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Chapter 10: the woman order, Mumford's execution, etc.

  • Conduct of women of New Orleans toward Northern soldiers described
  • -- some examples -- Butler's personal experience -- Spitting in officers' faces -- “I'll put a stop to this” -- General order no. 28 comes out -- it does put a stop to it -- how it affected the wife-whippers of England -- Honi soit qui mal y pense -- reward offered for Butler's head -- the other side: the noble women of New Orleans -- trouble with “neutrals” and whipper-snapper consuls -- Assessing wealthy Confederates to support the poor -- Mumford tears down the stars and Stripes -- is arrested and sentenced to death -- Butler threatened with assassination -- the wife's appeal -- Mumford hanged -- eight years later -- Depredation harshly punished -- Butler's wonderful spy system -- a spy in every family -- negro servants tell all -- some amusing instances -- “I want that Confederate flag, Madam, for a Fourth of July celebration in Lowell

It must not be inferred that the several matters of which I treat at so much length followed one another in point of time. They were all going on at once, each pressing upon the other and each interfering with doing the other, and requiring the utmost industrious diligence. Crowding in upon us from the first moment of our occupation came a matter which at first seemed would be an annoyance only, but which speedily grew into an affair of most serious consequence, and one causing much discussion. This discussion was generally in the shape of animadversion, for the critics had not the slightest idea of the merits of the question at issue.

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. I may say here, and challenge contradiction, in behalf of my gallant comrades, that from the time we landed until the time I left New Orleans, no officer or soldier did any act to interfere with life, limb, or property of any person in New Orleans, unless acting under perfectly explicit orders so to do.

One result of our conduct was that any of us, from the highest to the lowest, went where he pleased without insult or hostile act by any man in New Orleans. Insomuch was this true that for myself, I walked or rode by day or by night through the streets of New Orleans anywhere I chose between Chalmette and Carrollton without any attendant or guard, or pretence of one, save a single orderly in attendance.

But not so with the women of New Orleans. On the evening of the third day after our occupation of the city, the colonel of the Thirty-First Massachusetts Regiment called upon me and said:-- [415]

“General, as I was walking down Canal Street, a young lad, of say ten years, in the presence of his mother, who is the wife of one of the first lawyers, rushed from her side and spit all over my uniform. What am I to do?”

“Nothing, Colonel; I think the matter will be easily remedied. Orderly, give my compliments to Mr. P. and tell him that I would like to see him.”

Mr. P. called on me. I had known him as a fellow-practitioner in the Supreme Court of the United States. I had never heard that he was in any way a violent secessionist, but I had heard that his wife was exceedingly interested on the side of the rebels, and had been ordered out of Washington by the Secretary of War for some treasonable acts. I said to him:--

“I want to say to you that one of my officers has complained to me that, this afternoon your son, a boy old enough to know better, came from his mother's side and spit over this officer's uniform as he was passing by. Of course that cannot be permitted; but, as it was the act of a boy and perhaps of a boy not realizing what he was doing, I have sent for you to say that I shall leave the correction of that act to you.”

Pretty soon, complaints of treatment from women of all states and conditions and degrees in life came pouring in upon me. When a soldier or an officer was passing along quietly on the sidewalk (these acts seemed rather the more venomous towards the officers) a woman coming the opposite way would turn out in the carriage way, take great pains to hold her skirts aside as if she feared they might be contaminated if they touched the soldier, and accompany this act with every possible gesture of contempt and abhorrence. On one occasion, a woman, when about to pass two officers on the sidewalk, flung herself off the sidewalk just before she got to them, and so impetuously that she threw herself down in the gutter. The two officers immediately proceeded to do what was their duty,--to help her up. She refused their assistance, and said that she would rather lie there in the gutter than be helped up by Yankees. She lived to repent of it afterwards, and to tell the story in the presence of many Yankees. Again, an officer would get into a street car where there were two or three women perhaps in the other end of the car, and they would immediately jump from the car with every sign of disgust, abhorrence, and aversion. [416]

There were five or six women leaning over a balcony on one occasion when I was riding along quite near it, with one officer only between me and the balcony. I was face to the front, and of course people turned out to see me more or less as I went through the streets. Just as we were passing the balcony, with something between a shriek and a sneer, the women all whirled around back to with a flirt which threw out their skirts in a regular circle like the pirouette of a dancer. I turned. around to my aid, saying in full

Women of New Orleans insulting Federal officers.

voice: “Those women evidently know which end of them looks the best.” That closed that exhibition.

The question pressed upon me: How is this course of conduct to be changed? How is this to be stopped? We have a very few troops in the midst of a hostile population of many thousands, including more than twice our number of paroled Confederate soldiers. Many of these women who do this are young, and many are [417] pretty and interesting, and some have a lady-like appearance. Now, I know that a police officer in Boston can hardly arrest a drunken woman in the street without causing a very considerable excitement and commotion, which very quickly expands into something like a riot if she appeals for help and has a prepossessing appearance. Some of these women desire to exhibit what they call their patriotism, and there are many of them who would be very happy to be arrested for any insult put upon a Yankee officer or soldier and have it so published. Much more will be the danger of riot if Yankee soldiers arrest the women of New Orleans on the streets for the acts which these women think proper to do as their part in carrying on the war. 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.

I waited sometime in the hope that this epidemic among the women would die out. But it did not; it increased. At last, on one Saturday, Flag-Officer Farragut had been invited ashore by Colonel Deming, who was in command of the troops in the city, to take dinner with him and his friends, in compliment of Farragut's great achievements. Colonel Deming went to the levee to meet the flag-officer when he landed, and they walked up arm in arm in full uniform. While going along one of the principal streets, 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.”

A city could hardly be said to be under good government where such things were permitted or attempted by any class of its inhabitants.

On the next day, the Sabbath, one of my officers dressed himself in full uniform, took his prayer-book in his hand, and was on the way to the church to attend divine service. As he was walking quietly along he met two very well dressed and respectable looking women, and, as a gentleman should, he withdrew to the outer side of the sidewalk to let them pass by. As he did so, one deliberately stepped across in front of the other and spit in his face.

Now, what could he do? Anything but take his kerchief and clean his face? I never heard but one other suggestion, and this was made by one of his fellow staff, who said: “Why didn't you do something?” [418] “What could I do, Davis, to two women?” “Well,” said Davis, “you ought to have taken your revolver and shot the first he rebel you met.”

But, to be serious, the colonel said to me: “General, I can't stand this. This isn't the first time this thing has been attempted towards me, but this is the first time it has been accomplished. I want to go home. I came here to fight enemies of the country, not to be insulted and disgusted.”

“Oh,” I said, “you can't resign. I'll put a stop to this.”

“I don't think you can do it, General,” was the reply.

I took it into very serious consideration. After careful thought and deliberation as to the best method of meeting this unique but dangerous entanglement, and running over in my mind a form for the order, I remembered that for the purpose of revision of city ordinances, I had once read an old English ordinance, which I thought, with a few changes, mutatis mutandis, might accomplish the purpose. There was one thing certain about it; it must be an order that would execute itself, otherwise it would stir up more strife in its execution by the police than it would quell. Therefore, after full consideration, I handed to my chief of staff, to be put upon the order books, the following order:--

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, May 15, 1862.
General Order No. 28.

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 he treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.

By command of

Major-General Butler. Geo. C. Strong, A. A. G., Chief of Staff.

Strong said, after he read it: “This order may be misunderstood, General. It would be a great scandal if only one man should act upon it in the wrong way.”

“Let us, then,” was the reply, “have one case of aggression on our side. I shall know how to deal with that case, so that it will [419] 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.”

My troops were New England soldiers, and consequently men well bred in every courtesy toward women, for a well behaved woman can safely travel alone all through New England. I did not fear that any one of them would conduct himself in such a way that he could not look me in the face and tell me of it if I asked him. I was not afraid on that score. I was only afraid the order would not be understood by the women.

There was no case of aggression after that order was issued, no case of insult by word or look against our officers or soldiers while in New Orleans.

The order executed itself.

No arrests were ever made under it or because of it. All the ladies in New Orleans forebore to insult our troops because they didn't want to be deemed common women, and all the common women forebore to insult our troops because they wanted to be deemed ladies, and of those two classes were all the women secessionists of the city.

The order was, as it was intended to be, self-executing. And now, after all these years, I challenge the production of any authentic evidence that the order was not a message of good to the good, and of fear to the bad who required it. I do not believe any man of ordinary sense, of clear judgment, ever did misunderstand it or misinterpret how the order intended that such women should be dealt with, or that it was the slightest suggestion that she be dealt with in any other way than being put in the hands of the police.1 [420]

It was read by Beauregard to his army at Corinth, to inflame the Southern heart; but 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 It was post hoc if not propter hoc. He was taken sick, resigned his command, and went to Bladon Springs to recover.

Palmerston, however, got up in Parliament and denounced the order as unfit to be written in the English language. The only possible objectionable phrase in it was part of an ordinance of the city of London, from which I adapted it. Palmerston's indignation even went so far, and the women-beaters and wife-whippers of England were so shocked, that they called upon their government to represent their condemnation of the order to our State Department. When their minister here brought it to the attention of our Secretary of State, Mr. Seward answered him in that easy and perfect manner with which he could turn away an application without leaving an opportunity for the interlocutor to gather offence. I quote from Seward's “Life,” p. 139:--

Mr. Stewart, in a very courteous manner, verbally expressed to me the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, that General Butler's order concerning the females of New Orleans who gave offence to the Union soldiers was an improper one, in respect to the expressions employed in it.

I answered him that we must ask his government, in reading that proclamation, to adopt a rule of construction which the British nation had elevated to the dignity of a principle and made the motto of their national arms--Honi soit qui mal y pense. [Evil to him who evil thinks.]

I perhaps might have said the same thing as Mr. Seward, but the difference between him and me would have been that I should probably have added,--“especially when a king was establishing the ‘Order of the Garter’ as an emblem of good conduct.”

Palmerston said my government would revoke the order when it heard it. It did not hear of anything else for many weeks, but the order was never revoked, but, on the contrary, the government gave my administration its highest sanction. The President did not confer on me, however, the “Order of the Garter.” [421]

On account of that order a reward of ten thousand dollars was offered for my head; and a gentle, soft-hearted little Southern lady published that she wanted to subscribe her mite to make the reward sixty thousand dollars, so that my head would be sure to be taken.

My critic, in writing “Lincoln, a history,” deems that the order was well enough itself, “but indefensible as a matter of taste.” Indeed, I had hoped that I had distinguished myself in one thing, if no more, and that is that I did not carry on war with rose-water,--a pleasant thing to do, but I did not do it. That is enough to say, as he and myself differ upon another question of taste, to which I have already adverted. These women, she-adders, more venomous than he-adders, were the insulting enemies of my army and my country, and were so treated.

I have given too much space to the necessary contact I had with bad women and their adventures. But I take a little space to show that I was capable, although denominated a beast and outlaw, of dealing with the good, charitable, and religious women in a manner worthy of myself and my government. The following letter will explain itself:--

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, Sept. 2, 1862.
Madame:--I had no information until the reception of your note, that so sad a result to the sisters of your society had happened from the bombardment of Donaldsonville.

I am very, very sorry that Rear-Admiral Farragut was unaware that he was injuring your establishment by his shells. Any injury must have been entirely accidental. The destruction of that town became a necessity. The inhabitants harbored a gang of cowardly guerillas, who committed every atrocity; amongst others, that of firing upon an unarmed boat crowded with women and children, going up the coast, returning to their homes, many of them having been at school at New Orleans.

It is impossible to allow such acts; and I am only sorry that the righteous punishment meted out to them in this instance, as indeed in all others, fell quite as heavily upon the innocent and unoffending as upon the guilty.

No one can appreciate more fully than myself the holy, self-sacrificing labors of the sisters of charity. To them our soldiers are daily indebted for the kindest offices. Sisters of all mankind, they know no nation, no [422] kindred, neither war nor peace. Their all-pervading charity is like the boundless love of “Him who died for all,” whose servants they are, and whose pure teachings their love illustrates.

I repeat the expression of my grief, that any harm should have befallen your society of sisters; and I cheerfully repair it, as far as I may, in the manner you suggest, by filling the order you have sent to the city for provisions and medicines.

Your sisters in the city will also farther testify to you, that my officers and soldiers have never failed to do to them all in their power to aid them in their usefulness, and to lighten the burden of their labors.

With sentiments of the highest respect, believe me, your friend,

Benjamin F. Butler. Santa Maria Clara, Superior and Sister of Charity.

I had learned to reverence these good and devoted women, and after the war, when I had served with them in the field and learned more of their good offices to the soldier, I came to know fully their value and their devotion to their Christian duty, of which I take leave now to speak as I have heretofore spoken in another place:--

They were found in every hospital doing battle against disease and misery, in obedience to the commands of their Master, who said: “As ye do unto the least of these, so also ye do unto me.” Delicately nurtured holy women, they passed unharmed through every camp, scattering blessings in their path, looking for their reward in doing His work and adding to His glory. Oh, it was wonderful to see strong men become as little children in their hands, and put off the rough manners, and throw aside the rougher and harsher language of the camp, when these women came near! They brought to the bedside of the wounded and dying soldier at once the thought of home, the ministrations of religion, and such consolation as would seem only could come from the hand of the great Saviour of mankind.

Many a mother, many a sister, many a wife, owe to their assiduous care a son, a brother, a husband, restored to them alive, who would otherwise have filled one of the unknown graves that dot the hills of Virginia, the plains of Georgia and Tennessee, and the swamps of Louisiana and Mississippi. These brave soldiers of the cross knew no creed, recognized no nationality. Their services were given, like those of their Master, to the human-kind. Was the sufferer before them a private soldier or a commanding general, to them there was no difference. Confederate or Federal, he was their brother.


Let us turn from this to another case where I felt obliged to reverence the motives and to yield to the entreaties of a lady of New Orleans, Mrs. Cora Slocomb.

A word of the history of this lady may not be impertinent. She was the widow of a very wealthy iron merchant before the war. The course of trade brought him indebted in a very considerable amount to a Northern firm of iron manufacturers. One of the first acts of the Confederate Congress was to confiscate all debts due Northern people and to order them to be paid into the Confederate treasury for the purpose of carrying on the war.

Mrs. Slocomb was a leader in the best society of New Orleans. She had undertaken to close out the business of her deceased husband. She was a very full and fervent believer in the right and justice of secession. She equipped from her private purse the crack artillery company of New Orleans, the Washington Artillery, and sent it to the war, one of her sons being an officer, and a son-in-law, Captain Urquhart, also holding a commission in that organization. She had subscribed very liberally in aid of the rebellion, and she was upon my information very much looked up to by those engaged in carrying it on.

Before the city was taken, a summons was served upon Mrs. Slocomb by a rebel court to show cause why she should not pay into the treasury of the Confederacy the amount of the debt due the Northern creditors of her deceased husband. She answered the summons in person, and declared that her husband's estate owed that debt to the Northern firm who had credited him with it, and that she must pay it where it belonged and could not pay it in any other manner. The Confederate authorities brought upon her some pretty harsh pressure to change her determination. She said: “You may do with me what you please, but I will not disobey the dictates of justice and conscience.” And she did not. On the contrary, she bought a quantity of cotton, which, if sold at the price paid for it, would more than have cancelled the debt and freight, and put it on board the schooner John Gilpin, and tried to send it North consigned to the creditors of her husband's estate. The Gilpin, however, was stayed by the Confederate authorities until after we took possession of New Orleans. Mrs. Slocomb and her daughter called upon me for a safe conduct to [424] allow them to go to their country house in North Carolina, stating that they could not take the oath of allegiance to the United States; that at first they had desired the preservation of the Union; that all their male friends and connections were in the Confederate army, and one of them had lost a son and the other a brother in that service; and that they were now unalterably devoted to the cause which they deemed just.

I said to them that if they would consent that their house should go into the service of the United States, and be occupied as my personal headquarters, that would furnish a reason for an exception in their case.

Mrs. Slocomb, her eyes flowing with tears, said that her house was endeared to her by a thousand tender associations and was now dearer to her than ever; she did not see how she could give it up. I said I should be glad to do anything which would be a favor to ladies who, while they were enemies of their country, were so frank, so truthful, and so devoted, but I desired to find a ground for an exception to my rule, and therefore suggested the matter of the house; and although I had power to take it without their permission, it should not be occupied unless the city was ravaged with yellow fever, in which case I might be obliged to take every house suitable for hospital purposes; but if I could find ally other reason for an exception to my prohibiting passes to any who refused to take the oath I would do it. A day or two after, I wrote to the ladies:--

I have the pleasure to inform you, that my necessities, which caused the request for permission to use your house during your absence this summer, have been relieved. I have taken the house of General Twiggs, late of the United States army, for quarters. Inclined never on slight causes to use the power intrusted to me to grieve even sentiments only entitled to respect from the courage and ladylike propriety of manner in which they were avowed, it is gratifying to be enabled to yield to the appeal you made for favor and protection by the United States. Yours shall be the solitary exception to the general rule adopted, that they who ask protection must take upon themselves corresponding obligations or do an equal favor to the government. I have an aged mother at home, who, like you, might request the inviolability of hearthstone and roof-tree from the presence of a stranger. For her sake you shall have the pass you ask, which is sent herewith. As I did myself the honor to say personally, [425] you may leave the city with no fear that your house will be interfered with by any exercise of military right; but will be safe under the laws of the United States. Trusting that the inexorable logic of events will convict you of wrong toward your country, when all else has failed, I remain, etc.

Mrs. Slocomb acknowledged the favor:--

Permit me to return my sincere thanks for the special permit to leave, which you have so kindly granted to myself and family, as also for the protection promised to my property. Knowing that we have no claim for any exception in our favor, this generous act calls loudly upon our grateful hearts; and hereafter, while praying earnestly for the cause we love so much, we shall never forget the liberality with which our request has been granted by one whose power here reminds us painfully that our enemies are more magnanimous than our citizens are brave.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

I may without offence give other transactions: Soon after landing in the city I proposed to furnish my officers with the houses of the officers of the Confederate service, for their use as quarters, and I ordered therefore the seizure of those houses. A staff officer reported to me that he had seized the residence of General Beauregard, finding his wife and I think a sister alone occupying it. I was not acquainted with the general or his family, but I directed the house to be released, and to prevent intrusion upon the family, I put a sentinel at the door for a short time until matters got settled.

It also happened that when I issued an order to confiscate all the money of the Confederate officers and of the Confederacy in the New Orleans banks, among the returns was the sum of five hundred dollars in the Louisiana Bank left by General Beauregard as a deposit for the use of his family. This I allowed to remain at their disposal. That is, I tried to do, not as I was done by, but as I would be.

Order No. 55, levying assessments upon the subscribers to the “city defence fund,” was to relieve the poor of the city. I found it necessary as a part of that relief to subscribe in support of the hospitals. In the case of the St. Elizabeth Hospital I subscribed five [426] thousand dollars in money and provisions, and I subscribed from my own private funds five hundred dollars and the same amount in provisions.

I gave an order that the Charity Hospital, which was an institution carried on by a board of trustees, should have five thousand dollars a month for its support besides issuing an order forbidding the trustees to resign their trust and abandon it.

I was feeding the poor whites of New Orleans at a cost of fifty thousand dollars a month, and the negroes at a cost which I never knew, because they received their provisions from the supplies of the soldiers.

It was impossible for me to get a request to my government and an answer back in less than thirty days, and usually a much longer time was required, so that I had no control attempted over me, except in the matter of my treatment of “foreign rebels.” By these I mean men who had come here and enjoyed all our privileges and asked the protection of our government, and owed to it local allegiance,--that is, to do nothing against it while within its borders,--and yet while attacking it in every way were always claiming they should be let alone because they were neutral.

Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, was in distress whenever I did anything that caused a little whipper-snapper emissary from some government in Europe to complain of my just treatment of a man who claimed to be a consul, and this caused perpetual interference and annoyance. Otherwise I was supreme. Having supreme power, I used it in the manner I have set forth.

The poor had to be fed, the streets had to be cleaned, the protection from yellow fever had to be made sure, and able-bodied, idle men had to have employment to keep them from mischief and maintain their families. There was power enough to do all this, but in what manner could it be paid?

To do these things required much money. True, the troops might be ordered to do the labor, and the money furnished by the United States for other necessary purposes might be diverted to that use. There was no appropriation upon which a requisition could be properly answered by the government at Washington from which to take it out of the taxes of the North. But nothing was further from my thoughts than either of these expedients. An attempt had been [427]

Custom-House, New Orleans, before War. From a sketch.

[428] [429] made by me to call upon the city at least to clean the streets and pay therefor from the taxes, but that resource had been futile because the taxes could not be collected. And besides, when my order was published in that regard saying that the laborers should be paid a dollar a day, the city council, then in session,--but very soon after put out because of an invitation by it for the French fleet to come to New Orleans,--passed a resolution declaring that “when the city had had control of its affairs it paid one dollar and a half a day to its laborers; but since the United States had taken charge of the city, it proposed to pay only a dollar a day.” To which I answered that in administering the affairs of the city, to be paid for by its tax, I thought I ought to be economical; but as that was to be paid for by taxation of the city, and the city government wanted to pay fifty cents more, I would raise the price to one dollar and fifty cents, although plenty of good labor had been employed at a dollar a day. I believe that was my last communication made to the city government with the expectation that they would do anything.

I had the documents to show me that not long before we came, there had been a “city defence fund” committee organized to receive subscriptions and issue bonds to the amount of a million dollars to the subscribers to that fund, which bonds were to bear quite a rate of interest. These subscriptions had been paid.

A large portion of them were those of rich foreign-born men, some of whom had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States, but almost all of whom had taken the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. And there was another class of citizens, cotton planters, who had issued a paper advising that no cotton should be brought to the city as a matter of merchandise.

I assumed that I should need for my expenditure a sum between $500,000 and $700,000, and I ordered that an assessment equal to one half of the subscriptions to the “fund,” and a sum equal to one hundred dollars for each of the offenders of the other class should be paid to my financial agent forthwith, with which to pay for this work that had been and was being done. I held that these men had made the expenditure necessary and therefore these men should pay for it. That order, it is needless to say, was enforced, and it is also needless to say, was the cause of protests of the foreign consuls in [430] behalf of “neutral” forsworn rebels. I do not know now that I can put the whole matter of this highly beneficial order, its cause, execution, and results, in better form than that in which I explained it to the Secretary of War officially in answer to those protests, on the application of the Secretary of State:--

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, October, 1862.
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
Sir:--I have the honor to report the facts and circumstances of my General Order No. 55, in answer to the complaints of the Prussian and French legations, as to the enforcement of that order upon certain inhabitants of New Orleans, claimed to be the subjects of these respective governments.

Before discussing the specialty and personal relations of the several complaints, it will be necessary, in a general way, to give an account of the state of things which I found had existed, and was then existing at New Orleans upon its capture by the federal troops, to show the status of the several classes upon which General Order No. 55 takes effect.

In October, 1861, about the time Mason and Slidell left the city upon their mission to Europe, to obtain the intervention of foreign powers, great hopes were entertained by the rebels, that the European governments would be induced to interfere from want of a supply of cotton. This supply was being had, to a degree, through the agency of the small vessels shooting out by the numerous bayous, lagoons, and creeks, with which the southern part of Louisiana is penetrated. They eluded the blockade, and conveyed very considerable amounts of cotton to Havana and other foreign ports, where arms and munitions of war were largely imported through the same channels in exchange. Indeed, as I have before had the honor to inform the Department of State, it was made a condition of the very passes given by Governor Moore, that a quantity of arms and powder should be returned in proportion to the cotton shipped.

The very high price of the outward as well as the inward cargoes, made these ventures profitable, although but one in three got through with safety.

Nor does the fact that so considerable quantities of cotton escaped the blockading force at all impugn the efficiency of the blockading squadron, when it is taken into consideration, that without using either of the principal water communications with the city through the “Rigolets” or the “passes” at the Delta of the river, there are at least fifty-three distinct [431] outlets to the Gulf from New Orleans by water communication, by light-draught vessels. Of course, not a pound of the cotton that went through these channels found its way north, unless it was purchased at a foreign port. To prevent even this supply of the European manufactures became an object of the greatest interest to the rebels, and prior to October, 1861, all the principal cotton factors of New Orleans, to the number of about a hundred, united in an address, signed with their names, to the planters, advising them not to send their cotton to New Orleans, for the avowed reason that if it was sent, the cotton would find its way to foreign ports, and furnish the interest “of Europe and the United States with the product of which they are most in need, . . . and thus contribute to the maintenance to that quasi neutrality, which European nations have thought proper to avow.”

“This address proving ineffectual to maintain the policy we had determined upon, and which not only received the sanction of public opinion here, but which has been so promptly and cheerfully followed by the planters and factors of the other States of the Confederacy,” the same cotton factors made a petition to Governor Moore and General Twiggs to “devise means to prevent any shipment of cotton to New Orleans whatever.”

For answer to this petition, Governor Moore issued a proclamation forbidding the bringing of cotton within the limits of the city, under the penalties therein prescribed.

This action was concurred in by General Twiggs, then in command of the Confederate forces, and enforced by newspaper articles, published in the leading journals.

This was one of the series of offensive measures which were undertaken by the mercantile community of New Orleans, of which a large portion were foreigners, and of which the complaint of Order No. 55 formed a part, in aid of the rebellion.

The only cotton allowed to be shipped during the autumn and winter of 1861 and 1862, was by permits of Governor Moore, granted upon the express condition, that at least one-half in value should be returned in arms and munitions of war. In this traffic, almost the entire mercantile houses of New Orleans were engaged. Joint-stock companies were formed, shares issued, vessels bought, cargoes shipped, arms returned, immense profits realized; and the speculation and trading energy of the whole community was turned in this direction. It will be borne in mind that quite two thirds of the trading community were foreign born, and now claim exemption from all duties as citizens, and exemption from liabilities for all their acts, because of being foreign “neutrals.” [432]

When the expedition which I had the high honor to be intrusted to; command, landed at Ship Island, and seemed to threaten New Orleans, the most energetic efforts were made by the State and Confederate authorities for the defence of the city. Nearly the entire foreign population of the city enrolled itself in companies, battalions, and brigades, representing different nationalities.

They were armed, uniformed, and equipped, drilled and manoeuvred, and reported for service to the Confederate generals. Many of the foreign officers took the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States. The brigadier-general in command of the European Brigade, Paul Juge, Fils, a naturalized citizen of the United States, but born in France, renounced his citizenship, and applied to the French government to be restored to his former citizenship as a native of France, at the very time he held the command of this foreign legion.

The Prussian consul, now General Reichard, of the Confederate army, of whom we shall have more to say in the course of this report, raised a battalion of his countrymen, and went to Virginia, where he has been promoted for his gallantry, in the rebel service, leaving his commercial partner, Mr. Kruttschnidt, now acting Prussian consul, who has married the sister of the rebel secretary of war, to embarrass as much as possible the United States officers here, by subscriptions to “city defence fund,” and groundless complaints to the Prussian minister.

I have thus endeavored to give a faithful and exact account of the state of the foreign population of New Orleans, on the 15th day of February, 1862.

In October, 1861, the city had voted to erect a battery out of this “defence fund.” On the 19th of February, 1862, the city council, by vote published and commented upon in the newspapers, placed in the hands of the Confederate General Lovell, fifty thousand dollars, to be expended by him in the defences of the city.

It will, therefore, clearly appear that all the inhabitants of the city knew that the city council was raising and expending large sums for war purposes.

On the 20th of the same February, the city council raised an extraordinary “Committee of public safety,” from the body of the inhabitants at large, consisting of sixty members, for the “purpose of co-operating with the Confederate and State authorities in devising means for the defence of the city and its approaches.”

On the 27th of the same February, the city council adopted a series of resolutions:-- [433]

1st. Recommending the issue of one million dollars of city bonds, for the purpose of purchasing arms and munitions of war, and to provide for the successful defence of the city and its approaches.

2d. To appropriate twenty-five thousand dollars for the purpose of uniforming and equipping soldiers mustered into the service of the country.

3d. Pledging the council to support the families of all soldiers who shall volunteer for the war.

On the 3d of March, 1862, the city council authorized the mayor to issue the bonds of the city for a million dollars; and provided that the chairman of the finance committee might “pay over the said bonds to the Committee of Public Safety, appointed by the common council of the city of New Orleans, as per resolution No. 8,930, approved 20th of February, 1862, in such sums as they may require for the purchase of arms and munitions of war, provisions, or to provide any means for the successful defence of the city and its approaches.”

And, at the same time, authorized the chairman of the finance committee “to pay over $25,000 to troops mustered into the State service, who should go to the fight at Columbus or elsewhere, under General Beauregard.”

It was to this fund, in the hands of this extraordinary committee, so published with its objects and purposes, that the complainants subscribed their money, and now claim exemption upon the ground of neutrality, and want of knowledge of the purposes of the fund.

It will be remembered that all the steps of the raising of the committee to dispose of this fund were published, and were matters of great public notoriety. The fact that the bonds were in the hands of such an extraordinary committee, should have put every prudent person on his guard.

All the leading secessionists of the city were subscribers to the same fund.

Will it be pretended for a moment that these persons — bankers, merchants, brokers, who are making this complaint,--did not know what this fund was, and its purposes, to which they were subscribing by thousands of dollars?

Did Mr. Rochereau, for instance, who had taken an oath to support the Confederate States, a banker, and then a colonel commanding a body of troops in the service of the Confederates, never hear for what purpose the city was raising a million and a quarter in bonds?

Take the Prussian consul, who complains for himself and the Mrs. Vogel whom he represents, as an example. Did he know about this fund? He, a trader, a Jew, famed for a bargain, who had married the sister of the [434] rebel secretary of war, the partner of General Reichard, late Prussian consul, then in command in the Confederate army, who subscribed for himself, his partner and Mrs. Vogel, the wife of his former partner, thirty thousand dollars--did he not know what he was doing, when he bought these bonds of this Committee of public safety ?

On the contrary, it was done to aid the rebellion to which he was bound by his sympathies, his social relations, his business connections and marriage ties. But it is said that this subscription is made to the fund for the sake of the investment. It will appear, however, by a careful examination, that Mr. Kruttschnidt collected for his principal a note, secured by mortgage, in anticipation of its being due, in order to purchase twenty-five thousand dollars of this loan. Without, however, descending into particulars, is the profitableness of the investment to be permitted to be alleged as a sufficient apology for aiding the rebellion by money and arms? If so, all their army contractors, principally Jews, should be held blameless, for they have made immense fortunes by the war. Indeed, I suppose another Jew--one Judas — thought his investment in the thirty pieces of silver was a profitable one, until the penalty of treachery reached him.

When I took possession of New Orleans, I found the city nearly on the verge of starvation, but thirty days provision in it, and the poor utterly without the means of procuring what food there was to be had.

I endeavored to aid the city government in the work of feeding the poor; but I soon found that the very distribution of food was a means faithlessly used to encourage the Rebellion. I was obliged, therefore, to take the whole matter into my own hands. It became a subject of alarming importance and gravity. It became necessary to provide from some source the funds to procure the food. They could not be raised by city taxation, in the ordinary form. These taxes were in arrears to more than a million of dollars. Besides, it would be unjust to tax the loyal citizens and honestly neutral foreigners, to provide for a state of things brought about by the rebels and disloyal foreigners related to them by ties of blood, marriage, and social relation, who had conspired and labored together to overthrow the authority of the United States, and establish the very result which was to be met.

Farther, in order to have a contribution effective, it must be upon those who have wealth to answer it.

There seemed to me no such fit subjects for such taxation as the cotton brokers who had brought the distress upon the city, by thus paralyzing commerce, and the subscribers to this loan, who had money to invest for purposes of war, so advertised and known as above described. [435]

With these convictions, I issued General Order No. 55, which will explain itself, and have raised nearly the amount of the tax therein set forth.

But for what purpose? Not a dollar has gone in any way to the use of the United States. I am now employing one thousand poor laborers, as matter of charity, upon the streets and wharves of the city, from this fund. I am distributing food to preserve from starvation nine thousand seven hundred and seven families, containing thirty-two thousand four hundred and fifty souls, daily, and this done at an expense of seventy thousand dollars per month. I am sustaining, at an expense of two thousand dollars per month, five asylums for widows and orphans. I am aiding the Charity Hospital to the extent of five thousand dollars per month.

Before their excellencies, the French and Prussian ministers, complain of my exactions upon foreigners at New Orleans, I desire they would look at the documents, and consider for a few moments the facts and figures set forth in the returns and in this report. They will find that out of ten thousand four hundred and ninety families who have been fed from the fund, with the raising of which they find fault, less than one tenth (one thousand and ten) are Americans; nine thousand four hundred and eighty are foreigners. Of the thirty-two thousand souls, but three thousand are natives. Besides, the charity at the asylums and hospitals is distributed in about the same proportions as to foreign and native born so that of an expenditure of near eighty thousand dollars per month, to employ and feed the starving poor of New Orleans, seventy-two thousand go to the foreigners, whose compatriots loudly complain and offensively thrust forward their neutrality, whenever they are called upon to aid their suffering countrymen.

I should need no extraordinary taxation to feed the poor of New Orleans, if the bellies of the foreigners were as actively with the rebels, as are the heads of those who claim exemption, thus far, from this taxation, made and used for purposes above set forth, upon the ground of their neutrality; among whom I find Rochereau & Co., the senior partner of which firm took an oath of allegiance to support the constitution of the Confederate States.

I find also the house of Reichard & Co., the senior partner of which, General Reichard, is in the rebel army. I find the junior partner, Mr. Kruttschnidt, the brother-in-law of Benjamin, the rebel secretary of war, using all the funds in his hands to purchase arms, and collecting the securities of his correspondents before they are due, to get funds to loan to the rebel authorities, and now acting Prussian consul here, doing quite as effective service to the rebels as his partner in the field. I find Mme. Vogel, late partner in the same house of Reichard & Co., now absent, [436] whose funds are managed by that house. I find M. Paesher & Co., bankers, whose clerks and employees formed a part of the French legion, organized to fight the United States, and who contributed largely to arm and equip that corps. And a Mr. Lewis, whose antecedents I have not had time to investigate.

And these are fair specimens of the “neutrality” of the foreigners, for whom the government is called upon to interfere, to prevent their paying anything toward the relief fund for their starving countrymen.

If the representatives of the foreign governments will feed their own starving people, over whom the only protection they extend, so far as I see, is to tax them all, poor and rich, a dollar and a half each for certificates of nationality, I will release the foreigners from all exactions, fines, and imposts whatever.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

Benjamin F. Butler, Major-General Commanding.

The government sustained Order No. 55, and upon that being made known to the commanding general, on December 9, 1862, he issued the following order:--

New Orleans, December 9, 1862.
Under General Order No. 55, current series, from these headquarters, an assessment was made upon certain parties who had aided the rebellion, “to be appropriated to the relief of the starving poor of New Orleans.”

The calls upon the fund raised under that order have been frequent and urgent, and it is now exhausted.

But the poor of this city have the same or increased necessities for relief as then, and their calls must be heard; and it is both fit and proper that the parties responsible for the present state of affairs should have the burden of their support.

Therefore, the parties named in Schedules A and B, of General Order No. 55, as hereunto annexed, are assessed in like sums, and for the same purpose, and will make payment to D. C. G. Field, financial clerk, at his office, at these headquarters, on or before Monday, December 15, 1862.

I was relieved by General Banks six days after. As the time this assessment was to be paid was at the expiration of seven days, and I was relieved before that time, of course nobody paid the assessment according to the order. Within thirty days General Banks found himself under the necessity of renewing the order and [437] did so. But nobody paid the slightest attention to it and nobody paid anything afterwards on that order, and it stands to-day unrepealed, uncancelled, and unexecuted. But the necessities of the poor remained the same, and if they were relieved it must have been from some other source. But with that I have nothing to do.

It may be remembered that I recognized a man parading in the mob in front of the St. Charles Hotel, wearing in his buttonhole a fragment of the national flag, which had been torn down from the mint, and that I ordered measures to be taken for his identification. Soon afterward he was arrested, but before he could be brought to trial there was another cause for a military commission.

Six soldiers who were captured and paroled at Forts Jackson and St. Philip were confederating together to enlist a company to be known as the “Monroe guard,” Monroe being mayor of the city. This company, when fully organized, was to arm itself in the city and break through our lines and join Beauregard. These men, some of whom had been sergeants, were to be officers. This combination being brought to my notice, proper measures were taken to secure the prevention of its designs. The six instigators of it were brought before a military commission and tried for breach of parole, the punishment of which by military law is death. This was a very flagrant case of such breach, because they took advantage of the liberty obtained by parole to plot war against the United States. On the 31st day of May, in pursuance of the advice of the commission as to what disposition should be made of them, an order was issued for their execution by hanging.

Now, it was known in New Orleans that no capital execution had been had in the State of Louisiana for eighteen years, the sequence of which was that New Orleans had been the scene of the most unprovoked and unjustifiable murders which could well be imagined, with no punishment therefor. One had taken place on the day of my landing there. A German citizen on the levee shouted out: “Hurrah for the old flag.” He was immediately shot, seized and thrown into the river. I made many exertions to find out who did it, but was not able to do so.

I had some misgivings when I gave orders for the punishment of these six men whether they had understood fully how great was their crime. Indeed, one of them said in his defence: “Paroling is [438] for officers and gentlemen; we are not gentlemen.” That they were guilty enough of bad acts toward the government, I did not doubt, but I questioned whether they were guilty of the precise act for which the sentence was invoked, for want of knowledge which caused that guilt.

Immediately the cry went out that I would not dare to hang them. That of course I took no notice of. Their lives were very earnestly and eloquently besought by three good Union men whom I knew. They presented a petition for this purpose, signed by many of the known Union citizens in the place. I gave the matter the most serious attention, for it was the first time that the life of a man had depended on my single order, and I was anxious to escape the responsibility for their death if I might properly do so. Upon their representation and upon the representations made to me that it would be regarded as an act of pacification, shortly before the date fixed for the execution of the order, I respited the prisoners to hard labor for a long term. That was done on the 4th day of June.

Meanwhile Mumford, who had torn down the flag, had been put on trial for that crime. His offence had been a most heinous one, and the dire results that might have arisen from it seemed almost providentially to have been averted.

After the military had fled, the mayor of New Orleans informed Farragut,--I say Farragut, for now it is no honor to him to be given a title,--that as the civil authority of the city he could not surrender the United States mint. Farragut then ordered the United States flag to be placed on the government buildings as a token of the surrender of the city, and had it placed there amidst the insults poured upon his officers and men charged with that duty. The authorities were warned that as long as the flag waved there it would be understood that the city had surrendered. Whenever it should be taken down, that act would be a signal that the city had resumed hostilities and would be followed by the threatened bombardment.

Farragut did not place a guard on the top of the mint for the reason that any altercation or interference with the guard might afford an excuse for somebody to haul down the flag. But he placed howitzers in the main-tops of his ship, the Hartford, with guns' crews to watch the flag. These men were instructed that if any persons [439] were seen to interfere with it or take it down, to open fire upon them with the howitzers. This would be a signal for the Hartford to open fire upon the city, which would be followed by a fire along the line of the whole fleet, which lay broadside on.

On Sunday morning, Farragut called his officers and crew below in religious service to give thanks to the Almighty for His preservation of them in the great dangers and perils to which they had been exposed. The services were solemnly going on under his direction, when the guns from the main-tops bearing on the flag were discharged. Instantly everybody ran on deck and went to his post. Every gun was manned and the lanyards of the locks of some of them were pulled. But a wonderful happening had taken place. The careful ordnance officer, before he went down, cast his eye upon the heavens and saw portents of rain. He therefore went around the battery, took out; of the vents all the wafers by which the guns were fired, and placed them in a receptacle where they would be kept dry. Consequently no gun answered fire when the lanyards were pulled. Seeing that those who had taken the flag down had run away and that there was no movement of anybody, Farragut paused, and so the city was saved from bombardment.

Farragut sent his boat ashore to ascertain why the flag had been taken down and was informed that it was done by some person wholly unauthorized. A party headed by Mumford had torn down the flag, dragged it through the streets and spit on it, and trampled on it until it was torn to pieces. It was then distributed among the rabble, and each one thought it a high honor to get a piece of it and wear it.

It has been said that I had no right to take any notice of this act because it was done before I got there. But it was the flag of the United States, and it had been placed there by Farragut after he took possession of the city. Upon that point I never had any controversy.

Although he had been clearly convicted of this offense against the laws of war and his country, yet it was not believed by the rebels that Mumford would be executed. He was at the head of the gamblers of New Orleans, and was a man of considerable education, some property, and much influence with the lower class. It was said that Butler would never dare hang him, and when the parole [440] offenders had been respited on the 4th of June, and Special Order No. 10 was issued on the 5th of June commanding that Mumford be executed on the 7th of June between 6 A. M. and 12 M., the order was received by the populace almost with derision.

No good man petitioned for his release, but the bad men, the blacklegs and blackguards, assembled in large numbers and voted that he should not be executed, and that if he was executed Butler should die the death by any and every possible means. They thought some of selecting a committee to so notify me, but upon consideration it was found that it was not a popular committee upon which to serve, and it was not done But it was agreed that I should be notified by anonymous letters, and accordingly they sent me forty or fifty the next morning, in almost every language and every degree of literature, accompanied by illustrations of pistols and coffins and cross-bones and skulls, to intimidate me.

Indeed, their performances frightened one man besides myself. He was my secret service man, who had attended the meeting and made a speech in behalf of my being shot. He was rather unmerciful. He returned from the gathering about ten o'clock at night, and told me what had taken place and said that I was in the utmost danger if I had Mumford executed. I told him that was where we differed; I thought I should be in the utmost danger if I did not have him executed, for the question was now to be determined whether I commanded that city or whether the mob commanded it.

“Why, General,” said he, “I know how much more virulent and determined they are than you think them. I must ask you to do one thing for me if you mean to hang Mumford; give me what money I ought to have, and give me an order so that I may go away at once before the execution. For should it be found out that I had been in your service at any time, whether you were alive or dead, my life would not be safe a minute, and I want to go north.”

I said, “Very well,” and paid him and gave him an order on his captain to send him north by the first vessel, as if he were sent away. I frankly admit that I was frightened myself. I was sensible that I should be subjected probably to every kind of machination and intrigue for my death if I did my duty. I gave more attention that night to the question of Mumford's execution than I did to sleep, but I came to a conclusion satisfactory to my own mind. [441]

On the afternoon of the next day I got a note saying that Mrs. Mumford and her children wished me to see them. I stepped into the parlor and told the orderly to bring them in and close the door and to see that I was not disturbed until I called for him. Mrs. Mumford in a proper way began to intercede for her husband and the father of her children. She wept bitterly, as did the children, who fell about my knees, adding all those moving acts which perhaps they had been instructed to say and do, or which perhaps naturally came to them. I was obliged to answer their mother that I wished it could be permitted to my sense of duty to reprieve her husband, but that it could not be. I told her that I had given it every thought and had considered it in every aspect; that while this scene was very painful to me, yet it could not alter my determination; that I was very sorry at the great affliction that was to come to her and her children, and that if in the future I could in any way alleviate that harm, she would not find, I hoped, as obdurate an ear as I was obliged to give her now.

“I hear Mumford believes he will not be executed,” I said, “and I am told he is making no preparations for his death. Now, I think the greatest kindness you can do him is to let me ring for my carriage and send you to the jail. I will give an order for your admission to his room, or that you and your family may meet him in any room in the jail that will be most convenient for you. I wish you to convince him that he is mistaken and that he will be executed. Whether I live or die he will die; and let him in the few hours he has to live look to his God for pardon.”

I called the orderly, reached the order for their admission to the lieutenant of the guard, and my carriage took the wife and family to the jail where they spent the remainder of the night, or as long as they chose, with the condemned man. Still they could not convince Mumford that I was really in earnest, and the people apparently were not any more convinced than himself. I afterwards learned that he asked the officer in charge not to give the order until the latest minute possible.

Imitating the Spanish custom as to the place of execution, which places it as near as possible to the spot where the crime was committed, I had ordered it to take place from the mint, with the flag of the United States, the companion of which he had [442] desecrated, floating over him. The place was almost in sight of my office. Mumford was permitted to stand upon the scaffold and make a speech as long as he chose. In it he claimed that he was impelled by the highest patriotism. A swearing, whiskey-drinking mob assembled below him, their bottles and pistols sticking out from their pockets when not in their hands. They kept declaring to each other that Mumford was not to be hanged, and that this was only a scare on the part of old Butler, and

The mint at New Orleans.

threatened what the people would do if he was hanged. The street was quite full of them, almost to my office. At the last of it they got quite uneasy, the eyes of Mumford being lifted up the street to see if some staff officer did not come riding down, bearing the order of reprieve.

Dr. William N. Mercer was one of the best gentlemen in the city. Although a secessionist, he was a very mild one, holding [443] the doctrine that the Southern States had no right to secede, but that we had no right to force them not to. He was eighty years old, president of the Bank of Louisiana, and a man with whom I had formed the most friendly relations. A little before ten o'clock he almost rushed into my office, where I was sitting alone with my stenographer, and, reaching out his hands, tears running down his cheeks, said:--

“O General, General, give me this man's life. I must soon go to meet my Maker; let me take with me that I have saved a fellow-creature's life. You can do it, you can do it.”

“No, Doctor,” I said, “it is your life, and my life, and the life of every good man in this city which I must save. The question is now to be settled whether law and order or a mob shall govern.”

“Oh, no, General; a scratch of your pen will save him.”

“True, Doctor, and a scratch of that same pen would put you in his place. My officers are loyal and true, and they won't question the reason of my order. They will obey first and question it, if at all, afterwards. Having this great power I must use it judiciously. I cannot.”

The old man, his tears falling like rain, turned and left me.

The looked — for staff officer did not come to the place of execution. At the appointed time the drop fell, and as it did there was a universal hush. The bottles and pistols went out of sight, and the crowd separated as quietly as if it were from the funeral of the most distinguished citizen. And no scene approaching general disorder was ever afterwards witnessed during my time.

The fate of Mumford caused the greatest excitement throughout the whole Confederacy. Threats of retaliatory vengeance came from the governor of Louisiana, and were circulated by all the cognate rascals south of Mason and Dixon's line, including Jefferson Davis. Mumford's wife and family were declared to be the sacred trust of the people, and his children the wards of the Confederacy. Subscription papers were immediately called for, and very considerable sums were raised to support them thereafter in comfort.

The reader may be interested to know how well this was carried out. I heard and thought nothing more upon the subject, except as a passing reflection, until about the year 1869, the date not [444] recollected, when I received a letter from a lady in Malden, Massachusetts. She wrote me in very dignified and proper terms that she was somehow interested in Mrs. Mumford, who was then in the greatest distress. Mrs. Mumford had written to her that at the time of the execution of her husband I had told her that if ever I could soften her troubles I would be glad to help her, and she asked her Massachusetts friend to send to me to ascertain if I would see her.

I immediately answered I would see Mrs. Mumford any time at my office in Washington. A few days later her card came to me and she was shown in. She had aged somewhat. I told her that I had received a letter from her friend and asked the purpose of her visit. She then told me that a very considerable amount of money had been subscribed for her, but being in Confederate money it did not amount to much. At last it was entrusted to some man, a clergyman I think, who concluded to take it and build a house in Wytheville, Virginia, for her and her children, of whom there were three or four. He had purchased two acres of land and had a house built upon it. The work was nearly finished, when her trustee ran away, leaving a mechanic's lien upon the building of something more than eighty dollars, and the land and buildings were now to be sold to satisfy that lien.

“Where are you living now?” I asked.

She said she had come to Alexandria and was staying there with a friend, waiting to see me.

“Can you wait there without difficulty until I can send down and see about this matter at Wytheville?”

She said she would thankfully, and that I would find her story correct.

I immediately sent to Col. Thomas Tabb, of Hampton, Virginia, who had been a Confederate officer, and who had afterwards been my counsel in some matters of moment. I wrote him the story and asked him to investigate it and to purchase the title to that house in the name of Mrs. Mumford, and charge the amount to me, and telegraph me if it was all right. He telegraphed me within a day or two that the matter was as I had supposed, and he would attend to it. The morning I got that despatch, Mrs. Mumford came again to my office. I told her what had been done. She expressed [445] great thankfulness and said that she would go home to Virginia and get into her house and try to live in it.

“How?” asked I.

“Oh, we will try to raise enough on the two acres to live on.”

“You cannot raise enough to live on very soon; have you no other resource?”

“I have not.”

“Is there any school in Wytheville in which to educate your boys?”

“No, sir.”

“You think they ought to be educated, don't you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You have been very profuse in your thanks to me for what I have done,” said I. “I wish you would put your expressions in writing, and write them as well as you can. I am going out to be gone ten or fifteen minutes, and will see you when I return.”

I came back after a little time, and she handed me the note very nicely and quite clerkly written. “Well,” I said, “I think I may be able to do something for you. Come back day after to-morrow and I will see what I can do.”

The next day I called upon the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and asked him if he had a vacancy for a woman who wrote a good hand and spelled well and was fully educated up to that class of duties.

“I am a good deal pressed,” he said, “but possibly I can make an appointment.”

“Well,” I said, “Mr. Commissioner, mine is a very special case and I want you, if possible, to do it.” I then told him the story and said: “You see I do not care to have a recommendation from me to go upon your files. She will keep her own name and that had better not be connected with mine so as to draw observation.”

“Very well,” he said, “her place will be a nine hundred dollar position. Send her with your card and she shall have it, and if she deserves it she shall hold it.”

She rented her house in Wytheville and took a small house in Washington. I saw her once in about six months or a year after that. She turned out to be a very good clerk, and was not disturbed [446] until the coming in of the “reform” administration of Mr. Hayes. Then there was a search made for places to put in the “reformer's” nieces, and the records were examined to see who were behind clerks as to “influence.” The list showed nobody behind Mrs. Mumford, and, the commissioner having been changed, of course she was “reformed out.”

She informed me. I visited the Treasury Department, the Department of the Interior, and the Agricultural Department to see if she could not be restored to a place. I found it utterly impossible until I visited a “rebel brigadier,” General Key, then Postmaster-General, and told him the story. He gave her a clerkship in his department, and there she remained as long as she chose to stay in office, so far as I know. I saw the boys from time to time. They called to see me with their mother and they seemed to be very gentlemanly and bright.

I had one other occasion, while in New Orleans, to administer capital punishment. I certainly had no desertions reported to me that required it. The circumstances of this case are peculiar enough for narration.

For something over a week prior to the 12th of June, 1862, there had been continued complaint made at my headquarters of burglaries and robberies committed in the night time in many houses and in many parts of the city. No clew was brought to me by which the offenders could be ascertained, and it became a very annoying scandal and disgrace. On the morning of the 12th I said at mess table: “This system of night thieveries must be put an end to, and I am going to attend to nothing else, routine duty excepted, until it is done.”

When I got to my office in the Custom House about nine o'clock, a respectable looking Spanish gentleman sent in his card, came in, and said to me that his house on Toulouse Street had been entered the night before in this way: An officer in the full uniform of a lieutenant came in and produced an order to search the house for arms. The officer had four men with him, and they searched everything in the house, evidently looking more carefully after pistols than guns. When they went away they gave the owner a certificate of search. This certificate read as follows:-- [447]

J. William Henry, first lieutenant of the Eighteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, has searched the premises No. 93 Toulouse Street, and find to the best of my judgment that all the people who live there are loyal. Please examine no more.

J. William Henry, Lieut. Eighteenth Mass. Vols.

The complainant said they took all the jewelry in the house and somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 in money, but how much there was of either he could not tell.

Looking at the certificate I saw at once that it was a forgery, because I had no Eighteenth Massachusetts regiment. I looked at the complainant in some despair, and said:--

“Did you notice anything that you can tell me by which I can trace the men?”

“They went away in a cab.”

“In the name of heaven, my man, did you get the number of the cab?”

“Yes, General, cab no. 50.”

“Sit down there, then. Orderly, call the lieutenant of the provost guard. Send and catch cab No. 50, and the driver, and bring them here. Don't ride in his cab, but walk on the sidewalk and let him keep pace with you.”

Very soon the orderly entered with the driver of cab No. 50.

“Did you drive any party last night?”

“Yes, General.”


“Number 93 Toulouse Street.”

“Did the party go in there?”

“Yes; all but one who stayed in the cab.”

“Were they gone some time?”

“Yes, General.”

“What did they do then?”

“They all loaded into the cab and I drove them to a coffee-house on the corner of--------,” naming the streets.

“You sit down there. Lieutenant, take a party of the provost guard and go to this coffee-house, and bring to me every live thing in it including the cat, and don't let one speak to the other until after they have seen me.” [448]

In the course of three quarters of an hour the officer reported that he had the prisoners I had sent for.

“Bring them in in single file, and march them around this room.”

As they were being marched before me, the face of one of them caught my eye and I knew I had seen it before. I rarely forget a face.

“Halloa, my man,” I said, “where have I seen you before?”

In Boston, General.”


“In court.”

“Which one of your crimes were you being tried for there?”

“Burglary, General.”

“Well, you were tried for burglary there and convicted?”


“And pardoned out of State Prison to enlist in the army, and you did so?”


“What regiment?”

“The Thirtieth.”

“Are you of that regiment now?”

“No; I have been discharged on account of a rupture.”

“Very well; having been convicted of burglary and pardoned once and now caught here robbing houses again, can you show any reason why you should not be hanged at once to save all further trouble?”

“Oh, don't do that, General; I will tell you all about it,”

The room was cleared, and he began, under a caution to tell the truth, because lying to me was a sin I never pardoned. He said that there was a party of seven of them who had formed a secret society under an oath. They had organized and gone around the last two weeks searching houses for arms, and getting everything they could. They had visited eighteen different houses. He gave me the names of the band and the places where the men lived. They did not all live at this coffee-house. Three of them we had not caught. They were immediately sent for and brought in. I recognized one of them as being the mate of my steam yacht. Three confessed that night and signed a written confession, and the property was substantially all recovered. A notice was put in the [449] newspapers for everybody whose house had been robbed to come to the provost marshal's office and identify their property and take it. Everything was restored except three or four hundred dollars that they had spent out of the money. They had up to that time made no division of spoils.

I then, by General Order 98, sentenced three of them to be executed at the parish prison on the 16th. The next day I tried the rest of them and they were convicted, and substantially confessed all. Five of them in all were condemned to execution. One, a boy, at the intercession of his mother and upon evidence that he had not been a bad boy before his connection with the gang, and being only a sort of page for them, I sentenced to prison for a short term. The man that confessed and turned State's evidence, as is the phrase, I sentenced to Ship Island at hard labor for five years.

The rebel cry went all over the city: “These men won't be hanged, although Mumford was. One of them is an officer on the General's yacht, and he will be smuggled off.” At ten o'clock on the day fixed for the hanging it would seem as if one half of the city had turned out to witness the spectacle. The executions duly took place.

From that hour no burglary was ever committed in New Orleans; at least none was ever complained of. There were no incendiary fires there, and, what was more wonderful, there was no assault with attempt to kill. The only crimes tried by the provost court were petty larcenies and assaults, and the city from Chalmette, its southern boundary, to Carrollton, its northern limit, was more safe by night or by day than any city in the United States at the present hour.

After my return to the North, the case of the mate's wife was stated to me as one of destitution, and I directed that a sewing machine, which it was claimed she needed, should be purchased and given to her.

The effect of this speedy and condign punishment of offenders, the course of justice marching steadily on, coupled with a belief which prevailed in New Orleans that nothing could be done there that I could not find out,--a belief which I fostered as much as I could,--was the secret of the peace and quiet which pervaded the city. It was supposed I had the best spy system in the world. That was [450] true, but not in the way it was supposed. The negroes all came and told me anything they thought I wanted to know. I never let it be known that one of them spoke to me upon any subject. I had nobody else hear that class of informers. They would tell me the exact truth, so far as they understood it, and if it was anything of worth, they received from my hands some small compensation.

Let me give two examples of the manner in which that system worked.

Early in June I was informed that there was a sewing “bee” in the house of one of the first ladies of New Orleans and that they were making a flag to send to a New Orleans regiment in Beauregard's army at Corinth. This flag was of the finest embroidered silk, trimmed with gold fringe and very handsomely ornamented. After I got the information I waited quietly until the flag was finished and a nice canvas case made for it. This case was also embroidered, as one doesn't want an unfinished flag. Then I sent an orderly with my carriage to the house of the lady. He was instructed to present General Butler's compliments to her, with the message that the general's carriage was at the door and he desired to see her at once. No harsher demand for the appearance of a person was ever sent by me, except in the case of an immediate arrest. I held that the invitation of the sovereign was equivalent to a command.

A handsomely dressed lady, who seemed forty but might have been fifty, was shown into the office and handed a seat. I took a paper in my hand and looking at it said:--

“Is this Mrs.----?”

“Yes, General.”

“Living at no.--,----Street?”


“Well, madam, my information is that you have been having a series of sewing ‘bees ’ at your house by a party of young secession girls, making a flag to be sent to Beauregard's army. I have occasion for such a flag on the Fourth of July. I hear there is to be a Sabbath school celebration of the children of my town and I want to send a Confederate flag up there to please them, for they have never seen one. Won't you please go with my orderly and get that flag and bring it here?”

Her look of astonishment was ludicrous. She gasped out:-- [451]

“General, you must be mistaken; you have been misinformed as to the person.”

Madam, if I were you I wouldn't deny that which you know and I know. You have had that flag made; it is finished and in your house; and I should get it from there now, as I have seen fit to move about it, if I had to take down your house from roof to hearthstone. Now, please don't let us have any fuss made about the matter and require that I shall have to send down a party of soldiers to get it, because you will know that I know where it is when I tell you where it is. It served as a bolster under your pillow last night. Orderly, take this lady to the house from which you brought her and keep her in sight until you return her here.”

In a short time the orderly returned, bringing what appeared to be a handsome case for a flag. I opened the case by releasing the gathering cord at the top and produced a very handsome flag, rolled up. I looked at it, thrust it back into the case, and threw it to one side.

“Yes,” said I, “that is the one I want. I don't want any more; and I wouldn't make any more if I were you. If I should happen to want another I will send to you, for this is a very beautiful one. You can go, madam.”

“May I ask you a question, General?” she gasped out.

“Oh, certainly; I will answer it if a proper one.”

“Which of those girls gave information about this flag?”

“Oh, I can't tell you that, madam, because they would not come and tell me anything more if I did.”

“I know, I know,” said she; “one of them has been seen walking with a Yankee officer.”

“I have no objection to you secession women eating each other like Kilkenny cats; I have nothing to do with that. But you may accuse her unjustly. It may be your servants, which I suppose you have.”

“No, it was not my servants, General; that won't do. The only one of my family that knows anything about it is my foster sister, the daughter of my nurse brought up with me from the same breast.”

“Oh, well, I am glad to hear you have such faithful servants,” and she left. It was her foster sister all the same who was my [452] informer, and she did it without hope of reward, and only to revenge herself on her foster mistress.

I had issued an order that there should be no meetings or convocations held except by my permission, save of the fire companies and police.

About eleven o'clock one night a good-looking, well-dressed negro servant applied to see me. I was about retiring, but said he might be sent in.

“General,” said he, “I have just come from a party of gentlemen. There were fourteen of them. They have been having a dinner, and they have abused you and the United States, and swore about you and said all manner of hard things about you. I know it, for I was waiting on the table all the evening, and I took notice so as to tell you.”

“Do you know their names?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where their places of business are?”

“Yes, sir.”

The bell was touched for a stenographer, who took down the names and addresses of all the members of the party. A five-dollar gold piece was given to the negro and he was dismissed, his name and address being taken.

In the morning the names of all the persons composing the party were given to an orderly, who was instructed to call on each of them, letting no one of them know that he was going to call upon the other, and give each my compliments and say that I would be glad to see him at my office at four o'clock sharp.

At four o'clock the orderly opened the door, and touching his cap, said:--

“General, the men that you ordered here are in waiting.”

I ordered them shown in, and they arranged themselves around the room. There was an expression of eager curiosity on the face of each.

“Gentlemen,” said I, “I trust I know the habits of good society well enough not to take much notice of what is done and said at a social dinner party, when the wine is in and the wit is supposed to be out. My information is, and you know whether it is correct or not, that you were assembled last night in direct disobedience of [453] a general order, as you know, and the dinner party was an excuse for the assemblage, and that you amused yourselves by abusing me. That is not of much consequence; I forgive you that. But you abused your government and mine, and you used terms about it and about the President and members of the government that I can't permit. You supposed that I could not know of it. Nothing passes here, worth knowing, that I don't know about, as you see. But, gentlemen, this was mere folly; it did neither good nor harm to anybody, and I shall take no further notice of it unless something of the kind is somewhere done again, and if it is I will surely give you notice of it. Good day, gentlemen. I hope I shall not have to trouble you further.”

And they departed, every man inquiring in his own mind which one of that party told.

Decorative Motif.

1 Brig.-Gen. M. Jeff. Thompson, M. S. G., in answer to a letter from me about his kind treat ment of a prisoner, gives this testimony:--

depot of prisoners of War, Johnson's Island, near Sandusky, O., Oct. 12, 1863.
General.--Your kind letter of the 6th instant was received on the 10th.

You say that no one more surely than myself knows that the acts for which my government blames you were untruly reported and unjustly construed. What your intentions were when you issued the order which brought so much censure upon yourself I, of course, cannot tell; but I can testify, and do with pleasure, that nearly all of the many persons who passed through my lines, to and from New Orleans, during the months of August and September, 1862, spoke favorably of the treatment they had received from you; and with all my inquiries, which were constant, I did not hear of one single instance of a lady being insulted by your command.

I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

M. Jeff. Thompson, Brigadier-General, M. S. G.

2 War Correspondence, Series I., Vol. XV., p. 501.

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