Discussion William Bruce Mumford Hanging

KianGaf

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I read an account of the incident of him tearing down the flag at the New Orleans mint. His trial and execution seemed to be conducted under very questionable legal grounds.
 

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archieclement

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I read an account of the incident of him tearing down the flag at the New Orleans mint. His trial and execution seemed to be conducted under very questionable legal grounds.
It certainly would be today as destroying a US flag is considered "freedom of speech" and not treason
 

John Hartwell

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In wartime, in a rebellious city under martial law, all things change. Mumford was used as an example, to demonstrate that unrest would not be tolerated. His crime was less destroying the flag than going about afterwards, with torn shreds of the flag in his lapel, bragging about what he did, and haranguing hostile mobs, encouraging them to resistance. He was arrogant and stupid, and he was hanged for it, ... and the mobs disappeared.

Butler's action was drastic, but legal under martial law. It was also effective. He had an utterly inadequate force with which to control a large and vehemently hostile population. He effectively did it with a single execution.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the people of New Orleans. Their city had been surrendered virtually without a fight, and the Confederate government had told them essentially that they were not worth fighting for. They were angry and humiliated and resentful -- they had not been defeated. They wanted, needed, to show their hostility to the occupation.

On the other hand, I can only admire the brilliance with which Butler carried out his assignment of securing and pacifying the south's second largest city. Ben Butler certainly had his faults, and there is much that can legitimately be said against him. But, he also had his virtues, genuine ones, and the city of New Orleans benefited greatly from his firm, efficient, humane, and almost bloodless administration.
 
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I seem to recall somewhere that Butler also justified his carrying out of the death sentence under the laws of war reasoning that the lowering of the flag from a government building would indicate that the city was retaken or fallen and would have caused bombardment of the city and the Union personnel unknowingly by the Union Navy.
 

John Hartwell

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I seem to recall somewhere that Butler also justified his carrying out of the death sentence under the laws of war reasoning that the lowering of the flag from a government building would indicate that the city was retaken or fallen and would have caused bombardment of the city and the Union personnel unknowingly by the Union Navy.
Well, when Farragut reached the city, before Butler arrived, he had the flag raised on the U. S. Mint by marines from USS Pensacola, and announced that if anyone removed it, he would bombard the city. Mumford tore it down, irresponsibly putting the people of N.O. in grave peril, but fortunately Farragut restrained himself.
 
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Well, when Farragut reached the city, before Butler arrived, he had the flag raised on the U. S. Mint by marines from USS Pensacola, and announced that if anyone removed it, he would bombard the city. Mumford tore it down, irresponsibly putting the people of N.O. in grave peril, but fortunately Farragut restrained himself.
I'm glad you're familiar with that because I was looking for my source to support my comment but I couldn't find it. I thought for sure it would be in Butler's Book but so far I've not turned it up.
 

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I'm glad you're familiar with that because I was looking for my source to support my comment but I couldn't find it. I thought for sure it would be in Butler's Book but so far I've not turned it up.
The original order came from General John Dix. Essentially he stated that anyone bringing down the flag would incur the punishment prescribed. (shot on the spot). This was earlier in 1861 I believe when the forts of the Gulf were being claimed, and Hampton Roads also. Whether the order was in effect in 1862 or just latent, I don't know. Butler used his own reasoning but he could fall back upon the order Dix published from Washington. Thanks,
Lubliner.
 
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Well, when Farragut reached the city, before Butler arrived, he had the flag raised on the U. S. Mint by marines from USS Pensacola, and announced that if anyone removed it, he would bombard the city. Mumford tore it down, irresponsibly putting the people of N.O. in grave peril, but fortunately Farragut restrained himself.
I finally located Butler's correspondence that I was looking for although its not exactly as I remembered (my bold):

Headquarters Department of the Gulf,
New Orleans, La., June 10, 1862.
Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

Sir: I did not execute the six paroled soldiers according
to my order No. 30, for the reason among others that upon the examination
of the terms of capitulation given by Captain Porter (of which
no copy had been furnished me and I had not seen the newspaper copy
till after the sentence) I was fearful of the legal force of the parole,
the officers only having been paroled and they undertaking for the men.
I was glad therefore to yield to the suggestions of Messrs. Durant and
Rozier, gentlemen who enjoy the confidence of the community hero
and whom you know to be well disposed to the Union, and to commute
the sentence. Copies of the order and correspondence, marked B, C, D,
are annexed.

William B. Mumford who after the raising of the flag of the United
States upon the U. S. mint by Flag-Officer Farragut pulled it down,
dragged it through the streets, followed by an excited mob, tore it in
shreds and distributed the pieces among the gamblers, assassins and
murderers, his comrades, was tried, condemned and executed on Saturday,
the 7th instant, on the spot where he committed his heinous crime. A
copy of the order for his execution is herewith sent, marked E. No
words can give the extent of his guilt in the act for which he suffered.

The lowering of the flag might, nay ought, by every military rule to
have brought a bombardment upon the city resulting in no one can know
what destruction of property and life.


I would call attention to the policy of allowing me to assure within
this department certain classes of persons who have been in the
rebellion of a condonation of all political offenses to whomsoever
should take the oath of allegiance on or before a given date, excepting
those of course who have sinned away the day of grace. I am confident
that many are tired and sick of the war here who would gladly return
to their allegiance if by some authoritative act they could be assured
that the past would be forgiven. Men have been so deceived as to the
intentions of the Government that I have had grave judges, men of
business and intelligence and planters from the country come to me
under safeguards for assurances of their personal safety and that of
their property from confiscation in case they placed themselves within
the power of the United States. If either under direct guidance and
instructions of the War Department or if left to my discretion as to
the terms to be employed a declaration of amnesty under certain conditions
could be made I will venture to undertake that Louisiana will
within sixty days from the date of such action return to her allegiance.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Major-General, Commanding.

O. R. Series II, Volume III, pp. 673-674

 
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Following Mumford's execution, the Governor of Louisiana wrote President Davis a letter calling for the retaliatory execution of a Union officer that the state had in its custody:

Executive Office, Opelousas, La., June 12, 1862.
President Davis.

Sir : The New Orleans Delta, now published under Federal auspices,
of the 7th instant announces that William B. Mumford has been condemned
to be hung for tearing down the U. S. flag from the Mint on its
first display on that building, and that the sentence was to be executed
on that day in the streets of New Orleans near the Mint. If I am correctly
informed the act was committed on the first landing of the Federal navy
officers who hoisted their flag or had it hoisted by a detachment of
marines a day or two after their arrival before the city and before its
occupation by General Butler.

I do not doubt the sentence was executed. We have four prisoners in this
town (two lieutenants and two privates) captured by Captain Fuller, of
the militia, in his gallant expedition on the Opelousas Railroad in which
he succeeded in burning the bridges of that road and capturing three
trains, with their locomotives, cars, &c. One of these lieutenants,
[James W.] Connelly by name, has been conspicuous in burning the property
of our citizens in Terre Bonne Parish, and has exhibited a fiendish
alacrity in executing the atrocious orders of Butler and his subordinate
officers. In retaliating for this brutal murder of Mumford which I take
for granted will be done it occurs to me that no more propitiatory
sacrifice to his memory can be made than the condemnation of Connelly to
the same death. Among the first orders to be executed by the new general
whom you will send to us will I hope be this necessary severity.
Very truly, &c.,
[THO. O. MOORE, Governor, &c.]

O. R. Series II, Volume III, pg. 899
 

General Casey

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Butler and his occupation of New Orleans is such an interesting topic. Everyone says how bad Butler was or all the horrible things he did to the city and the residents.

I've been looking into Butler's occupation and a lot of what people think about it is flat out wrong, mostly perpetrated by rivals of Butler. I'm working on a post for my blog which will be coming out shortly.
 

John Hartwell

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The original order came from General John Dix. Essentially he stated that anyone bringing down the flag would incur the punishment prescribed. (shot on the spot). This was earlier in 1861 I believe when the forts of the Gulf were being claimed, and Hampton Roads also. Whether the order was in effect in 1862 or just latent, I don't know. Butler used his own reasoning but he could fall back upon the order Dix published from Washington. Thanks,
Lubliner.
Dix' directive was not a military order. It was as Buchanan's Secretary of the Treasury that he telegraphed Treasury agents at the mint: "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot." Apparently the telegram was intercepted by the Confederates, and never reached N.O. I don't know if either Farragut or Butler were aware of his order.
 

5fish

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He was the only American to be... http://www.executedtoday.com/2009/06/07/1862-william-b-mumford-flag-desecrator/

Somehow, he and every other Southerner escaped execution for their treasonable design, which leaves William Bruce Mumford, the riverboat gambler who tore down Old Glory, as the only American since at least the War of 1812 to be put to death for treason against the United States.*

Side note:

* Anti-slavery rebel John Brown was hanged for treason in 1859, but it was treason against the state of Virginia — not against the U.S. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted for espionage, not treason.

There is a photo of Mumford at the link:
 

Specster

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In wartime, in a rebellious city under martial law, all things change. Mumford was used as an example, to demonstrate that unrest would not be tolerated. His crime was less destroying the flag than going about afterwards, with torn shreds of the flag in his lapel, bragging about what he did, and haranguing hostile mobs, encouraging them to resistance. He was arrogant and stupid, and he was hanged for it, ... and the mobs disappeared.

Butler's action was drastic, but legal under martial law. It was also effective. He had an utterly inadequate force with which to control a large and vehemently hostile population. He effectively did it with a single execution.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the people of New Orleans. Their city had been surrendered virtually without a fight, and the Confederate government had told them essentially that they were not worth fighting for. They were angry and humiliated and resentful -- they had not been defeated. They wanted, needed, to show their hostility to the occupation.

On the other hand, I can only admire the brilliance with which Butler carried out his assignment of securing and pacifying the south's second largest city. Ben Butler certainly had his faults, and there is much that can legitimately be said against him. But, he also had his virtues, genuine ones, and the city of New Orleans benefited greatly from his firm, efficient, humane, and almost bloodless administration.

Even as a life long resident of Massachusetts, I never had any love for Butler, yet, in this instance, he did the right thing. You cant have people of a conquored city disparaging Union soldiers....they were throwing chamber pots on Union soldiers by woman, who soldiers were not going to take revenge upon. He had the hanging coming - mess with the bull and you eventually get the horns.
 

John Hartwell

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Even as a life long resident of Massachusetts, I never had any love for Butler, yet, in this instance, he did the right thing. You cant have people of a conquored city disparaging Union soldiers....they were throwing chamber pots on Union soldiers by woman, who soldiers were not going to take revenge upon. He had the hanging coming - mess with the bull and you eventually get the horns.
And the women were promptly shut up by the "beastly" threat of ... public embarrassment.

New Orleans got very quiet very quickly.
 


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