Stealing the Crops, A Yankee Tradition

Reports have emerged from the Ukraine War that Russians have been stealing stored grain from individual farms and grain silos. They even stole some 27 tractors and combines form a Deere dealership. That is reprehensible conduct. It amounts to war crimes. But, is that conduct new? No, I am afraid not. During the Federal occupation of New Orleans, Benjamin Butler and his brother, Andrew, profited mightily. Even before the occupation, Gen. Butler somehow came to own stores of cotton and turpentine. While still biding his time at Ship Island, he shipped the cotton and turpentine on a Union ship to his agent in Boston as “ballast” with instructions to sell the commodities. But, the Federal Quartermaster in Boston could not understand how this cargo could constitute private property of Gen. Butler if it was shipped on a government-owned ship.

Before Butler’s Boston agent could straighten this out with the U.S. government, a second shipment of cotton and sugar arrived, also from Gen. Butler. The Assistant Quartermaster, Capt. William W. McKim, resolved the issue by selling the two shipments and depositing the money in favor of the U.S. government. The Quartermaster and Secretary of Treasury Chase both then censured Gen. Butler while also noting he must be protected.

Having learned his lesson, from then on, Gen. Butler would confiscate cotton and other crops under the Confiscation Act and skim from the profits, with the aid of his staff. He avoided direct shipments in his own name.

“Colonel” Andrew Butler

Andrew Butler, a colonel for all of two months, came to New Orleans soon after his brother, Ben, occupied the city. Andrew was denied a permanent rank as colonel, so he came as a civilian. But, with his brother, the two brothers embarked upon various schemes to profit from this occupation. In a time when cotton was virtually worthless in the South because it could not be shipped, it nevertheless held great value if it could be shipped. Sugar sold for three cents per pound in New Orleans, but for six cents in New York. Turpentine sold for $38 per barrel in the North, but could be found for three dollars on the Mississippi river. Dry goods could be purchased in New York and sold for several times that price in New Orleans. Flour sold for six dollars a barrel in New York, but for twice that amount in New Orleans.

Liquor Monopoly

Gen. Butler issued an order that liquor could not be sold, after another general complained that his men were getting drunk every pay day. Andrew then bought up all the liquor supplies in the City at bottom prices. Soon, Gen. Butler then rescinded the no-liquor order and Andrew sold his liquor supplies at a large profit.

When Gen. Butler learned the blockade of the New Orleans port would be lifted on June 1, 1862, he sent Andrew $60,000 of sugar packed in hogsheads. Gen. Butler assured his superiors in Washington that he purchased the sugar to stabilize the price of sugar and demonstrate the good will of the U.S. government to the local planters. But, in reality, Andrew bought it for a pittance because the planters believed they would not be able to sell the sugar. In his communication to Secretary of War Stanton Gen. Butler also did not mention that his brother made the actual purchase and that Andrew pocketed $5 per hogshead as a carrying charge

After the blockade was lifted, some of the pre-war commerce resumed with farmers and planters sending their goods down river to be sold to U.S. and European buyers. But, many shops and stores in New Orleans remained shuttered. One Daily Picayune edition reported that tens of thousands of merchants had been ruined by the blockade.  

Confiscations

But, not the Butler brothers. They were doing just fine. In September, Pres. Lincoln signed the second Confiscation Act. This act provided that unless every Confederate soldier put down his weapon and swore an oath of allegiance to the United Stats, then his property was subject to confiscation. Gen. Butler pressed all New Orleans citizens to swear the oath to the U.S. When some 4,000 refused the oath, Gen. Butler published their names and evicted them from the city. He allowed them to take only personal possessions. He seized their real property and sold it. He sequestered the property of thousands of Confederate soldiers who had homes in the Crescent City, but were off somewhere fighting. Thousands of New Orleanians were hundreds of miles from their homes fighting for the Confederacy. Beast Butler sold much of that property at auction.

“Colonel” Andrew Butler sent notices to the sugar growers telling them they needed his permission to sell their sugar. Otherwise, his brother would seize their sugar crop. Andrew then hired two New Orleans firms who employed only white workers to go and seize their product. According to at least one account, Andrew’s raiders also took the wife’s wardrobe and jewels. Andrew charged farmers and planters a fee to avoid confiscation. If an important person was imprisoned, Andrew would secure their freedom for the right price. Andrew would buy at auction seized sugar and cotton in New Orleans. He would then sell it in New York for three or four times what he paid for it.

After the lifting of the blockade, Andrew started importing flour from New York and selling it at great profit in New Orleans. That led to a monopoly on grocery items, medicines and staples in New Orleans. He also came to control the bakeries. As one lady commented at the time, both brothers engaged in illicit enterprises, but Andrew was the front man.

No Tow Boats for the Navy

The Butlers’ control of so much commerce attracted the ire of Commander Porter. In mid-June, 1862, Porter needed tow boats to help move his fleet. But, the nine steamers used for towing were too busy collecting medicines, sugar, salt, and cotton for transport to New Orleans for auction. The officers and crew on these tow boats were not happy either. They did not enlist to help two brothers profit from speculation. Andrew would collect this material and then send it on to New York or Boston for sale. Andrew and Ben had secured these networks all within two months. The Federals occupation only started in late April, 1862.

In Late June, Secretary of the Treasury Chase, a close friend of Benjamin Butler, warned the general that his activities were attracting negative attention. Secretary Chase then sent two agents to investigate these claims. One of the agents, George Denison, was  also a friend of Benjamin Butler. He reported that “everyone” from U.S. government officials to rebels believed the two brothers were acting in concert with Andrew as the front man. Denison reported that Andrew had profited by some one to two million dollars in the past two months. One million dollars in 1862 would be worth about 28 million dollars, today.

Denison wrote to Chase that Andrew was not an employee of the government. He was only in the city to make money, he reported. It looks bad, he said, because the only authority he would have would be through his brother. Yet, at the same time, in a letter to his wife, Denison praised Andrew because he had sent some thousands hogsheads of sugar up North which was prime quality and will pay very well.

Trading with the Enemy

Denison soon changed his view of the general when he located a schooner laden with salt on Lake Pontchartrain. It was destined for the north shore of the inland bay. The north part of the bay was held by the Confederates. Denison told the customs officer to seize it. To Denison, Butler acted surprised someone would ship salt to the enemy. Yet, later that day, Denison learned that Gen. Butler had countermanded the seizure and had released the vessel to continue its journey. Gen. Butler noted the military governor, Col. George F. Shepley had approved the shipment.

But, noted Denison, Gen. Butler did not have lawful authority to countermand a customs officer seizure. Denison later learned that 600 sacks of salt had been transported: 400 sacks were sold to the Confederate army at $25 a sack and 200 were sold to civilians for $36 per sack. Denison later discovered many other shipments of salt, medicines and other supplies across Lake Pontchartrain apparently with Gen. Butler’s blessing  – and more likely originating with “Colonel” Andrew Butler.  

About the time of Denison’s report to Secy. Chase, Commander Porter returned to Washington. Porter informed the Secretary that for a price, Gen. Butler was supplying the rebels with salt, shoes, blankets, flour, etc. These actions, if taken by a Confederate sympathizer, would carry a ten year prison sentence.

In September, Denison confronted Gen. Butler directly. The general simply responded that the government directed that cotton should be shipped from this port. Denison assumed this meant Washington, but his boss, Secy. Chase, neither confirmed or denied Butler’s assertion. Denison admitted in his reports that he had no solid proof that “Colonel” Andrew Butler was behind this trade across the lake.

Again approaching Gen. Butler, Denison persuaded the general that trade with the enemy degraded the character of the government. Gen. Butler said he would talk to Col. Shepley, the military governor of the city about the permits which he had been issuing for this trade. It was Col. Shepley who had been issuing the permits for the trading with the Confederates.

A week later, both Gen. Butler and Col. Shepley agreed with Denison that they would stop the trade after two last shipments.

Bayou Lafourche

But, about this time, Union forces seized control of the parishes across the Mississippi River, known as Bayou Lafourche country. “Colonel” Andrew Butler soon moved in with other speculators and began to seize property owned by Confederate soldiers across the river – just as they had already done in New Orleans. Col. James M. McMillan of the 21st Indiana worked for Andrew Butler and served as his military attaché. The network seized more cotton and sugar which they auctioned at rigged prices in New Orleans and then re-sold at large profits. 

By November, Gen. Butler had persuaded Denison that Andrew Butler was simply acting as a patriot in taking control of plantations and nurturing reconstruction and producing bountiful sugar and cotton crops while employing black labor.

But, the soldiers saw and followed these examples. One company seized a plantation across the river. They stole the silver, whiskey and the ladies’ clothing. A Navy commander saw the theft and reported it up the chain of command to Gen. Butler. Butler threatened to take action against the soldiers, but he also expressed resentment at this “bombastic,” junior Naval officer intruding on Army business.

In December, 1862, Beast Butler was replaced. He had incurred the wrath of some 20 consuls in New Orleans who then complained loudly to their respective governments. How much money did the Butlers profit in New Orleans? They covered their tracks well. But, historians know that Andrew came to New Orleans with little money and no rank in the army. Benjamin came with $150,000. While by 1868, Benjamin claimed assets of $3 million. Andrew died that year and left his sizeable estate to Benjamin. This at a time when assets of more than $4,000 generally placed a person in the upper class of American society.

See more about Gen. Benjamin Butler here.

Source:

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 181-196

Waving the Flag

The Ukrainian city of Kherson has been occupied by Russian forces since March 4, 2022. Yet, the Ukrainians in that city have engaged in several acts of civil disobedience. Those acts include confronting armed Russians. During one protest in Kherson, a Ukrainian waving the Ukrainian flag jumped aboard a passing BTR. The crowd cheered. Kherson and other smaller towns near the Crimea peninsula represent patriotic Ukrainians hanging onto their country in the face of armed aggression. Flags are powerful symbols.

The Yankee Invaders

The City of New Orleans engaged in similar protests over flags when another invader, the United Sates, came to the Crescent City. When the Yankees first arrived in 1862, they lacked any Infantry. As the USS Mississippi docked, a band aboard the ship struck up the Star Spangled Banner. Unionists on the New Orleans docks cheered, briefly. Then some Confederate soldiers broke up the cheering section. New Orleans had a large contingent of merchants who had originated from north of the Mason Dixon line. These persons generally opposed secession.

Capt. David Farragut sent a couple of officers ashore to demand the surrender of the city. The Confederate military had already retreated. So, the officers had to meet with Mayor John T. Monroe, a former Know Nothing, but now a moderate Democrat.

Surrender

As the two Yankee officers walked toward City Hall, a mob followed them shouting, “Hang them! Kill them!” The officers spoke with Mayor Monroe. They demanded that the U.S. flag be displayed atop the post office, the Customhouse (a federal building) and the U.S. Mint. They demanded that the Louisiana flag be lowered from the top of City Hall. Monroe then deferred to Maj.-Gen. Mansfield Lovell, then hiding in the city. Lovell came to City Hall, said he had no authority, since his forces had all withdrawn. Farragut’s officers withdrew back to their ship through a side door.

Lovell then returned to the city, met with the Mayor and discussed the possibility of rushing the Mississippi and seize the ship. Lovell opposed the plan as unrealistic. But, he said he would support the plan if the city could find 1,000 volunteers for the task. When only 140 men were found, the plan was abandoned. The overwhelming majority of New Orleanians willing to fight had already left town.

Mayor Monroe then replied to Capt. Farragut that if he wanted the state flag removed from City Hall, he, Farragut, must do it himself. The mayor believed that he could somehow maintain his allegiance to the Confederate States, despite Union occupation.

The U.S. Mint

Farragut was in a quandary. If he disembarked his few Marines to occupy the city, riots would ensue. The Infantry under MG Butler were still down river from the city, days away. Farragut threatened to bombard the city of they did not accede to his terms. During negotiations, the Marines managed to hoist a flag over the U.S. Mint. But, they avoided City Hall, where a mob congregated and threatened vengeance on the invaders.

Removing the U.S. Flag

As soon as the Marines marched away from the Mint and proceeded back to their ship, a crowd surged toward the Mint. Four men ascended to the roof and tore down the U.S. flag. They tore it to shreds. A large crowd then proceeded to the river front, led by one woman carrying a large Confederate flag. She stood beneath the Yankee guns, while the crowd sang “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “Dixie.” With no Confederate military in the city and the Yankees still not in the city, riots and looting broke out. Stores were looted. Many of the residents had little to no food for the prior many months. The Union blockade had essentially brought the busy port to a stand-still.

One of the Unions ships fired a cannon at the crowd by the Mint. The crowd dispersed. The cannoneers on the Pensacola jumped to their pieces, ready to bombard the town, as Farragut had promised. Fortunately, the primers had all been removed and the Captain of the ship was able to restrain his sailors.

For now, the four men who removed the flag remained unidentified. But, later, after a few weeks of occupation, the Federal identified one William Mumford as one of the protagonists of the Mint flag removal. Mumford was easy to identify. He had sold shreds of the US flag and retained one piece which he wore on the lapel of his coat. Maj.-Gen. Butler did not hesitate to sentence him to death for his crime. Mumford was a gambler and reckless. But, he was also a homeowner with a family. He was well liked by the working class.

Many New Orleanians expected Butler to commute the sentence. But, those persons did not yet know “Beast” Butler. On June 8, the Federals hung Mumford for daring to pull down the U.S. flag.

Source:

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 67-70.

The New Revolution

A couple of days later on July 3, 1862, Clara was again feeling patriotic. She was certain Gen. Beauregard was the new father of the country and would lead the South to victory. Yet, she mentioned, he had been removed from command. She fervently believed, as did most New Orleanians at the time, that Beauregard was the second George Washington, a new “Father of the country.” Most white Southerners at the time firmly believed they were engaged in a second American revolution.

Eugenia Phillips

She learned that day that Mrs. Eugenia Phillips, the mother of Clara’s good friend, Beauty Phillips, had been arrested by the Provost Marshal. Gen. Butler sent her to Ship Island. The island was a small island off the coast of Louisiana. It was and still is a simple barrier island. Her stated offense was to laugh from her balcony as the funeral procession of 1LT George DeKay passed by. It made no difference to Beast Butler that Mrs. Phillips was presiding over a children’s party on the balcony. Mrs. Phillips (nee Levy) was married to Philip Phillips, a former Congressman from Alabama. They had evacuated to New Orleans during the war. Philip Phillips was a good friend of Judah Benjamin, the Secretary of War for the Confederacy. The Benjamins and the Phillips were prominent members of the Jewish community in New Orleans.

Eugenia Phillips was also patriotic. When Gen. Butler asked her why she was laughing as the funeral procession passed by, she replied, “I was in good spirits that day.” She could have told him about the children’s party. But, she preferred to antagonize the general. Eugenia was an ardent secessionist, more so than her husband

Gen. Butler also learned that in the years leading up to the war, Mrs. Phillips was one of the ladies in Pres. Buchanan’s “boudoir cabinet.” That meant she supported secession and supported the expansion of slavery. The general suggested she apologize. She refused, saying she intended no insult. The general then flew into a rage and accused her of teaching the nine children at the party to spit on Federal officers.

Ship Island

In revenge, the general issued orders sending her to Ship Island. The general said explicitly that she was a “common” woman, meaning she would be treated as a prostitute. The city was shocked. Clara was deeply offended. She loved her good friend, Beauty Phillips. What Clara did not mention, perhaps it was just too difficult even for her diary, was that Gen. Butler did not care for Jews. It is not clear if he was actually anti-semitic, but historians agree he did not care for persons who happened to be Jewish.

There were some 60 prisoners consigned to Ship Island. A bookseller received two years because he displayed the skeleton of what he claimed to be a dead Union soldier in the window of his shop. The general closed his shop. A druggist was chained to a ball working on the island’s fortifications because he tried to try to smuggle quinine into the City. The publisher of the Daily Delta was sent to the island because he used seditious language and tried to investigate the general’s penal system. Mrs. Phillips lived in an open box car, exposed to the heat and the mosquitoes.

Mother of Nine

The City and most of the South were offended regarding Mrs. Phillips, because the punishment was so severe, and also because Mrs. Phillips was mother to nine children. The mother of nine would be released by the general a few months later on Sept. 14, after much public pressure. Mrs. Phillips employed much more skill at public relations than Gen. Butler. She wrote frequent letters to friends which were well-circulated, describing the harsh conditions on the island. Truly, the general succeeded in doing what the secessionists could not, he united the white citizens of the City against the Union forces.

Yet, Clara also recorded that day that she went on a long walk with another friend, Alice Jarreau, a Catholic. They saw Yankee soldiers, but due to Alice’s timidity, they made no protest toward the soldiers. They engaged in a spirited discussion on religion, but then went home. Clara could not help noticing the handsome officers on Gen. Butler’s staff. The general had seized a home in the Garden District for his headquarters. Doubtless, she had walked past his headquarters. In the end, it was a good day for Clara, except for Eugenia Phillips.

Source:

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 142, 169-170.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 12, 429-431.

Yankee Land

The New Orleans economy apparently was improving a bit. Hoops for skirts were suddenly available at a much reduced price. They came from “Yankee land,” said Clara. Clara commented briefly that there was no point in refusing to buy Yankee products when most folks were buying the much cheaper hoops. Even Clara’s patriotism had its limits. Clara was experiencing the improved economy in New Orleans after the Yankee occupation. The city could resume its trade with Northern cities and international ports.

Clara’s anger toward Gen. Butler did not subside. In her entry for June 22, 1862, she day dreamed about every lady in New Orleans throwing a rope around his neck and giving it a good pull.

Clara enjoyed a bowl of okra soup, perhaps referring to what we refer today as okra gumbo. It was the first of the season. Clara was Jewish, of course. She attended school. The school held session on Saturdays. Even though she often did not attend temple, she did not go to school on Saturdays. So, she was quite relieved when she was nevertheless promoted to her senior year. She was quite worried.

Little Josie was practicing her talking, “Jepp Dabis and Beaudegard,” apparently re-living her encounter with the Yankee soldier.

Source:

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 419-421.

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.

Source:

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.

Sources:

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.

Source:

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.

Source:

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.

Source:

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.

Source:

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