Rumors of a New General

On May 29, 1862, Clara noted the rumors that Gen. Butler would soon be replaced by Gen. Nathaniel Banks. She insisted in her Diary that she would not give into rumors, but she did just a bit. She, like the entire city, was desperate to get rid of Beast Butler. In truth, he would be replaced in a few months by Gen. Banks. But not yet.

Clara found herself giving in to the allure again of her precious Delta newspaper. It was a Union newspaper, but it was also the only newspaper which provided actual information. It must have been difficult for the newspapers to obtain information about the war, especially pro-Confederate news of the war.

Clara visited with her friends on the street, as they often did. But, after a few minutes,  they had to split up, lest they be suspected of seditious activity by the occupation forces.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 380-384.

The Sunday Newspaper

On May 25, 1862, Clara received her favorite hobby, the Sunday newspaper. But, on this Sunday, her beloved Daily Delta newspaper had a new motto: “The Union – it must and shall be preserved.” The young Clara was horrified. She told the newspaper boy to take it away. He apologized, saying they were compelled to sell the newspaper. “They” – apparently meaning the Federal authorities – made them sell the newspaper. They have ruined his business, he added. Clara liked his sense of patriotism.

Clara described the Delta as a Yankee newspaper. It was, she said, formerly a secession newspaper. Clara handed the newspaper to her mother when she descended the stairs, “Ain’t you glad that the Delta is restored to us?” she asked sarcastically. Her mother was just as horrified by the new motto.

A day later, Clara appreciates the cooler weather, but wishes it was hotter. She knew that hotter weather would bring disease and yellow fever. Yellow jack, she hoped, would kill some of the many Yankee soldiers then invading her city. “God is just,” she reminded herself. “In him is our trust.” More Union soldiers arrived everyday, she lamented.

She notes the many “house-servants” who were kindly treated, yet deserted their families. She was referring to house slaves who left for freedom. She assured herself she would inflict severe punishment if one of her servants deserted her. And, in truth, the family did have one slave, Lucy, who stayed with the family until long after the war. The population of the city changed dramatically during the Yankee occupation. Slaves came from all over South Louisiana for freedom under Union protection. Historians tell us the percentage of black populace increased dramatically during this time period. Clara might have trouble understanding persons seeking freedom. Too modern ears, that sounds so strange.

Looking back 150 years later, as we can, we note that Clara never referred to house slaves as “slaves.” To the young Clara, they were always “servants.” It was those little things, perhaps, that helped the otherwise decent people live with that indecent institution.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 380-384.

The Mayor is Arrested

By May 20, 1862, the Solomon family was hurting. They had some Confederate money. But the stores in their part of New Orleans would not accept Confederate money. Mrs. Solomon went shopping in a distant neighborhood and bought some food. But, even there, the merchants would not give change. They would only accept payment up to the amount of the paper bills. They would not return coins. Clara’s mother was able to procure what she needed. But, prices were high. Linen that had sold for $10 was now $50. Muslin that formerly cost 12.5 cents now cost $1. Clara could believe it, except her own mother reported these prices.

Mrs. Solomon also found the streets to be “crowded” with Yankee officers. This offensive sight prompted Clara to again talk about how the South might lack resources, but she had “right” on her side. We had the “might of right,” she insisted. They would restore the Constitution, she firmly believed. Latest rumors were that the mayor had been arrested by “But” Butler – one of Clara’s very few unkind words. The rumor was that Mayor Monroe had fussed at Gen. Butler about the notorious Gen. Order No. 28 and was arrested for his efforts.

The General had indeed arrested the mayor. The former Know-Nothing, now good Democrat, had constantly maneuvered against Gen. Butler. Butler fared quite well in most situations. But, Gen. Order No. 28 was different. The Mayor protested the order. He accused the General of making war on women and children. He said the order would offend all virtuous women. The General sagely responded that it did not apply to women who were in fact virtuous. He warned the Mayor he would be arrested if he could not control the people of his city. The Mayor invited the French fleet to the port. The language of his invitation suggested the fleet do more than simply visit. The Union fleet was now upriver. Gen. Butler recognized this apparent threat to U.S. control of the city. Beast Butler threatened the mayor with arrest if he meddled in foreign affairs. The mayor withdrew his letter of protest.

In mid-May, it was not yet clear how far Beast Butler would go. He had sentenced to death one William Mumford for the offense of tearing down the U.S. flag. On the first day of Union control, the federal leaders landed and then returned to their ships. The troops were still too far downriver. While in the city, the Union leaders raised a U.S. flag above the U.S. Mint building. The Federal leaders then returned to their ships, to await the arrival of occupation troops.

In the interim, with no one really in control, stepped William Mumford, gambler and property owner. He promptly climbed up to the top of the Mint building and pulled down the hated U.S. flag. Mumford was respected, especially among the working class. Beast Butler sentenced him to be hung. The people of New Orleans were shocked the Union forces would hang a man for pulling down the flag of its enemy. As of the date of this entry in Clara’s diary, most New Orleanians believed Butler would commute the sentence. When Mrs. Mumford invited the General to her home, the Beast came. With her children in the home, she begged him to commute her husband’s sentence. The General simply encouraged her to visit her husband before his scheduled execution date of June 7, 1862.

In late May, 1862, the Council objected to the Mayor’s withdrawal of the letter of protest. The Mayor then sent a note to the Commanding General that he withdrew his prior apology and demanded the General publish a notice in the newspaper explaining that General Order No. 28 did not apply to decent ladies.

Two days later, Gen. Butler claimed six paroled Confederate officers had confessed to a plot to overpower Union guards and escape to re-join the Confederate army. The six men implicated Mayor Monroe and other city leaders in the plot. The General sentenced them to death and arrested the Mayor. Gen. Butler no longer needed the Mayor. He had appointed a Provost Marshall to administer the city. All the City judges had already resigned. So, the General put in place lawyer friends from Massachusetts to act as judges. In a pinch, Gen. Butler was also a lawyer and could act as judge. The General’s brother, Andrew Jackson Butler, was already well on his way to bleeding the city dry with various schemes. The two Butler bothers would later leave New Orleans with millions of dollars.

Clara said she had heard some Yanks had offered insults to some ladies who had insulted the soldiers. She did not sympathize with the ladies, apparently thinking a lady should not insult, even a Yank. She heard that yet another good friend from school had left the city with her family. Many persons who could escape New Orleans did so. These were frightening times for Clara and the city.

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 132-134, 136, 222.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 373-374