BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BUTLER, USA

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GENERAL BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BUTLER, USA
VITAL STATISTICS
BORN: 1818 in Deerfield, NH.
DIED: 1893 in Washington, DC.
CAMPAIGN: Hattares Inlet and Fort Fisher.
HIGHEST RANK ACHIEVED: Major General.
BIOGRAPHY
Benjamin Franklin Butler was born in November 5, 1818, on Deerfield, New Hampshire. He became a criminal lawyer, and an important state legislator in Massachusetts. In 1860, he was a delegate to the Democratic Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. Believing that only a moderate Southerner could hold the Union together, he voted (57 times) to nominate Jefferson Davis for the Presidency. For the same reason, he supported John C. Breckinridge at the Democratic rump convention in Baltimore. When the Civil War began, however, Butler did not hesitate to enlist in the Union armed forces. A week after the attack on Fort Sumter; Butler facilitated the secure and free movement of Union troops to and from Washington by calming the Baltimore Riots. He was appointed major general of volunteers, to rank from May 16, 1861. Although he was the first major general of volunteers appointed by President Lincoln; Butler became one of Lincoln's worst "political" generals. While in command of Fort Monroe on the Virginia peninsula, he led his troops to humiliation in a struggle at Big Bethel. Newspapers reported displays of ineptitude among the Union troops, including leaving behind valuable equipment while retreating. Butler barely maintained his commission after that incident. Later, when Southern slaves fled to the North through Butler's Fort Monroe, he declared them "contrabands of war." He made the declaration because the government had not provided any guidance on how to deal with the problem. Southern slaveowners were angered, because they regarded Butler's action as a confiscation of their property. Hoping to improve his reputation, Butler tightened up his ranks, and scored a victory at Hatteras Inlet. After this, he returned to Massachusetts to recruit new troops in the New England area. In 1862, he went to New Orleans when the city surrendered to the Union fleet, and was appointed military governor of the state. Although his political allies considered him a competent administrator; his opponents called him "Spoons" Butler, for his corrupt practices which reportedly included stealing the silverware from the house in which he was headquartered. Confederate President Davis even called him an outlaw. Butler was also known as "Beast" Butler, and became the center of national controversy when he issued his "woman's order." Many women of New Orleans had been insulting and verbally abusing Union soldiers. One woman even emptied a chamberpot on a Union captain. The Union officers, however, restrained themselves from reacting. In exasperation, Butler issued the "woman's order" (General Orders No. 28), which stated that: "when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult of show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation." Although Butler's "woman's order" was effective, it lowered Butler in the estimation of the community. He was removed from the military governorship in December of 1862. In 1863, he was placed in command of the Army of the James, but was stopped at Bermuda Hundred by Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard. Butler's forces were reduced, and he was transferred briefly to New York. Gen. Grant sent Butler home to wait for further orders. When Butler found out that Grant intended to mount a campaign against Fort Fisher, North Carolina, the last Confederate port open on the east coast; he demanded that Grant give him command. Because of seniority, Butler received the command, but seriously mismanaged it. It was the last assignment he was given, and he retired his commission in November of 1865. After the war, Butler became a Republican congressman, and played a significant role in Andrew Johnson's impeachment. In 1878, he was elected to the House of Representatives, this time as a Greenbacker. He ran for governor in Massachusetts several times, until he was finally elected in 1882. Two years later, he ran for President as a Greenbacker, but lost the election. Butler died on January 11, 1893, in Washington, D.C.