Beast Butler in New Orleans

The Battleground Ground Louisiana series that I will be the facilitator for in Winnsboro, Louisiana, begins in Ferbruary. One of the books I’ll be using is When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans, written by Chester G. Hearn. General Butler is one of the most vilified individuals in the Civil War. He is known as a brazen opportunist, a bungling administrator, and a cruel despot. The Southern women of New Orleans particularly disliked him, and he and his Federal officers were met with insults, spit, and even dumped chamber pots from balcony windows. Women who played piano would only play rebel tunes when a Yankee passed their house. Butler was incensed, so he issued the infamous Order 28, which read:

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.

This decree only worsened the feelings of New Orleans women for him and his staff in occupied New Orleans. As Hearn correctly points out, in the South, nothing was more sacred than the honor of a woman. Photographs of Butler were distributed through the city and pasted to the bottom of tinkle-pots. You can see a photograph of one of these chamber pots here: http://www3.flickr.com/photos/deepfriedkudzu/sets/72057594060734949/.

Butler well deserved the nickname given him: Beast Butler.

1 thought on “Beast Butler in New Orleans

  1. “He is known as a brazen opportunist, a bungling administrator, and a cruel despot.”

    Im sure that Butler was not a southern gentlemen BUT he was also a remarkable progressive for his day, and known for a few other things as well.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Despite his pre-war allegiance as a Democrat, in Congress he was conspicuous as a Radical Republican in Reconstruction legislation, and wrote the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act. Along with Republican Senator Charles Sumner, he proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a seminal and far-reaching law banning racial discrimination in public accommodations.”

    Butler also championed the 8 hour workday, and women’s suffrage. Of course you can’t expect the good people south of the Mason Dixon to appreciate that in 2007, much New Orleans in the 1800’s.

Comments are closed.