Benjamin Butler Should Have Learned Quick - Never Ever Mess with Southern Chicks

DBF

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King Solomon in all his wisdom once wrote: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” and no one would agree more than General Benjamin Butler as he left New Orleans on December 16, 1862. What happened to the General that would cause him such thoughts? He met the Women of New Orleans.

They first heard the drums and then came the dreaded sound of music. A military band is marching to the US Custom House under the strains of “Yankee Doodle”; and behind the spectacle is General Benjamin Butler. It’s the evening of May 1, 1862 and Butler has arrived.

After he secures the Custom House he leaves his troops and returns to the St. Charles Hotel along with his headquarters guard the Thirty-First Massachusetts. The hotel keeper had informed Butler’s adjutant-general, Major Strong, he feared for the General’s safety, certain that his waiters should poison the food served to the Yankees. The reply Major Strong heard: “If we are poisoned, the one who survives the longest will have a lively recollection of him who keeps this hotel.” {2}
Soon a mob formed at the hotel demanding General Butler come out and address them.

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A hush came over the mob until they began hearing other sounds and their attention was drawn to the six Napoleons under the command of Captain Thompson as the Sixth Marine battery appeared at the hotel. General Butler may have won this battle and quickly the men of New Orleans were subdued but the upper crust ladies of the city would prove a different battle to conquer.

Nowhere was the “new southern lady enthusiasm” amplified as it was in New Orleans when General Benjamin Butler declared war on women - OR - the women of New Orleans declared war on the Union Army. That day General Butler marched into New Orleans, the city was already in disarray with its people struggling to provide food and necessities for their families. The ladies of New Orleans were suddenly on the “front lines” of the war facing their enemy and they were going to “bare their teeth” and “sharpen their claws” and fight back in a manner worthy to make their menfolk proud. As General Butler writes:

“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. But very soon there was no uncivil treatment received by our soldiers except from the upper class of women.” {2}

General Butler acknowledged that within days more complaints from women or about the women were arriving in his office. They included anything from as small as a lady coming the opposite way of a soldier or officer and turning out from the sidewalk toward the street while exaggerating her distaste by holding her skirts aside so as not to contaminate the filth that was emanating from the Yankees. This was childish so the women accelerated their disdain. They were particularly fond of targeting officers. One story was told of a woman in a rush to avoid any contact with them flung herself in the street and landed in the gutter. When the two officers came to her aid she refused their act of kindness and told them she would rather “lie in the gutter than be helped up by Yankees”.

General Butler also wrote of a time when he was riding in a carriage and a group of five or six ladies were on a balcony watching him approach their location. He recalls hearing:

“something between a shriek and a sneer, the women all whirled around [with their backs] to me [and] threw out their skirts in a regular circle like the pirouette of a dancer.” {2}

But Butler had a unique way to handle this display when he turned to his aid and said in a loud and penetrating voice:​

“Those women evidently know which end of them looks the best.” {2}

The boldness of boasting their bodacious backsides at Butler . . . backfired.​

The “woman situation” was beginning to get out hand and General Butler was concerned. He observed many of the women participating were of a young age, many were pretty and appeared lady-like. He feared if he began arresting these women he may have a riot on his hands. As Butler himself said:

"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. {2}

Then came the day Colonel Deming invited Flag-Officer David Farragut for a visit onto the streets of New Orleans. Deming met Farragut at the levee and as the two fully dressed in uniform officers made their way to dinner to meet other friends:

“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’.” {2}

This was bad enough but the next day, incidentally the Sabbath, one of his officers on his way to church wearing full dress uniform met two “very well dressed and respectable looking women” as the officer stepped aside to let them pass at which time one lady stepped right in front of him and spit in his face. ​

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And thus descended unto New Orleans the order that would forever be known as “The Woman’s Order” Number 28 issued on May 15, 1862. He had been in New Orleans for only fifteen days when he declared "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.” When Butler was advised by his adjutant “This order may be misunderstood . . It would be a great scandal if only one man should act upon it in the wrong way.” {2}

He simply replied:

"Let us, then, 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.” {2}

Butler even goes on to record the order was read in Corinth by Confederate General Pierre Beauregard in the hopes it would encourage his troops as a morale booster. Butler concludes:

“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.” {2}

General Benjamin Butler would not tolerate any more disrespect of his troops. Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips discovered on a June Monday just how serious Butler was regarding his order when she was arrested for “laughing and mocking at the remains of a Federal officer”. {*} On June 30, 1862 she was a guest of the Union Army at Ship Island until she was finally released on September 11, 1862 after pressure from those more powerful than General Butler was exerted. ​

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Anna Larue another proud New Orleans young woman, with blonde hair and blue-eyes “wearing flowing silken curls and Confederate colors,” was walking down St. Charles Street on a July day. She is also proclaiming that General George McClellan had been captured and she is drawing a small crowd and creating a disturbance when a police officer approached to arrest her for “inciting a riot”. A man rushed out of a local shop and shot the officer. Mrs. Larue was carted away and the next morning she, as well as her husband John, met with General Butler. When he inquired “why” did she create this disturbance that resulted in the death of a police officer - she replied “She felt patriotic” to which Butler took pen to paper and wrote another order on July 10, 1862 number 179 which ordered her to Ship Island to be detained until further orders and to separate her from other women there.​

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This story appeared in the “Dallas Herald” on July 1, 1863. Mrs. James J. Williams had married a Union soldier and when the war began he enlisted in a unit in Connecticut while she went back to her home state of Arkansas and joined the Confederate Army under the name of Henry Benford. She was in Virginia and eventually was in the battle of Shiloh where she sustained a wound. In May of 1862 she was in New Orleans visiting where she was taken ill as General Butler made his appearance. She stayed in the city and engaged in working for the Southern cause. Her jobs included carrying communications, assisting in getting information to Rebel ships that were running the Union blockades. She was betrayed and arrested. General Butler asked her to take an oath of allegiance to the United States - she refused. She proudly detailed her service in the Confederate Army fighting side-by-side with her fellow countrymen against the Yankees. Butler was not impressed and denounced her as the “most incorrigible she-rebel he had ever met with”. She was immediately placed in prison. It just so happened her husband was a lieutenant in the 13th Connecticut Regiment and happened to be serving as a Provost Guard in New Orleans. When he requested to visit her in prison; she denied him declaring as long as he was wearing the Yankee uniform she never wanted to see him. He eventually got an audience with her and even an offered his resignation from the Union army and a promise to her that he could get her released if she went back to Connecticut with him to live; he walked out without her. After Butler left New Orleans she was still in prison. She was released on May 17, 1863 and escorted to Meadsville with other “enemies of the United States”.​

*​

The ladies of New Orleans took heed to the words from their 16th Governor of Louisiana, Thomas Overton Moore (1804–1876), His words were re-printed in the “New York Times” on Moore June 10, 1862 right in the middle of General Butler’s battle with the women of his beloved state:

“An Appeal to Every Southern Soldier - We turn to you in mute agony! Behold our wrongs! Fathers! husbands! brothers! sons! we know these bitter burning wrongs will be fully avenged - never did Southern women appeal in vain for protection from insult! But, for the sake of our sisters throughout the South, with tears we implore you not to surrender your cities. in consideration of the defenseless women and children! Do not leave your women to the mercy of this merciless foe! Would it not have been better for New Orleans to have been laid in ruins, and we buried up beneath the mass, than that we should be subjected to these until sufferings? Is life so precious a boon that, for the preservation of it, no sacrifice is too great?

History records instances of cities sacked, and inhuman atrocities committed upon the women of a conquered town, but, in no instance, in modern times at least, without the brutal revisers suffering punishment from the hands of their our commanders. It was reserved for a Federal General to invite his soldiers to the perpetration of outrages at the mention of which the blood recoils in horror - to quicken the impulse of their sensual instincts by the suggestion of transparent excuses for their gratification, and to add to an infamy already well merited these crowning titles of a panderer to just and a depreciator of virtue.

Organize, then, quickly and efficiently. If your enemy attempt to proceed into the interior, let his pathway be marked by his blood. It is your homes that you have to defend. It is the jewel of your hearth, the chastity of your women, you have to guard. Let that thought animate your breasts, nerve your arms, quicken your energies and inspire your resolution. Strike home to the heart of your foe the blow that rids your country of his presence. If needs be, let his blood moisten your own grave. It will rise up before your children as a perpetual memento of a race whom it will teach to hate now and evermore.” {7}

The Woman’s Order was successful in shaming and refraining the ladies of New Orleans in their behavior to Union soldiers, however, it served as propaganda for all ladies in the South. Mary Chesnut wrote in her diary: “We thought that generals always restrained, by shot or sword if need be, the brutality of soldiers. This hideous, cross-eyed beast orders his men to treat the ladies of New Orleans as women of the town - to punish them, he says for their insolence” {8}. Kate Stone noted in her journal:​

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He managed to receive negative press even as far as Great Britain where the London Times called it a "military rule of intolerable brutality” and Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston “condemned it as 'infamous'. Sir, an Englishman must blush to think that such an act has been committed by one belonging to the Anglo-Saxon race”.

Ironically it was not necessarily the ladies that forced Butler’s removal from New Orleans but the rampant corruption among Union officials under his watch. No charges were brought to the general personally, however he did earn the moniker “Spoons” for allegedly stealing silverware from the wealthy New Orleans residents. President Lincoln eventually recalled Butler and General Nathaniel Banks stepped into the New Orleans command. ​

Unfortunately General Benjamin Butler’s six months in New Orleans is perhaps
among his most defining and memorable moments.
He was fighting one of the toughest battles
against one of life’s fiercest opponents
WOMEN.

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* * * * *​







Sources
1. https://64parishes.org/entry/benjamin-butler
2. Benjamin Butler's Memoirs
3.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433079007864&view=1up&seq=270
4. https://scholarworks.uttyler.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1091&context=cw_newstitles
5. “Women During the Civil War: An Encyclopedia” by Judith E. Harper
6. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/confederate-jewish-firebrand-eugenia-phillips-sentenced-to-ship-island/
7.
https://www.rarenewspapers.com/view/665620?list_url=%2Flist%2Funion%3Fpage%3D3
8. Mary Chesnut’s Diary, Mary Boykin Chesnut
9. Brokenburn The Journal of Kate Stone 1861-1868
10
. https://www.harpweek.com/09Cartoon/BrowseByDateCartoon.asp?Month=July&Date=12
{*} https://civilwartalk.com/threads/say-what-saturday-eugenia-levy-phillips-and-her-“defiant”-quote.169493/#post-2205165
All Photos - Public Domain
 

Tony Z

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Beast Butler was the type of rascal, one would have to have had a couple of sarsaparillas with, to hear his take on the war.

I have an autographed pic of the Beast, somewhere in my accumulation!
 
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ucvrelics

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Great Thread. There was another group that he messed with that didn't work out well either.

When New Orleans fell and yankee Gen BEAST Butler was in command he forbade the local priest and preachers from praying for Jeff Davis and the Confederacy so most just told their congregation we will have a silent prayer. He even sent yankee troops to make sure it didn't happen. One priest that was not intimidated was Father Mullen.

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Prior to becoming a priest, Mullen was a midshipman in the U.S. Navy. He served under Commodore Porter, Farragut’s stepfather. Did Farragut ever serve under Midshipman Mullen? Legend holds that Mullen was fearless in combat, and was frequently decorated for this fearlessness by Commodore Porter.


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It is often encumbent on women to make a stand where men are unable to do so for various reasons. The women of New Orleans obviously took on that mantle which Butler so promptly tried to remove. And in effect he did remove it, quite ingeniously. I'm sure no woman of that generation would want to be known as a woman of "the street" with all that implied. Interestingly, going by the article, there was one chivalrous Yankee who warned Butler what his order might imply in terms of his men's actions. It seems it did not come to that, and Butler was clear if it did he would take the required action. The unbelievable set of circumstances that brought husband and wife together again with both clearly on opposing sides of the war is fascinating. That woman had a determination that would be hard to beat. And it's the first I've heard of women being imprisoned for their opposition to the troops in their city. Their actions appear to stem from the fact they had no other way of showing their disdain. And Butler was obviously concerned about the morale of his troops. It's a truly fascinating chapter from the annals of the CW. And brought to light again with a very catchy title!
 

John Hartwell

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I'd say the 'ladies' of New Orleans learned not to mess with Ben Butler. He found a simple, effective, and harmless (though melodramatically angst-ridden for some) solution to an intolerable problem. He threatened them with public embarrasment.

For all the weeping and wailing and outraged hand-wringing, the women of the Crescent City learned to behave themselves, and were none the worse off for it.
 
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The “woman situation” was beginning to get out hand and General Butler was concerned. He observed many of the women participating were of a young age, many were pretty and appeared lady-like.
Gawd, that is so true !

Nothing has changed since that era.

They still know how to wear "hoop skirts", formal gowns during all social seasons . . . and at the same time . . . ( while they will never tell most people) . . . they knew/know how to handle a wide variety of firearms.

Butler had every reason to be worried.
 
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I'd say the 'ladies' of New Orleans learned not to mess with Ben Butler. He found a simple, effective, and harmless (though melodramatically angst-ridden for some) solution to an intolerable problem. He threatened them with public embarrasment.

For all the weeping and wailing and outraged hand-wringing, the women of the Crescent City learned to behave themselves, and were none the worse off for it.
I'd say the ladies of NOLA were entitled to have their say. And nobody likes public embarrassment. While his ruse and order may have been effective it does not discount the fact that feelings were strong in light of the situation which prompted the desire to provide an element of opposition. As for the weeping, wailing and outrage hand-wringing I'm sure there would be plenty of that to go around if the shoe was on the other foot. From my perspective your comment appears to be condescending to these women in the situation they were in and utilizing the only option they felt they had to object to the take over of their city. Not to mention "none of them being worse of for it" is untrue as the OP states some of these women were sent to prison. I think you underestimate the wrath of women and the useful purpose it has served over the centuries. Ben Butler didn't. But I don't applaud him for his actions in the circumstances. While he may have 'won' the day, I don't find any honour in his attempt at subjugating these women.
 

Ole Miss

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Pete: Incompetent, poltrons, liars, thieves and amoral individuals seldom are admired let alone tolerated. Butler, Pillow, Ledle and Floyd leap to mind. These men and others lost all respect and ability to command and unfortunately it took awhile to remove them at the cost of lives.
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David
 
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Although there are many threads on CWT about this, I can't help but think of the ladies and the New Orleans chamber pot:


Yep, the ladies couldn't fight an Union artillery company, but they got the last laugh.
 

John Hartwell

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I'd say the ladies of NOLA were entitled to have their say. And nobody likes public embarrassment. While his ruse and order may have been effective it does not discount the fact that feelings were strong in light of the situation which prompted the desire to provide an element of opposition. As for the weeping, wailing and outrage hand-wringing I'm sure there would be plenty of that to go around if the shoe was on the other foot. From my perspective your comment appears to be condescending to these women in the situation they were in and utilizing the only option they felt they had to object to the take over of their city. Not to mention "none of them being worse of for it" is untrue as the OP states some of these women were sent to prison. I think you underestimate the wrath of women and the useful purpose it has served over the centuries. Ben Butler didn't. But I don't applaud him for his actions in the circumstances. While he may have 'won' the day, I don't find any honour in his attempt at subjugating these women.
I certainly sympathize with the feelings of those ladies, and, yes, they had every right to express their disaffection. And they had every obligation to calculate the possible responses before chosing their methods of expression.

All the people of New Orleans felt humiliated by the fact that their city had not been conquered; their supposed defenders had put up barely token resistance to the Federal approach. What's more, the Confederate government had made it clear that they were not worth "rescuing" by any major campaign.

Butler was faced with subduing this large, undefeated, strongly pro-confederate city, with an entirely inadequate force at his disposal. There were more paroled Confederate soldiers in NO than there were Federal troops. The city was a powder keg. His time in NO could well have been bloody 8 months, indeed. It wasn't. His most effective tools were one execution (Mumford), one General Order (#28), providing food and work for the city's poor, and offering protection and privileges in exchange for an oath of loyalty. These purely administrative efforts worked. That fall, before he left, Butler held an election in which only those who had taken the oath could vote. The turnout in NO was the largest it had been in years.
 
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he forbade the local priest and preachers from praying for Jeff Davis and the Confederacy
The United States military did the same thing to the local Roman Catholic Church when they occupied Natchez, Mississippi.

The Bishop of the Natchez Diocese was thrown into jail when he refused to obey an order from Union authorities to pray for Lincoln and the USA.

 
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I certainly sympathize with the feelings of those ladies, and, yes, they had every right to express their disaffection. And they had every obligation to calculate the possible responses before chosing their methods of expression.

All the people of New Orleans felt humiliated by the fact that their city had not been conquered; their supposed defenders had put up barely token resistance to the Federal approach. What's more, the Confederate government had made it clear that they were not worth "rescuing" by any major campaign.

Butler was faced with subduing this large, undefeated, strongly pro-confederate city, with an entirely inadequate force at his disposal. There were more paroled Confederate soldiers in NO that there were Federal troops. The city was a powder keg. His time in NO could well have been bloody 8 months, indeed. It wasn't. His most effective tools were one execution (Mumford), one General Order (#28), providing food and work for the city's poor, and offering protection and privileges in exchange for an oath of loyalty. These purely administrative efforts worked. That fall, before he left, Butler held an election in which only those who had taken the oath could vote. The turnout in NO was the largest it had been in years.
It seems Butler had a penchant for ruling the city with an iron fist which the execution of Mumford likely proves. It didn't take much for him to issue his orders against what you attest to was far from even minimal force. I'd say that was one very scared General. He could not brook even the slightest opposition. Perhaps when people are subdued enough they will do whatever it takes to improve their lives though I am unsure if that was the outcome.
 
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On June 30, 1862 she was a guest of the Union Army at Ship Island
I can't believe Butler sent women to Ship Island.
Typical Butler.

His own troops were forced to tolerate the Hell of even camping there.

Of all the Mississippi barrier islands, that was/is the worst island to attempt habitation for a prolonged period.
Not one "shade tree" on that island . . . (then or now).

But I digress.
 

ucvrelics

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I can't believe Butler sent women to Ship Island.
Typical Butler.

His own troops were forced to tolerate the Hell of even camping out there.

Of all the Mississippi barrier islands, that was/is the worst island to attempt habitation for a prolonged period.
Not one tree on that island . . . (then or now).

But I digress.
My Grand Parents (Dads side) lived in Ocean Springs at Royal Gulf Hills CC & Yacht Club and as a kid my Grandfather would take the big boat on Sunday and depending on the tide we might have to leave before daylight. We would cruise to Ship Island and my brother and I would run all over that fort. Then up thru the pass to Sugar Mill for dinner. Oh those were the good ole days. I can't imagine have to stay on that island in the summer time or really anytime.
 
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