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Chapter 13: occupations in 1863; exchange of prisoners.

  • Reception by people of the North
  • -- addresses in New York and Boston -- called to Washington -- services desired on the Mississippi -- offer refused -- McClellan's willingness to become dictator -- a young man who appreciated himself -- Lincoln and Butler discuss the enlisting of colored troops -- Committee on Conduct of War asks for suggestions -- exchange of prisoners considered at some length -- Butler appointed commissioner -- scheme for retaliating abuses -- proposed, but Negatived -- Confederates object to exchanging colored prisoners for white -- they also object to Butler -- conference with Ould, the Confederate commissioner, and proposition -- General Grant takes a hand -- explains to Butler that exchanging prisoners recruits the Confederate Army, and orders it to cease -- Butler to Ould on rights of negro prisoners -- Confederate leaders not wholly to blame for Andersonville -- Southern troops themselves meagrely fed -- Davis' charges against our medical officers critically examined

It is superfluous to say that on my journey home I was received with the greatest regard and affection by every good and loyal man; and was abused in the most violent and calumnious language, and with the falsest of charges, by every Copperhead newspaper.

At Philadelphia I was received with most enthusiastic attention, and had the pleasure of meeting there especially the Hon. S. M. Felton, president of the Philadelphia & Wilmington Railroad, by whose patriotic exertions my regiment was enabled to get through Baltimore, the first reinforcement to the capital.

On my arrival at the city of New York, I was the recipient of every possible courtesy. One hundred of the leading men and merchants of New York were appointed a committee to invite me to a public dinner, in accordance with the resolutions of a public meeting, containing names and sentiments which make it the proudest memento that any man in this country can show. It will ever be kept most gratefully as a vindication of every act of mine then done in the service of my country, and I shall leave it as the richest heirloom to those who come after me. A fac-simile of these resolutions is herein most gratefully produced.

I felt obliged to decline this most flattering attention, saying in reply:--

I too well know the revulsion of feeling with which the soldier in the field, occupying the trenches, pacing the sentinel's weary path in the blazing heat, or watching from his cold bivouac the stars shut out by the drenching cloud, hears of feasting and merry-making at home by those who ought to bear his hardships with him, and the bitterness with which he speaks of those who, thus engaged, are wearing his uniform. Upon [562] the scorching sand, and under the brain-trying sun of the Gulf coast, I have too much shared that feeling to add one pang, however slight, to the discomfort which my fellow-soldiers suffer, doing the duties of the camp and field, by my own act, while separated momentarily from them by the exigencies of the public service.

I promised, at the committee's request, that as soon as might be after I had visited my family and made some necessary arrangements in my private affairs, I would make an address to the good people of New York. This I did, on the 2d of April, 1863, at the Academy of Music. The occasion was thus described in the New York Tribune:--

The magnificent assemblage of the choicest of the city, which gathered last evening in the Academy of Music to greet the hero of the Gulf, has seldom been paralleled in the history of this continent. The house was completely filled in every part long before the hour of commencement. . . .

At 7.30 o'clock precisely, Senator Morgan, accompanied by several gentlemen, conducted General Butler upon the stage. Immediately there began a cry of enthusiasm and a scene of excitement which very few people in this city have witnessed. With the thunders of applause, shouts of admiration, waving of hats, bouquets, and handkerchiefs, the whole interior of the Academy, except the roof, was alive and in motion. For several minutes this continued. At last when it had partially subsided, Senator Morgan presented General Butler to the mayor. The presentation was but a pantomime, for the cheering was yet so great that the Senator's words could not be heard.

The mayor then welcomed General Butler, in an exceedingly pertinent and happy address, which was enthusiastically received, the general, who was in citizen's dress, standing the while.

I shall venture to give some extracts from the speech made then and there, to show that my views then of the Rebellion afterwards became the policy of the government, even to reconstruction. I have found no occasion since to change them materially:--

When the mayor had concluded, General Butler advanced, and after the tumultuous applause with which he was again greeted had subsided, he said:--

Mr. Mayor, with the profoundest gratitude for the too-flattering commendation of my administration of the various trusts committed to me [563] by the government, which, in behalf of your associates, you have been pleased to tender me, I ask you to receive my most heartfelt thanks. To the citizens of New York here assembled in kind appreciation of my services supposed to have been rendered to the country, I tender the deepest acknowledgments. [Applause.] I accept it all; not for myself but for my brave comrades of the Army of the Gulf. [Renewed applause.]

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Upon the same theory upon which I felt myself bound to put down insurrection in Maryland, while it remained loyal, whether that insurrection consisted of blacks or whites, by the same loyalty to the Constitution and laws, I felt bound to confiscate slave property in the rebellious State of Virginia. [Applause.] Pardon me, sir, if right here I say that I am a little sensitive upon this subject. I am an old-fashioned Andrew Jackson Democrat of twenty years standing. [Applause. A voice: “The second hero of New Orleans.” Renewed applause culminating in three cheers.] And, so far as I know, I have never swerved, so help me God, from one of his teachings. [Applause.] . . .

And now, my friends, if you will allow me to pass on for a moment in this line of thought, as we come up to the point of time when those men laid down their constitutional obligations. What were my rights, and what were theirs? At that hour they repudiated the Constitution of the United States, by solemn vote in solemn convention; and not only that, but they took arms in their hands, and undertook by force to rend from the government what seemed to them the fairest portion of the heritage which my fathers had given to me as a rich legacy to my children. When they did that, they abrogated, abnegated, and forfeited every constitutional right, and released me from every constitutional obligation. [Loud cheers.] And when I was thus called upon to say what should be my action with regard to slavery, I was left to the natural instincts of my heart, as prompted by a Christian education in New England, and I dealt with it accordingly, as I was no longer bound. [Immense applause.]


I am not for the Union as it was. [Great cheering. “Good! Good!” ] I have the honor to say as a Democrat, and an Andrew Jackson Democrat, I am not for the Union to be again as it was. Understand me, I was for the Union as it was, because I saw, or thought I saw, the troubles in the future which have burst upon us; but having undergone those troubles, having spent all this blood and this treasure, I do not mean to go back again and be cheek by jowl, as I was before, with [564] South Carolina, if I can help it. [Cheers. “You're right.” ] Mark me now; let no man misunderstand me; and I repeat, lest I may be misunderstood (for there are none so difficult to understand as those that don't want to)--mark me again, I say, I do not mean to give up a single inch of the soil of South Carolina. If I had been living at that time, and had the position, the will, and the ability, I would have dealt with South Carolina as Jackson did, and kept her in the Union at all hazards; but now she has gone out, I will take care that when she comes in again she will come in better behaved; that she shall no longer be the firebrand of the Union, ay, that she shall enjoy what her people never yet enjoyed, the blessings of a republican form of government. [Applause.] And, therefore, in that view I am not for the reconstruction of the Union as it was. I have spent treasure and blood enough upon it, in conjunction with my fellow-citizens, to make it a little better [cheers], and I think we can have a better Union. It was good enough if it had been let alone. The old house was good enough for me, but the South pulled the “L” down, and I propose, when we build it up, to build it up with all the modern improvements. [Prolonged laughter and applause.] Another one of the logical sequences, it seems to me, that follow inexorably, and not to be shunned, from the proposition that we are dealing with alien enemies, is, What is our duty with regard to the confiscation of their property? And that would seem to me to be very easy of settlement under the Constitution, and without any discussion, if my first proposition is right. Hasn't it been held from the beginning of the world down to this day? From the time the Israelites took possession of the land of Canaan, which they got from alien enemies, hasn't it been held that the whole of the property of those alien enemies belongs to the conqueror, and that it has been at his mercy and his clemency what should be done with it? And for one, I would take it and give it to the loyal man, who was loyal from the heart, at the South, enough to make him as well as he was before, and I would take the balance of it and distribute it among the volunteer soldiers who have gone forth in the service of their country; and so far as I know them, if we should settle South Carolina with them, in the course of a few years I should be quite willing to receive her back into the Union. [Renewed applause.]

no danger from the Army.

There never has been any division of sentiment in the army itself. They have always been for the Union unconditionally, for the government and the laws at any and all times. And who are this army? Are they men different from us? Not at all. I see some here that have come back from [565] the army, and are now waiting to recover their health to go back and join that army. Are they to be any different on the banks of the Potomac or in the marshes of Louisiana, or struggling with the turbid current of the Mississippi than they are here? Are our sons, our brothers, to have different thoughts and different feelings from us, simply because to-day they wear blue and to-morrow they wear black, or to-day they wear black and to-morrow they wear blue? Not at all. They are from us, they are of us, they are with us. The same love of liberty, ay, and you will pardon me for saying it, a little more love for the Union, have caused them to go out than have actuated those who have stayed behind. The same desire to see the Constitution restored has sent them out that animates us; the same love of good government, the same faith in this great experiment of freedom and free government that actuates us actuates them, and there need be no trouble, it seems to me, in the mind of any man upon the question of what is the army to do? There need be no fears. I have seen men, too, good, virtuous, candid, upright, patriotic men, who seem to feel this great increase of the army to be somewhat dangerous to our liberties. Is the army to take away their own liberties? is the army to destroy their own country? is the army to do anything that patriotic men won't do? Oh, no; they answer with universal accord upon that subject. Then where is the danger men see? Why, in the olden time, at the head of large armies, some ambitious man, some ambitious military leader, gets the control of the army and destroys the liberty of the country; but the difficulty is, the examples of nations in the old world are by no means analogies for this. No general of the old world ever commanded such an army; no general of the old world ever had such a country; no general of the old world ever had such a government to fight for, to fight with, to fight under, or will have ever and forever; and no general of the old world, no general thus far on the face of the earth, ever was in a country, where, by elevating his country first, last, and all the time, he might more surely elevate himself. But we do not depend upon either the patriotism, or the ability, or the prudence, or the courage of any one man; we depend upon the courage, the patriotism, and the intelligence of this half million of men in the army who know that the place to regulate government affairs is in the ballot-box, and who, as long as they can get matters regulated, and can have fair-play through the ballot-box, will go home and be much more ready to use the ballot-box than the cartridge-box.

Therefore, I say to you, sir, let no man have fear on this subject. There are no better friends of free institutions, there are no more intelligent, no truer men and citizens at home and in peace, than in the army of the United States.


I received similar receptions in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Portland, and other cities.

At a meeting in my honor at Boston in Faneuil Hall, after a lengthened speech, I remained several hours to receive a hand-shake of three thousand persons. I was invited to a public dinner in the evening and had the most distinguished consideration. A poem was read by New England's most distinguished author, her most charming and cherished poet, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, two lines of which I take leave here to quote from memory:

The mower mows on, though the adder may writhe,
And the copperhead curl round the blade of the scythe.

In the course of my address at

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