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Chapter 24: New Orleans.

Although depressed by the loss of the victory virtually won by General Johnston at Shiloh, because “someone had blundered” after his death, the people were still far from being hopeless of final success. They knew that we were still masters of the river south of Fort Pillow, and they believed that we should be able still to retain the rich valley of the lower Mississippi.

But general disappointment and a temporary feeling of alarm suddenly arose from an event unexpected, and never hitherto feared: the fall of New Orleans, which had been regarded as strong enough to repel the attacking force. Such also had been the belief of General Lovell, the military commander there, as late as December 5, 1861. Chains were stretched across the approaches to New Orleans, and obstructions sunk in the river at the narrowest points; the forts had been all strengthened; but all these were passed. Our new ram, the Jlississzippi, was destroyed by our forces, and all the machinery and materiel [250] of war was lost, and the key to the Mississippi was in the enemy's hands.

The loss of New Orleans was a terrible disaster. But deeply as its capture was deplored by the Confederates, the spirit of the people did not become despondent, and a series of Confederate victories soon revived their most ardent hopes of achieving national independence.

General Butler was soon inaugurated as the autocratic ruler of the city.

His course in hanging Mumford upon the charge of hauling down the United States flag from the Mint, of which act he was innocent, and in issuing “Order no. 28,” excited strong resentment not only in the South, but in the North and abroad, but does not properly come within the scope of a biography of the President of the Confederacy. The moral effect of his infamous “Order no. 28” was great, and reconciled whomsoever might have differed from the policy of the Confederate leaders within our borders.1 [251]

Butler's government in New Orleans, and his assaults upon the helpless women and noncombatants, filled our army with horror and indignation.

Upon the receipt of a copy of this infamous order, President Davis issued his proclamation as follows:

After reciting that General Halleck had put General Lee off by delay, to avoid either avowal or disavowal of General Butler's cruel course in the execution of an innocent noncombatant, the President said:

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 only too conclusive that the said Government sanctions the conduct of said Butler, and is determined that he shall remain unpunished for his crimes;

Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President [252] 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 doorder that he be no longer 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 event of his capture, the officer in command of the capturing force do cause him to be immediately executed by hanging; and I do further order that no commissioned officer of the United States taken captive shall be released on parole before exchange 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 balls and chains attached to their limbs, and are still so held, in [253] dungeons and fortresses. Others have been subjected 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 by 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 had 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 the captured city by fines, levied and exacted under threat of imprisoning recusants at hard labor with ball and chain.

The entire population of the city of New Orleans have been forced to elect between starvation, by the confiscation of their property, and taking oath against conscience to [254] bear allegiance to the invaders of their country.

Egress from the city has been refused to those whose fortitude withstood the test, 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 till owners would consent to share the 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 guards of United States soldiers.

Where this 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 the owners and driven to wander helpless on the highway.

By a recent order (No. 91), the, entire property in that part of Louisiana lying west of the Mississippi River has been sequestrated for confiscation, and officers have been assigned [255] 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 the 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 directed to be enforced through the agency of civil officials. And, finally, the African slaves have not only been excited 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 in horrors the most merciless atrocities of the savages.

And whereas the officers under the 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; [256]

And whereas the President of the United States has, by public and official declaration, signified not only his approval of the effort to excite the 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 first day of January next, and has thus made known that all appeals to the laws 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 terms 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 repressing, 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 [257] 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 the 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 discharged.

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 laws of the said States.

Fourth. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States, when found serving in company with armed 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 this 23d [258] day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two.

Jefferson Davis.

In the House of Lords, on the T3th, Lord Carnarvon called attention to General Butler's proclamation relative to the ladies of New Orleans, and condemned it in severe terms as without precedent in the annals of war. He asked if the Government had information of its authenticity, and if it had protested against it. He also asked if there was any truth in the rumors of the mediation of France and England. The success of such mediation would depend greatly upon the manner in which, and the time when, it was offered, but he trusted the Government was in position to give the subject favorable consideration.

Earl Russell said that, from Lord Lyons's despatches, the Government believed the proclamation to be authentic, but with respect to any action of the United States Government, in the way of approval or disapproval, they had no information. Lord Lyons had made no representation to the American Government upon the subject, and he did not appear to have any information respecting the proclamation upon which he could do so. For his own part, he (Russell) hoped the American [259] Government would, for its own sake, refuse its sanction to and disapprove the proclamation. It was important to the whole world that the usages of war should not be aggravated by proclamations of this kind. He then gave the explanation of the treatment the proclamation referred to, but thought such proclamation, addressed to forces which had just captured a hostile town, was likely to lead to great brutality. He therefore thought this explanation was no defence for the proclamation, and sincerely hoped the American Government would disavow it.

With respect to the rumors of mediation, Earl Russell was glad the question had been put, for the rumors were likely to lead to much mischief. Her Majesty's Government had made no proposal to France, and the French Government had made no proposal to England; and therefore upon this subject there had been no communications of any kind between the two Governments. Without, however, giving any opinion as to the propriety of offering mediation at some future time, if circumstances should prove favorable, he must say that at the present time such mediation appeared to him to be the most inopportune. He conceived that in the embittered state of feeling in America, it would not only lead to no good, but would retard [260] the time for such offer being favorably made.

Mr. Hopwood asked if there was any truth in the mediation rumors.

Lord Palmerston said that no communication had been received from the French Government on the subject; and as to the British Government, they had no intention at present to offer mediation.


General Butler's order 28.

Head Quarters Department of Gulf, New Orleans, May 15, 1862.
As officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from women calling themselves ladies of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered hereafter, when any female shall, by mere gesture or movement, insult or show contempt for any officers or soldiers of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman about town plying her avocation.

By command of Major-General Butler. George C. Strong, A. A. G.

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