Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) Butler.

Private and official correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, during the period of the Civil War ... Privately issued online

. (page 38 of 55)
Online LibraryBenjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) ButlerPrivate and official correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, during the period of the Civil War ... Privately issued → online text (page 38 of 55)
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as in fact they were, — Gen. Butler resolved to detain them
and ordered an advance. Thus began the operations against
Fort Darling.

The turning of Gen. Butler's right in the fog on the following
Monday was mainly in consequence of his inability to extend
his lines so as to reach the river. The rebels availed them-
selves of the gap which he — Gen. Butler — had not men
enough to fill. But after it was turned, Gen. Gillmore says
the left could still have been held. Undoubtedly it could have



LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER 443

been for a time. But the position was such, as a look at the
map will show, that to have held it would have risked and
probably would have insured the cutting off of the forces hold-
ing it from the other wing of the army, and from the line of
entrenchments across the Bermuda Hundred peninsula, — this
latter, it is always to be kept in mind, being the main object of
the campaign, for which all else was to be sacrificed. Under his
orders Gen. Butler had no right to risk losing it; rightly, there-
fore, he gave orders for Gillmore to retire. But there is still
another reason. When the right was turned. Smith found
himself obliged to abandon a portion of his line to the left in
order to double up on the right and hold his new front. The
withdrawal of troops for this purpose left a gap between him
and Gillmore. The order which Gillmore interpreted first as
an order of retreat was, in fact, an order to close up this gap
and reconnect with Smith. He was ordered also to advance
in front of Smith's entrenchment, so as to fall on the enemy's
rear; but he misunderstood, disobeyed, and sent word he could
hold his groimd. The result was that the flanks of both corps
were exposed. And Gen. Butler finally sent a peremptory
order to both to retire within the Bermuda Hundred peninsula
— the only course remaining to him in conformity with his
general instructions. The responsibility for the failure, there-
fore, rests wholly on Gen. Gillmore and not at all on Gen.
Butler.

It is necessary to add a word on the relations between Gen.
Butler and his corps commanders. Gen. Smith and Gen.
Gillmore are soldiers by profession and education; Gen. Butler
is not. Yet, on the three main questions of the campaign he
has been right and they wrong. Neither believed it possible
to take and hold Bermuda Hundred. It has been done against
their advice. On the first landing. Gen. Butler wished to ad-
vance at once against Petersburg, having information that it
was weakly garrisoned, and that Beauregard had not then come
up. He was right, but desisted from his purpose on the mis-
taken remonstrance of his Corps Commanders. Subsequently,
after Beauregard's arrival. Smith wished to move against the
place against Butler's judgment, and was stopped by the
enemy in force on the banks of Swift Creek. But a distinction
is to be made between the two commanders. Gen. Smith,
while not always agreeing with Gen. Butler, has co-operated
with him zealously; Gen. Gillmore reluctantly. The insub-
ordination of the latter near Fort Darling found a parallel in



444 LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER

his delay at the outset of the expedition, and in his remissness at
the first landing on Bermuda Hundred, when for more than a
day he neglected to begin entrenching, and left all along his line
the bundles of shovels with the ropes that tied them uncut. It
has been very lately signalized by his failure to support Gen.
Kautz in the attack on Petersburg last Friday — a f ailiu-e
which drew down on him the public censure of the Secretary-
of-War.

Finally, from the beginning of his campaign down to the
present time, Gen. Butler has conformed to and has fully
carried out the instructions of Gen. Grant, and by him is
retained in command. The withdrawal of Gen. Smith's
Corps was in consequence of the unexpected necessity that
arose for the reinforcement of the army of the Potomac, and
from no other reason. The only justification which Gen.
Butler requires before the people is a knowledge of the facts.
They are here stated for the first time.

From General Grant

City Point, Va., June 25, 1864, 1 a.m.

Major-General Butler, Commanding, etc.

Can you send 1,000 or 1,500 infantry to Douthat's Wharf
before daylight? Sheridan has been attacked this evening,
and with great difficulty and with heavy loss of men has saved
his train so far. He expects another attack at daylight, and
would be much assisted if some infantry could reach him in

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

Official Records Series I, Vol. 36, Part III, p. 792.

From General Butler
Gen. Brooks June isth, isoi. iAS .m.

March at once two regiments which will number a thousand
men to the hospital wharf in the utmost haste. They will be
there met with orders for further movement. Take the nearest

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Genl. Comd'g.

From General Butler

Lieutenant-General Grant "'""^ *^' ^^^*' *-^^ *"•

Have ordered two regiments from my line to march to wharf
at Point of Rocks. Have ordered up transportation to take



LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER 445

them to Douthat's Wharf. Will you send down and get
ready a boat or boats at City Point in case mine have not
steamed up or are unready? Cannot Sheridan fall back to
Wilson's Wharf, about 4 miles.? He will there have the cover
of our work and 1,500 men to assist him. There are also two
gun-boats there to aid him. A boat from City Point can reach
Wilson's Wharf in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 36, Part III, p. 792.

From General Butler

June 25, 3.15 A.M.

Will Gen. Grant please tell me exactly where Sheridan is,
that I may be able to give directions to the officer in charge

my men. Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gent. Comd'g.

From General Grant

General Butler ^"^ ^°''^- "^""^ *^' ^^^*

Charles City Court-House is the place where our troops are,
and where the enemy is confronting them. The wagons and
one division of cavalry have come through to Wilcox's Wharf,
but have been moving during the night to Charles City Court-

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 40, Part II, p. 419.

From General Butler

Lt. Col. Fuller -^""^ *^*' ^■^*' ^■"■

Send any steamboats you have that will take a thousand
men to the Hospital Wharf at Point of Rocks. This needs the
utmost haste. g^^^ j, b^^ler, Maj. Genl. Comd'g.

From General Butler to Mrs. Butler

Headquarters, Department of Virginia and North Carolina,

Fort Monhob, June 25, 1864

My dear Sarah: It is hardly worth while writing you this
morning, as I suppose you will be up if Mrs. Grant has come.

Everything gets on slowly enough here. The heat is severe,
and we need rain very much indeed.

All my troops are around Petersburg. I have hardly a
corporal's guard here. I am afraid Sheridan has come to



446 LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER

grief in trying to get across the river below us. Was awakened
last night to send reinforcements to get him out of the scrape.
You will be nearly killed with the heat when you do come.
How do you get on anyway down there.'* Is it as slow as it is
here.'' You may make the currants. We shall eat them before
this campaign is over. yours, Benj.

From General Butler

Ed. Qrs., June iSth, 1864

To Alson Crane, Postmaster, Fort Monroe

Sir: I hear very grave complaints of the delay of the morn-
ing mail. It usually arrives about seven (7) o'clock, and the
boat is detained until (11) eleven before it can be forwarded.
You must put on more force. Two hours and a half is all the
time that can be possibly spared to it, as it deranges the mail
service very much. I am aware of the immense amount of
labor thrown upon your office by so large an army, but I am
also aware that increased compensation attends increased
labor, and therefore more clerks must be employed. I feel
certain that I have only to call your attention to this matter
to have it rectified at once. I have the honor to be

Very Respectfully, Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Genl.

From General Butler

Ed. Qrs., June iSth, 1864, 9.10

Major Usher, Paymaster Fort Monroe

I AM informed by Captain Martin that you have referred to
the Paymaster General the question whether the extra men who
were omitted by accident, of the 1st New York Mounted
Rifles, from the pay rolls must wait until another payment. I
am sorry you found it necessary to make the reference. If you
will forward me the money loaned by me to the Pay Depart-
ment at once, I will see that these men are paid. It seemed
simply a question of paymasters doing so much work. If you
had called upon me I would have found the money.

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Genl.

From General Grant

City Point, June 25, 1864, 9 p.m.

Major-General Butler

It was General Smith's intention to carry an advanced point
in front of his left last night, but finding that he had fewer men



LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER 447

than he thought, it was postponed. If he can secure this
advance to-morrow night I would like it to be done.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

OflSciaJ Records, Series I, Vol. 40, Part II, p. 421.

From General Butler

Head Qrs., June 25, 9.40

Maj. Gen'l. Smith

Did you make the attack contemplated? What was the
result? Please answer by telegram.

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen'l. Comd'g.

From General Butler

Head Qrs., June i5th, 9.45

Lt. Gen. Grant

Mt three regiments sent to Sheridan have returned. He
thinks he can hold without them. Two substitutes from the
7th N. Hampshire deserted to the enemy today from Picket.
Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen'l. Comd'g.

From General Grant

City Point, June 26. 1864

General Butler

I THINK it will be advisable to put up two or four guns of
heavy caliber on your shore battery to command Howlett's
battery and the reach above the obstructions. This will
enable the monitors to drop down out of range of the land bat-
teries. It is desirable that they should not lay habitually
under fire, but should be where, in a few minutes, they can run
up to engage the enemy's iron-clads or land batteries, if neces-

^^^- XJ. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 40, Part II, p. 450.

From General Butler

June iSth, 4.45 a.m.

Lt. Gen'l. Grant

Reported from lookout that the column of the enemy re-
ported this morning occupied 4^ hours in passing (four
hours and a half.) g^^^ p b^^ler, Maj. Gen'l.



448 LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER

From General Butler

Head Qrs., June 26, 7.45

Lt. General Grant

Gen. Smith had informed me that he intended to attack that
advanced position last night. I heard sharp firing and sup-
posed he might have done so. Upon receipt of your telegram
I inquired as to the result of his attack, and received the follow-
ing telegram, which I give verbatim, although I suppose it must
contain a blunder of the operator :

Gen. Btttlbb

I THOiTGHT it best to defer the attack indefinitely. On a second reconnoissance
of the enemy's position and view of the small forces at Gen. Turner's disposal last
night (June 24), and reconnoissances today have developed the enemy's lines so strong
that the loss of Oiie} could not be worth the hill (sic).

William F. Smith

In view of this opinion of General Smith do you think it ad-
visable to make the attempt? If so I will go over in the course
of the day and arrange the attack for tonight as suggested.
Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Genl. Comd'g.

From General Grant

CiTT Point, June 26, 1864, 8.1S a.m.

Major-General Butler

It was on General Smith's report that I ordered the advance
I did last night. I would not now insist on it against his judg-
ment without knowing more about the groimd and the feasi-
bility of carrying it than I do.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 40, Part II, p. 449.

From General Butler

June i6th, 1864, 10.40 a.m.

Lt. Gen. Grant,

In addition to the shore battery which you saw, 4 20-pouiider
and one 30-pounder Parrot works are already in progress for
mounting two one-hundred pounders, one six-inch Sawyer and
two 10-inch Mortons, which will see not only the Howlett
house battery and the obstructions but the reach above Farrar's
Island, and the reach above Dutch Gap, where the rebel iron-

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen'l. Comdg.



LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER 449

From General Butler
Gen. Brooks -^""^ *«**' '^■^^ *"•"■

Ask lookout at crow's nest if the rebels have a pontoon
bridge at Cox Ferry, and if he saw the column cross the river.

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen'l. Comd'g.

From General Grant

City Point, June 26, 1864, 4.30 p.m.

General Butler

The force crossing James River is probably the enemy's
cavalry which was after Sheridan. The latter is now all safe,
and no doubt the enemy have abandoned all idea of further
molesting him. If re-enforcements should become absolutely
essential to hold your lines, the troops north of the river may
be brought in, not, however, until the necessity arises.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 40, Part II, p. 451.

From General Butler

Gen'l. Brooks •^""'' ^^^- ^'^^ ""•

Which way was that column moving? State from what

point to what point, the hour the last of their column passed

the nearest point to us. r, tk -n

^ Benj. F. Butler

From General Butler

Hd. Qrs., June i&h, 1864

Brig. Gen'l. Graham, Comd'g. Army Gunboats

I HAVE information from Mr. Mills of Moimt Eyrie, just this
side of Arlington, that he hears cutting on the island between
Fort Clifton and the mainland. That cutting of timber is of
course for one of two purposes. Either to get a range on some
battery, or for the purpose of getting a road through for a
pontoon bridge for a movement upon General Smith's flank
and rear. In either case it needs watching. Will you send up
there a reconnoitring party tonight, and find out what the
cutting means, and report to me, watching carefully that no-
body crosses the river. ^^^^ ^ 5^,^^^^^ ^^^-^ q^^,^^



VOL. IV — 29



450 LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER

From General Butler

Unopficiai,. June iSth, 7.15 p.m.

Col. Bowers, A. A. GenL, City Point

Pardon me, — it is probably my stupidity. You say in
your despatch your effective force operating from the James
River. Do you mean the forces on my line from the Appomattox
to the James, or those on the Richmond side of the James at
Deep Bottom, or both.!* I shall be obliged for the explanation.

Respectfully, Benj. F. Butler

From Colonel Bowers

Maj. Gen. B. F. Butler ^"^ ^°°'^' "'""^ *«' i««*

I INTENDED to ask for the effective strength of the army in
the field with you, which includes the troops on both sides of
the river belonging to the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps, and all
others located on the line of present operations this side of
Fortress Monroe. Please excuse my failure to make the des-
patch intelligible.

T. S. Bowers, Assistant Adjutant-General

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 40, Part II, p. 451.

From General Butler

Maj. Gen'l. Smith ''""^ *®' " '""•

I HAVE the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your telegram
(a copy of which you have forwarded directly to the Lt.
General as I am informed) in regard to Colored Troops. From
several of its propositions I dissent. Your field return of the
23rd instant gives 7852 Col. Troops for duty, in this despatch
you say you have now nearly 5000. What has become of
nearly three thousand of these troops in three days? As to
Choate's Colored Battery, it has been well-drilled, highly
spoken of. I know its commander is a good oflScer, and he has
expressed confidence in his men. In your despatch of the
23rd, upon the authority of your Chief of Artillery, you reported
the Col. Battery inefficient. But as that officer is of that class
who do not trust any Colored troops, and has since proved his
own inefficiency by deliberately riding into the enemy's lines
in a, fit of drunken or other delirium, as I am informed, and been
captured by them, I am not inclined to base much official
action on his judgment.

It can be hardly true in fact that the three regiments of Col-
ored Cavalry are yet undrilled in loading their muskets, as one



LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER 451

of these regiments was in the charge for which you have pub-
licly so highly complimented the Colored Troops, and took the
works they were ordered to do. If these are not to be depended
upon, you have few Colored Troops that can be.

Much as I value Gen. Hinks' services, and I yield to no man
more kindly appreciation of them, I should hardly advise the
disorganization of his division because of his loss. If, however,
the Lt. General choose to carry out a suggestion made by him
several days since, and giving to Gen. Burnside the troops of
the 9th Army Corps which are now in this department in the
Eighteenth Corps, and giving us General Ferrero's Division
instead, as you seem to desire this change for the purpose of
consolidating the Colored Troops, I will not object. Supposing,
however, until now this was against your wish, I have objected,
but will now withdraw it and allow the change to be made so
far as it rests with me.

As you are entrenching before Petersburg, as you suggest, you
will find these good troops to hold entrenchments.

I will forward a copy of this note to the Chief of Staff of the
Commanding General, so that he may have our views before
him at the same time, although as a rule I would not send for-
ward such communications without an interchange of views.
Respectfully, Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen I. Comd'g.

From General Butler

Brig. Gen. Carr, Commanding, &c. ■^""'' *^' '^•*" ^^^^'^

You will take from Yorktown all ordnance, Quartermaster's,
Hospital stores, and other public property. You will remove
the sick to McClellan Hospital, Fortress Monroe.

You will turn over the public property to the proper oflBcers:
at Fortress Monroe, turn over the prisoners to the military
prison at Fortress Monroe.

Leave at Williamsbiu-gh such cavalry force not exceeding
100 men as may be in your command, to hold the telegraph
line and assist in the defence of the post station there, about
600 men including cavalry for the defence of the Post.

See that serviceable guns taken from the defence of York-
town and Gloucester Point be placed at Williamsburgh
instead of the present ordnance.

Send the one hundred-pounder rifle with its ammunition
to Bermuda Hundreds. Order all the staff oflScers not personal
to the comd'g officer of Williamsburgh & the other stations
there to report to their Chiefs for duty.



452 LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER

Order the troops not needed for Williamsburgh to report
here for duty, including the light battery at W. All this to be
done as speedily as possible without injury to the public service.

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen'l.

From Mrs. Butler to General Butler

FoBTBEsa Monroe, June HJth, 1864

Dearest: I am so settled to the habit of writing that the
moment I come into my own room I sit down at once by the
little table and begin scribbling to you, though I said good bye
only this morning. It was fearfully hot coming down the river,
and the boat loaded with soldiers, oh, they did look a little
dirty, and a scent, not of roses, as the hot air swept over them,
was wafted to our senses. But we finally mounted to the wheel-
house above them all, and were rewarded by a cool, renewing
breeze. When we were half way down, a splendid shower
came up in our rear, — that I am sure you had the benefit of
before it overtook us, and that gave me great pleasure, for I
left you feeling myself quite disconsolate that you must remain
in that hot, dusty field, and no help for it, perhaps for weeks.
Now, if you had the shower, it is tolerably cool and inviting.
When you write do not forget to tell me if it rained on the day
I left. The rain is pouring here now. I am obliged to get up
from writing and close the blinds that are dashing forward and
back. I found Lauretta here when I came. Fisher had gone
up to see you. Mrs. Grant is not here yet. I thought to
write you something why I did not go to sleep that night, but I
have not time or room tonight. And it is no matter that I
should. I know very well that you love me dearly, and cannot
help it. You would if you could, but you cannot help it. So
be content and do not try. ^^^^ affectionately, Sarah

I send bread this morning, tomorrow blackberries if I can get
them.

From General Smith

Headquarters Eighteenth Army Corps, June 28, 1864

Major-General Butler

Will you please give me 800 men belonging to General
Turner's division for four regiments of colored troops? I have
been most unreasonably alarmed by them.

Wm. F. Smith, Major-General

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 40, Part II, p. 488.



LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER 453

From General Butler
Maj. Gen'l. Smith "^""^ *8'*' '^•^^ ^■'"■

I WILL send the remainder of Turner's men and your own.
Send me the negro regiment.

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen'l. Comdg.

From General Butler
Gen. Brooks "^""^ ^- ^^^ *"•

Please order the remaining troops convalescent and others
to report to him in the Hnes near Petersburg.

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Gen'l. Comdg.

From General Butler to Mrs. Butler

Beadquarters, Department of Virginia and North Carolina,

in the Field, June 28, 1864

My dear Sarah : There is not one word different from what
you saw. I had a very warm ride to Petersburg yesterday,
which tired me much.

Trusting your ride was pleasant, and that you got safe home,

I am your ,t

Husband

From Mrs. Butler to General Butler

FoBTHEss MoNBOE, June iSth, 1864

Dearest: Is it not a shame that I should take those hot
days to visit you, and now the weather is so delightfully cool
that heavy wrappers are worn with comfort.'' By the time I
am ready to go again the heat and dirt will be ready for me.
This has been a great day for company: Gen'l. Shepley, two
daughters, Miss Wood, Fisher, Lauretta, Capt. De Kay made
quite a dinner party. The Shepley party are desirous to go
up the James and visit you. Some time in the course of a fort
night you may chance to see us. In that event, the Hospital
tent would be nice to have for the young ladies' sleeping-room.
There is no end of company today. Col. Biggs, Edson, and
De Kay have taken up the evening. And now the mocking-
bird has begim, and there is no intonation of sound that he is
not master of. My chance for sleep is not very great. We
rode up the beach, and I was so chilled that I know I have taken
a violent cold. Can you imagine it after the heat of Sunday
and the previous days.'' Tomorrow I think of going to see
Gen'l. Devens. Miss Dix, I heard from Blanche, was desirous I



454 LETTERS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER

should. Gen'l. Carl looked at my carriage on the wharf, and

says the one at Yorktown is much handsomer, and that he should

send it down very soon. I was disappointed last night. Gen'l.

Weitzel came over from Norfolk a little past nine o'clock, and

came up with Mr. Webster to call on us, but we had already

retired. I was sorry, for though I had met him quite lately,

Blanche has not seen him, and she wished we had not been so

sleepy. I did not see your two letters until this morning. So

you think we are to worry things through? I do not believe

a word of it. Our days will glide on so peacefully they will

seem like one long summer's day. If breezy sorrow comes to

ruflflie it, it will be because you like the tempest, and evoke the

thunder and the flashing lightning. What a goose I am to sit

here at this time of night writing such nonsense! I think you

will have a charming night's rest, it is so cool. You can get

under the blankets and strap down the tent, and nobody to

fidget and keep you awake. Goodnight! I could not get the

blackberries until tomorrow. t^ c<

Yours ever oarah

From General Butler to Mrs. Butler

Headquarters, Department of Virginia and North Carolina,

in the Field, June 29, 1864

My dear Sally: Rain — not a drop of it. I went to Peters-
burg the morning you left, and never got a drop till in the even-
ing, when only a few drops — not enough to mark the dust.
It was intensely hot. Cool — last evening while reading your
note I was toasting my toes with immense satisfaction before
a good fire. This morning I am going to Petersburg again.
It will be hot again to-day, and oh, so dusty.

I am glad your good habits stick to you — - keep on writing.
You improve, specially with the last sentence.

True, I love you dearly, and, you goose, you pretend you
have just found it out ! Of course, I can't help it, and I haven't



Online LibraryBenjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) ButlerPrivate and official correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, during the period of the Civil War ... Privately issued → online text (page 38 of 55)