldier, I came to know fully their value and their devotion to their Christian duty, of which I take leave now to speak as I have heretofore spoken in another place: —

They were found in every hospital doing battle against disease and misery, in obedience to the commands of their Master, who said: “As ye do unto the least of these, so also ye do unto me.” Delicately nurtured holy women, they passed unharmed through every camp, scattering blessings in their path, looking for their reward in doing His work and adding to His glory. Oh, it was wonderful to see strong men become as little children in their hands, and put off the rough manners, and throw aside the rougher and harsher language of the camp, when these women came near! They brought to the bedside of the wounded and dying soldier at once the thought of home, the ministrations of religion, and such consolation as would seem only could come from the hand of the great Saviour of mankind.

Many a mother, many a sister, many a wife, owe to their assiduous care a son, a brother, a husband, restored to them alive, who would otherwise have filled one of the unknown graves that dot the hills of Virginia, the plains of Georgia and Tennessee, and the swamps of Louisiana and Mississippi. These brave soldiers of the cross knew no creed, recognized no nationality. Their services were given, like those of their Master, to the human-kind. Was the sufferer before them a private soldier or a commanding general, to them there was no difference. Confederate or Federal, he was their brother.

Let us turn from this to another case where I felt obliged to reverence the motives and to yield to the entreaties of a lady of New Orleans, Mrs. Cora Slocomb.

A word of the history of this lady may not be impertinent. She was the widow of a very wealthy iron merchant before the war. The course of trade brought him indebted in a very considerable amount to a Northern firm of iron manufacturers. One of the first acts of the Confederate Congress was to confiscate all debts due Northern people and to order them to be paid into the Confederate treasury for the purpose of carrying on the war.

Mrs. Slocomb was a leader in the best society of New Orleans. She had undertaken to close out the business of her deceased husband. She was a very full and fervent believer in the right and justice of secession. She equipped from her private purse the crack artillery company of New Orleans, the Washington Artillery, and sent it to the war, one of her sons being an officer, and a son-in-law, Captain Urquhart, also holding a commission in that organization. She had subscribed very liberally in aid of the rebellion, and she was upon my information very much looked up to by those engaged in carrying it on.

Before the city was taken, a summons was served upon Mrs. Slocomb by a rebel court to show cause why she should not pay into the treasury of the Confederacy the amount of the debt due the Northern creditors of her deceased husband. She answered the summons in person, and declared that her husband’s estate owed that debt to the Northern firm who had credited him with it, and that she must pay it where it belonged and could not pay it in any other manner. The Confederate authorities brought upon her some pretty harsh pressure to change her determination. She said: “You may do with me what you please, but I will not disobey the dictates of justice and conscience.” And she did not. On the contrary, she bought a quantity of cotton, which, if sold at the price paid for it, would more than have cancelled the debt and freight, and put it on board the schooner John Gilpin, and tried to send it North consigned to the creditors of her husband’s estate. The Gilpin, however, was stayed by the Confederate authorities until after we took possession of New Orleans. Mrs. Slocomb and her daughter called upon me for a safe conduct to allow them to go to their country house in North Carolina, stating that they could not take the oath of allegiance to the United States; that at first they had desired the preservation of the Union; that all their male friends and connections were in the Confederate army, and one of them had lost a son and the other a brother in that service; and that they were now unalterably devoted to the cause which they deemed just.

I said to them that if they would consent that their house should go into the service of the United States, and be occupied as my personal headquarters, that would furnish a reason for an exception in their case.

Mrs. Slocomb, her eyes flowing with tears, said that her house was endeared to her by a thousand tender associations and was now dearer to her than ever; she did not see how she could give it up. I said I should be glad to do anything which would be a favor to ladies who, while they were enemies of their country, were so frank, so truthful, and so devoted, but I desired to find a ground for an exception to my rule, and therefore suggested the matter of the house; and although I had power to take it without their permission, it should not be occupied unless the city was ravaged with yellow fever, in which case I might be obliged to take every house suitable for hospital purposes; but if I could find ally other reason for an exception to my prohibiting passes to any who refused to take the oath I would do it. A day or two after, I wrote to the ladies: —

I have the pleasure to inform you, that my necessities, which caused the request for permission to use your house during your absence this summer, have been relieved. I have taken the house of General Twiggs, late of the United States army, for quarters. Inclined never on slight causes to use the power intrusted to me to grieve even sentiments only entitled to respect from the courage and ladylike propriety of manner in which they were avowed, it is gratifying to be enabled to yield to the appeal you made for favor and protection by the United States. Yours shall be the solitary exception to the general rule adopted, that they who ask protection must take upon themselves corresponding obligations or do an equal favor to the government. I have an aged mother at home, who, like you, might request the inviolability of hearthstone and roof-tree from the presence of a stranger. For her sake you shall have the pass you ask, which is sent herewith. As I did myself the honor to say personally, you may leave the city with no fear that your house will be interfered with by any exercise of military right; but will be safe under the laws of the United States. Trusting that the inexorable logic of events will convict you of wrong toward your country, when all else has failed, I remain, etc.

Mrs. Slocomb acknowledged the favor: —

Permit me to return my sincere thanks for the special permit to leave, which you have so kindly granted to myself and family, as also for the protection promised to my property. Knowing that we have no claim for any exception in our favor, this generous act calls loudly upon our grateful hearts; and hereafter, while praying earnestly for the cause we love so much, we shall never forget the liberality with which our request has been granted by one whose power here reminds us painfully that our enemies are more magnanimous than our citizens are brave.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Cora Slocomb.

I may without offence give other transactions: Soon after landing in the city I proposed to furnish my officers with the houses of the officers of the Confederate service, for their use as quarters, and I ordered therefore the seizure of those houses. A staff officer reported to me that he had seized the residence of General Beauregard, finding his wife and I think a sister alone occupying it. I was not acquainted with the general or his family, but I directed the house to be released, and to prevent intrusion upon the family, I put a sentinel at the door for a short time until matters got settled.

It also happened that when I issued an order to confiscate all the money of the Confederate officers and of the Confederacy in the New Orleans banks, among the returns was the sum of five hundred dollars in the Louisiana Bank left by General Beauregard as a deposit for the use of his family. This I allowed to remain at their disposal. That is, I tried to do, not as I was done by, but as I would be.

Order No. 55, levying assessments upon the subscribers to the “city defence fund,” was to relieve the poor of the city. I found it necessary as a part of that relief to subscribe in support of the hospitals. In the case of the St. Elizabeth Hospital I subscribed five thousand dollars in money and provisions, and I subscribed from my own private funds five hundred dollars and the same amount in provisions.

I gave an order that the Charity Hospital, which was an institution carried on by a board of trustees, should have five thousand dollars a month for its support besides issuing an order forbidding the trustees to resign their trust and abandon it.

I was feeding the poor whites of New Orleans at a cost of fifty thousand dollars a month, and the negroes at a cost which I never knew, because they received their provisions from the supplies of the soldiers.

It was impossible for me to get a request to my government and an answer back in less than thirty days, and usually a much longer time was required, so that I had no control attempted over me, except in the matter of my treatment of “foreign rebels.” By these I mean men who had come here and enjoyed all our privileges and asked the protection of our government, and owed to it local allegiance, — that is, to do nothing against it while within its borders, — and yet while attacking it in every way were always claiming they should be let alone because they were neutral.

Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, was in distress whenever I did anything that caused a little whipper-snapper emissary from some government in Europe to complain of my just treatment of a man who claimed to be a consul, and this caused perpetual interference and annoyance. Otherwise I was supreme. Having supreme power, I used it in the manner I have set forth.

The poor had to be fed, the streets had to be cleaned, the protection from yellow fever had to be made sure, and able-bodied, idle men had to have employment to keep them from mischief and maintain their families. There was power enough to do all this, but in what manner could it be paid?

To do these things required much money. True, the troops might be ordered to do the labor, and the money furnished by the United States for other necessary purposes might be diverted to that use. There was no appropriation upon which a requisition could be properly answered by the government at Washington from which to take it out of the taxes of the North. But nothing was further from my thoughts than either of these expedients. An attempt had been Custom-House, New Orleans, before War. From a sketch. made by me to call upon the city at least to clean the streets and pay therefor from the taxes, but that resource had been futile because the taxes could not be collected. And besides, when my order was published in that regard saying that the laborers should be paid a dollar a day, the city council, then in session, — but very soon after put out because of an invitation by it for the French fleet to come to New Orleans, — passed a resolution declaring that when the city had had control of its affairs it paid one dollar and a half a day to its laborers; but since the United States had taken charge of the city, it proposed to pay only a dollar a day. To which I answered that in administering the affairs of the city, to be paid for by its tax, I thought I ought to be economical; but as that was to be paid for by taxation of the city, and the city government wanted to pay fifty cents more, I would raise the price to one dollar and fifty cents, although plenty of good labor had been employed at a dollar a day. I believe that was my last communication made to the city government with the expectation that they would do anything.

Custom-House, New Orleans, Before War.
Custom-House, New Orleans, Before War.
From a Sketch.

Custom-House, May 2014.
Custom-House, May 2014.
Google street view

I had the documents to show me that not long before we came, there had been a “city defence fund” committee organized to receive subscriptions and issue bonds to the amount of a million dollars to the subscribers to that fund, which bonds were to bear quite a rate of interest. These subscriptions had been paid.

A large portion of them were those of rich foreign-born men, some of whom had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States, but almost all of whom had taken the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. And there was another class of citizens, cotton planters, who had issued a paper advising that no cotton should be brought to the city as a matter of merchandise.

I assumed that I should need for my expenditure a sum between $500,000 and $700,000, and I ordered that an assessment equal to one half of the subscriptions to the fund, and a sum equal to one hundred dollars for each of the offenders of the other class should be paid to my financial agent forthwith, with which to pay for this work that had been and was being done. I held that these men had made the expenditure necessary and therefore these men should pay for it. That order, it is needless to say, was enforced, and it is also needless to say, was the cause of protests of the foreign consuls in behalf of “neutral” forsworn rebels. I do not know now that I can put the whole matter of this highly beneficial order, its cause, execution, and results, in better form than that in which I explained it to the Secretary of War officially in answer to those protests, on the application of the Secretary of State: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
October, 1862.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:

Sir: — I have the honor to report the facts and circumstances of my General Order No. 55, in answer to the complaints of the Prussian and French legations, as to the enforcement of that order upon certain inhabitants of New Orleans, claimed to be the subjects of these respective governments.

Before discussing the specialty and personal relations of the several complaints, it will be necessary, in a general way, to give an account of the state of things which I found had existed, and was then existing at New Orleans upon its capture by the federal troops, to show the status of the several classes upon which General Order No. 55 takes effect.

In October, 1861, about the time Mason and Slidell left the city upon their mission to Europe, to obtain the intervention of foreign powers, great hopes were entertained by the rebels, that the European governments would be induced to interfere from want of a supply of cotton. This supply was being had, to a degree, through the agency of the small vessels shooting out by the numerous bayous, lagoons, and creeks, with which the southern part of Louisiana is penetrated. They eluded the blockade, and conveyed very considerable amounts of cotton to Havana and other foreign ports, where arms and munitions of war were largely imported through the same channels in exchange. Indeed, as I have before had the honor to inform the Department of State, it was made a condition of the very passes given by Governor Moore, that a quantity of arms and powder should be returned in proportion to the cotton shipped.

The very high price of the outward as well as the inward cargoes, made these ventures profitable, although but one in three got through with safety.

Nor does the fact that so considerable quantities of cotton escaped the blockading force at all impugn the efficiency of the blockading squadron, when it is taken into consideration, that without using either of the principal water communications with the city through the “Rigolets” or the “passes” at the Delta of the river, there are at least fifty-three distinct outlets to the Gulf from New Orleans by water communication, by light-draught vessels. Of course, not a pound of the cotton that went through these channels found its way north, unless it was purchased at a foreign port. To prevent even this supply of the European manufactures became an object of the greatest interest to the rebels, and prior to October, 1861, all the principal cotton factors of New Orleans, to the number of about a hundred, united in an address, signed with their names, to the planters, advising them not to send their cotton to New Orleans, for the avowed reason that if it was sent, the cotton would find its way to foreign ports, and furnish the interest “of Europe and the United States with the product of which they are most in need, . . . and thus contribute to the maintenance to that quasi neutrality, which European nations have thought proper to avow.”

“This address proving ineffectual to maintain the policy we had determined upon, and which not only received the sanction of public opinion here, but which has been so promptly and cheerfully followed by the planters and factors of the other States of the Confederacy,” the same cotton factors made a petition to Governor Moore and General Twiggs to “devise means to prevent any shipment of cotton to New Orleans whatever.”

For answer to this petition, Governor Moore issued a proclamation forbidding the bringing of cotton within the limits of the city, under the penalties therein prescribed.

This action was concurred in by General Twiggs, then in command of the Confederate forces, and enforced by newspaper articles, published in the leading journals.

This was one of the series of offensive measures which were undertaken by the mercantile community of New Orleans, of which a large portion were foreigners, and of which the complaint of Order No. 55 formed a part, in aid of the rebellion.

The only cotton allowed to be shipped during the autumn and winter of 1861 and ’62, was by permits of Governor Moore, granted upon the express condition, that at least one-half in value should be returned in arms and munitions of war. In this traffic, almost the entire mercantile houses of New Orleans were engaged. Joint-stock companies were formed, shares issued, vessels bought, cargoes shipped, arms returned, immense profits realized; and the speculation and trading energy of the whole community was turned in this direction. It will be borne in mind that quite two thirds of the trading community were foreign born, and now claim exemption from all duties as citizens, and exemption from liabilities for all their acts, because of being foreign “neutrals.”

When the expedition which I had the high honor to be intrusted to; command, landed at Ship Island, and seemed to threaten New Orleans, the most energetic efforts were made by the State and Confederate authorities for the defence of the city. Nearly the entire foreign population of the city enrolled itself in companies, battalions, and brigades, representing different nationalities.

They were armed, uniformed, and equipped, drilled and manœuvred, and reported for service to the Confederate generals. Many of the foreign officers took the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States. The brigadier-general in command of the European Brigade, Paul Juge, Fils, a naturalized citizen of the United States, but born in France, renounced his citizenship, and applied to the French government to be restored to his former citizenship as a native of France, at the very time he held the command of this foreign legion.

The Prussian consul, now General Reichard, of the Confederate army, of whom we shall have more to say in the course of this report, raised a battalion of his countrymen, and went to Virginia, where he has been promoted for his gallantry, in the rebel service, leaving his commercial partner, Mr. Kruttschnidt, now acting Prussian consul, who has married the sister of the rebel secretary of war, to embarrass as much as possible the United States officers here, by subscriptions to “city defence fund,” and groundless complaints to the Prussian minister.

I have thus endeavored to give a faithful and exact account of the state of the foreign population of New Orleans, on the 15th day of February, 1862.

In October, 1861, the city had voted to erect a battery out of this “defence fund.” On the 19th of February, 1862, the city council, by vote published and commented upon in the newspapers, placed in the hands of the Confederate General Lovell, fifty thousand dollars, to be expended by him in the defences of the city.

It will, therefore, clearly appear that all the inhabitants of the city knew that the city council was raising and expending large sums for war purposes.

On the 20th of the same February, the city council raised an extraordinary “Committee of Public Safety,” from the body of the inhabitants at large, consisting of sixty members, for the “purpose of co-operating with the Confederate and State authorities in devising means for the defence of the city and its approaches.”

On the 27th of the same February, the city council adopted a series of resolutions: —

On the 3d of March, 1862, the city council authorized the mayor to issue the bonds of the city for a million dollars; and provided that the chairman of the finance committee might “pay over the said bonds to the Committee of Public Safety, appointed by the common council of the city of New Orleans, as per resolution No. 8,930, approved 20th of February, 1862, in such sums as they may require for the purchase of arms and munitions of war, provisions, or to provide any means for the successful defence of the city and its approaches.”

And, at the same time, authorized the chairman of the finance committee “to pay over $25,000 to troops mustered into the State service, who should go to the fight at Columbus or elsewhere, under General Beauregard.”

It was to this fund, in the hands of this extraordinary committee, so published with its objects and purposes, that the complainants subscribed their money, and now claim exemption upon the ground of neutrality, and want of knowledge of the purposes of the fund.

It will be remembered that all the steps of the raising of the committee to dispose of this fund were published, and were matters of great public notoriety. The fact that the bonds were in the hands of such an extraordinary committee, should have put every prudent person on his guard.

All the leading secessionists of the city were subscribers to the same fund.

Will it be pretended for a moment that these persons — bankers, merchants, brokers, who are making this complaint, — did not know what this fund was, and its purposes, to which they were subscribing by thousands of dollars?

Did Mr. Rochereau, for instance, who had taken an oath to support the Confederate States, a banker, and then a colonel commanding a body of troops in the service of the Confederates, never hear for what purpose the city was raising a million and a quarter in bonds?

Take the Prussian consul, who complains for himself and the Mrs. Vogel whom he represents, as an example. Did he know about this fund? He, a trader, a Jew, famed for a bargain, who had married the sister of the rebel secretary of war, the partner of General Reichard, late Prussian consul, then in command in the Confederate army, who subscribed for himself, his partner and Mrs. Vogel, the wife of his former partner, thirty thousand dollars — did he not know what he was doing, when he bought these bonds of this “Committee of Public Safety”?

On the contrary, it was done to aid the rebellion to which he was bound by his sympathies, his social relations, his business connections and marriage ties. But it is said that this subscription is made to the fund for the sake of the investment. It will appear, however, by a careful examination, that Mr. Kruttschnidt collected for his principal a note, secured by mortgage, in anticipation of its being due, in order to purchase twenty-five thousand dollars of this loan. Without, however, descending into particulars, is the profitableness of the investment to be permitted to be alleged as a sufficient apology for aiding the rebellion by money and arms? If so, all their army contractors, principally Jews, should be held blameless, for they have made immense fortunes by the war. Indeed, I suppose another Jew — one Judas — thought his investment in the thirty pieces of silver was a profitable one, until the penalty of treachery reached him.

When I took possession of New Orleans, I found the city nearly on the verge of starvation, but thirty days’ provision in it, and the poor utterly without the means of procuring what food there was to be had.

I endeavored to aid the city government in the work of feeding the poor; but I soon found that the very distribution of food was a means faithlessly used to encourage the Rebellion. I was obliged, therefore, to take the whole matter into my own hands. It became a subject of alarming importance and gravity. It became necessary to provide from some source the funds to procure the food. They could not be raised by city taxation, in the ordinary form. These taxes were in arrears to more than a million of dollars. Besides, it would be unjust to tax the loyal citizens and honestly neutral foreigners, to provide for a state of things brought about by the rebels and disloyal foreigners related to them by ties of blood, marriage, and social relation, who had conspired and labored together to overthrow the authority of the United States, and establish the very result which was to be met.

Farther, in order to have a contribution effective, it must be upon those who have wealth to answer it.

There seemed to me no such fit subjects for such taxation as the cotton brokers who had brought the distress upon the city, by thus paralyzing commerce, and the subscribers to this loan, who had money to invest for purposes of war, so advertised and known as above described.

With these convictions, I issued General Order No. 55, which will explain itself, and have raised nearly the amount of the tax therein set forth.

But for what purpose? Not a dollar has gone in any way to the use of the United States. I am now employing one thousand poor laborers, as matter of charity, upon the streets and wharves of the city, from this fund. I am distributing food to preserve from starvation nine thousand seven hundred and seven families, containing thirty-two thousand four hundred and fifty souls, daily, and this done at an expense of seventy thousand dollars per month. I am sustaining, at an expense of two thousand dollars per month, five asylums for widows and orphans. I am aiding the Charity Hospital to the extent of five thousand dollars per month.

Before their excellencies, the French and Prussian ministers, complain of my exactions upon foreigners at New Orleans, I desire they would look at the documents, and consider for a few moments the facts and figures set forth in the returns and in this report. They will find that out of ten thousand four hundred and ninety families who have been fed from the fund, with the raising of which they find fault, less than one tenth (one thousand and ten) are Americans; nine thousand four hundred and eighty are foreigners. Of the thirty-two thousand souls, but three thousand are natives. Besides, the charity at the asylums and hospitals is distributed in about the same proportions as to foreign and native born so that of an expenditure of near eighty thousand dollars per month, to employ and feed the starving poor of New Orleans, seventy-two thousand go to the foreigners, whose compatriots loudly complain and offensively thrust forward their neutrality, whenever they are called upon to aid their suffering countrymen.

I should need no extraordinary taxation to feed the poor of New Orleans, if the bellies of the foreigners were as actively with the rebels, as are the heads of those who claim exemption, thus far, from this taxation, made and used for purposes above set forth, upon the ground of their neutrality; among whom I find Rochereau & Co., the senior partner of which firm took an oath of allegiance to support the constitution of the Confederate States.

I find also the house of Reichard & Co., the senior partner of which, General Reichard, is in the rebel army. I find the junior partner, Mr. Kruttschnidt, the brother-in-law of Benjamin, the rebel secretary of war, using all the funds in his hands to purchase arms, and collecting the securities of his correspondents before they are due, to get funds to loan to the rebel authorities, and now acting Prussian consul here, doing quite as effective service to the rebels as his partner in the field. I find Mme. Vogel, late partner in the same house of Reichard & Co., now absent, whose funds are managed by that house. I find M. Paesher & Co., bankers, whose clerks and employees formed a part of the French legion, organized to fight the United States, and who contributed largely to arm and equip that corps. And a Mr. Lewis, whose antecedents I have not had time to investigate.

And these are fair specimens of the “neutrality” of the foreigners, for whom the government is called upon to interfere, to prevent their paying anything toward the relief fund for their starving countrymen.

If the representatives of the foreign governments will feed their own starving people, over whom the only protection they extend, so far as I see, is to tax them all, poor and rich, a dollar and a half each for certificates of nationality, I will release the foreigners from all exactions, fines, and imposts whatever.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

Benjamin F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

The government sustained Order No. 55, and upon that being made known to the commanding general, on December 9, 1862, he issued the following order: —

New Orleans, December 9, 1862.

Under General Order No. 55, current series, from these headquarters, an assessment was made upon certain parties who had aided the rebellion, “to be appropriated to the relief of the starving poor of New Orleans.”

The calls upon the fund raised under that order have been frequent and urgent, and it is now exhausted.

But the poor of this city have the same or increased necessities for relief as then, and their calls must be heard; and it is both fit and proper that the parties responsible for the present state of affairs should have the burden of their support.

Therefore, the parties named in Schedules A and B, of General Order No. 55, as hereunto annexed, are assessed in like sums, and for the same purpose, and will make payment to D. C. G. Field, financial clerk, at his office, at these headquarters, on or before Monday, December 15, 1862.

I was relieved by General Banks six days after. As the time this assessment was to be paid was at the expiration of seven days, and I was relieved before that time, of course nobody paid the assessment according to the order. Within thirty days General Banks found himself under the necessity of renewing the order and did so. But nobody paid the slightest attention to it and nobody paid anything afterwards on that order, and it stands to-day unrepealed, uncancelled, and unexecuted. But the necessities of the poor remained the same, and if they were relieved it must have been from some other source. But with that I have nothing to do.

It may be remembered that I recognized a man parading in the mob in front of the St. Charles Hotel, wearing in his buttonhole a fragment of the national flag, which had been torn down from the mint, and that I ordered measures to be taken for his identification. Soon afterward he was arrested, but before he could be brought to trial there was another cause for a military commission.

Six soldiers who were captured and paroled at Forts Jackson and St. Philip were confederating together to enlist a company to be known as the “Monroe guard,” Monroe being mayor of the city. This company, when fully organized, was to arm itself in the city and break through our lines and join Beauregard. These men, some of whom had been sergeants, were to be officers. This combination being brought to my notice, proper measures were taken to secure the prevention of its designs. The six instigators of it were brought before a military commission and tried for breach of parole, the punishment of which by military law is death. This was a very flagrant case of such breach, because they took advantage of the liberty obtained by parole to plot war against the United States. On the 31st day of May, in pursuance of the advice of the commission as to what disposition should be made of them, an order was issued for their execution by hanging.

Now, it was known in New Orleans that no capital execution had been had in the State of Louisiana for eighteen years, the sequence of which was that New Orleans had been the scene of the most unprovoked and unjustifiable murders which could well be imagined, with no punishment therefor. One had taken place on the day of my landing there. A German citizen on the levee shouted out: “Hurrah for the old flag.” He was immediately shot, seized and thrown into the river. I made many exertions to find out who did it, but was not able to do so.

I had some misgivings when I gave orders for the punishment of these six men whether they had understood fully how great was their crime. Indeed, one of them said in his defence: “Paroling is for officers and gentlemen; we are not gentlemen.” That they were guilty enough of bad acts toward the government, I did not doubt, but I questioned whether they were guilty of the precise act for which the sentence was invoked, for want of knowledge which caused that guilt.

Immediately the cry went out that I would not dare to hang them. That of course I took no notice of. Their lives were very earnestly and eloquently besought by three good Union men whom I knew. They presented a petition for this purpose, signed by many of the known Union citizens in the place. I gave the matter the most serious attention, for it was the first time that the life of a man had depended on my single order, and I was anxious to escape the responsibility for their death if I might properly do so. Upon their representation and upon the representations made to me that it would be regarded as an act of pacification, shortly before the date fixed for the execution of the order, I respited the prisoners to hard labor for a long term. That was done on the 4th day of June.

Meanwhile Mumford, who had torn down the flag, had been put on trial for that crime. His offence had been a most heinous one, and the dire results that might have arisen from it seemed almost providentially to have been averted.

After the military had fled, the mayor of New Orleans informed Farragut, — I say Farragut, for now it is no honor to him to be given a title, — that as the civil authority of the city he could not surrender the United States mint. Farragut then ordered the United States flag to be placed on the government buildings as a token of the surrender of the city, and had it placed there amidst the insults poured upon his officers and men charged with that duty. The authorities were warned that as long as the flag waved there it would be understood that the city had surrendered. Whenever it should be taken down, that act would be a signal that the city had resumed hostilities and would be followed by the threatened bombardment.

Farragut did not place a guard on the top of the mint for the reason that any altercation or interference with the guard might afford an excuse for somebody to haul down the flag. But he placed howitzers in the main-tops of his ship, the Hartford, with guns’ crews to watch the flag. These men were instructed that if any persons were seen to interfere with it or take it down, to open fire upon them with the howitzers. This would be a signal for the Hartford to open fire upon the city, which would be followed by a fire along the line of the whole fleet, which lay broadside on.

On Sunday morning, Farragut called his officers and crew below in religious service to give thanks to the Almighty for His preservation of them in the great dangers and perils to which they had been exposed. The services were solemnly going on under his direction, when the guns from the main-tops bearing on the flag were discharged. Instantly everybody ran on deck and went to his post. Every gun was manned and the lanyards of the locks of some of them were pulled. But a wonderful happening had taken place. The careful ordnance officer, before he went down, cast his eye upon the heavens and saw portents of rain. He therefore went around the battery, took out; of the vents all the wafers by which the guns were fired, and placed them in a receptacle where they would be kept dry. Consequently no gun answered fire when the lanyards were pulled. Seeing that those who had taken the flag down had run away and that there was no movement of anybody, Farragut paused, and so the city was saved from bombardment.

Farragut sent his boat ashore to ascertain why the flag had been taken down and was informed that it was done by some person wholly unauthorized. A party headed by Mumford had torn down the flag, dragged it through the streets and spit on it, and trampled on it until it was torn to pieces. It was then distributed among the rabble, and each one thought it a high honor to get a piece of it and wear it.

It has been said that I had no right to take any notice of this act because it was done before I got there. But it was the flag of the United States, and it had been placed there by Farragut after he took possession of the city. Upon that point I never had any controversy.

Although he had been clearly convicted of this offense against the laws of war and his country, yet it was not believed by the rebels that Mumford would be executed. He was at the head of the gamblers of New Orleans, and was a man of considerable education, some property, and much influence with the lower class. It was said that Butler would never dare hang him, and when the parole offenders had been respited on the 4th of June, and Special Order No. 10 was issued on the 5th of June commanding that Mumford be executed on the 7th of June between 6 A. M. and 12 M., the order was received by the populace almost with derision.

No good man petitioned for his release, but the bad men, the blacklegs and blackguards, assembled in large numbers and voted that he should not be executed, and that if he was executed Butler should die the death by any and every possible means. They thought some of selecting a committee to so notify me, but upon consideration it was found that it was not a popular committee upon which to serve, and it was not done But it was agreed that I should be notified by anonymous letters, and accordingly they sent me forty or fifty the next morning, in almost every language and every degree of literature, accompanied by illustrations of pistols and coffins and cross-bones and skulls, to intimidate me.

Indeed, their performances frightened one man besides myself. He was my secret service man, who had attended the meeting and made a speech in behalf of my being shot. He was rather unmerciful. He returned from the gathering about ten o’clock at night, and told me what had taken place and said that I was in the utmost danger if I had Mumford executed. I told him that was where we differed; I thought I should be in the utmost danger if I did not have him executed, for the question was now to be determined whether I commanded that city or whether the mob commanded it.

“Why, General,” said he, “I know how much more virulent and determined they are than you think them. I must ask you to do one thing for me if you mean to hang Mumford; give me what money I ought to have, and give me an order so that I may go away at once before the execution. For should it be found out that I had been in your service at any time, whether you were alive or dead, my life would not be safe a minute, and I want to go north.”

I said, “Very well,” and paid him and gave him an order on his captain to send him north by the first vessel, as if he were sent away. I frankly admit that I was frightened myself. I was sensible that I should be subjected probably to every kind of machination and intrigue for my death if I did my duty. I gave more attention that night to the question of Mumford’s execution than I did to sleep, but I came to a conclusion satisfactory to my own mind.

On the afternoon of the next day I got a note saying that Mrs. Mumford and her children wished me to see them. I stepped into the parlor and told the orderly to bring them in and close the door and to see that I was not disturbed until I called for him. Mrs. Mumford in a proper way began to intercede for her husband and the father of her children. She wept bitterly, as did the children, who fell about my knees, adding all those moving acts which perhaps they had been instructed to say and do, or which perhaps naturally came to them. I was obliged to answer their mother that I wished it could be permitted to my sense of duty to reprieve her husband, but that it could not be. I told her that I had given it every thought and had considered it in every aspect; that while this scene was very painful to me, yet it could not alter my determination; that I was very sorry at the great affliction that was to come to her and her children, and that if in the future I could in any way alleviate that harm, she would not find, I hoped, as obdurate an ear as I was obliged to give her now.

“I hear Mumford believes he will not be executed,” I said, “and I am told he is making no preparations for his death. Now, I think the greatest kindness you can do him is to let me ring for my carriage and send you to the jail. I will give an order for your admission to his room, or that you and your family may meet him in any room in the jail that will be most convenient for you. I wish you to convince him that he is mistaken and that he will be executed. Whether I live or die he will die; and let him in the few hours he has to live look to his God for pardon.”

I called the orderly, reached the order for their admission to the lieutenant of the guard, and my carriage took the wife and family to the jail where they spent the remainder of the night, or as long as they chose, with the condemned man. Still they could not convince Mumford that I was really in earnest, and the people apparently were not any more convinced than himself. I afterwards learned that he asked the officer in charge not to give the order until the latest minute possible.

Imitating the Spanish custom as to the place of execution, which places it as near as possible to the spot where the crime was committed, I had ordered it to take place from the mint, with the flag of the United States, the companion of which he had desecrated, floating over him. The place was almost in sight of my office. Mumford was permitted to stand upon the scaffold and make a speech as long as he chose. In it he claimed that he was impelled by the highest patriotism. A swearing, whiskey-drinking mob assembled below him, their bottles and pistols sticking out from their pockets when not in their hands. They kept declaring to each other that Mumford was not to be hanged, and that this was only a scare on the part of old Butler, and The mint at New Orleans. threatened what the people would do if he was hanged. The street was quite full of them, almost to my office. At the last of it they got quite uneasy, the eyes of Mumford being lifted up the street to see if some staff officer did not come riding down, bearing the order of reprieve.

The Mint at New Orleans.
The Mint at New Orleans.

The Mint at New Orleans.
The Mint at New Orleans. 2015.

Dr. William N. Mercer was one of the best gentlemen in the city. Although a secessionist, he was a very mild one, holding the doctrine that the Southern States had no right to secede, but that we had no right to force them not to. He was eighty years old, president of the Bank of Louisiana, and a man with whom I had formed the most friendly relations. A little before ten o’clock he almost rushed into my office, where I was sitting alone with my stenographer, and, reaching out his hands, tears running down his cheeks, said: —

“O General, General, give me this man’s life. I must soon go to meet my Maker; let me take with me that I have saved a fellow-creature’s life. You can do it, you can do it.”

“No, Doctor, I said, it is your life, and my life, and the life of every good man in this city which I must save. The question is now to be settled whether law and order or a mob shall govern.”

“Oh, no, General; a scratch of your pen will save him.”

“True, Doctor, and a scratch of that same pen would put you in his place. My officers are loyal and true, and they won’t question the reason of my order. They will obey first and question it, if at all, afterwards. Having this great power I must use it judiciously. I cannot.”

The old man, his tears falling like rain, turned and left me.

The looked-for staff officer did not come to the place of execution. At the appointed time the drop fell, and as it did there was a universal hush. The bottles and pistols went out of sight, and the crowd separated as quietly as if it were from the funeral of the most distinguished citizen. And no scene approaching general disorder was ever afterwards witnessed during my time.

The fate of Mumford caused the greatest excitement throughout the whole Confederacy. Threats of retaliatory vengeance came from the governor of Louisiana, and were circulated by all the cognate rascals south of Mason and Dixon’s line, including Jefferson Davis. Mumford’s wife and family were declared to be the sacred trust of the people, and his children the wards of the Confederacy. Subscription papers were immediately called for, and very considerable sums were raised to support them thereafter in comfort.

The reader may be interested to know how well this was carried out. I heard and thought nothing more upon the subject, except as a passing reflection, until about the year 1869, the date not recollected, when I received a letter from a lady in Malden, Massachusetts. She wrote me in very dignified and proper terms that she was somehow interested in Mrs. Mumford, who was then in the greatest distress. Mrs. Mumford had written to her that at the time of the execution of her husband I had told her that if ever I could soften her troubles I would be glad to help her, and she asked her Massachusetts friend to send to me to ascertain if I would see her.

I immediately answered I would see Mrs. Mumford any time at my office in Washington. A few days later her card came to me and she was shown in. She had aged somewhat. I told her that I had received a letter from her friend and asked the purpose of her visit. She then told me that a very considerable amount of money had been subscribed for her, but being in Confederate money it did not amount to much. At last it was entrusted to some man, a clergyman I think, who concluded to take it and build a house in Wytheville, Virginia, for her and her children, of whom there were three or four. He had purchased two acres of land and had a house built upon it. The work was nearly finished, when her trustee ran away, leaving a mechanic’s lien upon the building of something more than eighty dollars, and the land and buildings were now to be sold to satisfy that lien.

“Where are you living now? I asked.”

She said she had come to Alexandria and was staying there with a friend, waiting to see me.

“Can you wait there without difficulty until I can send down and see about this matter at Wytheville?”

She said she would thankfully, and that I would find her story correct.

I immediately sent to Col. Thomas Tabb, of Hampton, Virginia, who had been a Confederate officer, and who had afterwards been my counsel in some matters of moment. I wrote him the story and asked him to investigate it and to purchase the title to that house in the name of Mrs. Mumford, and charge the amount to me, and telegraph me if it was all right. He telegraphed me within a day or two that the matter was as I had supposed, and he would attend to it. The morning I got that despatch, Mrs. Mumford came again to my office. I told her what had been done. She expressed great thankfulness and said that she would go home to Virginia and get into her house and try to live in it.

“How?” asked I.

“Oh, we will try to raise enough on the two acres to live on.”

“You cannot raise enough to live on very soon; have you no other resource?”

“I have not.“

“Is there any school in Wytheville in which to educate your boys?“

“No, sir.“

“You think they ought to be educated, don’t you?“

“Yes, sir.“

“You have been very profuse in your thanks to me for what I have done,“ said I. ”I wish you would put your expressions in writing, and write them as well as you can. I am going out to be gone ten or fifteen minutes, and will see you when I return.”

I came back after a little time, and she handed me the note very nicely and quite elerkly written. “Well,” I said, “I think I may be able to do something for you. Come back day after to-morrow and I will see what I can do.”

The next day I called upon the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and asked him if he had a vacancy for a woman who wrote a good hand and spelled well and was fully educated up to that class of duties.

“I am a good deal pressed, he said, but possibly I can make an appointment.”

“Well,” I said, “Mr. Commissioner, mine is a very special case and I want you, if possible, to do it.” I then told him the story and said: “You see I do not care to have a recommendation from me to go upon your files. She will keep her own name and that had better not be connected with mine so as to draw observation.”

“Very well,” he said, “her place will be a nine hundred dollar position. Send her with your card and she shall have it, and if she deserves it she shall hold it.”

She rented her house in Wytheville and took a small house in Washington. I saw her once in about six months or a year after that. She turned out to be a very good clerk, and was not disturbed until the coming in of the “reform” administration of Mr. Hayes. Then there was a search made for places to put in the “reformer’s” nieces, and the records were examined to see who were behind clerks as to “influence.” The list showed nobody behind Mrs. Mumford, and, the commissioner having been changed, of course she was “reformed out.”

She informed me. I visited the Treasury Department, the Department of the Interior, and the Agricultural Department to see if she could not be restored to a place. I found it utterly impossible until I visited a “rebel brigadier,” General Key, then Postmaster-General, and told him the story. He gave her a clerkship in his department, and there she remained as long as she chose to stay in office, so far as I know. I saw the boys from time to time. They called to see me with their mother and they seemed to be very gentlemanly and bright.

I had one other occasion, while in New Orleans, to administer capital punishment. I certainly had no desertions reported to me that required it. The circumstances of this case are peculiar enough for narration.

For something over a week prior to the 12th of June, 1862, there had been continued complaint made at my headquarters of burglaries and robberies committed in the night time in many houses and in many parts of the city. No clew was brought to me by which the offenders could be ascertained, and it became a very annoying scandal and disgrace. On the morning of the 12th I said at mess table: “This system of night thieveries must be put an end to, and I am going to attend to nothing else, routine duty excepted, until it is done.”

When I got to my office in the Custom House about nine o’clock, a respectable looking Spanish gentleman sent in his card, came in, and said to me that his house on Toulouse Street had been entered the night before in this way: An officer in the full uniform of a lieutenant came in and produced an order to search the house for arms. The officer had four men with him, and they searched everything in the house, evidently looking more carefully after pistols than guns. When they went away they gave the owner a certificate of search. This certificate read as follows: —

J. William Henry, first lieutenant of the Eighteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, has searched the premises No. 93 Toulouse Street, and find to the best of my judgment that all the people who live there are loyal. Please examine no more.

J. William Henry,
Lieut. Eighteenth Mass. Vols.

The complainant said they took all the jewelry in the house and somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 in money, but how much there was of either he could not tell.

Looking at the certificate I saw at once that it was a forgery, because I had no Eighteenth Massachusetts regiment. I looked at the complainant in some despair, and said: —

“Did you notice anything that you can tell me by which I can trace the men?”

“They went away in a cab.”

“In the name of heaven, my man, did you get the number of the cab?”

“Yes, General, cab no. 50.”

“Sit down there, then. Orderly, call the lieutenant of the provost guard. Send and catch cab No. 50, and the driver, and bring them here. Don’t ride in his cab, but walk on the sidewalk and let him keep pace with you.”

Very soon the orderly entered with the driver of cab No. 50.

“Did you drive any party last night?”

“Yes, General.”


“Number 93 Toulouse Street.”

“Did the party go in there?”

“Yes; all but one who stayed in the cab.”

“Were they gone some time?”

“Yes, General.”

“What did they do then?“

“They all loaded into the cab and I drove them to a coffee-house on the corner of ————, naming the streets.

“You sit down there. Lieutenant, take a party of the provost guard and go to this coffee-house, and bring to me every live thing in it including the cat, and don’t let one speak to the other until after they have seen me.”

In the course of three quarters of an hour the officer reported that he had the prisoners I had sent for.

“Bring them in in single file, and march them around this room.”

As they were being marched before me, the face of one of them caught my eye and I knew I had seen it before. I rarely forget a face.

“Halloa, my man, I said, where have I seen you before?”

“In Boston, General.”


“In court.”

“Which one of your crimes were you being tried for there?“

“Burglary, General.”

“Well, you were tried for burglary there and convicted?”


“And pardoned out of State Prison to enlist in the army, and you did so?”


“What regiment?”

“The Thirtieth.”

“Are you of that regiment now?”

“No; I have been discharged on account of a rupture.”

“Very well; having been convicted of burglary and pardoned once and now caught here robbing houses again, can you show any reason why you should not be hanged at once to save all further trouble?”

“Oh, don’t do that, General; I will tell you all about it.”

The room was cleared, and he began, under a caution to tell the truth, because lying to me was a sin I never pardoned. He said that there was a party of seven of them who had formed a secret society under an oath. They had organized and gone around the last two weeks searching houses for arms, and getting everything they could. They had visited eighteen different houses. He gave me the names of the band and the places where the men lived. They did not all live at this coffee-house. Three of them we had not caught. They were immediately sent for and brought in. I recognized one of them as being the mate of my steam yacht. Three confessed that night and signed a written confession, and the property was substantially all recovered. A notice was put in the newspapers for everybody whose house had been robbed to come to the provost marshal’s office and identify their property and take it. Everything was restored except three or four hundred dollars that they had spent out of the money. They had up to that time made no division of spoils.

I then, by General Order 98, sentenced three of them to be executed at the parish prison on the 16th. The next day I tried the rest of them and they were convicted, and substantially confessed all. Five of them in all were condemned to execution. One, a boy, at the intercession of his mother and upon evidence that he had not been a bad boy before his connection with the gang, and being only a sort of page for them, I sentenced to prison for a short term. The man that confessed and turned State’s evidence, as is the phrase, I sentenced to Ship Island at hard labor for five years.

The rebel cry went all over the city: “These men won’t be hanged, although Mumford was. One of them is an officer on the General’s yacht, and he will be smuggled off.” At ten o’clock on the day fixed for the hanging it would seem as if one half of the city had turned out to witness the spectacle. The executions duly took place.

From that hour no burglary was ever committed in New Orleans; at least none was ever complained of. There were no incendiary fires there, and, what was more wonderful, there was no assault with attempt to kill. The only crimes tried by the provost court were petty larcenies and assaults, and the city from Chalmette, its southern boundary, to Carrollton, its northern limit, was more safe by night or by day than any city in the United States at the present hour.

After my return to the North, the case of the mate’s wife was stated to me as one of destitution, and I directed that a sewing machine, which it was claimed she needed, should be purchased and given to her.

The effect of this speedy and condign punishment of offenders, the course of justice marching steadily on, coupled with a belief which prevailed in New Orleans that nothing could be done there that I could not find out, — a belief which I fostered as much as I could, — was the secret of the peace and quiet which pervaded the city. It was supposed I had the best spy system in the world. That was true, but not in the way it was supposed. The negroes all came and told me anything they thought I wanted to know. I never let it be known that one of them spoke to me upon any subject. I had nobody else hear that class of informers. They would tell me the exact truth, so far as they understood it, and if it was anything of worth, they received from my hands some small compensation.

Let me give two examples of the manner in which that system worked.

Early in June I was informed that there was a sewing “bee“ in the house of one of the first ladies of New Orleans and that they were making a flag to send to a New Orleans regiment in Beauregard’s army at Corinth. This flag was of the finest embroidered silk, trimmed with gold fringe and very handsomely ornamented. After I got the information I waited quietly until the flag was finished and a nice canvas case made for it. This case was also embroidered, as one doesn’t want an unfinished flag. Then I sent an orderly with my carriage to the house of the lady. He was instructed to present General Butler’s compliments to her, with the message that the general’s carriage was at the door and he desired to see her at once. No harsher demand for the appearance of a person was ever sent by me, except in the case of an immediate arrest. I held that the invitation of the sovereign was equivalent to a command.

A handsomely dressed lady, who seemed forty but might have been fifty, was shown into the office and handed a seat. I took a paper in my hand and looking at it said: —

“Is this Mrs. ——?”

“Yes, General.”

“Living at no. —, —— Street?”


“Well, madam, my information is that you have been having a series of sewing ‘bees’ at your house by a party of young secession girls, making a flag to be sent to Beauregard’s army. I have occasion for such a flag on the Fourth of July. I hear there is to be a Sabbath school celebration of the children of my town and I want to send a Confederate flag up there to please them, for they have never seen one. Won’t you please go with my orderly and get that flag and bring it here?”

Her look of astonishment was ludicrous. She gasped out: —

“General, you must be mistaken; you have been misinformed as to the person.”

“Madam, if I were you I wouldn’t deny that which you know and I know. You have had that flag made; it is finished and in your house; and I should get it from there now, as I have seen fit to move about it, if I had to take down your house from roof to hearthstone. Now, please don’t let us have any fuss made about the matter and require that I shall have to send down a party of soldiers to get it, because you will know that I know where it is when I tell you where it is. It served as a bolster under your pillow last night. Orderly, take this lady to the house from which you brought her and keep her in sight until you return her here.”

In a short time the orderly returned, bringing what appeared to be a handsome case for a flag. I opened the case by releasing the gathering cord at the top and produced a very handsome flag, rolled up. I looked at it, thrust it back into the case, and threw it to one side.

“Yes,” said I, “that is the one I want. I don’t want any more; and I wouldn’t make any more if I were you. If I should happen to want another I will send to you, for this is a very beautiful one. You can go, madam.“

“May I ask you a question, General?” she gasped out.

“Oh, certainly; I will answer it if a proper one.”

“Which of those girls gave information about this flag?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you that, madam, because they would not come and tell me anything more if I did.”

“I know, I know,” said she; “one of them has been seen walking with a Yankee officer.”

“I have no objection to you secession women eating each other like Kilkenny cats; I have nothing to do with that. But you may accuse her unjustly. It may be your servants, which I suppose you have.”

“No, it was not my servants, General; that won’t do. The only one of my family that knows anything about it is my foster sister, the daughter of my nurse brought up with me from the same breast.”

“Oh, well, I am glad to hear you have such faithful servants,” and she left. It was her foster sister all the same who was my informer, and she did it without hope of reward, and only to revenge herself on her foster mistress.

I had issued an order that there should be no meetings or convocations held except by my permission, save of the fire companies and police.

About eleven o’clock one night a good-looking, well-dressed negro servant applied to see me. I was about retiring, but said he might be sent in.

“General,” said he, “I have just come from a party of gentlemen. There were fourteen of them. They have been having a dinner, and they have abused you and the United States, and swore about you and said all manner of hard things about you. I know it, for I was waiting on the table all the evening, and I took notice so as to tell you.”

“Do you know their names?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where their places of business are?”

“Yes, sir.”

The bell was touched for a stenographer, who took down the names and addresses of all the members of the party. A five-dollar gold piece was given to the negro and he was dismissed, his name and address being taken.

In the morning the names of all the persons composing the party were given to an orderly, who was instructed to call on each of them, letting no one of them know that he was going to call upon the other, and give each my compliments and say that I would be glad to see him at my office at four o’clock sharp.

At four o’clock the orderly opened the door, and touching his cap, said: —

“General, the men that you ordered here are in waiting.”

I ordered them shown in, and they arranged themselves around the room. There was an expression of eager curiosity on the face of each.

“Gentlemen,” said I, “I trust I know the habits of good society well enough not to take much notice of what is done and said at a social dinner party, when the wine is in and the wit is supposed to be out. My information is, and you know whether it is correct or not, that you were assembled last night in direct disobedience of a general order, as you know, and the dinner party was an excuse for the assemblage, and that you amused yourselves by abusing me. That is not of much consequence; I forgive you that. But you abused your government and mine, and you used terms about it and about the President and members of the government that I can’t permit. You supposed that I could not know of it. Nothing passes here, worth knowing, that I don’t know about, as you see. But, gentlemen, this was mere folly; it did neither good nor harm to anybody, and I shall take no further notice of it unless something of the kind is somewhere done again, and if it is I will surely give you notice of it. Good day, gentlemen. I hope I shall not have to trouble you further.”

And they departed, every man inquiring in his own mind which one of that party told.



T HE question must have arisen in the mind of the reader, in poring over the administration of these many civil affairs: Were military operations delayed while these things were being done?

By no means. Farragut and myself were ordered to do two things, if we could; first, to open the Mississippi River; second, to capture Mobile. Now, the capture of Mobile was of no earthly military consequence to anybody. It was like the attempted capture of Savannah, Port Royal, Fernandina, Brunswick, and Charleston, in which places the lives of so many good men were sacrificed. These places could all have been held by a few vessels under the command of vigilant, energetic, and ambitious young naval officers.

The absolute inability of the Confederacy to have a navy or any force on the sea, ought to have suggested to us a militia navy for coast protection and defence. Then there could have been an early concentration of our troops into large armies for the purpose of instruction and discipline; and as almost every part of the Confederacy was penetrable to a greater or less degree by means of rivers, our armies should have marched by water to a very much greater extent than they did. Now, the great water communication of the whole West, through the Mississippi, was to be opened to the sea at all hazards.

New Orleans was now invincible to any land force so long as our navy occupied the river and Lake Pontchartrain, and so long as the city was held by five thousand men who had nothing else to do. A single ten-gun sloop off Manchac Pass rendered it impossible for the city to be taken by land so long as Lake Pontchartrain was held by our light-draught gunboats. Therefore, it was agreed between the admiral and myself that with his main fleet he should go up the river as far as he could, and that I should give him the troops needed to occupy the places that he could take with his fleet. Thereupon he left directly, and seized Baton Rouge. Here we left some two thousand men, more because it was a healthy location than for any particular military usefulness. We concluded to make no fortification there.

Farragut passed Port Hudson, where there were at that time no considerable defences. He had determined to look upon Vicksburg as the only place where a fortified stronghold was substantially possible for the protection of the surrounding country. The fleet accordingly went on.

We at once agreed — and General Williams acquiesced upon observation — that the easier way of passing Vicksburg was to make a short canal across the peninsula that faced the city and thus turn a current of water through this channel. It was believed that such a canal would soon shorten the river, leaving Vicksburg and its possible fortifications some three miles inland. The project was undertaken, and it might have been successfully carried out had not a sudden fall of several feet in the height of the river rendered it impossible to dig the canal deep enough.

To capture by assault with Williams’ brigade was not practicable, and as Vicksburg was found to be within the territorial lines of the department of General Halleck, the admiral thought it was his duty and his right to at least ask Halleck to furnish men enough to cooperate with the navy, and, in conjunction with Williams, to make the attack.

Now, mark: Vicksburg was the most important point in the country to be captured. Farragut was above it with his fleet, having run by it. If Halleck, when he moved from Corinth, had sent any considerable force from Corinth to the rear of Vicksburg to cut off supplies, — as our fleets were both above and below the town — it might have been starved out in twenty days, as Grant a year afterwards captured it by starvation of its forces, after he had lost many men in assaults, and from the unhealthiness of the region. Ellet with his fleet had captured Fort Pillow; and the river would have been opened from St. Louis down to the sea, if Halleck had complied with Farragut’s request. This was Farragut’s letter: —

Aboard Flag-Boat,
above Vicksburg,
June 28, 1862.

Major-General Halleck:

Sir: — I have the honor to inform you that I have passed the batteries and am now above Vicksburg with the greatest part of my fleet. I drove the men from the batteries, but they remained quiet till we passed, and then they up again and raked us. They have some eight regiments, or ten thousand troops, to replenish the batteries and prevent us from landing. Brigadier-General Williams is acting in concert with me, but his force is too small to attempt to land on the Vicksburg side, but he is cutting a ditch across the peninsula to change the course of the river. My orders, General, are to clear the river. This I find impossible without your assistance. Can you aid me in this matter to carry out the peremptory order of the President? I am satisfied that you will act for the best advantage of the government in this matter, and shall therefore wait with great anxiety your reply. Lieutenant-Colonel Ellet, who has kindly offered to co-operate with me in any way in his power, has also offered to send this despatch to you.

I remain, with respect, your obedient servant,

D. G. Farragut,
Flag-Officer Commanding.

Stanton had already addressed Halleck on the same subject on the 23d of June, and this communication, here given, must have reached Halleck even before he received Farragut’s letter: —

[Telegram.] War Department, June 23, 1862.

Major-General Halleck, Corinth:

If you have not already given your attention to the practicability of making a cut-off in the rear of Vicksburg I beg to direct your attention to that point. It has been represented to the Department to be an undertaking of easy accomplishment, especially under the protection of gunboats. A despatch to-day received from General Butler speaks of it as a project contemplated by him, but he may not have a force to spare.

Edwin M. Stanton,     
Secretary of War.

Halleck answered Farragut’s letter on the 3d of July as follows: —

Corinth, July 3, 1862.

Flag-Officer Farragut,
       Commanding U. S. Flotilla in the Mississippi:

The scattered and weakened condition of my forces renders it impossible for me at the present moment to detach any, to co-operate with you on Vicksburg. Probably I shall be able to do so as soon as I can get my troops more concentrated. This may delay the clearing of the river, but its accomplishment will be certain in a few weeks. Allow me to congratulate you on your great successes.

H. W. Halleck,

On the 15th of July Halleck sent the following communication to the Secretary of War in answer to his letter: —

Corinth, Miss., July 15, 1862,
10.40 a. m.      

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:

I cannot at present give Commodore Farragut any aid against Vicksburg. I am sending reinforcements to General Curtis in Arkansas, and to General Buell in Tennessee and Kentucky.

H. W. Halleck,

Now let us look a moment at the position of Beauregard’s army, the only great force against Halleck. Both armies had lain for months in the condition of two men where one is afraid to fight and the other dares not. Halleck says his troops were “not concentrated.” Why were they not?

On the 10th of June Beauregard wrote to Lovell, commanding at Vicksburg, as follows: —

With regard to Vicksburg, as already stated, I regard its fate as sealed. You may defend it for awhile to hold the enemy at bay, but it must follow ere long the fate of Fort Pillow.

How important Davis thought Vicksburg was, is shown by his letter of the 14th of June, 1862, to General Smith, commanding at Vicksburg: —

Richmond, Virginia, June 14, 1862.

Brig.-Gen. M. L. Smith, Vicksburg, Miss.:

What progress is being made toward the completion of the Arkansas? What is the condition of your defence at Vicksburg? Can we do anything to aid you? Disasters above and below increase the value of your position. I hope and expect much from you.

Jefferson Davis.

On the 22d of June General Bragg ordered to Vicksburg the first reinforcements, six thousand of Breckinridge’s corps.

On the 26th Van Dorn, who was left in command of Beauregard’s army, removed his headquarters to Vicksburg, only to be immediately superseded by Bragg, who was in command of the department.

On the 1st of June, Beauregard with all his army was in full retreat from Corinth. On the 17th, he abandoned his command and went to Bladen Springs, near Mobile, sick. Davis seems to have found some fault with Beauregard for retreating, but Beauregard says, “it was a brilliant and successful retreat,” which is about as good as a retreat can be.

Halleck had an army before Corinth, on June 1, of ninety-five thousand men for duty. On the same day, Beauregard’s command, covering the Army of the Mississippi, and the Army of the Department of the West, and some troops staying at Columbus, Mississippi, amounted in all to fifty-four thousand men for duty. These figures are from the official War Records, Volume X., Part I-II, p. 382.

On the 19th of July some of Halleck’s forces were en route to Chattanooga.

How can these statements of Halleck be reconciled with each other, and with the facts? If he desired to serve the country, they show that he was utterly careless of his duty, for I take leave to repeat that there was nothing so important to be done at that time for the cause of the Union as to capture Vicksburg and open the river. A careful examination shows that there were not four thousand available armed men between Vicksburg and Halleck. Lovell says that his “troops were indifferently armed.”

The truth is not to be disguised that Halleck did not want to capture Vicksburg, because then he would have had to share the honor with Farragut and his fleet. He never moved a man toward it, although he promised to so do. He was ordered so to do by the Secretary of War, but he did not obey the order.

About a year afterwards, having done nothing, he was made general-in-chief of the army, when a singular revenge for his own conduct was put upon him. He ordered Banks to go to Vicksburg and help Grant conquer it, and he ordered Grant to go to Baton Rouge and help Banks conquer that, and neither of them obeyed him. They evidently took a leaf of disobedience out of his own book.

It may be said in excuse for Halleck’s not sending his troops to Vicksburg that the condition of things at Washington and the need of reinforcements because of McClellan’s defeat around Richmond justified Halleck in neglecting Vicksburg and in sending his troops to Washington.

There are two answers to that: First, that he did not send any troops there, but made as his excuse for not aiding Farragut the statement that he had sent his troops to reinforce Buell and also Curtis. Those reinforcements so sent away, on then comparatively unimportant errands, would have been invaluable if sent to Vicksburg, which was nearer him than the points where they were actually sent.

The other answer is that President Lincoln, having Vicksburg strongly in his mind, as we know, — for the Secretary of War had ordered Halleck to co-operate with Farragut, — wrote to him expressly not to send any troops to Washington when he had important use for them in his own department: —

War Department, July 2, 1862.

Major-General Halleck, Corinth, Miss.:

Your several despatches of yesterday to the Secretary of War and myself received. I did say, and now repeat, I would be exceedingly glad for some reinforcements from you; still, do not send a man if, in your judgment, it will endanger any point you deem important to hold, or will force you to give up, or weaken or delay, the Chattanooga expedition. Please tell me, could you make me a flying visit for consultation, without endangering the service in your department?

A. Lincoln.

The only man that was in a “panic” concerning Washington was Halleck himself, as will be seen by his letter to McClernand which I quote: —

Corinth, June 30, 1862.

Major-General McClernand, Jackson:

The defeat of McClellan near Richmond has produced another stampede in Washington. You will collect as rapidly as possible all the infantry regiments of your division, and take advantage of transportation by every train to transport them to Columbus and thence to Washington City. General Quinby will be directed to turn over to you certain troops of his command. The part of General Wallace’s division at Memphis will go up the Mississippi, and the portion at Grand Junction will follow as soon as relieved. . . .

H. W. Halleck,

Halleck’s letter shows the condition of his mind. The following letter from General Pope shows the condition of his opponents: —

Camp near Booneville, June 12, 1862.

Major-General Halleck:

A spy whom I sent some days ago to Okolona has just returned. The enemy is scattered along the whole road from Columbus to Tupelo, sixteen miles below Guntown. They are disorganized, mutinous, and starving. He reports the woods full of deserters belonging to the northern counties of Mississippi. Nearly the whole of the Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky troops have left. A large rear guard has been strung along perpendicular to the road for twenty miles, driving the stragglers and all the cattle of every description before them. The spy reports that the whole army is utterly demoralized, and ready to throw down their arms; the Alabama troops have heard of Wood’s and Negley’s movements and are clamorous to go home. . . .

Jno. Pope,

On the 1st of June, General Williams, commanding the expeditionary corps, then at Baton Rouge, had gone up the river to make a demonstration on Camp Moore with the Thirtieth Massachusetts, the Ninth Connecticut, the Seventh Vermont, the Fourth Wisconsin, Nims’ battery and two sections of Everett’s, which would make his force about thirty-five hundred effective men.

Upon the suggestion of the flag-officer, on the 6th of June, I had issued an order as follows: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans, La.,
June 6, 1862.

Brigadier-General Thomas Williams,
     Commanding forces, Baton Rouge, La.:

General: — I am directed by the major-general commanding to say that he will send you the remainder of Everett’s battery, with its horses and harnesses, the Thirty-First Massachusetts and the Seventh Vermont Regiments, and Magee’s cavalry, with transportation, ammunition, and forage for all.

With this force the general will expect you to proceed to Vicksburg with the flag-officer, and then take the town or have it burned at all hazards.

You will leave such force as you may judge necessary to hold Baton Rouge. Camp Moore is believed to be broken up substantially, and perhaps you will think a regiment sufficient; Colonel McMillan’s is recommended, as he has two pieces of cannon. The flag-officer has distinct instructions to open the river, and will do it, I doubt not. A large force is sent to you with what you have, and sufficient, as it would seem, to take any batteries and the supporting force they may have at Vicksburg.

You will often be amused by reports of the enemy’s strength. Witness your report of the numbers approaching Baton Rouge. These stories are exaggerated always. You will send up a regiment or two at once and cut off the neck of land beyond Vicksburg by means of a trench across, thus: — Diagram showing Vicksburg’s position on the River.

Vicksburg’s position on the River.

making the cut about four feet deep and five feet wide. The river itself will do the rest for us.

A large supply of spades and shovels has been sent for this purpose.

Report frequently.

By order of the Major-General Commanding:

George C. Strong,
A. A. G., Chief of Staff.

Profile of Canal across Burey's Point.
Profile of Canal across Burey’s Point.

On the 4th of July General Williams reported: —

Have arrived at Vicksburg. On June 25 commenced running and levelling the line of the cut-off canal, and on the morning of the 27th broke ground. Between eleven and twelve hundred negroes, gathered from the neighboring plantations by armed parties, are engaged on the work. With the hard-working twelve hundred negro force engaged and this prospect of a rise we are in good heart. The project is a great one, and worthy of success. In the next three days we expect to be ready for the waters of the Mississippi. The fleets of Flag-Officers Farragut and Davis are waiting for the result with great interest. Seven of Flag-Officer Farragut’s vessels, having passed Vicksburg at four in the morning of the 28th, without silencing the batteries of the town, are anchored with Flag-Officer Davis’ fleet of six mortar boats and four gunboats on the west side of Barney’s Point.

Again on the 6th of July, he reported as follows: —

To-day’s work of the negro force on the cut-off, duly organized into squads of twenty, with an intelligent non-commissioned officer or private to each, superintended by officers, is highly satisfactory. The flag-officer with his fleet is most sanguine and even enthusiastic. I regard the cut-off to be my best bower.

There was no rise in the river, but on the contrary a great fall, so that it was reported to be impossible without three months labor to make a canal deep enough for the naval vessels. Therefore I left General Williams to co-operate with the fleet in the proposed capture of Vicksburg, although I had learned that it was in the department of Major-General Halleck. That Halleck might have no delicacy in calling for the co-operation of General Williams I addressed to him the following letter: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf
New Orleans, La.,
July 26, 1862.

Major-General Halleck,
      Commanding Department of the West:

General: — I avail myself of the voyage of the Tennessee to communicate with you upon the subject of General Williams’ brigade at Vicksburg.

General Williams was sent up at a time when we should have had only local troops to meet at Vicksburg. It was not properly within my department, but the exigencies of the public service, as it seemed to me, justified the movement. It is now quite different, as I am informed that a division at least of your army is moving upon Vicksburg.

I have great need of General Williams’ command to aid me in clearing out the guerrillas from this State, who are doing infinite mischief. I have therefore ordered his recall, as his force since the reinforcement by Van Dorn and Breckinridge of the enemy, is too small for operations alone, and a junction of Generals Grant and Curtis must give ample force for the reduction of the place. The disposal of the guerrilla bands is easy of accomplishment, but it requires many men to hold the various points, which if not held only bring destruction upon our friends there.

If in anything I can aid your operations command me. I have sent a duplicate of this under cover to General Grant for information as well as to General Williams.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler,     
Major-General Commanding.

Before writing this letter I surmised what the trouble with Halleck was: inconsistency, vanity, cowardice, — one or all. I had determined that he should find no refuge in the fact that he supposed I would not give him aid. But knowing of the retreat of Beauregard’s army on the 10th of June, and of Halleck’s reply on the 23d that his own army was weak and disorganized, I was convinced as to the sort of a man I had to deal with, and I never had any more dealings with him during my stay in New Orleans.

Meanwhile I had received some information which put the proposed movement against Mobile wholly to one side and also showed that Farragut’s fleet might at any moment be called from his attack on Vicksburg.

Before the 16th of May, a short time after my arrival in New Orleans, a small French vessel, the Catinet, came up and anchored at the head of the fleet. Her officers and sailors did not sympathize with the Union people of New Orleans, or with the military officers, or troops. Her commander did not do himself the honor of calling on the commanding general even on a visit of ceremony. He passed by the forts after Farragut passed up without Farragut seeing him.

I learned afterwards that he was simply a French spy. The only communication I had with him was within thirty days after his arrival. He held a great jubilee on his vessel one evening, and had a large party there singing secession songs at the top of their voices, calling large crowds to the levee to hear them. I sent him a communication saying that such conduct must not be repeated on board his vessel, and that if it was I should send down a battery of artillery to prevent it. It did not recur.

Meanwhile I was informed by the Secretary of State, verbally, that information had been received, through confidential channels, from Paris that Emperor Louis Napoleon had made substantially this proposition to the English government: —

That the two governments should unite in recognizing the independence of the Confederacy. That a treaty should then immediately be made with the Confederacy through Mason and Slidell. That Louis Napoleon, being promised aid by the rebels, should make an attack upon Mexico [which was afterwards made without their aid], for the purpose of establishing the empire of Maximilian, and that he should occupy New Orleans as a base of his operations, as Vera Cruz was not a harbor that could be safely occupied by a fleet, on account of its exposure to the “northers.”

More in detail, the last part of the scheme was this: The Emperor was to assemble his fleet at Martinique under the pretence of blockading Mexican ports, — which would be a mere pretence, for no such blockade would have been of any use. At once upon a declaration of war, without any further notice to us, his fleet was to attack and take Forts St. Philip and Jackson, and move on to New Orleans. The rebels were to make an attack by land and dispossess the United States of its control of Louisiana. For doing this, Napoleon was to have Texas re-annexed to Mexico. The message to me was that I must get ready to meet the attack by putting the forts in full repair and full armament, and that I must defend New Orleans at all hazards. I was further told that for obvious reasons it was impossible that these orders should be entered of record unless carried out.

This was a somewhat startling condition of affairs. If a French fleet attempted to pass the forts I was to stop it by firing upon it. That would have been a pretty distinct act of war on a nation which was neutral, so far as was known to me officially. If the fight took place and I were successful perhaps I might be excused for having gone into an undertaking for which I had no proper legal justification. But if I were unsuccessful and it became necessary for our government to make an explanation, I knew enough of Seward to know that he would instantly deny that any such instructions were given me, and would claim that the whole affair was a matter of my rashness and desire to quarrel with the French government on account of the actions of the French citizens of New Orleans towards my army and the United States.

I had several reasons for believing that the projected enterprise was fully determined upon: —

First, the conduct of the French ship Catinet and its officers.

Second, the fact that the communication came to me from a source that I could well credit.

Third, it was so characteristic of the French Emperor.

It was certainly best to put the forts in thorough order for defence, and that I proceeded to do with the utmost energy and despatch.

I ordered Lieutenant Weitzel to examine the forts, which he had built, and to ascertain and report what was necessary to put them in such condition that no fleet could pass them, by day or by night, as Farragut had done. He jumped into my headquarters boat and went down, and returned very soon with an most admirable statement of the time it would take and what would be required to put the forts in such condition.

We came to the conclusion that by taking the heavy guns which had been put above New Orleans to meet a fleet coming down the river, and such guns as were just below the city at Chalmette, and using them to make proper water batteries below Forts Jackson and St. Philip, we could, without doubt, hold the forts against the French fleet, especially, since if they got anywhere near past our forts, they would meet Farragut’s fleet, when there would probably be a very different performance from that with the rebels when his fleet passed up. Then to my utter astonishment Weitzel added: —

“But, General, we cannot repair those forts without an order from Washington. I will write General Totten, the chief of engineers, about it.”

I said an impatient word about Totten. “What has he got to do with it?”

“No fort can be repaired, General, by the army regulations, without permission of the chief of engineers.”

“Well,” I said, “I can get along without that permission, for I have money and men enough with which to do it, and I will send at once for the ordnance, if we are short.”

“Oh, but, General, I do not see how I can do it.”

I loved Weitzel then as I have ever since, but not knowing whether we should have time enough to get the forts ready, I said with great impatience: —

“Well, if you cannot do as you are ordered I will get somebody else to do what I want done, but I regret it fearfully. I should be to blame in this, not you, and my orders would justify you. You may go.”

In the course of an hour, while I was reflecting upon the difficulties of my position, my chief of staff, Major Strong, came in and said: —

“General, what have you been doing to poor Weitzel?”

“Nothing,” I answered, “but telling him what I want him to do and what he can do.”

“But, General, you have broken his heart. A braver and stronger man doesn’t live; but I found him in his quarters sobbing like a child and so broken down that he could not tell me what you had done, only that you ordered him to do what he could not do. He says that he doesn’t fear it on his own account, because the order of the commanding general will justify him in doing anything, and adds, if you were an officer of the regular army he would obey you without a word; but he loves you, General, and he says it would be your ruin and the loss of your command to do what you want done.”

I sketched to Strong what I wanted done, but not the reasons why I wanted it done. I asked him to go and bring Weitzel. When Weitzel came in I said: —

“Strong has been telling me what your feelings are. I know what they are towards me, and I feel very grateful for them, and I am glad that you said to him that you would do what I wanted done if I were a regular officer. But you also said that I did not know the risk I was incurring. I was both glad and sorry to hear that. I thought, Weitzel, you had been long enough with me to believe that I know more about military law and my responsibility than all the regular officers in the service put together. As a lawyer I ought to know my duty, and as a man I am willing to do it without any regard to consequences. Now, you and Strong go together and draw any order that you two believe will justify you in obeying my commands in this matter, and I must and will take the responsibility. Upon reflection, I will not take no for an answer. Now go and make your order.”

I should remark here perhaps that my plan of carrying out campaigns was always to give my orders first and have them obeyed, and put them in writing afterwards as a justification for the obedience. Papers came last, not first, with me.

In a few minutes they returned with a very carefully drawn order directing Weitzel to go and do what was wanted to be done, the details to be arranged in writing afterwards. I signed it and had it countersigned by my chief of staff.

“Now, Strong,” said I, “put that on the order book, and Weitzel, you go and get from the quartermaster anything you want, including any number of men you can use, — and they may be hired if necessary, — and I will pay the bills. We have lost three hours here, and I shall expect you by diligence to make it up. Good morning.”

Colonel Jones was in command of the forts, with the Twenty-Sixth regiment, and he was instructed to exercise his men as much as possible as heavy artillerists. The forts were put in apple-pie order and the men were thoroughly drilled. I may add here that Weitzel never could settle that account with his department, although he charged himself with the moneys received from me and furnished vouchers for the expenditures. It was “irregular,” and if he had stayed in that department as an engineer officer, I suppose, according to army regulations, his pay would have been stopped to reimburse the United States for money that never came from the United States and that had been expended in the utmost good faith, the United States getting full value for it.

I was further convinced that my information about the French fleet was true, because on the 16th of June the city government of New Orleans, which had not then been disbanded, but was soon after, passed the following resolution unanimously, under a suspension of the rules: —

Whereas, It has come to the knowledge of this council that, for the first time in the history of this city, a large fleet of the navy of France is about to visit New Orleans, of which fleet the Catinet, now in our port, is the pioneer; and whereas, this council bears in grateful remembrance the many ties of amity and good feeling which unite the people of this city with those of France, to whose paternal protection New Orleans owes its foundation and early prosperity, and to whom it is especially grateful for the jealousy with which, in the cession of the State, it guaranteed all the rights of property, person, and religious freedom of its citizens; therefore.

Be it resolved, That the freedom and hospitalities of the city of New Orleans be tendered, through the commander of the Catinet, to the French naval fleet during its sojourn in our port; and that a committee of five of this council be appointed, with the mayor, to make such tender and such other arrangements as may be necessary to give effect to the same.

This resolution was published in the New Orleans Bee. I made the following answer: —

This action is an insult, as well to the United States, as to the friendly and powerful nation toward whose officers it is directed The offer of the freedom of a captured city by the captives would merit letters patent for its novelty, were there not doubts of its usefulness as an invention. The tender of its hospitalities by a government to which police duties and sanitary regulations only are entrusted, is simply an invitation to the calaboose or the hospital. The United States authorities are the only ones here capable of dealing with amicable or unamicable nations, and will see to it that such acts of courtesy or assistance are extended to any armed vessel of the Emperor of France as shall testify the national, traditional, and hereditary feelings of grateful remembrance with which the United States Government and people appreciate the early aid of France, and her many acts of friendly regard, shown upon so many national and fitting occasions.

The action of the city council in this behalf must be reversed.

But another question in this regard troubled me very much: How was I to fire upon the French fleet, without orders, when it came up. I reflected; indeed I examined the French treaties and the law of nations. Finally I hit upon this expedient. The sanitary regulations of a garrisoned place are military regulations, and are such as the commanding general may deem proper to enforce, especially when martial law is declared. They are to be respected and obeyed by friendly nations and its officers, because they are for the safety of all. If disobeyed knowingly, they are to be enforced by all the means and power which it is necessary to use. Now the French fleet would come from Martinique, a port whose condition was wretched, and was a condemned one. It was hot weather and the yellow fever was there, and my orders were that every vessel, whether of our own nation or of any other, must remain below the forts at a point designated until it had been examined by the health officer, and a report made and written instructions received from me to allow it to proceed. The forts were to stop, and, if necessary, to fire upon, any vessel that refused to obey these quarantine regulations. Therefore it was made the duty of the health officer to hail every vessel and to give a copy of these orders to the officer who received him on deck. If the health officer was not received on board to examine a vessel, he was to drop his hospital flag into his boat as a signal, and if the vessel then proceeded up the river, she was, at all hazards, to be stopped before she reached the forts.

I believed I could justify myself in relying upon this course of law in firing upon the French vessels if they attempted to pass the forts without obeying my quarantine regulations. And a shot in return would justify the whole fire of both forts.

Early in June I learned that an attempt was to be made to organize a revolt and insurrection in New Orleans with the intent to recapture the place. On the 10th of June, Beauregard’s armies commenced to scatter. A great many conscripts were disbanded; and they came to New Orleans, not as paroled soldiers but as stragglers from the Confederate army.

As portions of Beauregard’s army might be sent down to make an attack on the city, — as they afterwards were under Breckinridge, — it was necessary for me to be in readiness. The only thing that could make such an attack successful was an organized force rising upon my rear in New Orleans itself. I concluded to find out who in the city were loyal and who disloyal, and have that made a matter of record.

Again, I knew the confiscation acts were pending in Congress and would soon be passed. By these the property of disloyal men would be confiscated by the government. I reasoned that as soon as the confiscation commenced, every man would claim he had always been loyal and would prove it by his neighbors, who were as disloyal as himself, and so recover his property — as has since been done to the extent of millions.

I determined that every man who chose to take the oath of allegiance and so declare himself, should have an opportunity to do it, and, while forced upon no man, it should be taken by every man who desired to hold any office or position under the United States or to receive any special favor of the United States except the protection of person, property, and liberty.

The inhabitants of New Orleans at this time might be thus classed: Union men; rebels; foreigners friendly to the United States; foreigners sympathizing with the Confederates; soldiers from Beauregard’s army, some inclined to submission and some not so inclined.

These soldiers numbered several thousands, and it was necessary to have them singled out and either paroled or confined for refusing to be paroled.

To put on record the loyal and the disloyal, I issued General Order No. 41. This order required that the oath of allegiance prescribed by law should be taken by every person who was a citizen of the United States Those who had resided in the country five years, though foreign born, should be deemed citizens if they had not sought protection of their government within that time. All foreigners claiming any of the privileges of the American citizen, or protection or favor from the Government of the United States, should take and subscribe the oath. The books should be open, and a proper officer would administer the oath to any person desiring to take the same, the officer to witness the subscription of the name and to furnish to the party taking the oath a certificate thereof.

This order immediately aroused the intense indignation of the consuls, and they addressed me in a labored argument to show that the oath offered to them would be equivalent to naturalizing them as citizens, and that although they were not forced to take it, yet they could have nothing of protection until they-did take it and acknowledge themselves as citizens of the United States. They then said that that would be a violation of their neutrality. The argument further was, that the foreigners’ oath required them to swear that they would act as spies for the United States, and that the requirement that they “should not conceal any act done,” required them to swear that they would be spies and denunciators for the United States. This address was signed by all the consuls, headed by the French consul.

To this I answered in substance that there was nothing compulsory about the order; that I had nothing to do with naturalization; that I had asked no such oath. As to their statement that this oath compelled every foreigner to descend to the level of a spy for the benefit of the United States, I answered that there was no just construction of language which would give any such interpretation to the order. The oath required him who took it not to conceal any wrong that had been or was about to be done in aid of the enemies of the United States. I continued: —

It has been read and translated as if it required you to reveal all such acts. Conceal is a verb active in our language; concealment is an act done, not a thing suffered by the concealers.

Let me thus state the difference in meaning.

If I am passing about and see a thief picking the pocket of my neighbor, and I say nothing about it unless called upon by a proper tribunal, that is not concealment of the theft; but if I throw my cloak over the thief to screen him from the police officer while he does it, I then conceal the theft. Again, if I know that my neighbor is about to join the rebel army, and I go about my usual business, I do not conceal the fact; but if upon being inquired of by the proper authority as to where my neighbor is about to go, I say that he is going to sea, I then conceal his acts and intentions.

Now, if any citizen or foreigner means to conceal rebellious or traitorous acts against the United States, in the sense above given, it will be much more for his personal comfort that he gets out of this department at once.

Indeed, gentlemen, if any subject of a foreign state does not like our laws, or the administration of them, he has an immediate, effectual, and appropriate remedy in his own hands, alike pleasant to him and to us; and that is, not to annoy his consul with complaints of those laws or the administration of them, or his consul wearying the authorities with verbose protests, but simply to go home, — stay not on the order of his going, but go at once. Such a person came here without our invitation; he will be parted with without our regrets.

But he must not have committed crimes against our laws, and then expect to be allowed to go home to escape the punishment of those crimes.

The taking of the oath among the citizens went on. The foreigners all claimed that the form of the oath was such that they could not take it; whereupon I changed the form of the oath prescribed, by General Order No. 42, as follows: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
June 19, 1862.

General Order No. 42.

The commanding general has received information that certain of the foreign residents in this department, notwithstanding the explanations of the terms of the oath prescribed in General Order No. 41, contained in his reply to the foreign consuls, have still scruples about taking that oath.

Anxious to relieve the consciences of all who honestly entertain doubts upon this matter, and not to embarrass any, especially neutrals, by his necessary military orders, the commanding general hereby revises General Order No. 41, so far as to permit any foreign subject, at his election, to take and subscribe the following oath, instead of the oath at first set forth: —

I, . . . . . . . . . . ., do solemnly swear that I will, to the best of my ability, support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God!


Je, . . . . . . . . . ., jure solennellement autant qu’il sera en moi, de soutenir, de maintenir et de défendre la Constitution des Etats-Uris. Que Dieu me soit en aide!

The general is sure that no foreign subject can object to this oath, as it is in the very words of the oath taken by every officer of the European Brigade, prescribed more than a year ago in Les rêglements de la Légion Française, formée à la Nouvelle Orléans, le 26 d’avril, 1861, as will be seen by the extract below, and claimed as an act of the strictest neutrality by the officers taking it, and, for more than a year, has passed by all the foreign consuls — so far as he is informed — without protest: —

Serment que doivent prêter tous les officiers de la Légion Française.

State of Louisiana, Parish of Orleans.

I,. . . . . . . . . . . ., do solemnly swear that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties of . . . . . . . . . . of the French Legion, and that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the State and of the Confederate States. So help me God!

Sworn to and subscribed before me.


Etat De La Louisiane, Paroisse d’Orleans.

Je, . . . . . . . . . . . ., jure solennellement de remplir, autant qu’il sera en moi, les devoirs de . . . . . . . . . . . ., de la Légion Française, et je promets de soutenir, de maintenir, et de défendre la constitution de l’Etat et celle des Etats Confedérés. Que Dieu me soit en aide!

Assermenté et signé devant moi.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

R. S. Davis, Capt. and A. A. A. G.

On the 7th of August, it was reported that the oath prescribed to the citizens had been taken by 11,723 persons, and foreign neutrals’ oath by 2,499, and that 4,933 privates and 211 officers of the Confederate army had given the required parole. The women generally refused to take the oath.

Meanwhile, it became necessary to take another precaution, and that was to require all the arms in the city to be delivered up and put in my possession.

To this, the French consul of course objected in a letter to Lieutenant Weitzel, who was the assistant military commandant. This letter was as follows: —

French consulate at New Orleans,
New Orleans,
August 12, 1862.

Sir: — The new order of the day, which has been published this morning, and by which you require that all and whatever arms which may be in the possession of the people of this city, must be delivered up, has caused the most serious alarm among the French subjects of New Orleans.

Foreigners, sir, and particularly Frenchmen, have, notwithstanding the accusations brought against some of them by certain persons, sacrificed everything to maintain, during the actual conflict, the neutrality imposed upon them.

When arms were delivered them by the municipal authorities, they only used them to maintain order and defend personal property; and those arms have since been almost all returned.

And it now appears, according to the tenor of your order of to-day, that French subjects, as well as citizens, are required to surrender their personal arms, which could only be used in self-defence.

For some time past, unmistakable signs have manifested themselves among the servile population of the city and surrounding country, of their intention to break the bonds which bind them to their masters, and many persons apprehend an actual revolt.

It is these signs, this prospect of finding ourselves completely unarmed, in the presence of a population from which the greatest excesses are feared, that we are above all things justly alarmed; for the result of such a state of things would fall on all alike who were left without the means of self-defence.

It is not denied that the protection of the United States government would be extended to them in such an event, but that protection could not be effective at all times and in all places, nor provide against those internal enemies, whose unrestrained language and manners are constantly increasing, and who are but partially kept in subjection by the conviction that their masters are armed.

I submit to you, sir, these observations, with the request that you take them into consideration.

Please accept, sir, the assurance of my high esteem.

The Consul of France,
Count Mejan.

Lieutenant Weitzel, U. S. Engineers,
and Assistant Military Commandant of New Orleans.

I do not see how I can add anything to my reply to this letter. The evident desire to hold on to the arms impelled me to make my order more effectual, and therefore I must prevent the concealment of them by a high penalty; and also I sent this reply: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
August 14, 1862.

Sir: — Your official note to Lieutenant Weitzel has been forwarded to me.

I see no just cause of complaint against the order requiring the arms of private citizens to be given up. It is the usual course pursued in cities similarly situated to this, even without any exterior force in the neighborhood.

You will observe that it will not do to trust to mere professions of neutrality. I trust most of your countrymen are in good faith neutral; but it is unfortunately true that some of them are not. This causes the good, of necessity, to suffer for the acts of the bad.

I take leave to call your attention to the fact, that the United States forces gave every immunity to Monsieur Bonnegrass, who claimed to be the French consul at Baton Rouge; allowed him to keep his arms, and relied upon his neutrality; but his son was taken prisoner on the battlefield in arms against us.

You will also do me the favor to remember that very few of the French subjects here have taken the oath of neutrality, which was offered to, but not required of them, by my Order No. 41, although all the officers of the French Legion had, with your knowledge and assent, taken the oath to support the constitution of the Confederate States. Thus you see I have no guarantee for the good faith of bad men.

I do not understand how it is that arms are altered in their effectiveness by being personal property, nor do I see how arms which will serve for personal defence (“qui ne peuvent servir que pour leur défense personnelle”) cannot be as effectually used for offensive warfare.

Of the disquiet of which you say. there are signs manifesting themselves among the black population, from a desire to break their bonds (“certaines dispositions à rompre les liens qui les attachent à leurs maîtres”), I have been a not inattentive observer, without wonder, because it would seem natural, when their masters had set them the example of rebellion against constituted authorities, that the negroes, being an imitative race, should do likewise.

But surely the representative of the emperor, who does not tolerate slavery in France, does not desire his countrymen to be armed for the purpose of preventing “the negroes from breaking their bonds.”

Let me assure you that the protection of the United States against violence, either by negroes or white men, whether citizens or foreign, will continue to be as perfect as it has been since our advent here; and far more so, manifesting itself at all moments and everywhere (“tous les instants et partout”), than any improvised citizens’ organization can be.

Whenever the inhabitants of this city will, by a public and united act, show both their loyalty and neutrality, I shall be glad of their aid to keep the peace, and indeed to restore the city to them. Till that time, however, I must require the arms of all the inhabitants, white and black, to be under my control.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

To Count Mejan, French Consul.

This order was thoroughly effective. Attempts were made to conceal arms, but the negroes complained of them in order to get the rewards, and whoever concealed them were dealt with in a manner that showed the folly of such conduct. Well-known and well-tried Union men were allowed, upon application to the provost court, to retain their arms. There were delivered up to my officer rising six thousand.

Further, to prevent the possibility of organization, the coming together of any number of people, save the police and fire brigade, was prohibited by a general order. My system of information was so perfect that there could be no considerable breach of that order without my knowledge, as we have seen.

From the first, I felt perfectly safe in New Orleans, and I immediately arranged to hold the city proper with a very small force in view of the possible prevalence of yellow fever, which, thank heaven! did not come. When my guards were posted, I had as a reserve force less than two hundred and fifty men. My whole army was regarded by the rebels as very small, yet I held the whole of Western Louisiana east of the Red River. I sent small parties of troops when necessary everywhere in it, and no one was ever disturbed except a small party under a flag of truce, which was seized.

Governor Moore, on June 12, sent the following information to President Davis: —

. . . The army of Butler is insignificant in numbers, and that fact makes our situation the more humiliating. He has possession of New Orleans with troops not equalling in number an ordinary city mob. He has Baton Rouge, and, until Fuller’s exploit used the Opelousas railroad to transport small parties to various places in the interior, who intimidated our people, and perpetrated the most appalling incendiarisms and brutality. Our people were demoralized, and no wonder, when our forts and strong places had been the scenes of the disgraceful conduct of officers who had charge of their defence, of which 1 have given you some details in a previous letter.

Lovell, who was in command of that department, suggested, on the 7th of June, that Department No. 1 of Louisiana should be abandoned. Lee responded on the 16th of June that he deemed the department of too much importance to be abandoned. “He regrets his inability to send you reinforcements. He knows of no troops that can be spared at any point, unless General Beauregard can send you some from his command.”

I, myself, had made repeated applications for reinforcements that I might move upon the enemy, but the situation of the Army of the Potomac around Washington prevented anything being sent.

The light draught gunboats that were required in February as absolutely necessary in a department where everybody went by water, were never sent. I wanted twelve; I had captured two and bought one, the Estrella, and that was put in the hands of Farragut so that he could have a light draught boat for his own operations up the river.

The operations of the fleet of Farragut, and of the eighteen mortar boats of Porter at the siege of Vicksburg, where the utter inefficiency of Porter’s invention of the use of mortar boats in military operations was again fully demonstrated, are matters of which I have hereinbefore spoken.

As Weitzel’s Union report, and as Duncan’s rebel report show, they left Forts Jackson and St. Philip substantially as defensible as before the week’s bombardment, and their effect before Vicksburg and its batteries was another demonstrative illustration. The guns of the fleet, it was known, would be quite harmless, because the high cliffs on which Vicksburg is situated rendered it substantially impracticable to elevate the guns of the fleet so as to do more than reach the batteries which were placed on the cliffs and so arranged that their guns might be run forward and shoot down on the fleet, and then be drawn back and reloaded in safety. Therefore, reliance was placed upon the shells from the fire of the mortar fleet to dismount the guns.

The mortar fleet, aided by all the guns of the fleet, commenced its fire on the 21st of June, and Farragut passed the batteries on the 28th of June after three hours passage within range of the batteries.

The entire harmlessness of the noise and confusion of that performance as a military operation, or in any other way, is fully demonstrated by the reports of General Smith, the immediate rebel commander, and of Earl Van Dorn, the department commander, extracts from which I give, from War Records, Series I., Vol. XV., pp. 8, 9. General Smith reports: —

The roar of cannon was now continuous and deafening; loud explosions shook the city to its foundations; shot and shell went hissing and tearing through trees and walls, scattering fragments far and wide in their terrific flight; men, women, and children rushed into the streets, and, amid the crash of falling houses, commenced their hasty flight to the country for safety This continued for about an hour and a half, when the enemy left, the vessels that had passed the lower batteries continuing on up the river.

The result of this effort on the part of the enemy was most satisfactory; not a single gun was silenced, none disabled, and, to their surprise, the serious bombardment of the preceding seven days had thrown nothing out of fighting trim. It also demonstrated to our satisfaction that how large soever the number of guns and mortar boats, our batteries could probably be successfully held; consequently that the ultimate success of our resistance hinged upon a movement by land. . . .

General Van Dorn says: —

It is a matter of surprise that not a single gun was dismounted during the whole time, and only two temporarily disabled, both being repaired in one night.

The casualties on our side during the entire siege were twenty-two killed and wounded. Not a gun was dismounted and but two were temporarily disabled.

Bird's-eye-view of Vicksburg and vicinity, June 5, 1862.
Brid’s-eye-view of Vicksburg and vicinity, June 5, 1862.

I hope these facts will allay in some degree the great fear of our citizens of a war with England lest our cities should be bombarded. If ever done, it will be at long range.

Attention is called to the facts stated: no house burned, but some penetrated. I believe that the mortar fleet experiment in warlike operations begun and has ended with Porter.

To show the opinion of Admiral Farragut as to the cause of the surrender of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, it may not be uninteresting to append the following letter: —

U. S. Flag Ship Hartford,
At Anchor off New Orleans,
May 1, 1862.

Dear General: — I have received your communication sent by Captain Conant of the Thirty-First Massachusetts Regiment, for which please accept my sincere thanks.

It affords me no little gratification that our friends who were anxiously looking on should consider that we had not only performed our duty, but, “did it brilliantly,” and to the “admiration” of our associates in arms, who watched our movements with the feelings of military men who knew that on the result depended their own success in gaining a foothold on the enemy’s soil.

The intrepidity with which you so soon followed up our success by landing your forces at the Quarantine, through mud and mire and water for miles, and which enabled us to tighten the cords around them, has also added to my obligations; and I trust that you will now occupy and hold the city without further difficulty other than those incident to a conquered city disordered by anarchy and the reign of terror which this unfortunate city has passed through.

I am, very respectfully and truly, your obedient servant,

D. G. Farragut,
Flag-Officer Western Gulf Blockading Squadron.

Gen. B. F. Butler,
Commanding Department of the Gulf.

When the operations around Vicksburg came to an end, I again went to Baton Rouge. I arrived on the 26th of July with the Second Brigade, under the command of General Williams. This brigade had suffered very severely from sickness, though not so greatly in the loss of troops by death. As I have said, Baton Rouge was very healthy for the troops, and I saw fit to leave them there for a few days until health was restored. Indeed, there were some regiments that could not bring into line more than two hundred men.

On the 29th of July, General Breckinridge ordered a general movement of all his troops on Baton Rouge. His own division consisted of four brigades, in addition to General Clark’s division and the large portion of General Ruggles’ brigade.

Orders were issued requiring all troops to concentrate for this move, stating it to be of the greatest importance.

True, Breckinridge’s division had suffered somewhat from disease, but not in any degree as ours had suffered. The other troops had been quietly camped and drilled at Camp Moore and elsewhere for months.

On the 30th of July he moved from Baton Rouge with his full force. In his report, which he did not render until the 30th of September, he makes every attempt to belittle his force, although he denominates the battle a victory. The “War Records” show that he had forty-six different organizations of some sort present.

Van Dorn had ordered him to attack on the 5th of August at daybreak, supported by the ram Arkansas, which had been sent down there. He says he intended a surprise.

General Williams, in command of the department, learned when the attack would be made. On the 4th he called together his several commanding officers and selected the position of his forces to meet the attack. General Weitzel reported that this position was an admirable one. Then Williams awaited Breckinridge.

The attack was made under cover of an almost impenetrable fog, but it was fully met by Williams and his command. Breckinridge made one mistake: He knew our centre was held by the Indiana regiment, and he had also learned that at dress parade on the night of the 4th only one hundred and twenty men of that regiment appeared for duty, and he therefore deemed that point the weakest one. But when the tocsin of attack sounded through our camps, the men of the Indiana regiment turned out nearly three times more on the line of fight. They seized their muskets and abandoned their hospitals, although some of them were so weak that they could not have marched a mile. The same was true in a lesser degree of the other regiments.

We early met with a great misfortune: Williams was killed immediately after his address to the Twenty-First Indiana, whose acting colonel, Keith, had received a disabling wound. He said: “Indianans, your field officers are all killed; I will lead you; when almost immediately a ball put an end to his life.” Topographical Map of City and Battlefield of Baton Rouge, Miss.

Topographical Map of City and Battlefield of Baton Rouge, Miss.

The men retreated at first a short distance from their camps where they were posted, but the enemy were finally repulsed by a steady and well-directed fire. Union troops were not encouraged by the non-appearance of the Arkansas, for they knew nothing about her. Our gunboats could not aid them — unless an attempt were to be made to turn their flanks — because they would have had to fire over our troops at very long range upon the enemy, which would have been disastrous. Suffice it to say that the enemy, after three hours and a half of fighting, the fog having lifted, were repulsed in full run, leaving their dead and wounded in piles in our hands. Colonel Cahill, of the Ninth Connecticut, was left in command. He cautiously sent out scouts to a very considerable distance, and found the houses on the route filled with the dead and wounded. A flag of truce came from the victorious (?) General Breckinridge, asking leave for a party to come in and bury the dead and to bring out General Clark who had been wounded. That flag of truce was answered that the task of burying the dead had already been substantially accomplished, and that General Clark was in the house of a personal friend of his.

The ram Arkansas, from which so much had been expected, had come down the river and run herself on shore about four miles and a half above Baton Rouge. Breckinridge says he had no information of this until the morning of the day of the battle. As soon as he learned it he sent out a party, at the head of which was one of his staff officers, the late Governor Wickliffe of Kentucky. Wickliffe was in my office later with a flag of truce, and he told me that he went on board the Arkansas and that her crew set her on fire with her guns all shotted, and that she exploded on her way down river. This was stated to me in the presence of Commodore William Porter (a brother of Admiral Porter), who had just before stated to me that that morning he went up with the iron-clad Essex, from which nobody had heard anything during the night, and that he met the Arkansas coming down, opened fire upon her, and by his second shot she blew up. Wickliffe replied that nobody fired any shot at her, and that they did not see or hear from the Essex.

I knew Wickliffe before I knew Porter and his reputation, so that I believed Wickliffe and not Porter, although in my first despatch about the battle of Baton Rouge, I gave Porter and the Essex the credit of having done that which Porter said they had done. Soon after, I was informed by Farragut from up river that Porter’s account was not true, and I corrected my subsequent report in that regard.

It will be observed that I state that the Arkansas was put on shore. My ground for this is that there are no tides in the river, and how could she have been set on fire and shoved off if she ran ashore? A dozen or more published reports in the “War Correspondence” confirm this account of this transaction.

But its very truth did not prevent Porter from going before Congress and getting an appropriation of some hundreds of thousands of dollars — how much, the records will show — voted to him and his men for their courage, conduct, and gallantry in attacking and destroying the Arkansas. It is hard to tell the fact, but it must be said, that lying is a family vice.

At first I determined to hold Baton Rouge, but upon reflection I changed my mind. For I saw that an attack on New Orleans was the ultimate object of this attack on Baton Rouge. As I have often said before, Baton Rouge was of no possible military importance, and was held only for its healthiness. But all danger of yellow fever was now over, and New Orleans was as healthy at that hour, as the statistics will show, as the city of Boston. Hence I determined to concentrate my troops and abandon Baton Rouge. This I did very leisurely, bringing away everything of public property that could be of any use to the enemy. The State library I placed in the library building in New Orleans, and the State statue of Washington, a very valuable relic, I sent to the Patent Office. I was certain that no attack would be made upon New Orleans, at least until the other iron-clad which was being built upon the Yazoo River should be gotten ready to come down and lead the attack. This iron-clad, as I learned from a man I sent to examine her, could not possibly be done before the middle of October.

To show the accuracy and reliability of my secret service system, I give the report of General Williams on the 2d of August: —

Headquarters Second Brigade,
Baton Rouge, La.,
August 2, 1862.

John Mahan [Mann?] with a pass from General Butler, dated July 22, for Vicksburg, and who left New Orleans July 25, and arrived at Pontchatoula and Camp Moore Monday, July 28, having proceeded up the Jackson railroad as far as Jackson, arrived here by the way of Summit, Liberty, and Bayou Sara this morning at 10 o’clock. He says he saw Breckinridge’s force of six full regiments and fourteen guns at Camp Moore and Pontchatoula Monday, July 28, and that their purpose is to attack this place; says they may be expected on the rear of Baton Rouge at this time, or at any time in the next day or two.

If Mahan be a true man and a true observer there is to be an attack here or at New Orleans; if at New Orleans, a demonstration here.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. Williams,
Brigadier-General Volunteers.

Capt. R. S. Davis, Assistant Adjutant-General.

P. S. I shall send Mahan down by the first opportunity to headquarters. I hope the rebels have as many sick as I have. Perhaps (let us hope at least) that a battle may to our sick exert all the effects of the best tonic of the pharmacopœia.

T. W.,     

I answered General Williams on the 3d; “I received your note by the hand of John Mann [Mahan?], who was in my confidential service. While his information may be relied upon as correct, yet all the inferences which he draws may not be.” I farther gave reasons which I had from the movement of the enemy at Camp Moore that the attack would be delayed. “And while I would not have you relax your vigilance, I think you need fear no assault at present. When it does come I know you will be ready.”

On the evening of that day I sent a confidential messenger with a copy of the enemy’s order that the attack should be made on August 5 at daybreak, to Williams, with directions to destroy the copy, for if it should fall into the hands of the enemy, the source of information might be traced. That was the universal rule with me, in order to relieve the fears of my secret service men.

After the battle of Baton Rouge, I issued a congratulatory order, and published and distributed to my command an appreciative notice of the lamented Williams: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans, La.,
August 7, 1862.

General Order No. 56.

The commanding general announces to the Army of the Gulf the sad event of the death of Brig.-Gen. Thomas Williams, commanding Second Brigade, in camp at Baton Rouge.

The victorious achievement — the repulse of the division of Major-General Breckinridge by the troops led by General Williams, and the destruction of the mail-clad Arkansas by Captain Porter, of the navy — is made sorrowful by the fall of our brave, gallant, and successful fellow soldier.

General Williams graduated at West Point in 1837; at once joined the Fourth Artillery in Florida, where he served with distinction; was thrice brevetted for gallant and meritorious services in Mexico as a member of General Scott’s staff. His life was that of a soldier, devoted to his country’s service. His country mourns in sympathy with his wife and children, now that country’s care and precious charge.

We, his companions in arms, who had learned to love him, weep the true friend, the gallant gentleman, the brave soldier, the accomplished officer, the pure patriot and victorious hero, and the devoted Christian. All and more went out when Williams died. By a singular felicity the manner of his death illustrated each of these generous qualities.

The chivalric American gentleman, he gave up the vantage of the cover of the houses of the city — forming his lines in the open field — lest the women and children of his enemies should be hurt in the fight.

A good general, he had made his dispositions and prepared for battle at the break of day, when he met his foe.

A brave soldier, he received the death-shot leading his men.

A patriot hero, he was fighting the battle of his country, and died as went up the cheer of victory.

A Christian, he sleeps in the hope of the Blessed Redeemer.

His virtues we cannot exceed — his example we may emulate — and mourning his death, we pray “may our last end be like his.”

The customary tribute of mourning will be worn by the officers in the department.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

R. S. Davis, Captain and A. A. A. G.

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans, La.,
August 9, 1862.

General Order No. 57.

Soldiers of the Army of the Gulf:

Your successes have heretofore been substantially bloodless. Taking and holding the most important strategic and commercial positions, with the aid of the gallant navy, by the wisdom of your combinations and the moral power of your arms, it has been left for the last few days to baptize you in blood.

The Spanish conqueror of Mexico won imperishable renown by landing in that country and burning his transport ships, to cut off all hope of retreat. You, more wise and economical, but with equal providence against retreat, sent yours home.

Organized to operate on the sea-coast, you advanced your outposts to Baton Rouge, the capital of the State of Louisiana, more than two hundred and fifty miles into the interior.

Attacked there by a division of our rebel enemies, under command of a major-general recreant to loyal Kentucky (whom some of us would have honored before his apostasy), of doubly superior numbers, you have repulsed in the open field his myrmidons, who took advantage of your sickness from the malaria of the marshes of Vicksburg to make a cowardly attack.

The brigade at Baton Rouge has routed the enemy. He has lost three brigadier-generals, killed, wounded, and prisoners; many colonels and field officers. He has more than a thousand killed and wounded.

You have captured three pieces of artillery, six caissons, two stand of colors, and a large number of prisoners. You have buried his dead on the field of battle and are caring for his wounded. You have convinced him that you are never so sick as not to fight your enemy if he desires the contest. You have shown him that if he cannot take an outpost after weeks of preparation what would be his fate with the main body.

If your general should say he was proud of you it would only be to praise himself; but he will say he is proud to be one of you.

In this battle the Northeast and Northwest mingled their blood on the field, as they had long ago joined their hearts in the support of the Union. Michigan stood by Maine; Massachusetts supported Indiana; Wisconsin aided Vermont; while Connecticut, represented by the sons of the evergreen shamrock, fought as our fathers did at Boyne Waters.

While we all mourn the loss of many brave comrades, we who were absent envy them the privilege of dying upon the battle-field for our country under the starry folds of her victorious flag.

The colors and guidons of the several corps engaged in this contest will have inscribed upon them Baton Rouge.

To complete the victory, the iron-clad steamer Arkansas, the last naval hope of the rebellion, hardly awaited the gallant attack of the Essex, but followed the example of her sisters, the Merrimack, Manassas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, by her own destruction.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

R. S. Davis, Captain and A. A. A. G.

When I turned my attention to the perfecting of my fortifications above New Orleans at Chalmette, on the upper side of the city, I met an unexpected obstacle. When that line was established, upon consultation with General Phelps I came to the conclusion that all the wood and timber must be cut down for a considerable distance in front of our line, from the river to the lake. I directed General Phelps to employ negroes, and cut down the timber and wood so as to clear that line.

He had a great number of escaped slaves in and about his camp. Sometime before that, he had asked me to permit him to organize them into military companies and drill them and furnish arms and equipments for them. I had told him it was impossible, because it was against the direct order of the President, who had just disbanded some negro troops organized by Hunter, and because the arms and equipments sent me were especially reserved for white troops only. He replied that he was not fit for slave-driving or slave-catching, and declined to obey my orders.

Now I loved General Phelps very much. He was a crank upon the slavery question solely; otherwise he was as good a soldier and commander as ever mounted a horse. I reasoned with him in every way. I showed him that Congress had just passed an act that forbade military companies to employ negroes, and now that we were at liberty to employ them, I wished he would go forward. I begged him to do so, but he answered very decisively that he would not. Before this he had sent me a very long, eloquent, able, and well-put argument in favor of our negroes as troops, requesting that I forward it to the President, which I did. If I had not been of his opinion before, I should have been fully convinced by that argument. He wound up this communication by saying that his commission was in the hands of the President.

I wrote to Phelps that whatever might be my own opinions, I could not, where there was no sufficient emergency, act against the orders I had received from my superior. As I gave the order for him to use the negroes in the way I directed, the matter was upon my conscience, not on his; he was the mere hand that executed it. I said, moreover, that I saw nothing of slave-catching or slave-driving in executing this command, especially as at Washington our own soldiers had cut away the timber in front of Arlington Heights, and in that they were neither slave-driven nor slaves.

He promptly refused to obey me, and sent in his resignation. I had to refuse to accept it, and the whole matter was laid before the President. In the strongest language of which I was capable I represented to the President my great desire to have Phelps remain with me. They held the matter under advisement at Washington.

I wished to satisfy myself that there was not to be any attack made upon us from the neighborhood of Manchac Pass. Such an attack could not be made unless that pass was largely fortified by the enemy. Accordingly, I permitted Major Strong, at his request, to take two companies up towards Pontchatoula, where Brig.-Gen. Jeff Thompson held his rebel camp. With great courage and determination, and in the face of innumerable difficulties, Strong extended his reconnoissance up to Pontchatoula. All the rebel troops ran away, and Thompson had gone before that; and all Strong could do was to capture Thompson’s sword and spurs and destroy the other property and burn up some number of carloads of the provisions, as he had no means of bringing them away. A more daring performance than that of Strong was not done during the war by anybody.

In the meantime I had become satisfied that the French government had come to an understanding with Mr. Seward and had broken off with Mason and Slidell; and that Seward was to aid the French Emperor in his attack on Mexico. That fact the man Seward himself confessed by an order issued that no arms should be sold to go out of the country because all were wanted to arm our troops. When the war commenced, very many thousands of guns had been bought with which to arm our troops until we should be able to make our own, which was very soon. Most of those rifles had been discarded and sold to various dealers in arms. They were not needed by us then, nor have they been used by us since. Mexico, finding that she was to be invaded by the French troops, sent into the United States for those arms with which to arm her troops, — and they were certainly better than nothing. When Seward’s order was made it was so worded as not to appear to be a thrust at Mexico, for we were claiming to be friendly with Mexico and against the French in the matter of putting a French emperor over her. Thus we were stabbing her in the back.

Soon afterwards I received information that one or more ships of the French fleet at Martinique, under the command of Admiral Reynaud (Fox) of the French navy, were coming to New Orleans. In a little time Admiral Reynaud appeared, bringing a communication from Seward authorizing me to sell Reynaud, if not inconsistent with the public service, some five to eight hundred draught mules, which he would pay for and receive at New Orleans for transportation. I instantly understood what that meant. There were no draught mules in Mexico, and there were substantially none in all the West India Islands. There were plenty of pack mules in Mexico, but heavy ordnance could not be carried on the back of pack mules from Vera Cruz to the capital. Scott had met with the same misadventure. The French Emperor wanted those mules to transport the munitions of war with which to besiege the city of Mexico.

Now, I was honestly on the side of Mexico, and as I was making preparations for an expedition into Western Louisiana, I came to the conclusion that I could not, in consonance with the public service, sell my mules. In other words, I determined the French should not get a mule from me; and they did not. I called for reports from my quartermasters, and they all reported to me that it was impossible to spare a mule, and these reports I showed to the French admiral.

I did not want any difficulties with the French if I could help it. Therefore, after expressing my regret that I could not furnish the mules, I invited Admiral Reynaud to take a trip with me down the river on my tour of inspection of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. He said he would be very happy to go with me. I was happy to have him, because I knew that General Weitzel, with the aid and under the inspection of Col. E. F. Jones, who was in command of them, had put the forts in perfect equipment for defence.

We went down and thoroughly inspected the forts. I showed the admiral how our guns in both forts would bear upon the river if anybody attempted to repeat the daring feat of Farragut in running by them. I descanted at length to him upon the mistake the enemy made in sending down fire-rafts to oppose us instead of putting them along on both sides of the river within range of the fire of the forts, and explained that in case a fleet came up the river now, at night, so the gunners of the forts couldn’t see the vessels, the river would be lighted up by burning the fire-rafts along the banks so that every man on board the vessels would be plainly visible; and that Farragut owed his success considerably to the fact his expedition was undertaken on a dark night. I then showed him how Farragut’s fleet, giving him its weight of metal, could be posted just above the forts and cover the whole distance with the guns of the fleet, a thing which was not done by the rebel fleet.

After having explained all this to him, I said, semi-confidentially: Now, Admiral, what do you say; with these means of resistance properly handled with skilled gunners, do you believe that any fleet of the British navy of wooden vessels could live to make that passage? He answered that it seemed to him that it would be impossible, and, from the manner of his answer, I believed he thought: Neither could any French fleet. We had a good dinner and returned to New Orleans. From that hour I had no fear of any attack on the city by the French.

I desired to organize a special brigade to capture and occupy all the western part of Louisiana and other places east of the Red River, and to control the mines of salt deposit in New Iberia. These mines could be approached by water, an advantage which Jefferson put forth as one of the reasons for the purchase of Louisiana.

I could get no reply from Washington that I could have any reinforcements whatever. I had gone as far as I could get in enlisting the former soldiers of the rebel army to strengthen the regiments I then had. Accordingly I sent a confidential message to Washington saying that if they could not do anything for me by sending troops, I would call on Africa for assistance, — i. e., I would enlist all the colored troops I could from the free negroes.

While I was waiting at Ship Island, the rebel authorities in New Orleans had organized two regiments from the free negroes, called “Native Guards, colored.” When Lovell ran away with his troops these men stayed at home. The rebels had allowed the company officers to be commissioned from colored men; but for the field officers, — colonels, lieutenant-colonels, and majors, and the staff officers, — they were white men.

I found out the names and residences of some twenty of these colored officers, and sent for them to call on me. They came, and a very intelligent looking set of men they were. I asked them if they would like to be organized as part of the United States troops. They unanimously said they would. In all bodies of men there is always a spokesman, and while many of my guests were of a very light shade, that spokesman was a negro nearly as dark as the ace of spades.

“General,” he asked, “shall we be officers as we were before?”

“Yes; every one of you who is fit to be an officer shall be, and all the line officers shall be colored men.”

“How soon do you want us to be ready?”

“How soon can you give me two regiments of a thousand men each?”

“In ten days.”

“But,” I said, “I want you to answer me one question. My officers, most of them, believe that negroes won’t fight.“

“Oh, but we will,” came from the whole of them.

“You seem to be an intelligent man,” said I, to their spokesman; “answer me this question: I have found out that you know just as well what this war is about as I do, and if the United States succeed in it, it will put an end to slavery.” They all looked assent. “Then tell me why some negroes have not in this war struck a good blow somewhere for their freedom? All over the South the men have been conscripted and driven away to the armies, leaving ten negroes in some districts to one white man, and the colored men have simply gone on raising crops and taking care of their women and children.”

The man’s countenance lighted up. He said: —

“You are General here, and I don’t like to answer that question.”

“Answer it exactly according as the matter lies in your mind, and I pledge you my honor, whatever the answer may be it shall harm no one of you.”

“General, will you permit a question?”


“If we colored men had risen to make war on our masters, would not it have been our duty to ourselves, they being our enemies, to kill the enemy wherever we could find them? and all the white men would have been our enemies to be killed?”

“I don’t know but what you are right,” said I. “I think that would be a logical necessity of insurrection.”

“If the colored men had begun such a war as that, General, which general of the United States army should we have called on to help us fight our battles?”

That was unanswerable.

“Well,” I said, “why do you think your men will fight?”

“General, we come of a fighting race. Our fathers were brought here slaves because they were captured in war, and in hand to hand fights, too. We are willing to fight. Pardon me, General, but the only cowardly blood we have got in our veins is the white blood.”

Changing Sentinels of First Colored Troops.
Changing Sentinels of First Colored Troops in New Orleans, August, 1862.
From an Oil Painting.

“Very well,” I said, “recruit your men and let them be mustered into the service at” — I mentioned a large public building — “in a fortnight from to-day, at ten o’clock in the morning. Report, and I will meet you there. I will give orders that the building be prepared.”

On that morning I went there and saw such a sight as I never saw before: Two thousand men ready to enlist as recruits, and not a man of them who had not a white “biled shirt” on.

One regiment was mustered within fourteen days of the call, the first regiment of colored troops ever mustered into the service of the United States during the War of the Rebellion, established and became soldiers of the United States on the 22d day of August, 1862. In a very short time three regiments of infantry and two batteries of artillery were equipped, drilled, and ready for service. Better soldiers never shouldered a musket. They were intelligent, obedient, highly appreciative of their position, and fully maintained its dignity. They easily learned the school of the soldier. I observed a very remarkable trait about them. They learned to handle arms and to march more readily than the most intelligent white men. My drillmaster could teach a regiment of negroes that much of the art of war sooner than he could have taught the same number of students from Harvard or Yale.

Why? Because the negro was already drilled. The necessity of drills which seem interminable and never-ending to a civilian, is to teach recruits perfect and quick obedience to the word of command of their officer, and to obey that instantly and implicitly, whatever else may be happening to attract attention. Now, from childhood up, the word of command had been implicitly and abjectly obeyed by the negro. His master’s voice was his perfect guide.

Again, they were exceedingly imitative. Show them how to handle a musket and at once they imitated the movement as if they feared it might hurt them if they used it any other way. At first, indeed, the negro seemed quite as much afraid of the musket in his own hands as when in the hands of the enemy, but he soon learned to rely upon it as his defence, as was shown afterwards. When in the field, being wounded, if he could bring himself off, however severely injured, he always brought his weapon off.

Again, their ear for time as well as tune was exceedingly apt; and it was wonderful with what accuracy and steadiness a company of negroes would march after a few days’ instruction.

Again, white men, in case of sudden danger, seek safety by going apart each for himself. The negroes always cling together for mutual protection.

They instinctively, and without needing so much drilling and experience as did white men, kept their camps neat and in better order.

I afterwards raised in Virginia nearly three thousand negro cavalry. While they could not easily be taught to ride with the dragoon-like precision of position of white men, yet it seemed quite impossible to unhorse them, especially those from plantations. I had occasion to learn this. In drilling them in a charge at full gallop over the rough and uneven plains, sometimes covered by ditches, it was rarely one was unhorsed.

But the prejudice against them among the white officers of the service was at first fearful, especially among the regulars. Now they have become a part of the army of the United States; and as I write, the Ninth (colored) Cavalry, for good conduct in the field against the Indians, and for high soldierly bearing, are at Fort Myers near Washington, by the order of the War Department, exhibited to all comers as instances of the best qualities of the American cavalry troops.

After I left New Orleans, General Banks enlisted many more of them, but was weak enough to take away from them the great object of their ambition, under the, spur of which they were ready to fight to the death, namely, equality with the white soldiers. He was also unmanly enough to add injustice to that folly by taking the commissions from their line officers, which I had given them, and to brand their organizations with the stigma of a designation as a “Corps d’Afrique.” Yet, in spite of his unwisdom, they did equal service and laid down their lives at Port Hudson in equal numbers comparatively with their white brothers in arms. Of the folly, injustice, and stupidity of this class of prejudice I may speak in describing the events of the campaign of 1864.

I can now give a curious instance of the exhibition of this prejudice by one of the ablest men and best loved members of my staff, a life-long friend of whom I have heretofore spoken and shall hereafter speak in terms of affection, friendship, and admiring regard, Gen. Godfrey Weitzel. For his capacity, conduct, and skill, I had recommended Weitzel for promotion from first lieutenant of engineers to brigadier-general for the purpose of putting him in command of an expedition of the most important character. His great success in that, and his career afterwards during the whole war, fully justified the appointment.

On the 25th of October, I organized an expedition by a brigade composed of five regiments of infantry, two batteries of artillery, and four companies of cavalry. This force was to move up the western bank of the Mississippi and through West Louisiana, for the purpose of capturing and occupying that territory and dispersing the forces assembled there under Gen. Richard Taylor, and then to send a detachment to occupy Galveston. The plan was for Weitzel to go up the river as far as Donaldsonville, capture and fortify that point, move west of Berwick Bay, and, with the aid of the light draught steamers which I had bought or captured, seize all the waters of Southern Louisiana west of New Orleans.

On the same day, I pushed forward from Algiers a column consisting of the Eighth Vermont Volunteers and the First Regiment of Native Guards (colored). They were to proceed along the Opelousas Railroad to Thibodeaux for the purpose of forwarding supplies to Brashear City and General Weitzel’s expedition, and to give the loyal planters an opportunity to forward their sugar and cotton to New Orleans. I believed that I could easily hold that portion of Louisiana, by far the richest, and extend the movement so far as to cut off substantially all supplies from Texas to the enemy the coming winter by this route, especially if I should receive early reinforcements.

The expedition from Algiers was commanded by Col. Stephen Thomas, of Vermont. No better or braver officer was there in my command to my knowledge.

Weitzel landed at Donaldsonville on Sunday, October 26. He soon found the enemy in force, and a sharp engagement ensued in which sixteen men and one officer were killed and seventy-three men wounded. The enemy suffered largely: their commanding officer, Colonel McPheeters, was killed; a large number of men were killed and wounded, and two hundred and sixty prisoners and one piece of artillery were captured.

I afterwards sent forward to aid Colonel Thomas in opening the railroad, the Second Regiment of Native Guards (colored), under command of Colonel Stafford. Colonel Thomas, aided by the untiring labors of the colored troops, opened the Opelousas Railroad, rebuilt burned bridges, routed the enemy, and then was ordered to report to Weitzel and form a portion of his force.

On the 1st of November I received a report from General Weitzel that everything had been done which he had been ordered to do; that the Native Guards had opened and picketed the Opelousas Railroad; and on the 2d he reported “the country as safe to travel now as Canal Street.” But on the 5th of November I received a very surprising despatch from Weitzel, from which I quote: —

. . . And now I desire, most respectfully, to decline the command of the district which has just been created, and which, as we have not yet secured a foot of ground on the Teche, ought properly to be called the District of La Fourche. The reason I must decline is because accepting the command would place me in command of all the troops in the district,

I cannot command those negro regiments. The commanding general knows well my private opinions on this subject. What I stated to him privately, while on his staff, I see now before my eyes. Since the arrival of the negro regiments symptoms of servile insurrection are becoming apparent. I could not, without breaking my brigade all up, put a force in every part of this district to keep down such an insurrection. I cannot assume the command of such a force, and thus be responsible for its conduct. I have no confidence in the organization. Its moral effect in this community, which is stripped of nearly all its able-bodied men and will be stripped of a great many of its arms, is terrible. Women and children, and even men, are in terror. It is heart-rending, and I cannot make myself responsible for it. I will gladly go anywhere with my own brigade that you see fit to order me. I beg you therefore to keep the negro brigade directly under your own command or place some one over both mine and it.

He made a further communication: —

In still further confirmation of what I wrote to you in my despatches of this morning relative to servile insurrection, I have the honor to inform you that on the plantation of Mr. David Pugh, a short distance above here, the negroes who have returned under the terms fixed upon by Major-General Butler, without provocation or cause of any kind, refused this morning to work, and assaulted the overseer and Mr. Pugh, injuring them severely, also a gentleman who came to the assistance of Mr. Pugh. Upon the plantation also of Mr. W. J. Miner, on the Terre Bonne road, about sixteen miles from here, an outbreak has already occurred, and the entire community thereabout are in hourly expectation and terror of a general rising.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. Weitzel,
Brigadier-General U. S. Vols.,
Comdg. Reserve Brigade.

Maj. George C. Strong,
Asst. Adjt.-Gen., Dept. of the Gulf, New Orleans, La.

My surprise may not be imagined when I received these reports from Weitzel, especially that one in which he declared he would not obey my orders to command colored troops.

It will be observed that he states in justification of it only two reports of negroes quarrelling with their masters to whom they had been returned, in one case the overseer and the master being injured in the difficulty and the other case being a mere rumor. Not a word as to any misconduct of a single colored soldier.

With a bleeding heart lest Weitzel might still be so far misled as to disobey my orders, after reasoning with him upon his conduct, I wrote an order leaving him no option but to obey it — which he did — as follows: —

You say that in these organizations you have no confidence. As your reading must have made you aware, General Jackson entertained a different opinion upon that subject. It was arranged between the commanding general and yourself, that the colored regiments should be employed in guarding the railroad. You don’t complain, in your report, that they either failed in this duty, or that they have acted otherwise than correctly and obediently to the commands of their officers, or that they have committed any outrage or pillage upon the inhabitants. The general was aware of your opinion, that colored men will not fight. You have failed to show, by the conduct of these free men, so far, anything to sustain that opinion. And the general cannot see why you should decline the command, especially as you express a willingness to go forward to meet the only organized enemy with your brigade alone, without further support. The commanding general cannot see how the fact that they are guarding your line of communication by railroad, can weaken your defence. He must, therefore, look to the other reasons stated by you, for an explanation of your declining the command.

You say that since the arrival of the negro regiment you have seen symptoms of a servile insurrection. But, as the only regiment that arrived there got there as soon as your own command, of course the appearance of such symptoms is since their arrival.

Have you not mistaken the cause? Is it the arrival of a negro regiment, or is it the arrival of United States troops, carrying by the act of Congress freedom to this servile race? Did you expect to march into that country, drained, as you say it is, by conscription of all its able-bodied white men, without leaving the negroes free to show symptoms of servile insurrection? Does not this state of things arise from the very fact of war itself? You are in a country where now the negroes outnumber the whites ten to one, and these whites are in rebellion against the government, or in terror seeking its protection. Upon reflection, can you doubt that the same state of things would have arisen without the presence of a colored regiment? Did you not see symptoms of the same things upon the plantations here upon our arrival, although under much less favorable circumstances for revolt?

You say that the prospect of such an insurrection is heart-rending, and that you cannot be responsible for it. The responsibility rests upon those who have begun and carried out this war, and who have stopped at no barbarity, at no act of outrage, upon the citizens and soldiers of the United States. You have forwarded me the records of a pretended court-martial, showing that seven men of one of your regiments, who enlisted here in the Eighth Vermont, who had surrendered themselves prisoners of war, were in cold blood murdered, and, as certain information shows me, required to dig their own graves! You are asked if this is not an occurrence as heart-rending as a prospective servile insurrection.

The question is now to be met, whether in a hostile, rebellious part of the State where these very murders have been committed by the militia, you are to stop in the operations of the field to put down servile insurrection, because the men and women are terror-stricken? Whenever was it heard before that a victorious general, in an unsurrendered province, stopped in his course for the purpose of preventing the rebellious inhabitants of that province from destroying each other, or refuse to take command of a conquered province lest he should be made responsible for their self-destruction?

As a military question, perhaps, the more terror-stricken the inhabitants are that are left in your rear, the more safe will be your lines of communication. You say there have appeared before your eyes the very facts, in terror-stricken women and children and men, which you had before contemplated in theory. Grant it. But is not the remedy to be found in the surrender of the neighbors, fathers, brothers, and sons of the terror-stricken women and children, who are now in arms against the government within twenty miles of you? And, when that is done, and you have no longer to fear from these organized forces, and they have returned peaceably to their homes, you will be able to use the full power of your troops to insure your safety from the so-much-feared (by them, not by you) servile insurrection.

If you desire, you can send a flag of truce to the commander of these forces, embracing these views, and placing upon him the responsibility which belongs to him. Even that course will not remove it from you, for upon you it has never rested. Say to them, that if all armed opposition to the authority of the United States shall cease in Louisiana, on the west bank of the river, you are authorized by the commanding general to say, that the same protection against negro or other violence will be afforded that part of Louisiana, that has been in the part already in the possession of the United States. If that is refused, whatever may ensue is upon them, and not upon you or upon the United States. You will have done all that is required of a brave, humane man, to avert from these deluded people the horrible consequences of their insane war upon the government. . . .

Consider this case. General Bragg is at liberty to ravage the houses of our brethren of Kentucky because the Union army of Louisiana is protecting his wife and his home against his negroes. Without that protection he would have to come back to take care of his wife, his home, and his negroes. It is understood that Mrs. Bragg is one of the terrified women of whom you speak in your report.

This subject is not for the first time under the consideration of the commanding general. When in command of the Department of Annapolis, in May, 1861, he was asked to protect a community against the consequences of a servile insurrection. He replied, that when that community laid down its arms and called upon him for protection, he would give it, because from that moment between them and him war would cease. The same principle initiated there will govern his and your actions now; and you will afford such protection as soon as the community through its organized rulers shall ask it.

. . . In the meantime, these colored regiments of free men, raised by the authority of the President, and approved by him as the commander-in-chief of the army, must be commanded by the officers of the Army of the United States, like any other regiments.

About thirty days after, when I was relieved from command in New Orleans, I left General Weitzel in full command of the richest portion of Louisiana, having the crops gathered, housed, and taken charge of for the benefit of whomever it might concern, by the commission relating to confiscated property, the action of which I have before set forth.

Afterwards I procured the appointment of Weitzel as major-general under my command in the Department of Virginia, in 1864, and he had the singular felicity of marching from my old headquarters his Twenty-Fifth Corps, composed wholly of colored troops, into Richmond when Lee evacuated it, and of holding it in their possession, the black above the white, to receive the first visit of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, to the captured rebel capital. His flag was raised by a negro.

Early in July, 1862, I was informed that the enemy were attempting to so fortify Manchac Pass as to protect the trestle-work of the railroad passing through it, in order to afford them communication in the rear of the city. Thereupon I ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball of the Twelfth Maine Volunteers to take a small portion of his regiment with the gunboat New London and make an attack on the rebel forces there. It was done. The rebels were driven from their battery by assault, and followed far up into the country. Their works were all destroyed; their bridge they had to burn behind them, and their guns were captured and brought away with a very considerable loss. Their colors were captured, and I recommended to the War Department that the regiment be allowed to retain the captured colors as a mark of its commendation of their valor, which was done, as set forth in the following General Order: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
July 24, 1862.

General Order No. 51.

The commanding general of this department takes pleasure in publishing the following indorsement from Washington of what he has considered the useful services of Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball, of the Twelfth Regiment of Maine Volunteers, and the troops under his command:

The news of the brilliant achievement of Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball of the Twelfth Maine Volunteers, and the brave men under his command, at Manchac Pass, was very gratifying to the Department, and it entirely approves your action in allowing the regiment to retain the colors which they had so gallantly taken from the enemy.

By command of

Major-General Butler.

R. S. Davis, Captain and A. A. A. G.

I have now set out, I believe, all the military movements of the Army of the Gulf under my command. In none were we unsuccessful, in none did we lose any considerable number of men. We lost fewer men by disease than any other army in any field, although we were in the hotbed of poisonous malaria and death. In every exigency of the government of the people we met with no disaster; and the whole that was done, I cannot better sum up than I did in my farewell address to my comrades in arms: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
Dec. 15, 1862.

General Order No. 106.

Soldiers of the Army of the Gulf:

Relieved from further duties in this department by direction of the President, under the date of Nov. 9, 1862, I take leave of you by this final order, it being impossible to visit your scattered outposts, covering hundreds of miles of the frontier of a larger territory than some kingdoms of Europe.

I greet you, my brave comrades, and say farewell!

This word, endeared as you are by a community of privations, hardships, dangers, victories, successes, military and civil, is the only sorrowful thought I have.

You have deserved well of your country. Without a murmur you sustained an encampment on a sand bar, so desolate that banishment to it, with every care and comfort possible, has been the most dreaded punishment inflicted upon your bitterest and most insulting enemies.

You had so little transportation, that but a handful could advance to compel submission by the Queen City of the Rebellion, whilst others waded breast-deep in the marshes which surround St. Philip, and forced the surrender of a fort deemed impregnable to land attack by the most skilful engineers of your country and her enemy.

At your occupation, order, law, quiet, and peace sprang to this city, filled with the bravos of all nations, where for a score of years, during the profoundest peace, human life was scarcely safe at noon-day.

By your discipline you illustrated the best traits of the American soldier, and enchained the admiration of those that came to scoff.

Landing with a military chest containing but seventy-five dollars, from the hoards of a rebel government you have given to your country’s treasury nearly a half million of dollars, and so supplied yourselves with the needs of your service that your expedition has cost your government less by four fifths than any other.

You have fed the starving poor, the wives and children of your enemies, so converting enemies into friends, that they have sent their representatives to your Congress, by a vote greater than your entire numbers, from districts in which, when you entered, you were tauntingly told that there was “no one to raise your flag.”

By your practical philanthropy you have won the confidence of the “oppressed race” and the slave. Hailing you as deliverers, they are ready to aid you as willing servants, faithful laborers, or, using the tactics taught them by your enemies, to fight with you in the field.

By steady attention to the laws of health, you have stayed the pestilence, and, humble instruments in the hands of God, you have demonstrated the necessity that His creatures should obey His laws, and, reaping His blessing in this most unhealthy climate, you have preserved your ranks fuller than those of any other battalions of the same length of service.

You have met double numbers of the enemy, and defeated him in the open field; but I need not further enlarge on this topic. You were sent here to do that.

I commend you to your commander. You are worthy of his love, Farewell, my comrades! again farewell!

Benj. F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

The true history of the Army of the Gulf as set forth in the above order has now been published for more than twenty-eight years, and never has been questioned either by friends or foes.

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O NE One of the most important matters which pressed upon me immediately after my occupation of the city was the condition of the currency. It was absolutely necessary for the successful administration of my department in New Orleans that I should at once make an imperium in imperio, in which somebody must assume the role of “secretary of the treasury.” Who should it be but the general commanding?

Both before the war and after it began the banks of New Orleans had been conducted upon an exceedingly conservative basis. They were very strong. They had never, in any troublesome times, suspended specie payments, and after the outbreak of the war, when Confederate treasury notes became the money of the treasury, the banks of New Orleans refused to receive them or pay them out as money.

A contest followed between the Confederate treasury and the banks. It lasted until September, 1861, when the banks succumbed to the harsh measures of the Richmond government and began to deal in Confederate notes, receiving and paying them at the counter as money. The consequence of this was that they accumulated a large quantity of gold, and many of them, especially the Citizens’ Bank, placed abroad large amounts of gold in exchange. Besides this, the banks had something rising thirteen millions of dollars in gold or silver in their vaults when the bombardment of the forts began.

After Farragut came before the city, the banks disposed of about six and one half millions of their specie by sending it up the river into the Confederacy. They called in all their bills possible, and paid out and received nothing but Confederate money.

By my proclamation, as previously shown, I had promised protection inviolate to all private property except so far as it became necessary to take it for public use under the laws of the United States.

Nothing could be done in New Orleans before I got there without the aid of the negroes, and as soon as I came, the negroes came and told me everything they had done, and always truthfully. They told me where one banker had built up in the walls of his house a vault containing fifty thousand dollars. They told me whereto outside money had been sent; that the Dutch consul had eight hundred thousand Mexican dollars concealed in his consulate; that the French consul had some three or four millions in his; that some of Richmond, Va., in 1861, from a sketch. the banks had concealed large sums of money behind the altars of the churches and in the tombs.

Richmond, Va., in 1861.
Richmond, Va., in 1861.
From a Sketch.

This left the currency of the people in the most horrible condition. Omnibus tickets, car tickets, drinking-house shinplasters and Confederate notes, — the latter depreciated some seventy per cent. by the capture of New Orleans, — were the only mediums of exchange of products. Of course it was my duty to stop the circulation of Confederate notes and money, because that circulation gave credit to the Confederacy to whatever amount was circulated.

In my first interview with the city government I yielded to the entreaties of the people and the representations of Mr. Soulé of the great distress I should bring upon poor people if I forbade the use of Confederate currency, because without it they would have no means of transacting business or buying things. Such was the state of distress that a gentleman who bought a cup of coffee at the French market and paid down a dollar, received for change — all that he could get, — nineteen car tickets. I stated, however, that my order permitting the circulation of Confederate money would be only temporary.

The presidents of some of the banks called upon me to know if my proclamation holding free from confiscation the gold and silver of banks, would be carried out by myself and forces. I told them that gold and silver were private property, and were to be held inviolate like any other private property under my proclamation.

“But,” “I said, the private property must be in the hands of its owners and held in the usual course of business. If it is concealed, hid away so that it cannot be in public or private use, I shall hold that that is not within my proclamation. Therefore, you gentlemen who have got your gold concealed behind the altars, in the tombs, or elsewhere, better get it back into your vaults. There it will be safe. If I find it elsewhere I shall not recognize it as your property. But I now give you an opportunity to get it, and when you do get it, certify to me that you have it, and the amount of it.”

They did go and get it. The getting of it became known, and it was published that I was searching among the tombstones and altars for money.

I told them further that I should hold it to be their duty to use that property and go on with their business of banking, holding the specie as security for their bills so that there could be a currency for use in the city. I was then asked by the bankers if they could get back the specie they had sent off, and was requested to grant safe conduct of the same to the city. I told them that I certainly would give a safe conduct for bringing it back. But the rebels, however, had already seized all of it they could get.

The cashier of one bank asked a safe conduct to go up on one of the boats which went to the Red River for provisions. He did not give me to understand what he was going to do. What he did do was to go up and get three hundred and fifty thousand dollars of the gold of his bank and bring it down packed in barrels of beef.

I ascertained that all but three banks had gold enough with which to redeem every bill that they had issued which was then in circulation in New Orleans. One of the banks, the one whose money was up Red River, was made good by bringing that back. Notwithstanding this, the banks endeavored to make money by redeeming their bills in Confederate money. I accordingly issued, on the 16th of May, the following General Order No. 29: —

New Orleans, May 16, 1862.

  1. It is hereby ordered that neither the city of New Orleans, nor the banks thereof, exchange their notes, bills, or obligations for Confederate notes, bills, or bonds, nor issue any bill, note, or obligation payable in Confederate notes.
  2. On the 27th day of May inst., all circulation of, or trade in, Confederate notes and bills will cease within this department; and all sales or transfers of property made on or after that day, in consideration of such notes or bills, directly or indirectly, will be void and the property confiscated to the United States, one fourth thereof to go to the informer.

Now, the banks had very large amounts of Confederate notes, which they had received as money on deposit at its gold value, and the question was: On whom is this great loss by the depreciation of Confederate notes to fall? The banks at once took measures that the loss should fall upon the people; they issued a series of notices, in various forms, by which people were notified that they must draw all balances of accounts they had in the banks, before the 27th of May, the date on which the Confederate notes would be no longer of any exchangeable value in the market. I thought it was my duty to interfere with such performances and make the banks bear the loss. Thereupon I issued the following General Order No. 30: —

New Orleans, May 19, 1862.

It is represented to the commanding general that great distress, privation, suffering, hunger, and even starvation has been brought upon the people of New Orleans and vicinage by the course taken by the banks and dealers in currency.

He has been urged to take measures to provide, as far as may be, for the relief of the citizens, so that the loss may fall, in part, at least, on those who have caused and ought to bear it.

The general sees with regret that the banks and bankers causelessly suspended specie payments in September last, in contravention of the laws of the State and of the United States. Having done so, they introduced Confederate notes as currency, which they bought at a discount, in place of their own bills, receiving them on deposit, paying them out for their discounts, and collecting their customers’ notes and drafts in them as money, sometimes even against their will, thus giving these notes credit and a wide general circulation, so that they were substituted in the hands of the middling men, the poor and unwary, as currency, in place of that provided by the Constitution and laws of the country, or of any valuable equivalent.

The banks and bankers now endeavor to take advantage of the re-establishment of the authority of the United States here, to throw the depreciation and loss from this worthless stuff of their creation and fostering upon their creditors, depositors, and bill-holders.

They refuse to receive these bills while they pay them over their counters.

They require their depositors to take them.

They change the obligation of contracts by stamping their bills, “redeemable in Confederate notes.”

They have invested the savings of labor and the pittance of the widow in this paper.

They sent away or hid their specie, so that the people could have nothing but these notes (which they now depreciate) with which to buy bread.

All other property has become nearly valueless from the calamities of this iniquitous and unjust war, begun by rebellious guns turned on the flag of our prosperous and happy country floating over Fort Sumter. Saved from the general ruin by the system of financiering, bank stocks alone are now selling at great premiums in the market, while the stockholders have received large dividends.

To equalize, as far as may be, this general loss; to have it fall, at least in part, where it ought to lie; to enable the people of this city and vicinage to have a currency which shall at least be a semblance to that which the wisdom of the Constitution provides for all citizens of the United States, it is therefore ordered : —

  1. That the several incorporated banks pay out no more Confederate notes to their depositors or creditors, but that all deposits be paid in the bills of the bank, United States treasury notes, gold or silver.
  2. That all private bankers, receiving deposits, pay out to their depositors only the current bills of city banks, or United States treasury notes, gold or silver.
  3. That the savings banks pay to their depositors or creditors only gold, silver, or United States treasury notes, current bills of city banks, or their own bills, to an amount not exceeding one third of their deposits, and of denomination not less than one dollar, which they are authorized to issue, and for the redemption of which their assets shall be held liable.
  4. The incorporated banks are authorized to issue bills of a less denomination than five dollars, but not less than one dollar, anything in their charters to the contrary notwithstanding, and are authorized to receive Confederate notes for any of their bills until the 27th of May inst.
  5. That all persons and firms having used small notes or shinplasters, so called, are required to redeem them on presentation at their places of business, between the hours of 9 A. M. and 3 P. M., either in gold, silver, United States treasury notes, or current bills of city banks, under penalty of confiscation of their property and sale thereof, for the purpose of redemption of the notes so issued, or imprisonment for a term of hard labor.
  6. Private bankers may issue notes of denominations not less than one nor more than ten dollars, to two thirds of the amount of specie which they show to a commissioner appointed from these headquarters, in their vaults actually kept there for the purpose of redemption of such notes.

The effect of that order upon the people was marvellous. The whole commercial and trading community was at once relieved. The reaction was visible and an air of cheerfulness and hope was noticeable everywhere. Business resumed its channels and trade was generally reopened. One gentleman, a strong secessionist, said to a member of my staff that that order was equal to a reinforcement of twenty thousand men to the army of New Orleans.

The influence of that order and my action in regard to feeding the poor and cleaning the streets of the city and other just measures of the administration, Union people said, would have caused a general manifestation of Union sentiments in New Orleans during that summer, save that the continual bad news from the army of McClellan on the peninsula made them afraid that the Union control of New Orleans would be short; and that view of the war was fostered continually by telegrams from Richmond giving the most glorious accounts of the destruction of McClellan’s army. The rebels had telegraphic communication from Richmond to a point within forty miles of the city on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain, and thence by the use of fishing-boats, spies, and secret communications, generally known as the “grapevine telegraph,” the news came to the rebels. To me, no authentic information came from Washington or the North under fifteen days, and newspapers were eight and ten days old when I received them.

On the 25th of June a despatch came from Richmond “via grapevine,” which was believed by all the secessionists, that McClellan with forty thousand men had been captured and carried into Richmond. Shortly afterwards another despatch came, reporting that Washington had been taken and that an officer of the New Orleans Washington Artillery had raised the Confederate flag on the Capitol.

These sensational despatches were hardly worse than some which were authentic, as far as I could understand the campaign on the peninsula. Having commanded there, I knew the situation well. The fact that the Army of the Potomac, the great army on which the safety of the republic almost depended, was waiting around Yorktown in the swamp, attacking it with spades and shovels in schoolboy engineer fashion, while the Confederates were concentrating all their forces for the defence of Richmond, left me substantially without hope.

Although Confederate treasury notes under the order could not be paid out for any property, or pass from hand to hand as currency, yet they might be traded in by curbstone brokers. These were principally Jews, and as Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State, was a Jew, and his brother-in-law was a broker, I supposed there were some of the Jew brokers who would get true intelligence from Richmond. So, when these reports came, of which I could get no verification for weeks, I ascertained their truth by having a secret service man report whether the Jews were buying or selling Confederate notes. If they were buying when these reports of great successes came in, then something substantial had happened in favor of the Confederacy; if they were selling, then the reports were simply false and for the purpose of “bulling” Confederate notes in the market.

The speculators were very anxious to learn whether I believed the reports and they supposed that that would be shown by an exhibition of my fears, so that all sorts of tentative experiments were made on me.

When the report came that McClellan had been captured, I happened to be at Baton Rouge. Upon its reception there was, as nearly as by any possibility there could be, an attempt to start a riot in New Orleans.

One man, a German bookseller, displayed in his windows a skeleton with a large label, on it, and told my soldiers who inquired about it that it was a Yankee skeleton from Chickahominy.

Arrest of Mrs. Larue at New Orleans.
Arrest of Mrs. Larue at New Orleans.

One Andrew, a cousin of my friend the Governor of Massachusetts, a high-toned gentleman (?), presented himself in the Louisiana Club with a breast-pin constructed of a thigh-bone of a Yankee killed on the Chickahominy, as he said.

A young woman, blonde and blue-eyed, wearing flowing silken curls and Confederate colors, white and red, was sent down at high noon, with a quantity of handbills containing the particulars of the capture of McClellan. She was followed by a small crowd. A police officer attempted to arrest her for exciting a tumult in the streets. A man rushed out of a shoe store and shot the police officer. She called loudly and dramatically for rescue and protection. Some of my provost guard appeared on the scene, a sergeant laid about himself with his sword vigorously, and a hundred persons cried “Murder!” The woman was put into a cab and carried to the guardhouse.

Among the many things I found on my table the next morning were these cases to be dealt with. I knew at once the purpose of such performances, and I called the woman before me. A man appeared who claimed to be her husband, and I proceeded to a hearing. I asked her what she distributed those handbills for, wearing Confederate colors, and if she didn’t put them on and go down street purposely. She said she did; “she felt very patriotic that day.”

“Well,” I said, “then I think your patriotism better be exhibited somewhere else, and I will send you to Ship Island to be confined there two years.”

Her husband then interposed and said she was his wife.

“Well,” I said, “why didn’t you take care of her and prevent her from getting up a riot in the street?”

“I couldn’t,” General.

“Well, you see I can.”

“It is a very tyrannical order.”

“Ah, who are you?”

“John H. Larue.”

“And what is your occupation?”

“I am a sporting man, sir; I play cards for a living.”

“Ah, in my country such men are classed as vagrants, having no visible means of support, and we send such men to the House of Correction for six months as vagrants. I will send you to the Parish Prison for three.”

Next came Mr. Andrew.

“You are charged with having exhibited a breast-pin in the Louisiana Club, claiming that it was made of the thigh-bone of a Yankee killed on the Chickahominy. Did you exhibit such a breast-pin?”

“Yes, sir; I was wearing it.”

“Did you say that it was made of the thigh-bone of a Yankee?”

“Yes; but that was not true, General.”

“Then you added lying to your other accomplishments in trying to disgrace the army of your country. I will sentence you to hard labor on Ship Island for two years, and you will be removed in execution of this sentence.”

Then came Fidel Keller, who had exhibited what he called the skeleton of a “Chickahominy” Yankee and lied when he did so, and he was given the same term of hard labor, two years. All these sentences, as were all general and special orders of interest to the people of New Orleans, were published the next day in the Delta newspaper, which having been printed in the interest of secession, I had come to the conclusion should now be published in the interest of the United States.

By my proclamation I had made every owner of a building liable to have his building pulled down if any shot was fired at my soldiers from it. Therefore, I sent for the occupant of the shoe store from which, I was informed, the shot came, and for the owner of the building. I said to the owner: —

“Sir, a police officer was wounded by a shot fired from your building during an attempt to get up a riot a day or two ago. Show cause why the building should not come down.”

“General,” he said, “the shot was not fired from my building.”

“Show that fact,” I answered, “and your building is safe.”

“Here is my tenant, the owner of the shoe store from which the man rushed into the street and fired the shot.”

“Is this true?” I said, “turning to the shop owner.”

“Yes, General; the man rushed out and was on the sidewalk when he fired the shot; I saw him.”

“Do you know who he was?”

“Yes; I know the man.”

“Do you know his name?”

“Yes, General.”

“Who was he?”

“I sha’n’t tell.”

“Very well, sir,” turning to the owner of the building,“ your building is safe. But, Mr. Provost Marshal, put up a red flag and sell out the contents of this man’s store at public auction to-morrow morning at eleven o’clock, and advertise in the Delta; have the proceeds of the sale turned over to the Civil Fund.”

“But,” said the owner, “I will tell the name of the man.”

“But you have chosen not to tell, and he has probably run away. I am going to punish somebody that had a hand in this thing.”

The shop was seized, its contents sold, and the money turned over.

It is needless to say that the next morning New Orleans resumed its former quiet, feeling that the commanding general at least was not frightened by these reports and apparently intended to stay there long enough to have the two years sentences worked out.

Indeed, I was certain the reports were not true, because my curbstone cash barometer said so. In the face of this report, that the Rebellion had conquered, I found the tribe of Benjamin, the Jewish Secretary of State, were all selling, and not buying, Confederate notes.

I ordered weekly reports of the condition of the banks, and I was so certain of their solvency that I made the Citizens’ Bank the place of deposit for all the funds that passed through my office, and used its bills in the payment of all transactions.

Meanwhile my troops had been left unpaid, some of them since the time they had left the North. That was not the worst of it: a paymaster had been sent down to pay, but he had not money enough to go around and he did not get his requisitions answered. Therefore the troops, a part being paid and the remainder not paid, were, as they might well be, almost in a state of insurrection. More than that, Farragut’s fleet had not been paid at all, although if any men on earth deserved their pay it was his crew. Neither officers nor soldiers had had a dollar for the purchase of anything.

These new duties of the “secretary of the treasury” of my imperium must be performed. The admiral called upon me, explaining the destitution of the fleet. He said that he could get no answer from the Navy Department to his requisitions, and asked me, in his candid simplicity of character, to write to Washington, thinking that I might be more potent with the authorities there than he.

“My letter upon such a subject would be simply referred to the Secretary of the Navy, so your matter wouldn’t go along any faster on that account. How much money do you want, Admiral?”

He said he needed fifty thousand dollars in gold.

“Well, I have six or seven millions of gold subject to my order, it is hard if this necessity of yours cannot be relieved. Tell your purser to draw on me for fifty thousand dollars and you endorse the draft for the payment of your crew, and I will answer the requisition.”

“But,” said the admiral, “I can never pay this money, General.”

“Never you mind that, Admiral; I never expect you will; but it will be a voucher to me when I am called upon to settle my accounts with the Treasury Department that the money has gone for public service.”

The troops were being paid in greenbacks, and that made a difficulty because there were no greenbacks in New Orleans with which to pay them. The “secretary of the treasury” of my imperium was puzzled what to do, but at last he devised this financial expedient: The troops who were paid sent home to their families by Adams Express a very considerable part of the sums received, and the oldest troops were paid first, in greenbacks brought by the paymaster when he came. Now, if we could get those greenbacks which were to be sent back by express, we could get enough to pay the remaining troops. Therefore, I made an arrangement with the Adams Express Company that they should return to my paymaster all the greenbacks that the troops gave them to be sent home to New York and Boston, and that they were to answer for the amount as if the greenbacks had been carried there; and I gave them my personal draft for the amount. The arrangement was beneficial to the express company, because if the troops could not get their pay then, they could not send anything home, and the express company could not make its profit. So we kept using those greenbacks in paying, over and over, until all my troops were paid. The drafts were answered, and the express company was reimbursed.

No other such correspondence was ever had by a commanding general acting as his own secretary of the treasury, showing transactions by which crews of a fleet and soldiers could be paid where they had been left without pay. This condition of affairs was owing in this case to the incompetency or carelessness of the Pay Department and perhaps in part to the inability of the national treasury to meet the demands. I take leave to insert the correspondence: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
July 2, 1862.

Mr. Asa S. Blake, agent Adams express company:

Sir: — I hereby order you to furnish me with the sum of $25,000 at the earliest possible moment, for which amount I propose to give you a check on the Assistant Treasurer of the United States at New York; this in accordance with the terms proposed to you at our last interview, and I shall hold you for the above amount, as heretofore stated.

Respectfully yours,

Benj. F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans,
July 3, 1862.

W. B. Dinsmore, Esq., President Adams express company:

Dear Sir: — I have this day compelled Mr. A. S. Blake, your agent, of this city, to furnish me with the sum of $25,000, for which amount I have handed him a check drawn upon the Assistant Treasurer of the United States at New York. He has strongly resisted me in the matter, not wishing to deviate from his instructions and the rules of your company.

Knowing, however, that the matter as proposed and insisted upon by me will not conflict in any way with your interest, and as necessity knows no law, I have taken such steps in this affair as the occasion arid the wants of my troops demand.


Benj. F. Butler,     
Major-General Commanding.

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans, La.,
July 2, 1862.

Hon. Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury:

Sir: — Will be found inclosed herewith minutes of the doings of a commission to inquire into the seizure of the specie of Samuel Smith & Co. The finding is that the case should be sent to the department for investigation. I should have sent the specie ($50,000) to you, but this remarkable state of things exists: —

Two paymasters came down here with $285,000, too little money to pay the troops of this department, some of whom have not been paid for six months, and they and their families are suffering for their just dues, which, for the inefficiency of the Pay Department in not making proper requisitions, has not been furnished them. I shall, therefore, appropriate this $50,000 toward the payment of the troops left unpaid, one of which is a Western regiment not paid since December, and one a Maine one not paid since October.

I shall borrow of one of the banks here $50,000 more in gold (I cannot get treasury notes) upon my own credit and pledging the faith of the government. This I have promised shall be returned in gold in sixty days, with interest, at the rate of six per cent. per annum, and trust that pledge will be made good, or I shall have to suffer the loss.

I shall also obtain from Adams & Co. here $50,000 in Treasury notes, or thereabout, and by leaving the allotments unpaid here, but to be paid in New York, I shall be able to have the payment completed; but this only pays the March and April payment, leaving two months still due. May I ask, therefore, that my draft of $25,000 in favor of Adams & Co. be honored, and a future draft, not exceeding in all $50,000, be honored at sight? So that Adams & Co. can send forward remittances to the soldiers’ wives, which have been used here to pay others, and that $50,000 in gold be sent me to repay that which I have borrowed.

I would not let my soldiers go longer unpaid. It was injuring the credit of the government with our foes, and breeding sickness and discontent among my men.

Trusting that this action will meet approval in the emergency, I am,

Most truly yours,

Benj. F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

My “secretary of the treasury” so managed his financial affairs that the very large and extraordinary expenditure for feeding the city and cleaning it and employing the idle men so they might feed themselves and their families, cost the United States not a dollar; and the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, when he acknowledged my return of twenty-five thousand dollars in gold which had been sent to my commissary as an advance, said:“ You are the cheapest general we have employed.”

When I was relieved by General Banks, all this work was thrown upon him, and he complained bitterly about it as not belonging to the military department. He found himself immediately embarrassed by the action of the civil officers he brought with him, especially the officers of the courts. He also found, I have heard, very soon the necessity of a “secretary of the treasury,” because Mr. Denegre, president of the Citizens’ Bank, called upon General Banks and asked him if there was any objection to the banks redeeming their circulation, as they had gold enough to do it. Banks asked him if he wanted to redeem his bills with specie, why he did not so do. Denegre answered: “Because General Butler ordered the suspension of specie payments.” “Why did he do that?” “I don’t know,” said Denegre; “the General didn’t give reasons for his orders.” Permission was given the banks to redeem, and they did; and soon there was no longer any money in circulation with which the commercial, trading, and even huckstering business in New Orleans could be done.

Another financial measure was called to my attention as my “secretary of the treasury.” I had ordered that all the property of the Confederate States and its officers should be turned over to my government. As we have seen, by an act of their congress, all the debts of citizens of the Confederacy to Northern men had been confiscated to carry on the war. Receivers had been appointed to collect them, and legal process was provided for that purpose. The Citizens’ Bank of New Orleans was made the depository of these receivers as well as of the Confederate government.

When the bank returns came in, several questions arose which I can set forth no better than was done in my answer to the return of that bank, June 13, 1862: —

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans, June 13, 1862.

The return of the Citizens’ Bank of New Orleans to General Order No. 40 has been carefully examined, and the various claims set up by the bank to the funds in its hands weighed.

The report finds that there is to the credit of the Confederate States $219,090.94.

This of course is due in presenti from the bank. The bank claims that it holds an equal amount of Confederate treasury notes, and desires to set off these notes against the amount so due and payable.

This cannot be permitted. Many answers might be suggested to the claim. One or two are sufficient.

Confederate States treasury notes are not due till six months after the conclusion of a treaty of peace between the Confederate States and the United States. When that time comes it will be in season to set off such claims. Again, the United States being entitled to the credits due the Confederate States in the bank, that amount must be paid in money or valuable property.

I cannot recognize the Confederate notes as either money or property. The bank having done so by receiving them, issuing their banking upon them, loaning upon them, thus giving them credit to the injury of the United States, is estopped to deny their value.

The “tin box” belonging to an officer of the supposed Confederate States, being a special deposit, will be handed over (to me) in bulk, whether its contents are more or less valuable.

The bank is responsible only for safe custody. The several deposits of the officers of the supposed Confederate States were received in the usual course of business; were, doubtless, some of them, perhaps largely, received in Confederate notes; but, for the reason above stated, can only be paid to the United States in its own constitutional currency. These are in no sense of language “special deposits.”

They were held in general account, went into the funds of the bank were paid out in the discounts of the bank, and if called upon to-day for the identical notes put into the bank, which is the only idea of a special deposit, the bank would be utterly unable to produce them.

As well might my private banker, with whom I have deposited my neighbor’s check or draft as money, which has been received as money, and paid out as money, months afterward, when my neighbor has become bankrupt, buy up other of his checks and drafts at discount, and pay them to me instead of money, upon the ground that I had made a special deposit.

The respectability of the source from which the claim of the bank proceeds alone saves it from ridicule.

The United States can in no form recognize any of the sequestrations or confiscations of the supposed Confederate States; therefore, the accounts with the Bank of Kentucky will be made up, and all its property will be paid over and delivered, as if such attempted confiscation had never been made.

The result is, therefore, upon the showing of the bank by its return, that there is due and payable to the Confederate States, and therefore, now to be paid to the United States, the sums following: —

Chart of Money Amounts.

This is the legal result to which the mind must arrive in this discussion.

But there are other considerations which may apply to the first item of the account.

Only the notes of the Confederate States were deposited by the treasurer in the bank, and by the order of the ruling authority then here, the bank was obliged to receive them.

In equity and good conscience, the Confederate States could call for nothing more than they had compelled the bank to take.

The United States succeed to the rights of the Confederate States, and should only take that which the Confederate States ought to take.

But the United States, not taking or recognizing Confederate notes, can only leave them with the bank, to be held by it hereafter in special deposit, as so much worthless paper.

Therefore, I must direct all the items but the first to be paid to my order for the United States, in gold, silver, or United States treasury notes at once. The first item of $219,090.94, I will refer to the home government for adjudication; and, in the meantime, the bank must hold, as a special deposit, the amount of Confederate treasury notes above mentioned, and a like amount of bullion to await the decision.

Benjamin F. Butler,
Major-General Commanding.

Shortly after, I sent to Mr. Chase the sum of $245,760, being the amount of Confederate funds paid over in cash by the several banks. I specified the source from which the money came — Confederate confiscation of Northern debt — and suggested that those at the North whose property had been thus taken might possibly have a claim. Whether they did or not had not been decided when I was relieved.

After the confiscation acts had been passed by Congress, I put them in force and appointed a commission consisting of Major Bell, Lieut.-Col. J. B. Kinsman, and Captain Fuller (Seventy-Fifth New York Volunteers), provost marshal, to take possession of all the sequestered property in the district of Lafourche. This commission was to put every loyal citizen in full possession of his property. All personal a property which belonged to disloyal owners (whether foreigners or citizens of the United States) who had remained on their plantations and done no act against the government, was to be theirs, and they were to have the right to remain upon their lands and work them. All disloyal people Maj. Joseph M. Bell, provost Judge at New Orleans. who had fled or been in the service of the Confederacy, were to have their property gathered up and sold in open market in New Orleans, and, their disloyalty being established, the product was to be turned over to the United States or held for whoever had the right to it. Receipts were to be given for the property so taken possession of.

Maj. Joseph M. Bell.
Maj. Joseph M. Bell,
Provost Judge at New Orleans.

The larger part of the labor of this commission, which went into very successful operation, fell upon Colonel Kinsman. Every detail he carried out with skill, energy, and unfaltering integrity. More than a million of dollars’ worth of property was disposed of by him, for which his receipts were given. The property belonging to loyal men was returned to them; the personal property belonging to the disloyal was seized and taken to New Orleans; the work necessary to put the sugar and other products upon the market was cone upon the abandoned plantations; so that there was gathered more than a million of money from the enemies of the United States to its revenues, and all this without a single dollar of expense to the United States.

Of course no operations were more bitterly attacked than those under this order. Every possible charge was made by the foreign consuls against the commission. Its members were accused of embezzling the proceeds of the sales and of selling portions of the property otherwise than at auction. When General Banks came there, he abolished the commission, and in pursuance of the demand of the foreigners on Mr. Seward, a committee was appointed to investigate its doings. They reported that there was no evidence to sustain any charges. Three times over that investigation was renewed, under two major-generals after General Banks, but nothing was ever reported to the detriment of the integrity and ability of that commission. It turned over to General Banks nearly eight hundred thousand dollars in cash and unsold property corresponding with the receipts given for it. What was done with that money and property I have not found in any of the reports of General Banks.

I may as well say here as anywhere, perhaps, in closing the account of my financial transactions in New Orleans, that most of the property, amounting to some millions of dollars, that I had taken from the neutrals because I found them in arms against the United States, was given up by Mr. Seward on complaint of the foreign ministers, and was duly returned upon orders through the adjudications of a commissioner, Reverdy Johnson, the Baltimore secessionist who interfered in behalf of Ross Winans. He was appointed by Mr. Seward and instructed to decide, as he did in every case, in favor of the foreigner. Seward lived under a consuming and chronic fear that if we held any property of a foreigner, however guilty of treason, his government would declare for the independence of the Confederacy; and those governments and their officers did not scruple to take full advantage of Seward’s timidity.

After I had been relieved and had settled all my accounts with the government, so that not a dollar’s difference stood between me and the government, suits were brought against me in New York, Baltimore, and elsewhere, to the amount of several hundred thousand dollars, for my acts during the war, or those done by my orders, even for the capture of General Twiggs’ swords.

All such suits have now been tried which the plaintiff would prosecute. These suits, by the law of military affairs, were to be defended by the government, and were so done by its law officers.

I refused to have a single one settled. All were adjudicated in my favor; and not a dollar of a judgment has been rendered against the United States or myself in those suits.

As all of them were against me as well as the government, and as the government could not defend itself without my being present as a witness and aiding in the trial, I thought it but just that the government should pay my actual expenses, at least, as a witness while attending so many trials a great number of days. I asked the Attorney-General to be allowed witness fees, but he decided that as I was a party as well as a witness for the government, the United States could not pay me anything without a special act of Congress; so that so far I have received nothing for the trouble and annoyance of those suits and my services in preparing them, and just double that for my expenses actually paid out for attending them as a witness.

I had but one other civil duty to do and that was, under the direction of the President and in obedience to his proclamation, to hold an election in the two congressional districts in Louisiana under my control. Every means were accorded to have a fair election with as full a vote as could be cast. The army did not vote, but every citizen voted who could show that he had taken the oath of allegiance and was a loyal man. Messrs. Flanders and Hahn were chosen by an aggregate vote larger than the whole number of soldiers of the United States within the districts. The election was duly certified, and the members were admitted to Congress, where they served out their term.

Another piece of work had been put upon me by the War Department, the faithful performance of which, perhaps, was one of the causes of my removal from command. As soon as I landed in the city, I was informed that Count Mejan, French consul, had in his consulate very large sums of money, among others, one of quite a half million dollars deposited there by a bank, in order that it might be protected by the French flag. Learning this, I sent for the consul and asked him to give me his word of honor that no property in any way belonging to Confederates should be sent out of his consulate without a prior report to me, else we should be obliged to put a guard in the consulate to take care of the property.

The count flared up and with great indignation denied solemnly upon his official word and honor that there was in his consulate any such property as I had suggested. He insisted that I had no jurisdiction to put a guard in his consulate; that the flag of France flew over his premises, and where that flag flew was France.

“But,” I said, “Count, there need not be any emotion about this. How much of the territory of Louisiana do you think the French flag flying on your consulate will protect from United States occupation?”

“My house and courtelige,” was the answer.

“You mean, then, as your house sets back from the street, that all the space within the fence around the French consulate is to be considered French territory?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Well, then, Count, agreeing with you that the line of French territory is as you claim, I will set no foot on French territory, either by myself or by my soldiers, as I have a grateful regard for France. I will content myself with putting a guard on United States territory on the confines of the French territory, so that nothing shall come out of French territory onto American territory without my leave. All I want is that this money, bullion, and other things shall remain on French territory; and I will deal with anybody who undertakes to bring any of it onto United States territory.”

The count saw that he was captured, and that there would be no infraction of the law of which to complain. So he gave me his word of honor to the effect that no property should go off of the consul’s premises without my knowledge and permission.

Thus matters remained until Seward sent that secession spy and agent, Reverdy Johnson, to New Orleans; and then the French consul asked for a pass to go to Washington and came back with an order on me to release him from his promises. Of course I obeyed orders.

Shortly prior to Nov. 13, 1862, I was informed that our minister at Brussels had written to the State Department that the Confederate agents in Europe were embarrassed by the non-arrival of a large amount of coin from New Orleans, and that the purveyors of cloth could not be paid. One of these was the commissary-general of the French army, who sold the cloth from the army stores of the emperor to the rebels. “But,” the minister added, “assurances are now given that the money is in the hands of the French consul, and will be shortly received.”

This accusation the Secretary of War directed me to investigate, and I did so con amore. I caught the firm of Gautherin & Co., which did the business, and seized its books. I sent for the French consul and asked him if he knew anything of any such transaction, and he assured me on his word and honor that he never had any knowledge of it, and he knew no more than that there was a firm by that name in New Orleans.

I caught the chief book-keeper of Gautherin & Co., and he confessed all. He even produced for me the books, showing that the gold, rising eight hundred thousand dollars, had been in the hands of the French consul before I came. The consul had been paid by Gautherin & Co., certain sums in gold as part of the expenses of the undertaking; and a very considerable amount of gold had been paid the consul’s wife in order to make the affair go off well, as appeared on the books. I also was enabled to get evidence of a receipt given by the consul for the money, and full evidence that the money had been lately sent away to pay for this clothing of the Confederate army; and that there was a large amount waiting in Havana, which could not be delivered until the first was paid for, and then it was immediately to be sent to Texas and be delivered to the Confederate quartermaster.

I reported all this to my government, and they demanded the “exequatur” of Mejan, and he was recalled by his government.

I learned afterwards that Napoleon required that I be recalled from New Orleans. It was done. Under the cowardly and unjust administration of the State Department, the officer ordered to catch the thief, and who did catch him and convict him, was punished to a very much greater extent than the thief himself.

Again, and this I say with great pride and pleasure, I attended during my stay in New Orleans to the administration of justice, and decided all sorts of questions, civil and criminal. As of course I could not have time to do that without assistance, I appointed Maj. Joseph Bell, of Massachusetts, A. D. C., a son-in-law and partner. of the Hon. Rufus Choate, of Boston, to be my provost judge to aid me in these judicial duties. Very able, fair-minded, clear-headed and of great legal knowledge was he, and of so great merit that when I was relieved and he went home with me, the Bar of New Orleans presented to him a valuable gift in compliment and recognition of his services to them as a jurist. During his absence from New Orleans for some months, because of sickness, I appointed Lieut.-Col. J. B. Kinsman, A. D. C., to fill his place, from whose decisions no appeals were taken.

There was an appeal to me in case anybody was dissatisfied with Major Bell’s decisions, and we decided cases of very large amounts and of every possible description in judicial administration.

After the declaration of peace and amnesty, our proceedings in various forms were brought before the Supreme Court of the United States, and argued with great earnestness and learning. In every case save one they were decided as Bell or my elf had decided them. That case was an appeal to the general; and his decision was sustained. This applies to every act of my administration which could be brought before the Supreme Court, and in no case were my actions set aside.

I had heard, from various sources about the streets of New Orleans, that I was to be removed and another general sent in my place. On the 1st of September, I wrote to General Halleck a communication from which I make the following extract: —

. . . I learn by the secession newspapers that I am to be relieved of this command. If that be so, might I ask that my successor be sent as early as possible, as my own health is not the strongest, and it would seem but fair that he should take some part in the yellow-fever season.

Gen. Benj. F. Butler and Staff.
Gen. Benj. F. Butler and Staff.

To this letter I received the following reply: —

Washington, D. C., Sept. 14, 1862.

Maj.-Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, New Orleans:

General: — I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your report of the 1st instant.

The rumor in regard to your removal from the command is a mere newspaper story, without foundation. Probably someone who wished the changes proposed made the publication as a feeler of public sentiment. . . .

H. W. Halleck,

About the time I received this information, the secessionists at their clubs in New Orleans were betting, a hundred dollars to ten, that I should be very shortly relieved and Banks sent in my place. The French inhabitants declared they knew I was to be removed at the request of the French government.

Strengthened by the assurances of Halleck, the commander-in-chief, I went on with my business. I was then planning an expedition against Port Hudson, and arranging so that my troops should be in readiness for it as soon as I received the reinforcements which were promised me from Washington. Very much wanting them hurried up, I addressed a letter to Senator Wilson asking him to use his influence with the Secretary of War in that behalf. Wilson wrote me an answer which is in itself a curious commentary on governmental good faith.

“Your note,” says Wilson, “was placed in my hands to-day (December 2), and I have at once called upon the Secretary of War and pressed the importance of increasing your force. He agreed with me and promised to do what he could to aid you and expressed his confidence in you, and his approval of your vigor and ability. I will press the matter all I can.”

Such an answer to an application for reinforcements was made twenty-one days after the order had been given to Banks to succeed me, which was to be executed as soon as it could be done. Can lying, injustice, deceit, and tergiversation farther go? We may find out who possessed those qualities in the highest degree.

Before Senator Wilson’s answer came, I had received word from Washington, through a source which was always reliable, that General Banks had been sent down specially to relieve me, upon the demand of Napoleon, because I was not friendly to France. Although it could not be carried out until sometime in December, yet, the order of my recall was dated quite contemporaneously with the one relieving George B. McClellan from command, to wit: a day after the November election, so that it might appear as if the Republican administration had determined to put out of command all generals who had heretofore been Democrats, and to supply true Republican generals in their places.

Ah! Seward, that trick was too thin. It did not work, as we shall see.

I immediately made preparations to set my house in order. On December 12, I had such complete knowledge of Banks’ movements that I telegraphed to Forts Jackson and St. Philip to salute Major-General Banks on his steamer with the number of guns appropriate to the commander of the department. When his steamer came to the wharf at the city, I had a battery of artillery to fire a proper salute, and my carriage was in readiness to take him to my house to be entertained. Here he served the following order upon me: —

War Department, Adjutant-General’s Office,
Washington, Nov. 9,

General Order No. 184.

By direction of the President of the United States, Major-General Banks is assigned to the command of the Department of the Gulf, including the State of Texas.

By order of the Secretary of War:

H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.

E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General.

On December 14 and 15, I was engaged in finishing up the accumulated business of my command. On Tuesday, the 16th, General Banks was presented by me to the officers and soldiers of his new command. I commended him to their kindest regard, stating our friendship for many years. On the 16th, he took formal command of the army by an order published that day.

I then commenced turning over to him and his officers all the public property in the possession of myself and officers, taking care to take duplicate receipts for everything, as was my business habit. The amount was comparatively large, in all amounting to nearly a million dollars. As I had received no order detailing me elsewhere, I spent some days in giving General Banks all the information I possessed concerning the military situation of the department and the details of my plan for an immediate attack on Port Hudson, representing to him the necessity for the promptest action. As the nine months regiments that had come down with General Banks were neither well armed nor well equipped, — as Banks’ inspector-general afterwards reported that not one quarter of some of the rifles in their hands were serviceable, — I advised that these regiments should be sent down in large force to take the place of Weitzel’s veteran troops with whom he had accomplished such victories; and that Weitzel be ordered at once, under the cover of the fleet, to ascend the river and take possession of the west shore opposite Port Hudson, in order to keep it from being furnished with further supplies. Now that there could be no possible danger of an attack upon New Orleans, I suggested that the rest of the army, including all old troops, should be sent at once in the rear of Port Hudson on the east bank, to prevent reinforcements and supplies being furnished to this fort by the enemy.

I also told Banks that I had intended, as soon as I could spare the regiment from Weitzel, to send the Twenty-First Indiana, which had won such glory at Baton Rouge under Colonel McMillan, down to occupy Galveston, Texas, which was then held by the fleet. I looked upon Colonel McMillan as fit to command the department, and Galveston was a place requiring high qualities in the commander as well as in the soldiers. I also suggested that McMillan’s regiment be filled up with soldiers enlisted from other regiments.

What distressed me not a little was that Banks’ regular officers did not seem to appreciate the necessity of prompt movement.

Elsewhere as well as in New Orleans, I had always held my army to be deemed in the field. Then, if they were to have quarters, it would cost the government nothing, for they could occupy the houses deserted by those who were serving in the Confederate army. But Banks’ officers were inclined to consider themselves in garrison, for that would enable them to draw pay for quarters, according to regulation, at a somewhat extravagant rate per month, according to their rank. Then they could hire as cheaply as possible what they desired to occupy, and pocket the difference.


Office of the Chief Quartermaster,
Department of the Gulf, New Orleans,
Dec. 19, 1862.

Wanted, immediately, a small, respectable, partially furnished house, for personal occupation. Furniture protected and rent promptly paid. Address undersigned at St. Charles Hotel, or office.

S. B. Holabird,
Colonel, Chief Quartermaster.

I may remark here that no movement was made upon Port Hudson for many months, — not until the enemy had time to fortify it fully, and to reinforce it. The only thing done at first was to send down to Galveston a militia regiment, under a militia colonel who never had heard a hostile shot fired in his life. He put himself on a wharf in Galveston, and then, when the rebels were ready, they scooped him up without his firing hardly a shot. But here and now is not my occasion to criticise the performances of the troops in the Department of the Gulf in the succeeding campaigns. The utter disasters of each and all have passed into history, but they were not such solely from the fault of Banks, by any means.

“Having received no further orders,” I wrote to the President, “either to report to the commander-in-chief, or otherwise, I have taken the liberty to suppose that I am permitted to return home, my services being no longer needed here. I have given Major-General Banks all the information in my power, and more than he has asked, in relation to the affairs of this department.”

On the 23d, I had a public leave-taking of my troops and friends. A very large number of both soldiers and citizens collected. For two hours and more there was a continuous throng passing by where I stood and shaking me by the hand. General Banks and officers paid their respects, and Admiral Farragut was there with nearly all of the principal officers of his fleet.

On the morning of the 24th, the levee at which my transport lay was covered with a large concourse of citizens. No troops were there, although General Banks was kind enough to offer me as an escort my old regiment, the Twenty-Sixth Massachusetts. I thanked him for his courtesy but told him that I had walked through New Orleans for many months without any guard, and I was not going out of it under guard. I entered my carriage at my quarters with a single orderly on the box, as had been my custom, and drove down to the levee near the landing plank of my steamer. When I got out of the carriage, crowds gathered around me. I shook hands with the people longer than I could spare the time, listening to kindly expressions from every class of citizens, but hearing no unpleasant word. As I passed the admiral’s flagship, the Hartford, she gave me the regulation salute, and I raised my hat to the admiral for the last time on ship-board. As I passed the Marine Barracks, two miles below the city, where the Twenty-Sixth Regiment was encamped, they turned out on the quay and gave me many cheers. My voyage was without incident except some quite rough weather off Hatteras.

I reached the Narrows on the 1st day of January, on my way to Lowell. My vessel was met by a revenue cutter, the commander of which brought to me a letter from President Lincoln, asking me to call on him at once.

In obedience to his wish, I went to see him. He greeted me with every cordiality of expression and manner, but I am afraid mine was not as cordial as it ought to have been. After inquiring as to his health, I said: “Mr. President, will you please tell me for what acts of mine I am recalled from. New Orleans?” He said: “I am not at liberty to tell you, but you may ask Mr. Stanton. I should be very happy to see you to-morrow for a consultation.”

I then called upon Mr. Stanton. He also received me with great cordiality. As soon as the compliments of the day were passed, I said “Well, Mr. Secretary, will you tell me why I was relieved from command at New Orleans?” Mr. Stanton replied: “The reason was one which does not imply, on the part of the government, any want of confidence in your honor as a man, or in your ability as a commander.” “Well,” said I, “you have told me what I was not recalled for. I now ask you to tell me what I was recalled for.” “You and I,” replied Stanton, laughing, “are both lawyers, and it is of no use your filing a bill of discovery upon me, for I sha’n’t tell you.”

I knew the cause perfectly well, all the same.

I then went to see Mr. Seward. He received me politely, very, and invited me to dine with him that evening, which invitation I accepted. I then said: “Mr. Secretary, when I left here last February, nothing of consequence was being done without your being consulted and having knowledge of it. I have asked the President why I was relieved from command and he declines giving me the reasons, and I have come to you, believing that you can give them if you will.” “General,” said he, “things have changed somewhat since you went away. We were then somewhat new in administration, and we interfered sometimes with each other’s departments; but now we confine ourselves more closely to our own business. I do not know what you were recalled for, I assure you, but Halleck knows all about it. He is the general-in-chief, and had everything to do with it.”

Thereupon I went to Halleck’s office, and we met on apparently friendly relations. I said to him: “General Halleck, I have come to ask you, as my superior officer, the reasons for my being relieved from command in New Orleans and on what account it was done.” “I do not know, General; no reasons were ever given me. It was cone solely under the direction of the Secretary of State.” I knew that well enough, but could not then prove it without disclosing my witness; and after answering Halleck such questions as he chose to ask about Banks and his condition, I returned to my home, not in especial good humor.

However, I attended Mr. Seward’s dinner and we had an exceedingly cordial time. After the dinner was over, Mr. Seward was kind enough to accompany me to the door. As I took leave of him by hand-shaking, I said: “What an infernal liar your man Halleck is He told me that he did not know anything about the reason why I was relieved; that it was done solely upon your advice. Good-night.”

As to who was the man who told the truth, I now have the evidence for the first time in the publication of “Seward at Washington,” 1891. His biographer says (p. 139): —

“Claims and complaints at New Orleans, based upon interruptions and losses in trade, were numerous. . . . Some were intricate and delicate, and even threatened to endanger friendly relations with European powers. The Secretary found half his time engrossed with these questions. He determined that it would be wise to establish some tribunal at New Orleans to examine and decide upon them. . . . It had become necessary to constitute a Provisional Court. Charles A. Peabody of New York was appointed the Provisional Judge, and vested with full jurisdiction, ‘his judgment to be final and conclusive.’” . . .

While General Butler was the military commander, he had enforced order, maintained quiet, and adopted praiseworthy sanitary regulations, regardless of protests or resistance. He ruled with a firm hand, and in return encountered a storm of vituperation.

Seward’s circular to Foreign Ministers, December 15 (pp. 149, 150), says: —

General Banks sailed from New York fifteen days ago, with reinforcements for New Orleans, and we suppose that he must before this time have reached and taken command of that city.

We are inaugurating a system of administration in New Orleans, under General Banks, which will relieve the condition there of much of the uneasiness which it is supposed affected the disposition of foreign powers. . . .

Thus it will be seen that on October 20, by executive order, not transmitted to me, Seward caused to be established a Provisional Court, which was done in defiance of the Constitution and laws of Congress, inasmuch as it was not for military purposes. He claimed that judgments by it were to be “final and conclusive,” not to be revised by any court. His biographer says that the validity of its acts were considered — how could that be done? — in the Supreme Court of the United States, and were fully sustained, when, in subsequent years, they came before it. It had full and conclusive jurisdiction in all cases of law, civil and criminal, equity and admiralty. The Supreme Court sustained his decisions because they had no power to reverse. Perhaps also that court found them to be right.

My acts and decisions in New Orleans were also brought before the Supreme Court, and were all sustained, as we have seen, not because the court could not adjudicate differently, but because they decided that I had judged rightly.

The order for Peabody’s Court did not come down to New Orleans until Banks came. Peabody was neither a military nor a civil officer known to the Constitutional Laws of the United States. He was a New York pet of Seward, but I must do him the justice to say from what I saw of him, he was an enormous improvement upon Reverdy Johnson, because he was a loyal, honest man.

Seward’s appointment of Banks to supersede me was announced as soon as the November elections were over. The results of these elections, he says in a letter to his wife, were very deplorable: —

November came, and with it the election in the various States. The returns were ominous and disheartening enough. Everywhere there was reaction of feeling, adverse to the administration. In the strong Republican States majorities were reduced. In all others, the opposition was triumphant, and the administration party defeated. . . . Among the causes of the revulsion was opposition to the government’s anti-slavery policy.

On the 15th of December he issued his circular to foreign ministers, stating “Banks would be in command at New Orleans, and would take measures that there should be no interference with foreigners,” however hostile and injurious to the government.

Such being Seward’s condition of mind about the election, and knowing that he was looked upon with distrust by the Republican party as an opponent of the anti-slavery cause, he desired to do what he could to restore himself to public favor, and he thought he would score a point in his favor if the administration were to remove two Democratic generals, one of whom [McClellan] was supposed to be delaying the movement of the troops on account of the emancipation, and the other [myself] had been a very decided Democrat when he entered the war and had up to that time made no sign of any change in political opinion. But the trick did not avail, and there was a strenuous endeavor made to force him out of the Cabinet. I will tell his own story of how he succeeded in holding his place: —

(December 15.) The Republican senators had just been holding a caucus. All were not present, but those who were, acting under the spur of excitement and disappointment, had resolved that some change must be made, to appease the supposed popular “thirst for a victim.” Resolutions had been hastily adopted advising the President to change the chief member of his Cabinet, and a committee was appointed to lay the resolutions before him.

“Seeing how things were going, I did not stay for the last vote,” said Mr. King, “but just slipped out of the chamber and came down to tell you, for I thought you ought to know. They were pledging each other to keep the proceedings secret, but I told them I wasn’t going to be bound.” . . .

Without a moment’s hesitation, he [Seward] called for a pen and paper and dictated this note to the President: —

Sir: — I hereby resign the office of Secretary of State, and beg that my resignation may be accepted immediately.

Five minutes later it was placed in the hands of the President, who, after reading it, looked up with a face full of pain and surprise, saying: What does this mean?

Seward at Washington, pp. 146, 147.

Preston King, who was there, explained to the President.

Thereupon such proceedings were had that Chase, who was supposed to be a leader of the radical party in the Cabinet, also was persuaded to resign. Then, both the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of State having resigned, one at the head of the anti-slavery portion of the Republican party, and the other at the head of those who thought the proclamation a mistake, Mr. Lincoln eluded taking any action upon the resolution of the caucus of Republican senators by persuading both to withdraw their resignations, saying in his own quaint language: “I can ride now, for I have got a pumpkin in each end of my bag.” And the administration wallowed on.

Examining these facts, mostly of record, can any man doubt who told the truth when Halleck said that Seward had all to do with my recall from command, and Seward said he hadn’t anything to do with it? I have no doubt that Seward told Halleck what I had said about Halleck being the liar, because from that time, as I have learned since from his correspondence, Halleck was a deadly enemy of mine, although I gave him no reason for being. Seward knew whom I meant by what I said, and telling it to Halleck was another of his wily tricks.

When about leaving New Orleans, although hurried with a thousand cares and anxieties which surround one under such circumstances, I thought it clue to myself and my administration to make a farewell address to the people of that city, and to state therein what I had done and what I had not done, so that if my statements were to be questioned or contradicted by anybody, they might be then and there when the proofs were all at hand and matters of fact could be readily determined.

May readers have now heard my history of all the important things I did; will they please compare it with what I said in the following address I had done, and see how the two stand together? None of all my enemies, so far as I know, have challenged or attempted to contradict a single statement of fact in it. There has been much harmless and foolish abuse, much stating of charges without authority or evidence. The things that these slanderers claim I had done were such as they would have done if they could have had the power I held there. But nobody has said I have claimed to have done that which I had not done. If one charges another, without evidence, of having done wicked and dishonest acts because he had the power to do them in a given case, it is because he knows in his own heart that under the same circumstances he would have done those same things which he charges another with doing. This remark vituperative newspaper writers (as Jack Bunsby would say) “will make a note of.”


Citizens of New Orleans: — It may not be inappropriate, as it is not inopportune in occasion, that there should be addressed to you a few words at parting, by one whose name is to be hereafter indissolubly connected with your city.

I shall speak in no bitterness, because I am not conscious of a single personal animosity. Commanding the Army of the Gulf, I found you captured, but not surrendered; conquered, but not orderly; relieved from the presence of an army, but incapable of taking care of yourselves. I restored order, punished crime, opened commerce, brought provisions to your starving people, reformed your currency, and gave you quiet protection, such as you had not enjoyed for many years.

While doing this, my soldiers were subjected to obloquy, reproach, and insult.

And now, speaking to you, who know the truth, I here declare that whoever has quietly remained about his business, affording neither aid nor comfort to the enemies of the United States, has never been interfered with by the soldiers of the United States.

The men who had assumed to govern you and to defend your city in arms having fled, some of your women flouted at the presence of those who came to protect them. By a simple order (No. 28), I called upon every soldier of this army to treat the women of New Orleans as gentlemen should deal with the sex, with such effect that I now call upon the just-minded ladies of New Orleans to say whether they have ever enjoyed so complete protection and calm quiet for themselves and their families as since the advent of the United States troops.

The enemies of my country, unrepentant and implacable, I have treated with merited severity. I hold that rebellion is treason, and that treason persisted in is death, and any punishment short of that due a traitor gives so much clear gain to him from the clemency of the government. Upon this thesis have I administered the authority of the United States, because of which I am not unconscious of complaint. I do not feel that I have erred in too much harshness, for that harshness has ever been exhibited to disloyal enemies to my country, and not to loyal friends. To be sure, I might have regaled you with the amenities of British civilization, and yet been within the supposed rules of civilized warfare. You might have been smoked to death in caverns, as were the Covenanters of Scotland by the command of a general of the royal house of England; or roasted, like the inhabitants of Algiers during the French campaign; your wives and daughters might have been given over to the ravisher, as were the unfortunate dames of Spain in the Peninsular War; or you might have been scalped and tomahawked as our mothers were at Wyoming by the savage allies of Great Britain in our own Revolution; your property could have been turned over to indiscriminate “loot,” like the palace of the Emperor of China; works of art which adorned your buildings might have been sent away, like the paintings of the Vatican; your sons might have been blown from the mouths of cannon, like the Sepoys at Delhi; and yet all this would have been within the rules of civilized warfare as practised by the most polished and the most hypocritical nations of Europe. For such acts the records of the doings of some of the inhabitants of your city toward the friends of the Union, before my coming, were a sufficient provocative and justification.

But I have not so conducted. On the contrary, the worst punishment inflicted, except for criminal acts punishable by every law, has been banishment with labor to a barren island, where I encamped my own soldiers before marching here.

It is true, I have levied upon the wealthy rebels, and paid out nearly half a million of dollars to feed forty thousand of the starving poor of all nations assembled here, made so by this war.

I saw that this Rebellion was a war of the aristocrats against the middling men, of the rich against the poor; a war of the land-owner against the laborer; that it was a struggle for the retention of power in the hands of the few against the many; and I found no conclusion to it, save in the subjugation of the few and the disenthrallment of the many. I therefore felt no hesitation in taking the substance of the wealthy, who had caused the war, to feed the innocent poor, who had suffered by the war. And I shall now leave you with the proud consciousness that I carry with me the blessings of the humble and loyal, under the roof of the cottage and in the cabin of the slave, and so am quite content to incur the sneers of the salon, or the curses of the rich.

Medical-Direcor MacCormick.
Medical-Direcor MacCormick.

I have found you trembling at the terrors of servile insurrection. All danger of this I have prevented by so treating the slave that he had no cause to rebel.

I found the dungeon, the chain, and the lash your only means of enforcing obedience in your servants. I leave them peaceful, laborious, controlled by the laws of kindness and justice.

I have demonstrated that the pestilence can be kept from your borders.

I have added a million of dollars to your wealth in the form of new land from the batture of the Mississippi.

I have cleansed and improved your streets, canals, and public squares, and opened new avenues to unoccupied land.

I have given you freedom of elections greater than you have ever enjoyed before.

I have caused justice to be administered so impartially that your own advocates have unanimously complimented the judges of my appointment.

You have seen, therefore, the benefit of the laws and justice of the government against which you have rebelled.

Why, then, will you not all return to your allegiance to that government, — not with lip-service, but with the heart?

I conjure you, if you desire ever to see renewed prosperity, giving business to your streets and wharves — if you hope to see your city become again the mart of the western world, fed by its rivers for more than three thousand miles, draining the commerce of a country greater than the mind of man hath ever conceived — return to your allegiance.

If you desire to leave to your children the inheritance you received from your fathers — a stable constitutional government; if you desire that they should in the future be a portion of the greatest empire the sun ever shone upon — return to your allegiance.

There is but one thing that stands in the way.

There is but one thing that at this hour stands between you and the government — and that is slavery.

The institution, cursed of God, which has taken its last refuge here, in His providence will be rooted out as the tares from the wheat, although the wheat be torn up with it.

I have given much thought to this subject.

I came among you, by teachings, by habit of mind, by political position, by social affinity, inclined to sustain your domestic laws, if by possibility they might be with safety to the Union.

Months of experience and of observation have forced the conviction that the existence of slavery is incompatible with the safety either of yourselves or of the Union. As the system has gradually grown to its present huge dimensions, it were best if it could be gradually removed; but it is better, far better, that it should be taken out at once, than that it should longer vitiate the social, political, and family relations of your country. I am speaking with no philanthropic views as regards the slave, but simply of the effect of slavery on the master. See for yourselves.

Look around you and say whether this saddening, deadening influence has not all but destroyed the very framework of your society?

I am speaking the farewell words of one who has shown his devotion to his country at the peril of his life and fortune, who in these words can have neither hope nor interest, save the good of those whom he addresses; and let me here repeat, with all the solemnity of an appeal to heaven to bear me witness, that such are the views forced upon me by experience.

Come, then, to the unconditional support of the government. Take into your own hands your own institutions; remodel them according to the laws of nations and of God, and thus attain that great prosperity assured to you by geographical position, only a portion of which was heretofore yours.

Benj. F. Butler.

New Orleans, Dec. 24, 1862.

There is a companion piece to this address, published at Richmond, on the same 24th day of December on which my address was published at New Orleans, neither writer having seen or known of the writing of the other: —

by the president of the confederate states.

Whereas, A communication was addressed, on the 6th day of July last, 1862, by Gen. Robert E. Lee, acting under the instructions of the secretary of war of the Confederate States of America, to Gen. H. W. Halleck, commander-in-chief of the United States army, informing the latter that a report had reached this government that Wm. B. Mumford, a citizen of the Confederate States, had been executed by the United States authorities at New Orleans for having pulled down the United States flag in that city before its occupation by the United States forces, and calling for a statement of the facts, with a view of retaliation if such an outrage had really been committed under the sanction of the authorities of the United States;

And whereas (no answer having been received to said letter), another letter was, on the 2d of August last, 1862, addressed by General Lee, under my instructions, to General Halleck, renewing the inquiries in relation to the execution of the said Mumford, with the information that in the event of not receiving a reply within fifteen days, it would be assumed that the fact was true, and was sanctioned by the Government of the United States;

And whereas, an answer, dated on the 7th of August last, 1862, was addressed to General Lee by Gen. H. W. Halleck, the said general-in-chief of the armies of the United States, alleging sufficient cause for failure to make early reply to said letter of the 6th of July, asserting that no authentic information had been received in relation to the execution of Mumford; but measures will be immediately taken to ascertain the facts of the alleged execution, and promising that General Lee should be duly informed thereof;

And whereas, on the 26th of November last, 1862, another letter was addressed, under my instructions, by Robert Ould, Confederate agent for the exchange of prisoners, under the cartel between the two governments, to Lieut.-Col. W. H. Ludlow, agent of the United States under said cartel, informing him that the explanation promised in the said letter of General Halleck, of 7th of August last, had not yet been received, and that if no answer was sent to the government within fifteen days from the delivery of this last communication, it would be considered that an answer is declined;

And whereas, by a letter dated on the 3d day of the present month of December, the said Lieutenant-Colonel Ludlow apprised the said Robert Ould that the above recited communication of the 19th of November had been received and forwarded to the Secretary of War of the United States;

And whereas, this last delay of fifteen days allowed for answer has elapsed, and no answer has been received;

And whereas, in addition to the tacit admission resulting from the above refusal to answer, I have received evidence fully establishing the truth of the fact that the said William B. Mumford, a citizen of the Confederacy, was actually and publicly executed in cold blood by hanging, after the occupation of the city of New Orleans by the forces under Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, when said Mumford was an unresisting and non-combatant captive, and for no offence even alleged to have been committed by him subsequent to the date of the capture of the said city;

And whereas, the silence of the Government of the United States, and its maintaining of said Butler in high office under its authority for many months after his commission of an act that can be viewed in no other light than as a deliberate murder, as well as of numerous other outrages and atrocities hereafter to be mentioned, afford evidence too conclusive that the said government sanctions the conduct of the said Butler, and is determined that he shall remain unpunished for these crimes:

Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and in their name, do pronounce and declare the said Benjamin F. Butler to be a felon, deserving of capital punishment. I do order that he shall no longer be considered or treated simply as a public enemy of the Confederate States of America, but as an outlaw and common enemy of mankind, and that, in the event of his capture, the officer in command of the capturing force do cause him to be immediately executed by hanging.

And I do farther order that no commissioned officer of the United States, taken captive, shall be released on parole, before exchanged, until the said Butler shall have met with due punishment for his crimes.

And whereas, the hostilities waged against this Confederacy by the forces of the United States, under the command of said Benjamin F. Butler, have borne no resemblance to such warfare as is alone permissible by the rules of international law or the usages of civilization, but have been characterized by repeated atrocities and outrages, among the large number of which the following may be cited as examples: —

Peaceful and aged citizens, unresisting captives and non-combatants, have been confined at hard labor, with hard chains attached to their limbs, and are still so held, in dungeons and fortresses.

Others have been submitted to a like degrading punishment for selling medicines to the sick soldiers of the Confederacy.

The soldiers of the United States have been invited and encouraged in general orders to insult and outrage the wives, the mothers, and the sisters of our citizens.

Helpless women have been torn from their homes, and subjected to solitary confinement, some in fortresses and prisons, and one especially on an island of barren sand, under a tropical sun; have been fed with loathsome rations that have been condemned as unfit for soldiers, and have been exposed to the vilest insults.

Prisoners of war, who surrendered to the naval forces of the United States, on agreement that they should be released on parole, have been seized and kept in close confinement.

Repeated pretexts have been sought or invented for plundering the inhabitants of a captured city, by fines levied and collected under threats of imprisoning recusants at hard labor with ball and chain. The entire population of New Orleans have been forced to elect between starvation by the confiscation of all their property and taking an oath against conscience to bear allegiance to the invader of their country.

Egress from the city has been refused to those whose fortitude withstood the test, and even to lone and aged women, and to helpless children; and after being ejected from their homes and robbed of their property, they have been left to starve in the streets or subsist on charity.

The slaves have been driven from the plantations in the neighborhood of New Orleans until their owners would consent to share their crops with the commanding general, his brother, Andrew J. Butler, and other officers; and when such consent had been extorted, the slaves have been restored to the plantations, and there compelled to work under the bayonets of the guards of United States soldiers. Where that partnership was refused, armed expeditions have been sent to the plantations to rob them of everything that was susceptible of removal.

And even slaves, too aged or infirm for work, have, in spite of their entreaties, been forced from the homes provided by their owners, and driven to wander helpless on the highway.

By a recent General Order, No. 91, the entire property in that part of Louisiana, west of the Mississippi River, has been sequestered for confiscation, and officers have been assigned to duty, with orders to gather up and collect the personal property, and turn over to the proper officers, upon their receipts, such of said property as may be required for the use of the United States army; to collect together all the other personal property and bring the same to New Orleans, and cause it to be sold at public auction to highest bidders — an order which, if executed, condemns to punishment, by starvation, at least a quarter of a million of human beings, of all ages, sexes, and conditions, and of which the execution, although forbidden to military officers by the orders of President Lincoln, is in accordance with the confiscation law of our enemies, which he has effected to be enforced through the agency of civil officials.

And, finally, the African slaves have not only been incited to insurrection by every license and encouragement, but numbers of them have actually been armed for a servile war — a war in its nature far exceeding the horrors and most merciless atrocities of savages.

And whereas, the officers under command of the said Butler have been, in many instances, active and zealous agents in the commission of these crimes, and no instance is known of the refusal of any one of them to participate in the outrages above narrated;

And whereas, the President of the United States has, by public and official declarations, signified not only his approval of the effort to excite servile war within the Confederacy, but his intention to give aid and encouragement thereto, if these independent States shall continue to refuse submission to a foreign power after the 1st day of. January next, and has thus made known that all appeal to the law of nations, the dictates of reason, and the instincts of humanity would be addressed in vain to our enemies, and that they can be deterred from the commission of these crimes only by the terrors of just retribution;

Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and acting by their authority, appealing to the Divine Judge in attestation that their conduct is not guided by the passion of revenge, but that they reluctantly yield to the solemn duty of redressing, by necessary severity, crimes of which their citizens are the victims, do issue this my proclamation, and, by virtue of my authority as commander-in-chief of the armies of the Confederate States, do order —

First — That all commissioned officers in the command of said Benjamin F. Butler be declared not entitled to be considered as soldiers engaged in honorable warfare, but as robbers and criminals, deserving death; and that they and each of them be, whenever captured, reserved for execution.

Second — That the private soldiers and non-commissioned officers in the army of said Butler be considered as only the instruments used for the commission of crimes perpetrated by his orders, and not as free agents; that they, therefore, be treated, when captured as prisoners of war, with kindness and humanity, and be sent home on the usual parole that they will in no manner aid or serve the United States in any capacity during the continuance of this war, unless duly exchanged.

Third — That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the law of said States.

Fourth — That the like orders be issued in all cases with respect to the commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with said slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy.

In testimony whereof, I have signed these presents, and caused the seal of the Confederate States of America to be affixed thereto, at the city of Richmond, on the 23d day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two.

Jefferson Davis.

By the President:

J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State.

That I was to be recalled was known to Jefferson Davis before it was to me, and the date of my recall, the 9th of November, was forty-five days gone by when that proclamation was published. It was not intended to be published until after I had gone, when it could not, as it did not, have any actual effect upon anybody. I first saw it in New York. It was written by Benjamin, who had an enormous grudge at me for doing a thing which he did not mention in the proclamation, i. e., so thoroughly preaching Unionism to his brother at Baton Rouge in July, that he took the oath of allegiance, declaring himself a Union man. While the paper is filled with simple lying abuse, yet the main ground upon which it rests is his declaration that I had armed the slaves. That applied to President Lincoln and his Cabinet more than to me, because they had adopted my acts in raising native guards of colored, free-born men, and proceeded further to arm the slaves. Its design was to frighten the officers who should command the negro troops. It did not do that, for before the end of the war we had one hundred and fifty thousand negroes under arms. It was written by a rebel secretary of state for a political purpose; and of course, as we have seen, was necessarily one of that class of documents and acts of State departments so false and underhanded as to astonish their patron, the Devil.

The only fruits that it bore, so far as I have heard, were the following he and she publications: —

Ten Thousand Dollars Reward! — $10,000 — President Davis having proclaimed Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts, to be a felon deserving of capital punishment, for the deliberate murder of Wm. B. Mumford, a citizen of the Confederate States, at New Orleans; and having ordered that the said Benjamin F. Butler be considered or treated as an outlaw and common enemy of mankind, and that in the event of his capture, the officer in command of the capturing force do cause him to Door-plate taken from Richard Yeadon’s residence. be immediately executed by hanging, the undersigned hereby offers a reward of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for the capture and delivery of the said Benjamin F. Butler, dead or alive, to any proper Confederate authority.

Richard Yeadon.

Charleston, S. C., January 1.

He did not get my head, but I did afterwards send for him, but got only his door-plate, the man himself having run away.

The she publication was from the Charleston Courier:

A daughter of South Carolina writes to the Courier from Darlington District: —

“I propose to spin the thread to make the cord to execute the order of our noble president, Davis, when old Butler is caught, and my daughter asks that she may be allowed to adjust it around his neck.”

It is evident that she had not been in New Orleans and got tamed.

“There is no difference between a he adder and a she adder in their venom.”

The first recital of the proclamation, namely, that Mumford was executed for a crime committed before the city was captured, was simply a lie. It was for tearing down the flag put up by Farragut when the city surrendered to him.

The proclamation was not published until after the date on which Davis knew I was to leave New Orleans. If it had been published while I was in command in New Orleans and before I got to sea, there would have been an answer made to it which might have astonished both Benjamin and Davis. Being “outlawed,” I should have given their rebel friends a taste of the law of the outlaw.

This proclamation was mere brutum fulmen. It was directed as much against the government as myself. Afterwards, when I consented to return to the service, I was put in charge of all the rebel prisoners as commissioner of exchange, and Davis and his government had to deal with me and me only; and he did so for months, and none of the outlawing of negro soldiers was attempted to be carried into effect.

The proclamation also threatened that no officer would be paroled until I was punished by hanging. Yet the parole went on in all the armies precisely as though the proclamation had never been published. And when in Virginia, in 1864, a portion of my colored troops raised in Virginia were captured and put by Lee into the trenches to work on the rebel fortifications, I wrote him a note stating that if they were not immediately taken out and treated as prisoners of war, I would put in Dutch Gap to work, under the fire of the rebels, the Virginia reserves whom I had captured, who were highly respectable gentlemen of Richmond, over sixty years of age. It is needless to say that afterwards the negroes were treated as prisoners of war.

Jefferson Davis did not believe one word of the proclamation himself.

That is evinced by the fact that while that document declared me to be utterly vile and a felon, yet he treats me quite differently in his “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.” In that work he discusses the exchange of prisoners, and, after quoting page after page of my report to my government showing the plans and conditions upon which the exchange of prisoners were carried on, he closes by saying: —

In regard to the policy of exchange of prisoners, Gen. B. F. Butler has irrefutably fixed the responsibility on the government at Washington and on General Grant.

How so, Mr. Davis? Had you given any proof other than a recitation of the reports of General Butler? True, they were made upon his honor as an officer of the army of the United States to his government. But upon what principle did the mere word, not even the oath, of a felon and an outlaw “irrefutably fix” any fact?

I rose early in the morning of the day after my interviews with the President and Stanton, Halleck and Seward. I examined the situation with careful thought, and the result was this: I had been deliberately deprived of my command for no fault of mine, and in a manner which, to the outside world, would appear to demonstrate that it was because of some charges made against me by somebody upon some matter, or because of some unfitness for command. The administration now refused to state the ground of my recall. Now, if that had been stated or could be stated, it would relieve me in every way, and I should be justified to my own people and to other nations. If Seward had had the courage to say, or if Stanton would have said and published words amounting to this: “General Butler has been recalled at the request of the Emperor Napoleon,” as was the fact, I should have been in a condition to go again into the service, if desired, with honor, and might have done credit to myself.

I came to the conclusion that Lincoln would offer me some other important command; but I also came to another conclusion, which was, that I would take no command under any circumstances unless I was returned to New Orleans. Having determined after due thought upon a course of action, I am not easily turned from it.

Quite early after breakfast, I called on Mr. Lincoln, according to his appointment, and found him apparently awaiting my coming, for on his table were maps, charts, and some books of statistics, to which he soon made reference.

“Mr. President,” I said, “thanking you for your kind and appreciative note, I have brought my commission for your acceptance, and wish to inform you that I cannot learn why I was recalled. The country does not know why I was recalled from New Orleans. That leaves me open to the suspicion that it had been done because of the truth of some infamous charges that the rebels and Copperheads have made against me.”

“Put your commission back in your pocket,” said he. “I have seen no reason to change my opinion of you, which, from the beginning, has been of the highest character, as you know. Now, I want to give you a command quite equal in extent and importance to the one which you won for yourself at New Orleans. In it you can do great good to the country. The question of abolition of slavery is now settled. I want you to go down on the Mississippi River, take command there, and enlist, arm, and organize as many negro troops as can be had.”

He produced some maps which showed the slave population by the territories and districts. The various sections were marked over with shaded lines, so drawn that where slavery was most prevalent, there the shading was darkest.

“I know of no one who can do this as well as yourself. From our correspondence, I see that you thoroughly believe in negro troops. You shall have the nomination of all the officers, and I will endorse them by appointments.”

“I am infinitely obliged to you for your good opinion,” I said, “but I could have enlisted several thousands if you had given me this full power when I was in New Orleans. Indeed, you see the Mississippi River country is black with them, and I had only to march up the Mississippi to get them. I would have so marched if I could have had any reinforcements; but now that march cannot be made without fighting. Sending Banks to command in my place and then sending me down on the Mississippi to enlist troops, would be simply saying that I was not fit to command troops, but only fit for a recruiting sergeant.”

“There is something in that,” said he, “but I will give you command. You may take Grant’s command down there.”

“Mr. President,” I replied, “I feel keenly enough my own recall and having another man put in my place without any reason given for it excepting incompetency. I have watched Grant’s movements with care, and I see no reason why he should be recalled. He seems to have done well enough, and I do not want to be a party to such another injustice as I suffer. But, Mr. President, why not do this: Send me back to take my old command and I will go up the Mississippi rolling up troops like a snow-ball in the soft snow. Now, every soldier costs the country at least two thousand dollars in bounties, and in doing anything with him, getting him drilled and transported. Those negro soldiers will cost nothing but their pay, uniforms, and rations, and the last we can get as we go along. To recall Banks will be no aspersion upon him; it will stand on the ground that his appointment was owing to the mistake of my removal; and I cannot believe it is just to myself, my family, or the country that I should take a different command.”

He walked backward and forward once or twice along the audience chamber and returned to me with an appealing look, saying:“ But I cannot recall Banks.” I answered: —

“I ought not, Mr. President, by my action to confess that I ought to have been recalled, which, by taking a different command, especially one which involves recruiting duties only, I should do. I was once a major-general recruiting in New England; but that was to raise troops to command on an important expedition. Besides, Mr. President, there is another thing. You removed McClellan, a Democratic general, and sent him away in disgrace on the 5th of November, as soon as the results of the election were known, and he has sunk into a growling, fault-finding retirement. My recall is dated the 9th, although determined on sometime before. Seward thought if he should apparently remove us together, as Democrats, and send a Republican down in my place, the country would understand that it was to benefit the anti-slavery cause, as he supposed I should turn up a growling, unappreciative, Democratic sorehead. But that trick of his won’t work. He has made a mistake, and he will not thus save himself before Congress. The position that I have taken in my farewell address at New Orleans, which I shall stand by, will cause me to be looked upon as at the head, next to yourself, of the anti-slavery cause. Since this war began, I have never failed in anything I have undertaken, and I shall not fail in this, Mr. President, and you will have no warmer supporter of your administration than I am so long as you hold your present course as regards slavery, and not let it be bedeviled by Seward. I think I must go to Lowell, Mr. President, but here, again, is my commission.”

“Oh,” he answered, “you shall go where you please, General, but keep your commission.”

We shook hands, and I went to Lowell.

If additional evidence can be needed of the opinion of the President and Mr. Stanton of my action in New Orleans, and of the reason of my recall, I beg leave to append the two following letters of the Hon. Charles Sumner: —

Senate chamber, 5th Dec., ’62.

Dear General: — The President says that you shall not be forgotten, — these were his words to me. General Halleck and Mr. Stanton say substantially the same thing, although the former adds all generals call for more troops; but I shall follow it up. Do not fail to call on me.

I understand that the French government has forbidden the papers to mention your name.

The name of Marlboro was once used in France to frighten children, — more than a century ago. You have taken his place.

Believe me, my dear sir,

Faithfully yours,

Charles Sumner.

Senate Chamber, 8th Jan., 1863.

Dear General: — Mr. Stanton assured me last evening that had he known your real position with regard to the proclamation he would have cut off his right hand before he would have allowed anybody to take your place, — that his fixed purpose was that on the 1st of January a general should be in command at New Orleans to whom the proclamation would be a living letter; and that in this respect it was natural, after the recent elections in Pennsylvania and New York, that he should look to a Republican rather than to an old Democrat.

I mention these things frankly, that you may see the precise motive of the secret change.

I afterwards saw the President, who said that he hoped very soon to return you to New Orleans. He added that he was anxious to keep you in the public service and to gratify you, as you had deserved well of the country.

I do not know that you will care to hear these things, but trust that you will appreciate the sympathy and friendly interest which dictates this communication.

Believe me, dear General,

Very faithfully yours,

Charles Sumner.

Certificate of Recognition.
Certificate of Recognition.


  1. Two regiments. Two regiments were ordered, but three took part In the fight: Bendix, Townsend, and Duryea. — Butler’s note.
  2. Force of arms. A draft, under the law of Congress, was carried into effect in Massachusetts in the months of June and July, 1863, and was entirely an abortive affair as far as men were concerned. There were enrolled, between the ages of twenty and forty-five, 164,178. Then there were names of persons drawn from the box, numbering 32,079. Of these 6,690 were held to service, and of this number only 743 joined the service; 2,325 procured substitutes. Twenty-two thousand three hundred and forty-three were exempted, and 3,044 failed to report, that is, they left for Canada or elsewhere, and 3,623 paid commutation. So that the whole number of drafted men and substitutes of drafted men sent to camp was 3,068; and of these, 2,720 were assigned and sent to the regiments in the front, — that is, the draft produced three regiments of men. — Butler’s note.
  3. Acting master Sturgis. Acting Master Sturgis was a seaman in every regard, capable, faithful, and of the finest judgment. I feel that I almost owe the lives of my men, my wife, and myself to him. I made him captain of the port of New Orleans. When his term of service during the war was ended, I procured his appointment as one of the officers of the revenue marine service, which position he filled to the entire satisfaction of the department during his life. — Butler’s note.
  4. Pretty well provided.
        I insert here another description of our adventures on Frying-Pan Shoals, written from Port Royal by my wife to her sister, which did not come to my eye until long afterwards:
         We were at breakfast, congratulating each other on our escape from the storm, the delightful weather, and the rapid speed we were making. I left the table a moment, and was in my room preparing to go on deck, when there came a surging, grating sound from the bottom of the vessel. A pause — the engine stopped — (a hush of dread throughout the ship) — it worked again — another heavy lurching and quivering of the ship — again the engine stopped. We were aground on Frying-Pan Shoals, fifteen miles from shore. The coast held by the enemy. Four or five small boats, and sixteen hundred people aboard. Dismay on every face. I asked General Butler of the danger. “A hundred-fold more than the storm. But there is no time for words — I must look to the ship.” Yet for a time we were safe; the day was fine — the vessel imbedded in sand, so that her keel would not be stove with rocks. Brains and hands worked busily, devising and executing ways to get her off; and men watched for sails at every point, for there, in truth, was almost our only hope. At last, one appeared in sight. Signals were hoisted. (It was proposed to hoist it with the union down. “Not so,” said General Butler; “let the union go up.”) Guns were fired to show our distress, though apprehensive she might prove a rebel steamer, and we be forced to fight in our crippled state, or yield, inglorious prisoners. She could not come directly to us, and hours were consumed before she could round the shoals, and feel her way slowly with the lead, somewhere within a mile of us. She proved a friend. It was now late in the afternoon. We ran on at full tide, and must wait till it returned, at seven in the evening, before we could hope to pull her off. A hawser was stretched to the other vessel, and the soldiers moved double quick fore and aft to loosen her from the sand. They labored and pulled, but failed to lift her; the tide was not yet full. Two or three hundred men were already sent to the Mt. Vernon. The wind began to rise, and the waves to swell into the heavy seas, that look so dark and wrathful, General Butler came to me and said: “You must make ready to go in a few minutes.” Captain Glisson was about to return to his own vessel, and would take me with him. The general’s duty would be to remain until every man was safe, or while the ship held together. This was clear enough, and I only said: “I would rather remain here if you are willing.” I know not why, but I felt more safety where I was than in that little boat tossing below in the mad waves, or in the strange vessel in the distance. “Why do you think of such a thing?” he said. “Are you mad that you would risk to the children the loss of both?” — “I will go,” I answered, “when the captain is ready.” General Butler went away to the pilot-house. The ship was beating heavily on the surf, and men’s hearts beat heavier still, as the night swept toward us. The deck was crowded with men. Major Bell gave me his arm. There was a move — a “Make way for Mrs Butler.” I was helped over the railing. (One man spoke out: “Well, if a woman can keep cool, it will be strange if we can’t.”) Captain Glisson preceded me down the side of the ship, and aided us as much as possible. The boat was tossing like a nut-shell far below, as down the unsteady ladder we slipped. When nearly at the bottom, the captain said: “Jump, madam — we’ll catch you;” and down I went into the boat, “Pull, men — be lively!” the captain called out every few minutes. A wave leaped up and drenched the man at the tiller; he shrank from it, but the captain urged to greater speed. In a quarter of an hour we were aboard the Mt. Vernon. Only two boats followed — two more were obliged to put back; the waves were so rough they could not make the ship.
        I sat in the cabin sick and trembling. If they could not get her off the shoals (where in a little while she would beat to pieces), how could those thousand men escape? The duty of the officers was to take care of the men, and the highest in command must be the last to leave. The Mt. Vernon was too small to take them all, even if they could reach us. One would not like to encounter many such hours.
        The captain came often to tell me what was doing. He had sent his best officer to our ship, and, when the tide was full, there was a chance she might be moved. (I saw he had little hope she would be.) Only one ship ever escaped from those shoals that met the misfortune to ground there. Soon after the captain went out, there came a long shout swelling over the water — not a cry of distress but a shout of joy: ”Hurrah! hurrah!” she is off the shoals and into deep water! In two hours we were out of those dangerous waters, and safely anchored. The Mt. Vernon touched three times while she was aiding, but happily escaped.
        The next morning General Butler came on board to breakfast. It was decided we must keep, on to Port Royal, a hundred and sixty miles, and there repair. Down the ship’s side, and again on our own vessel. This time I was drawn up in a chair draped with flags. I think many were, glad to see me back; it looked as though we had confidence in the ship I have not yet told you her condition: her forward compartment filled with water, and leaking into the next — the pumps working continually to keep it out; the bow much deeper in the water than the stern, but the machinery quite perfect. Our safety must depend on the weather. I must tell you the hole in the bow was made by the anchor, thrown over after we had grounded, the ship working round on to it. One would have thought we were fast enough without the anchor. — Butler’s note.
  5. Farragut.
        When Farragut was called to Washington and the naval part of the expedition was confided to him by Secretary Welles, Porter having a month before that gone to New York to prepare his mortar flotilla, the Secretary says: —
        He gave his unqualified approval of the original plan, adopted it with enthusiasm, and said it was the true way to get to New Orleans, and offered to run by the forts with even a less number of vessels than we were preparing for him, provided that number could not be supplied. While he would not advise the mortar flotilla, it might be of greater benefit than he anticipated, might be more effective than he expected, and he readily adopted it as a part of his command, and he thought it would be likely to warn the enemy of our intention. — Butler’s note.
  6. Surrendered the forts.
        There have been three contested questions of fact, on which the officers of the army and Porter, on behalf of the navy, have differed:
        The first is that the forts were surrendered solely because the bombardment had made of them such perfect wrecks as to be no longer defensible. He so reported to the Secretary of the Navy on the 30th day of April. That 1,800 of his mortar shells had fallen within it he reported to the Secretary of the Navy, June 10.
        Second, — that the surrender was wholly on account of the bombardment.
        Third, — that he remained with his mortar fleet from the time of Farragut’s passage on April 24, until April 30, the day of the surrender, and did not go down the river.
        A part of these questions have been heretofore discussed; but we have now, from consultation of the War Records, the testimony of the enemy. Brigadier-General Duncan says (War Records, Series 1, Vol. VI., pp. 529-532): —
        The demand was rejected, and the bombardment was reopened about 12 M. It continued until near sundown, when it ceased altogether. The entire mortar fleet and all the other vessels, except six gunboats, then got under way, and passed down the river and out of sight, under full steam and sail . . . .
        So far, throughout the entire bombardment and final action, the spirit of the troops was cheerful, confident, and courageous. . . . A reaction set in among them during the lull of the 25th, 26th, and 27th, when there was no other excitement to arouse them than the fatigue duty of repairing our damages. . . . They were still obedient, but not buoyant and cheerful. In consequence, I endeavored to revive their courage and patriotism by publishing an order to both garrisons. . .
        I regret to state that it did not produce the desired effect. Everything remained quiet, however, until midnight, when the garrison of Fort Jackson revolted in mass; seized upon guard and posterns; reversed the field-pieces commanding the gates, and commenced to spike the guns, while many of the men were leaving the fort in the meantime under arms. All this occurred as suddenly as it was unexpected. The men were mostly drawn up under arms and positively refused to fight any longer. . . .
        Every endeavor was made by the officers to repress the revolt and to bring the men to reason and order, but without avail. Officers upon the ramparts were fired upon by the mutineers in attempting to put a stop to the spiking of the guns . . .
        In the meantime we were totally ignorant of the condition of affairs at Fort St. Philip; and as all our small boats had been carried away by the mutineers, we could not communicate with that fort until the next morning . . .
        With the enemy above us and below us, it will be apparent at once to anyone at all familiar with the surrounding country that there was no chance of destroying the public property, blowing up the forts, and escaping with the remaining troops. Under all these humiliating circumstances there seemed to be but one course open to us, viz.: to await the approach of daylight, communicate then with the gunboats of the mortar flotilla below under a flag of truce, and negotiate for a surrender under the terms offered us by Commander Porter on the 26th instant, and which had previously been declined . . . .
        For these reasons a flag of truce was sent down to communicate with the enemy below and to carry a written offer of surrender under the terms offered on the 26th instant.
        Thus it appears that the besieged were obliged to send a flag of truce down to Porter to get him to come up and take the surrender.
        As to the condition of the forts because of the bombardment, we have the testimony of Lieutenant Weitzel, who was sent to make an official report for the purpose of putting them in repair; we have the report of Captain Palfrey, assistant engineer, who was in charge of the repairs; of Colonel Hazeltine, and of General Dow, who certifies that the worst thing that had happened to the forts was the extreme slovenliness by which they had been occupied by the enemy. — Butler’s note.
  7. Rescued. 1st, by purchase in 1803; 2d, by General Wilkinson in 1807, when the city was supposed to be threatened by Aaron Burr; 3d, by General Jackson in 1814. — Butler’s note.
  8. Headquarters. War Records, Series I., Vol. XV., page 423. — Butler’s note.
  9. Certainly true.
        Randolph, the rebel Secretary of War, wrote to Lovell, April 25, 1862, as follows: —
        It has been determined to burn all the cotton and tobacco, whether foreign or our own, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. You will, therefore, destroy it all if necessary to prevent them from getting it.
        This was sent on the 25th of April, but did not reach Lovell. It was again sent on the 28th, and did not reach him directly, but he did get it on the 7th of May.
        Randolph renewed the instructions on May 21, 1862. [War Records, Series I., Vol. XV, pp. 459-471.]
        The following is from Lovell’s order pursuant to the instructions from Randolph [War Records, Series I., Vol. XV., pp. 459-460]: —
    Headquarters Department no. 1, C. S. A.
    Camp Moore, La.,
    May 3, 1862.
    General Orders No. 17.     It is with the people to decide this question for themselves. If you are resolved to be free; if you are worthy of the heroic blood that has come down to you through hallowed generations, if you have fixed your undimmed eye upon the brightness that spreads out before you and your children, and are determined to shake away forever and ever all political association with the vandal horde that now gather like a pestilence about your fair country, now, now, my fellow-citizens, is the time to strike. One sparkling, living touch of fire, in manly action for one hour upon each cotton plantation, and the eternal seal of Southern independence is fired and fixed in the great heart of the world.
        Your major-general calls in this hour of danger for one heroic effort, and he feels consciously proud that he will not call in vain. Let not a solitary bale of cotton be left as spoil for the invader, and all will be well.
    By order of
    Major-General Lovell.
    J. G. Pickett, Assistant Adjutant-General.
    Butler’s note.
  10. Secretary of War. War Records, Series I., Vol. XV., p. 471. — Butler’s note.
  11. Police. Brig.-Gen. M. Jeff. Thompson, M. S. G., in answer to a letter from me about his kind treatment of a prisoner, gives this testimony: —
    Depot of prisoners of War,
    Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky, O.,
    Oct. 12, 1863.
         General. — Your kind letter of the 6th instant was received on the 10th.
         You say that no one more surely than myself knows that the acts for which my government blames you were untruly reported and unjustly construed. What your intentions were when you issued the order which brought so much censure upon yourself I, of course, cannot tell; but I can testify, and do with pleasure, that nearly all of the many persons who passed through my lines, to and from New Orleans, during the months of August and September, 1862, spoke favorably of the treatment they had received from you; and with all my inquiries, which were constant, I did not hear of one single instance of a lady being insulted by your command.
         I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
    M. Jeff. Thompson,
    Brigadier-General, M. S. G.
    — Butler’s note.
  12. Dissolved. War Correspondence, Series I., Vol. XV., p. 501. — Butler’s note.
  13. D. G. Farragut. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 514. — Butler’s note.
  14. Edwin M. Stanton. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 494. — Butler’s note.
  15. H. W. Halleck. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 517. — Butler’s note.
  16. H. W. Halleck. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 519. — Butler’s note.
  17. A. Lincoln. War Records, Vol. XVII., Part II., p. 63. — Butler’s note.
  18. H. W. Halleck. War Records, Vol. XVII., Part II., p. 56. — Butler’s note.
  19. Jno. Pope. War Records, Vol. XVII., Part II., p. 5. — Butler’s note.
  20. Effective men. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 836. — Butler’s note.
  21. Benj. F. Butler. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 530. — Butler’s note.
  22. Fuller’s exploit. Violation of a flag of truce. — Butler’s note.
  23. Benj. F. Butler. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 514. — Butler’s note.
  24. Benj. F. Butler. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 514. — Butler’s note.
  25. Benj. F. Butler. War Records, Vol. XV., p. 513. — Butler’s note.
  26. Permission. I ought to have a very kindly regard for Count Mejan, as he gave me a certificate of good manners. He wrote to his minister, — and it was filed in the State Department, — that General Butler can be very polite when he chooses. — Butler’s note.
  27. Provost judge. The title, Provost Judge, describes an officer of a general’s staff appointed by him to investigate and decide all complaints and other matters which the general would be called upon to investigate. He gets his title from the old Norman French provostre, for yourself, i. e., instead of the general.— Butler’s note.
  28. At once. A fac-smile of this letter appears on 389. — Butler’s note.
  29. Letter. Seward at Washington, p. 142. — Butler’s note.
  30. Appointment. Upon the retirement of Major Bell from the bench of the provost court, the lawyers and others who had attended it presented to the major a valuable cane, accompanying the gift with expressions of esteem and gratitude, far more precious than any gift could be. — Butler’s note.
  31. General Grant. Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Vol. II., p. 607. — Butler’s note.

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Butler, Benjamin F. Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benj. F. Butler: Butler’s Book: A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career. Boston, A. M. Thayer & Co, 1892, <https:// archive.org/ details/ autobiography per0192butl>.

Anthology of Louisiana Literature