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Chapter 18: why I was relieved from command.

  • Grant requests Butler's removal
  • -- succeeded by Ord -- turning over the Department accounts -- not permitted to publish report on Fort Fisher expedition -- Grant's expressed reasons for the removal duly considered -- influence of Grant's staff officers -- the imprisonment of Chaplain Hudson -- punishing Insubordinate officers -- Taxing local dealers for the benefit of the government -- half a million dollars raised -- how it was expended -- the matter of “arbitrary arrests” considered -- real reason for removal: regular Army influence coupled with political jealousy -- Grant was deceived, and he acknowledged it after the War -- “Bottled up ” -- Grant withdraws the expression -- his regrets and his tribute to Butler's ability -- something about one Badeau -- West Point and its claim to all military wisdom -- Grant did not get enough West Point to hurt him -- Halleck's efforts to get Butler removed -- Halleck's characteristics described -- West Point Intriguers among the Confederates -- after Gettysburg Lee offers to resign in Mahone's favor -- Butler's farewell to his troops

Ireturned to my command on the 16th of November, and there found an order from General Grant which put me in command of the Armies of the Potomac and James, as it informed me of his absence and enclosed an order to General Meade.1

General Grant had for a considerable time been impressed with the belief — in which I did not share — that Lee intended to abandon Petersburg with his main army and go down to join Johnston against Sherman; and he feared very much that Sherman might be overwhelmed if Lee was not instantly pursued by the Army of the Potomac, leaving the Army of the James to take care of Petersburg. But no such event happened.

Everything of the official correspondence in relation to the current movements of the Army of the James went on without any intimation to me of any change of our official relations, and without any information as to any comment by Grant upon my report of the operations against Fort Fisher. I noticed nothing, except, perhaps, a want of cordiality in his manner. But on the 8th of January, about noon, I received, through the hands of Colonel Babcock, a crony of W. F. Smith, and a member of Grant's staff, who I had always known was bitterly opposed to me, a sealed envelope containing the following orders:--

War Department, Adjutant-General's office, Washington, Jan. 7, 1865.
General Order No. 1.

I. By direction of the President of the United States, Maj.-Gen. Benjamin F. Butler is relieved from the command of the Department of North Carolina and Virginia. Lieutenant-General Grant will designate an officer to take this command temporarily. [828]

II. Major-General Butler on being relieved will repair to Lowell, Mass., and report by letter to the adjutant-general of the army.

By order of the Secretary of War:

W. A. Nichols, Assistant Adjutant-General.

headquarters armies of the United States, City Point, Va., Jan. 7, 1865.
to Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. Ord, Through Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler.
Special Order No. 5.

I. In pursuance of General Order No. 1., War Department, Adjutant-General's office, Washington, D. C., Jan. 7, 1865, Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. Ord will relieve Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler in the command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina temporarily.

II. Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler will turn over to Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. Ord the records and orders of the department, and all public money in his possession, or subject to his order, collected by virtue of rules and regulations which he may have established.

III. The department staff will report to Major-General Ord for duty

By command of Lieutenant-General Grant:

T. S. Bowers, Assistant Adjutant-General.

I immediately repaired to Fortress Monroe in company with General Ord, and there had a very pleasant interview with him. I exhibited to him all the books of record of the department, especially those relating to any financial transactions; and had the officers who had such matters in charge report in person and explain to him the books, the manner of transacting the business, and the sources from which any moneys in the civil fund of the department had been received during my administration, and exhibit the balances as shown by those books.

I turned over to him $258,000 in money, of which $66,000 was from one fund, $104,000 from another fund, $20,000 from another, $38,000 from another, and other sums from minor sources of revenue amounting to $30, 000. I also accounted for the expenditure of an additional sum of more than quarter of a million dollars. The accounts for these expenditures were afterwards forwarded to the War Department and settled, and no item has been questioned to this day. [829]

After I had proceeded in the same manner with the accounts of all the public property, and had recommended to his kind consideration the gentlemen of my staff who were ordered to report to him, he returned to City Point and reported to General Grant. That he was satisfied with the accounts I have an indirect means of knowing, for a gentleman on the staff of General Grant, who happened to be present when the report was made, informed me that Ord said, “Whatever they may say of General Butler, one thing is certain, he is no rogue.” And that was Ord's opinion I know, for I had his cordial friendship for years afterwards until his death.

Meanwhile I had received from Washington, through the kindness of an official friend, a copy of the documents which Grant had sent to Washington to get leave to make the order. They showed me that Stanton had nothing to do with it, as he was absent, and that I was indebted to my virulent foe, General Halleck, for the influence which prevented my having any information of the alleged causes.

General Grant's letter to the Secretary of War and his telegram to the President are as follows:--

City Point, Virginia, Jan. 4, 1865.
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
I am constrained to request the removal of Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler from the command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. I do this with reluctance, but the good of the service requires it. In my absence General Butler necessarily commands, and there is a lack of confidence felt in his military ability, making him an unsafe commander for a large army. His administration of the affairs of his department is also objectionable.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.

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