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PoP's Southern American: "The Beast of New Orleans"

9/19/2011

"The Beast of New Orleans"

Benjamin Butler

"As the Officers and Soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women calling themselves ladies of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any Female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or 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." So declared Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler in his infamous General Orders no. 28, issued in New orleans on May 15, 1862.

For three weeks since the surrender of New Orleans to the Union's army and naval forces, Butler's men had endured many contemptuous snubs from the city's patriotic Confederate women. Blue soldiers walking down the streets would be confronted by indignant women who would either gather in their skirts when the soldiers passed as though any contact would be contaminating or quickly cross to the other side of the street. The women would make derisive comments or loudly sing patriotic Confederate songs. Some of the "ladies" would go so far as to spit on the blue uniforms, and Capt. David G. Farragut even had the contents of a chamber pot dumped on his head from an upstairs window.

Butler's outrageous threat to treat these women as common whores had the desired effect of stopping the insults. Few women were arrested for violating General Orders no. 28, but one, Mrs. Philip Phillips, was confined on Ship Island for more than two months for laughing when a Union officer's funeral procession passed her house.

The order embarrassed many in the North and caused widespread indignation as an affront to womanhood throughout the South and in Europe. The nickname "Beast Butler" was bestowed on the general, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis declared him to be an outlaw to be executed when caught.

Source: "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War"

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