Beast Butler Goes Calling

Life under occupation meant new surprises every day. On June 10, 1862, Clara was shocked that their neighbor, Sam Nathan had been arrested for murder. The Nathans were more than neighbors. They were like family. The Solomons did everything with the Nathans. Fortunately, he was cleared of the charge within a day or two. But, when the law enforcement is wielded by the enemy, tensions rise.

Within a day, Clara records that the evil Gen. Butler called on Mrs. Beauregard, the wife of the great hero of the Crescent City, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Gen. Beauregard was the  “national” hero of New Orleans during and after the war. Clara remarked that like a lady (“some think,” Clara remarked), she received him politely. Gen. Butler commented on Gen. Beauregard’s talent and bravery, but added it was a shame his talent was mis-directed.

Clara thrilled to hear of Confederate victories in Virginia, apparently referring to the actions in the Shenandoah Valley. Yet, with the victory, a close family friend, Mrs, Gardner fretted over the fate of her two sons then serving in Virginia.

The Solomons heard that their good friend and neighbor, Adolphe  Mazareau, the newly elected sheriff, would be sent not to the prison at Ft. Jackson, but sent much further away, up the Mississippi river. Clara watched unseen as the carriage bore their neighbor, Mr. Mazareau to some distant prison. He had been arrested for supposedly anti-Union activity, but with no apparent evidence. That was “justice” under Gen. Butler. It was a “sorrowful” sight as he was hauled away.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 402-406.


The Hanging of Mumford

On June 8, Clara and the city were fired with indignation at the hanging of William Mumford. As Gen. Butler promised, Mumford was hanged for pulling down the U.S. flag the first day of Yankee occupation. Mr. Mumford was not an insignificant person. At the age of 42, he was a gambler, He owned real property and was looked up to by the working class. Mr. Mumford did more than just pull the flag down. He dragged it through the streets. He tore the flag into smaller pieces and sold them. He wore one piece on his lapel. Mr. Mumford continued to wear that piece of the U.S. flag on his lapel in the days following. He appeared at various civil disturbances. He was said to be bold, reckless and defiant. He was also described as a liar and a hard drinker – and as attractive. He accepted his sentence with courage.

His wife asked to meet with Beast Butler. The general complied. He visited Mrs. Mumford, but would not agree to delay or change the sentence. I wrote about that visit here.

Most New Orleanians assumed the general would commute the sentence. But, he did not. In reality, Gen. Butler detested those he believed started the war. He did enjoy tweaking their noses, even if that meant hanging the occasional reckless gambler with a wife and two children.

Clara takes delight in reliable reports of Confederate victories in Tennessee and Virginia. The news came from a Mr. Ogden, who came from Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard under a flag of truce. He came to deliver a message to Gen. Butler. If the general molests Confederate prisoners, then the Union prisoners would be even more abused. The school where Clara taught erupted in joy at the news of Confederate victories. “Cheer upon cheer rent the air for Beauregard.” There was also news that the long absent Mr. Solomon was safe. Clara fretted constantly about her father. Receiving no news made the worry worse.

Again, Clara and her mother did not attend Synagogue because they did not have new bonnets. The Solomons sewed virtually everyday. So, if they lacked new bonnets, that meant they lacked the material with which to make a new bonnet. Such was life in a Yankee occupied city.

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 132-130-134.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 398-400.

The Bee Re-Emerges

On May 31, 1862, Clara saw the re-emergence of the Bee newspaper. It had earlier been shuttered by the Yankees for publishing a piece about the burning of the cotton bales. The young Clara’s cheeks flushed as she read: “Gen. Butler sir we never did, & never intended to advocate the burning of cotton & destruction of anything else. We consider it a wanton waste of property, one not to be tolerated by the civilized world.” Clara felt crushed when she saw this surrender by the Bee. Beneath that passage appeared: “Upon publication of the foregoing, the Bee may resume its publication.” This was a reference to the burning of cotton bales on the docks of New Orleans as the Yankees first approached in April. The Confederate forces burned the cotton to keep the bales out of the hands of the invaders.

Clara condemned the men who submitted to this surrender for a “few paltry dollars.” She criticized the merchants who would support such a newspaper. This was truly a war waged by the brave women of New Orleans.

Clara appreciated more the family friend, Adolphe Mazareau, elected sheriff and then arrested by the Federals. He had been sent to Ft. Jackson, downriver from the city. Ft. Jackson served as a prison for the Union troops. She respected his equanimity at being sent to Ft. Jackson, where the Mayor remained and other leading citizens who had crossed Beast Butler.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 391-393.