A Letter from Pa

At last, the family received another letter from Pa in Virginia. It arrived June 21, 1862 and was written on May 11. As was common at the time, it came via someone traveling to New Orleans. Clara received the letter herself and recognized the hand-writing immediately. Clara waxed eloquently about her fondness and love for her father and simply rejoiced a thousand different ways for the receipt of a letter from her “idolized” father.

Pa worried that his family did not have enough money. He suggested they borrow from Adolphe Mazareau, not knowing he had been sent to prison at Ft. Jackson for no apparent reason. Pa said business had been good at the sutler store. But, as Solomon Solomon will find out, by the end of the war, he will have profited only slightly from running a sutler store for the Confederate army.


There was much talk about a letter received by a friend from her husband at Corinth, probably meaning Corinth, Mississippi. The people of New Orleans had learned by June 21, 1862 not to trust every letter someone claimed to have received. They had been burned by false news before. The well-known Battle of Corinth occurred in October, 1862. This letter probably refers to Gen. Beauregard’s evacuation of Corinth, Mississippi in June, 1862.

This letter from Clara’s friend included the names of dead and wounded. No one, Clara noted, would falsify a letter about mortalities. They were thrilled to receive a letter, simply because it was “genuine” (emphasis Clara’s). The letter contained some personal information, but the recipient copied her husband’s beautifully written description of the battle, so the city could share in the news. Clara decried it as torture being barricaded in the city, knowing these fierce, bloody battles were occurring, but with no way to find out any news about those who have sacrificed their lives on the “Altar of Liberty.” It was hard to live in an occupied city and not know if your loved ones and neighbors lived or died.  


Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 414-419.

New Orleans Daily True Delta, June 20, 21, 1862, p. 2

Hurrah for Depp Dabis!

Beast Butler was in the newspaper again on June 19, 1862. His war with the foreign consuls had escalated. He told the consuls they could take their flags down and go home. They were not invited, said the invader. The “brute,” said Clara, was very insulting to the consuls.

She feared for the Confederate soldiers and officers in the City who were now required to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. If they did not take the oath, they would be considered spies. As spies, they could be hanged. Why would Confederate soldiers and officers be in the City? For a variety of reasons. Some came home to recuperate from wounds. Some needed care from their families. Some were in the City pending exchange for Union officers. In imposing this requirement, Butler was making it exceedingly difficult for wounded Confederates to recuperate at home – which was quite common in that time period.

Clara did not think teachers would be required to take the oath. Clara was an occasional teacher.

Clara was holding her younger sister, Josie on the porch as a “Yank” walked by, meaning a Union soldier. Josie yelled out, “Hurrah! For Depp Dabis and Beauregard.” Josie, about 2 years old, obviously meant “Jeff Davis.” To Clara’s surprise, the soldier turned toward them with “such a sweet smile” on his face and seemed so surprised. His reaction “warmed” Clara’s heart. Clara found strength in news of a recent Confederate victory in Virginia, probably referring to continued success in the Shenandoah River valley.


Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 412-413.

Beast Butler Goes Too Far

In 1861, New Orleans was an international city. Some two dozen consuls were posted in the Crescent City representing their governments. Gen. Butler first encountered problems when he tried to confiscate gold and hard currency held by a bank. The bank had hidden the gold and currency with one of the consuls. Many of the banks had hidden their hard currency, knowing Gen. Butler would seize it and leave their depositors without funds. The French consul refused to produce a key to his vault. The U.S. soldiers seized him, undressed him until they found the key. Within the vault, they found $800,000 in Mexican silver. Gen. Butler won this battle, but the French consul was just starting to fight.

The British Militia

About that time Gen, Butler was addressing a different situation. Before the Union soldiers had arrived in April, the British consul had organized a militia force composed of some 60 English citizens. When the city fell without a fight, the British militia disbanded. But, they sent their weapons and uniforms to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, the favorite son of New Orleans. In late May, annoyed by this donation. Gen. Butler insisted the British militia turn out with all their weapons and uniforms. Any Englishman who did not appear with his weapon and uniform would be forced to leave the city or be arrested. These 60 or so English citizens were prosperous men of standing. They did not care to be threatened simply for defending their adopted home and then for helping their neighbors.

The Wrath of the Consuls

The British Consul, George Coppell, protested. The Consul told the general he was violating international law. Butler did not care for the English. Many Americans still retained their distaste for the former colonizers. Butler challenged Coppell’s credentials as Consul. Gen. Butler arrested three Englishmen and sent them to the prison at Ft. Jackson. Ft. Jackson was an open air fort, infested with mosquitos. Mr. Coppell then communicated the problem to the British Foreign Minister in Washington, D.C., Lord Lyons.

Within days, Beast Butler was engaged in verbal wars with the Dutch and Greek Consuls. Gen. Butler now found himself very unpopular with his government back in Washington. A fight with the Spanish over some freight in a Spanish ship soon followed. The General issued Gen. Order No. 40, threatening to arrest any person, meaning U.S. citizen or not, who held property belonging to the Confederate States of America.

That order was quickly followed by Gen. Order No. 41 in mid-June, 1862. This order required all persons in the city to swear an oath of loyalty to the U.S. In a special paragraph for foreigners, this order required foreign born persons to swear an oath that they had not assisted any enemy of the U.S. The General knew he had supreme power in the city. He intended to use it. The consuls were infuriated. They raised a ruckus which eventually forced Gen. Butler from his position of supreme power.

Clara Solomon was equally aghast at General Order No. 41. She was, however, thrilled when family friend, D.G. Duncan was released from prison at Ft. Jackson. He was freed with no more explanation than when he was first arrested weeks before. She fretted again at the lack of letters from her pa in Virginia.


Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 142-165.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 410-411.

Butler Calls on Mrs. Beauregard

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, fear rises exponentially.

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 before, during and after the war. Clara remarked that like a lady (“some think”), Mrs. Beauregard received him politely. Gen. Butler commented on Gen. Beauregard’s talent and bravery, but added it was a shame his talent was mis-directed.

Victory Meant Casualties

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 for many days. 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 also accepted his sentence with courage.

Calling on Mrs. Mumford

Mumford’s wife asked to meet with Beast Butler. The general complied. He visited Mrs. Mumford and her children, but would not agree to delay or change the sentence.

Most New Orleanians assumed the general would commute the sentence. But, he never even considered commutation. In reality, Gen. Butler detested those he believed started the war. Prior to the war, Butler was one of the few prominent Democrat politicians in the North. He attended the Democrat conventions. He believed he knew the Southern secessionists. He enjoyed tweaking their noses, even if that meant hanging the occasional reckless gambler.

Confederate Victories

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. Ogden delivered 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 Re-Emergence of the “Bee”

On May 31, 1862, Clara saw the re-emergence of the Bee newspaper. The Bee was one of those French and English newspapers. 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.

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 chatted 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.

Yellow Jack

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 every day, she lamented.

House Servants

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. To 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 most indecent of institutions.


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 not believe it, except her own mother reported these prices.

Yankee Officers

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.

Mayor Monroe Arrested

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.

William Mumford

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. The Union could claim the city, but it could not yet disembark any troops. 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 forward 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. The city did not favor secession in the 1860 Presidential election. By a three to one ration, the voters had supported compromise candidates over the one secessionist candidate. But, Gen. Butler was quickly bringing New Orleanians

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.

Mayor Protests General Order No. 28

In late May, 1862, the City Council objected to the Mayor’s withdrawal of the letter of protest. The Mayor then sent a note to the Commanding General stating that he now withdraws his prior apology and demands 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 the six officers to death. He also had the Mayor arrested. 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

Butler’s General Orders

By May 17, 1862, Gen. Butler had had enough. He issued General Order Nos. 29 and 30. General order No. 29 required all commerce in the city to engage in U.S. Treasury notes, not Confederate States of America bills. Instantly, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property was rendered valueless. As Clara lamented, thousands of persons will be ruined by this order. General order No. 30 shut down her beloved True Delta newspaper. According to Clara, the newspaper published an article discussing the cotton burning in a way that violated the General’s warning. Clara saw the cotton burning – when the Confederate authorities burned millions of dollars worth of cotton bales on the News Orleans wharves, lest the Federals seize it – as a very patriotic act. She felt it showed the world the sacrifices New Orleanians in particular and Southerners in general would make to build their country.

A War for Independence

Like many of her contemporaries, Clara saw the Southern struggle as one for freedom and independence. She compared the rebellion, as did many other Southerners at the time, to the American Revolution in 1776. She noted the 13 colonies overcame the greatest nation on earth, implying this would happen again.

She lamented that another newspaper, the New Orleans Bee was also suppressed. It too published an elaborate, but “covert” article about the cotton burning.

Pressing the Banks

Clara does not mention, perhaps she did not know, that Gen. Butler was dealing with a very sticky problem. The New Orleans banks had transferred much of their bullion outside the city while the Union fleet lay offshore. Now, in May, 1862, the banks were refusing to honor their own bank notes. The City suffered from an acute shortage of small denominations of coins. The City had been issuing and honoring “shinplasters,” to act as small coins. The order which frightened Clara so much actually required the banks to no longer pay depositors in Confederate notes. They must instead pay depositors in U.S. Treasury notes, gold or silver. Since the local banks lacked U.S. money, he was forcing them to issue gold and silver. Since the banks had transferred their reserves outside the city or hid them, the banks were now in a pickle.

The Consuls Protest

The General was pressing the banks to recover their reserves. He even went so far as to invade a consular building to search out the reserves for one bank. He found the reserves, some $800,000 in Mexican silver coins packed in barrels of beef. But, then the consuls in New Orleans, some 20 consuls at the time, sent letters of protest and got their home governments engaged. Which is another story for another day.

General Order No. 28

But, the infamous General Order No. 28 has attracted the most attention throughout the world. Clara was deeply offended. The Order essentially gave the Union soldier the right to approach white women and arrest them if necessary. In a time when societal norms required that males not approach white women without being introduced, this order was inflammatory. See a broadside depicting that infamous order here.

The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Lord Palmerston, objected that he could not fully express the disgust which every honorable man must feel. Disgust with the order spread, even to U.S. newspapers. Clara agreed. Indeed, she felt for the Southern men. She knew they would object, but were powerless to stop it. What made the Order worse was that it was specifically targeted at the women, who had been harassing the Union soldiers.  

Just a week or two before General Order No. 28, Admiral Farragut himself and Col. Henry Deming were walking. A woman dumped her chamber pot in the direction of the two officers. The trajectory suggested the targeting was intentional. Then, a day later, a colonel, dressed in his best uniform for church, saw two ladies approaching. As a gentleman, he stopped and stepped to one side to let them pass. As he did so, one of the ladies looked him in the face and spat. Spitting then became the preferred attack by the Crescent City women. Clara never engaged in spitting. But, at least once, she took delight in turning her back to some passing Federals.

So, yes, Gen. Butler had had enough. And, the women were still not done. This was the women’s war and Gen. Butler would soon find himself out-matched.


Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 143-146

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 367-371.