General Benjamin Butler




General Butler, aka Spoons Butler, Beast Butler, etc., was a colorful Civil War general who in actuality was a seasoned Massachusetts Congressman and attorney. A noted Democrat, he voted for Vice President John C. Breckenridge the Southern Democratic candidate for President at the national convention in Charleston in 1860. He is infamous for several reasons:
  • Baltimore RiotGeneral Butler was commanded to the city of Baltimore on April 26, 1861 to quell a riotous crowd that threatened the border state of Maryland into secession. He was very successful in assisting administration to preserve Maryland for the Union. General Butler's Proclamation of May 14, 1861 outlines his martial law orders.
  • Contrabands of WarOn May 16, 1861 Butler was promoted to Major General and given command of Fortress Monroe and the Department of Eastern Virginia. On the evening of May 23, three slaves who had been employed to build Confederate works on Chesapeake Bay, gave themselves up to the Union. After discovering they were forced to strengthen Confederate positions, General Butler claimed them to be "contrabands of war". This resulted in hundreds for former slaves seeking refuge at the fort. His July 30, 1861 letter to Secretary of War Cameron outlines his rationale.
  • The Woman OrderGeneral Order 28 was issued on May 15, 1862 ostensibly as a way of curbing the insults showered on U.S. officers and men by the women of New Orleans. Flag Officer Farragut was literally showered with the content of a chamber pot as he walked to his office. This was the last straw for General Butler. General Beauregard was said to have used the order to instill a new fighting spirit among his men.
  • Oath of Allegiance OrderGeneral Order 76 was issued on September 24, 1862 requiring citizens of New Orleans to take a pledge of allegiance to the United States of America by October 1, 1862 or to become registered enemies of the U. S. and to have their real, shared and/or mixed properties subject to confiscation.
  • Ineffectiveness at Bermuda HundredAs Grant was engaging Lee at Spotsylvania Court House, it was imperative for General Butler to move into position and take Richmond before Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia could move south and entrench the Confederate capital. However, Butler's timid movements against a much outnumbered foe resulted in his army being cut-off, surrounded and put out-of-commission at Bermuda Hundred, thus prolonging the war for another 10 months. Read Beast in a Bottle Blue And Gray Magazine October 1989 Ben Butler Bermuda Hundred
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