Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) Butler.

Private and official correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, during the period of the Civil War ... Privately issued (Volume 5) online

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Online LibraryBenjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) ButlerPrivate and official correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, during the period of the Civil War ... Privately issued (Volume 5) → online text (page 1 of 68)
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Volume V

August 1864 — March 1868



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From General Butler to General Grant

Unofficial. Head Quarters, August 4, 1864

My DEAR Sir: I have been reading the newspaper accounts
of the Petersburg afiFair, and beg leave to call your attention
to the blame cast upon the negro troops. They ought to bear
all their share of the odium which attaches to the failure, but
no more. If it be true, as alleged, that the failure is owing to
their want of courage, conduct, and inefficiency, then it would
seem that the negro could never make a soldier, and the policy
of the Government upon this subject is wrong and should at
once be changed. If they are not to blame, that fact, it is
respectfully suggested, should be ascertained and declared in
the most solemn form of military investigation and report.
Upon this precise movement of these troops at Petersburg I
have no opinion, because I do not know the fact. Certain it is
that there is fault somewhere; and I think, and venture most
respectfully to suggest that it is due to yourself, the army, and
the country that the fault should be ascertained, so that the
remedy may be applied either mediately or immediately by
yourself or the War Department, if the matter is susceptible
either of amendment or correction.

If the whole affair can be investigated, it will be found that
the plan of movement was excellent, that the strategy which
drew Lee's attention to the north side of the James accomplished
all that could be desired in drawing away his troops. This
much I know, for a portion of this it was my business to know.
Why, then, did the plan fail? Clearly for want of proper and
efficient execution. Was that failure of execution inherent
and irremediable in the very nature of things, and in troops
engaged, or did it arise from other causes, or the faults and

VOL. V — I 1


incompetency of commanding officers of any subdivision of
the army? This is the subject that in my judgment needs

It is true that by the articles of war to prevent oppression
by the commander upon any officer under him, a commanding
General cannot order a Court of Inquiry upon any officer's
conduct without his request. But it is clearly competent for
the commander of an army to order a Court of Inquiry, or a
Board of Officers to investigate and report the facts relating to
a given movement or occurrence, in order to furnish the basis
upon which the General commanding can ask for a Court of
Inquiry upon any officer. And if, in the investigation of the
facts of a given transaction, the conduct or capacity of any
officer becomes a question bearing upon the subject matter of
the inquiry, then that conduct and capacity can be investi-
gated as incidental to the main question or investigation.

Pardon me if in urging this inquiry I am overstepping the
bounds of official propriety or sphere of duty, either public
or official. I am prompted by a double motive: A desire not
to have this most serious reverse placed where I know it does
not belong, i.e. either on the plan or strategy which preceded
it; and secondly, as I raised the first regiment of negro troops
and have ever since urged their employment, I desire to have
my own judgment corrected if in the wrong.

We are likely to have these troops under the last Act of
Congress on the draft in large numbers, and if they are to be
useless, it ought to be known at once. Such has not been my
experience, and I am ready and willing now to take under my
command the defeated division of General Burnside's colored
troops, and with them to attempt any work that any troops
ought to try, subject always to have my opinions altered by
any well-ascertained facts developed in the investigation to
which I have alluded, which ought to affect a well-balanced
mind. Believe me, General,

Yours truly, Benj. F. Butler

From General Grant

Head Quarters Armies of the United States, Citt Point, Va. Aug. Uh, 1864

Maj. Genl. B. F. Butler, Comd'g. Dept. Va. & N. C.

General: Lt. King's communication in relation to closing
the port of Wilmington with torpedoes is received. I called
Admiral Lee's attention to this matter some time ago, think-


ing myself it was perfectly feasible. The Admiral, however,
thought differently, giving as a reason for his views that both
channels were commanded by the enemy's guns. All the
torpedoes we would plant during the night the enemy would
take up during the day.

I certainly, however, would like the experiment tried, and
if you will arrange with Adm'l Lee for his co-operation, what
you may do will have my approval. I am. Gen., Very respect-

^"^^^ Your obt. servL, U. S. Grant, Lt. Gen.

From General Grant to General Butler

City Point, 12 m., Aug. 4, 1864

I FIND it necessary for me to go to Washington for a day or
two to give directions to affairs there. In my absence remain
on the defensive, notifying Maj. Genl. Meade that if attacked
he is authorized to call on such of your troops as are south of
the Appomattox. Only expecting to be absent three (3) days,
I will not relinquish command. TT ^ r Tf C 1

From General Grant to General Butler

City Point, 12.30 p.m. Aug. 4ith, 1864

I AM compelled to send a second division of cavy. to Washn.
This will leave the cavalry force too weak to protect the flank
of the enemy without the assistance of Kautz. Please order
Kautz to report accordingly. Only intending to be absent
for a few days, I leave my Adjt. Genl. at post of Hd. Qrs., but
being senior, you necessarily would command in any emergency.
Please communicate with me by telegraph if anything occurs
when you wish my orders. ^ g ^^^^^^ ^^ ^^^^

From General Butler

August ith, 1864

Brig. Gen. Kautz will remain, reporting to Gen. Meade with
his mounted command until further orders.

Benj. F. Butler, Maj. Genl.

From General Grant to General Butler

Telegram. City Point, Aug. 4, 1864

I THINK it will be advisable to have all the surplus pontoon
material in the hands of Gen. Benham. When any lodging is


required he can be called on for it, &, having it together, it can
be kept in quantity sufficient for any emergency. Divided,
neither your Engs. nor Gen. Benham will have enough to
throw a bridge over the James or Appomattox. I do not order
this, if you see any good reason for keeping it as it is.

U. S. Grant, Lt. Genl.

From E. S. Parker to General Butler

CiTT Point, Aug. 4, 1864

Gen. Grant left about an hour ago.

E. S. Parker, A. A. C.

From J. K. Herbert to General Butler

Washington, D.C, August ith, 1864

My dear General: My friend. Gov. Ford, this day showed
me the letter you sent by his hand to the President relating to
myself, and also repeated to me a few of the many kind things
you saw fit to say of me in your interview with him. I had
rather have that letter than the promotion (without it), which
I think morally certain to follow its presentment. For the
too kind letter, and also for the kind words, I assure you I am
sincerely grateful.

Three years ago I had not the honor of your personal ac-
quaintance — I knew only what history had of you, and that
but imperfectly — when you were Breckenridge's candidate
for Gov. Mass. We differed as widely politically as men dif-
fered at all at that day. But when the "Long Roll" was
beaten we both "fell in" on the same side, and it has come to be
almost a by- word with me that " the only man whose treatment
of Rebels and Rebellion suits me is Major Gen'l. Butler."

Because you hated and hung rebels I was for you before I
ever saw you, and have in my way and with more or less suc-
cess sought to have any dissenting ones in my limited circle
won to your faith and to your support. This thing I did in
execution of my judgment that your course was right, and for
no hope or expectation of reward further than the consciousness
of having done my duty.

My gratitude, therefore, is in no manner abated by an offset
on account of services rendered, and I only beg to remain.
Your most faithful and obedient servant, J. K. Herbert


From General Martindale to General Butler

Rochester, New York, Aug. 5th, 1864

Dear General : I have now been home one week. By dint
of absolute rest, recumbent posture, medical attendance, I am
feeling pretty well, but I am now persuaded that my departure
from the army was an absolute necessity. I could not go back
to you with any safety at present. I have sent my resignation
directly to Col. Hammond, but fearing that it may be objected
to as not coming through the regular channels, I send a dupli-
cate to you. It is not necessary to send through General
Ord, for I was assigned to the temporary command of the 18th
Corps, and I am not aware of any order returning me to the
command of the 2nd division of that Corps.

Please forward the resignation approved. I enclose to you
a copy of a letter which I have sent to the Secretary of War.

You will see that I prepared an alternative, viz, an extension
of my leave to the 15th of Sept. I have been induced to do this
by the solicitations of loyal citizens here. There is very great
discouragement over the North, great reluctance to recruiting,
strong disposition for peace, and even among republicans of
long standing [an] inclination for a change of rulers. The demo-
cratic papers in this city, in noticing my return and resignation,
stated that it was said to be placed on the ground of ill-health,
but imputed it in fact to the well-founded disgust of a "good
soldier" in the blundering administration of affairs.

Now, I don't wish that any influence that I may have should
be excited to increase or confirm the present popular discour-
agement, and I have yielded to the suggestion made to me to
have my leave of absence extended if the Sec. should deem it
advisable to do so.

If there shall occur any delay in disposing of my case, do me
the friendly act to extend my leave of absence, say 20 days, to
cover contingencies. Please do this at all events.

The certificate enclosed will, I suppose, justify this exten-
sion. I wish to hear from you. I am greatly disturbed by the
failure of that mining operation at Petersburg.

The plan of an attack on Walthal Junction was a better one.
What says Weitzel? The fact is, the only gain which has been
accomplished and held in the campaign of the Eastern armies
this season, is the foothold which you seized by your audacious
enterprise up the James River in May, and gained, too, without
the loss of a man.


Write to me. I recall my acquaintance with you with
pleasure, and shall always hope and expect to be esteemed as.
Truly your friend, J. H. Martindale

From General Butler to Mrs. Butler

Headquarters, Department of Virginia and North Carolina,

in the Field, August 5, 1864

My dear Sarah: I am beginning to be alarmed about you.
True, B untie writes that you are "too busy to write me this
morning," but what am I to think.'^ I will give you some news.
Grant has gone to Washington, and that leaves me in command
of the army, which command he has turned over to me. W^e
are to lie still for a week, but I question whether the rebels will
let us. Meade has asked a court of inquiry upon Burnside
and into the Petersburg affair, and they are all by the ears
together over there.

You see, I shall have a right to go down as soon as Grant
gets back. I propose to do something while he is gone to keep
the blood circulating. I rode your horse yesterday, and found
him very easy and well-broken — a little hard on the bit with
a snuffle rein, but not too much for you who would bear on the
bit with the curb. He is easily enough controlled. I will send
him down or bring him myself as soon as possible.

What are we to have next down at the Fort.^^ You can make
that encampment a little more endurable by a little attention
which perhaps you will find it easy to give.

Now, love, get well and strong, and we will be out riding

together in a few days. ^ , -n -i^ -n

° "^ 2 ruly yours, Ben J. r. Butler

From General Butler

Ed. Qrs. in the Field, Aug. 5th, 1864, 9 a.m.

Lt. General Grant, Washington, D. C.

I sent Graham up and burnt Seddon's house in retaliation
for burning the house of Mr. Blair. He went within a mile
and a half of Fredericksburgh and saw no enemy. All quiet.

Benj. F. Butler

From General Butler to Montgomery Blair

Head Qrs. in the Field, August 5th, 1864

I SENT Gen. Graham with the army gunboats and burnt
Seddon's house near Fredericksburgh, in retaliation for the


burning of yours. That house has been in our hands several

times and has been spared. „ t-« t» ti^ - n i

*^ Benj. r . Butler, Maj. Gent.

From H. A. Risley to General Butler

Commercial Intercourse with and in States Declared in Insurrection,
Second Agency, Treasury Department, Wash. D. C, Aug. 6th, 186^

General: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of
regulation of this Department, concerning commercial inter-
course and other matters in the insurrectionary states, and
all the laws, including the last approved July 2nd, 1864, with
passages marked by red pencil to which I call your attention.

By regulation IV, I am directed to ascertain from published
order the lines of actual military occupation by U. S. Navy and
[[Army]], to agree with you in writing as to places within those
lines where supplies may be taken and the aggregate amount
per month that may be taken to each of such places. Section
9 of the Act of July 2nd (see page 75) required this to be done.

The law assumes that Generals commanding Departments
or Districts will make and publish an order indicating the lines
of actual occupation by U. S. forces. May I ask that you will
at your convenience make and publish such an order, and
furnish me several copies.

On reading the law again, I perceive that the General com-
manding the Department is to agree upon the places for sup-
plies to be sold, and the monthly amount. "Or district" was
left off probably through carelessness. I suppose everything
in your vicinity will be under your control, but it now appears
to me that Gen. Butler must by the law be a party to the agree-
ment. Please look at this and think it over, and be prepared
to arrange the matter definitely when I get down about the
15th instant. I do not suppose you will be home much before,
I shall leave the matter pretty much to your judgment and
better acquaintance with the requirement of the country.

You will observe that the several counties in North Carolina
between Albemarle Sound and Chowan River are in the agency
under my supervision.

Respectfully your obdt. Servant,
H. A. Risley, Sup. Spec. Agent, 7th Agency


From General Butler to Mrs. Butler

Headquarters, Department of Virginia and North Carolina,

in the Field, August 6, 1864

My dear Wife: Another week has rolled round without
notice — one day so like another. Mail came in last night.
There was no letter — again the envelopes were all ransacked
but still no letter, and sad, sad disappointment. Half hour
after, another envelope came, official size, marked "A letter
from Mrs. Butler." It was seized — eagerly torn open —
letter found, read — and then I wished the last envelope
hadn't come. yours, Benj. F. Butler

From J. K. Herbert to General Butler

Washington, D. C, Aug. 6, 1864

My dear General: The Davis Protest has come. You
have no doubt seen it. At least you will get it to-night.

The Gov. & I were at the State Dept. to-day and heard it
talked of. No such bomb has been thrown into Washington

Seward read it to Lincoln last night. All we can hear so
far is that Mr. L. said, "I would like to know whether these
men intend openly to oppose my election, — the document
looks that way."

We went over to the White H. to see Mr. L. on my matter —
stopped a moment in the East Room for consultation, & Bill
Kellogg of 111. came in. We hailed him, & almost immediately
Mont. Blair came in. Kellogg hailed him. They began to
talk at once of the Protest, Blair most violently. A remark
reached our ears — he looking fairly in our faces across the
hall — literally, I think, thus — "we have Lee & his — on one
side, and Henry Winter Davis & Ben. Wade and all such Hell
cats on the other," &c., &c.

The violent declamation of the P.M.G., which seemed to be
fully endorsed & appreciated by K., was soon stopped by some
one coming along to go up stairs where they were standing.
K. subsequently joined us, & was very bitter in his denuncia-
tion of Wade for his letter " after receiving as much as he had
from the Administration and the Govt." He said many things
but few worth repeating here.

Webster, Chief Cl'k. State D., said the whole thing meant
that "in order to save the country you must make Old


Ben Butler President!" That was the Protest reduced to a

The trepidation of the White House is worse to-day than
ever it was when poor Old Jim B. sat up there & trembled.
Old Ben's stars are beginning to show themselves. But it
seems they changed the design as to signatures.

The Gov. asks me to enclose for your approval an applica-
tion that will explain itself, & which you will find herewith.

Mr. Pennypacker is on his way with his bakery supplies.
He is a friend of yours of the right stamp — he is also a friend
of mine. He wants to start an eating-house in connection
with his bakery. For anything I know he is the very best man
for that duty there. If he makes an application, I will be
glad if you grant him the privilege.

We deemed it worse than useless to see Mr. L. to-day on my
matter, & so came away without trying. Seward sent for
Ford to talk with him about the Protest, but he did not go in
yet because he, F., had not read it. He & I have just now read
it carefully — Ford thinks it one of the greatest documents
of the age.

I will keep my eye and ear on this scare, and if I get any good
notes I'll send by first mail.

I am afraid my cake is dough for some days. No use to
talk to L. when he is so angry.

Yours faithfully, J. K. Herbert

From J. K. Herbert to General Butler

Washington, D. C, Aug. 6, 1864

My dear General: Yesterday Gov. Ford and myself were
passing through the Treasury Dept., and we met Thurlow
Weed. He was in such haste that he could not stop to talk
with Ford, and so the Gov. walked with him. Weed said,
"Lincoln is gone, I suppose you know as well as I. And unless
a hundred thousand men are raised sooner than the draft, the
country's gone too. I must go home now. I'm dragged
about so here that I can't talk to you, but you can come up to
my place, and there I will give you my views — but Lincoln
is gone now."

Now, Ford is a friend and co-worker of Weed's for twenty-
five years. He has done things for Weed that he knows he
could not do for himself. I wanted the Gov. to go in time for
the result of his visit to reach Chicago before the Convention.


He wants to go on some accounts — thinks something might
come of it worth while — especially coupled with his recollec-
tion of what Seward and Dawson have said of you. My recol-
lection is that I wrote those things to Col. Shaffer.

They — Weed, S., & D. are against L. certainly, and why can
they not be dealt with successfully? I think the Gov. can do it.
At least I think he is discreet enough to be allowed to try. He
said he could hardly just now afford the expense of such a trip
as he would like to carry it on. I said to him I would see that
he was taken care of all right, if it was thought best for him to
go, and resolved to write you privately by the first mail, for
your advice. Now you can write him & send by mail or a mes-
senger, or you can telegraph him or me to come and see you for
instructions, & your will will be most expeditiously executed.

I ought to say, however, that the Gov. will not receive any

funds from you for any such service. He will be delighted to do

anything he can if it be your pleasure to have him try. 316 F.

St. will reach us both. ^ /. .,, j. „ t -t- tt

Yours jaitnjuUy, J. K. Herbert

From General Butler to Colonel Dimon

August 6th, 1864

I HAVE sent you a commission in order to show that I appre-
ciate your soldiery qualities, and that I am kindly disposed.
There are and have been grave charges against your personal
habits. If I did not believe that you both could and would
alter them, I should not have sent the Commission. Pray do
not attempt to deny the habit of drinking to excess, and ab-
sence from Quarters to late hours of the night. These are not
recommendations, and must now cease. A Colonel cannot
afford to do so. Ofl&cers should not suppose that they are out
from under my eye when I happen to be away. It is not so.
Now, your officers are getting into bad habits, — one was
arrested in a drinking-house asleep, and it was reported to me.
Three others, for one of whom you have asked promotion, have
been arrested for drunkenness. Many are getting so that their
Col. will be ashamed of them, and he cannot control them, and
why, they may accuse him of the same offence. I have written
this letter as the kind friend. Be sure and not give further
occasion either for caution or action. The last will come if it is
needed. I reward good service and punish for bad, with equal
facility. Remember the words of a friend.

Truly Yours, Benj. F. Butler


From General Butler to Colonel Saunders

Unofficial. Aug. 6th, 1864

I HAVE assigned you to duty in Norfolk as Provost Marshal
because I have confidence in your judgment, integrity, and
personal habits to correct abuses which exist there. The great
vices of the officers are (gaming) and drinking, neither of which
can be interfered with of course unless they interfere with
duties or are open and public. Ofiicers seen riding in the streets
with notorious women will be arrested at once, whatever their
rank may be. Drunkards in public will be at once arrested,
no matter what are the staggering insignia of office. I will
support and sustain you, rest assured.

I doubt not you have a kind heart, but in dealing with
offenders it is the worst quality a man can have. Another
matter which is suffered to go unchecked is brawling and talk-
ing in the public places against the Government and officers,
— that is not for militia in a garrison. There is no freedom of
speech there, whatever there may be elsewhere.

There is hardly a person who has a permit to sell liquor who
does not violate it. Get the General Order and make the re-
tailers live up to it, specially inn-holders and restaurants.

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

From General Butler

August 6, 1864, 8.30 a.m.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Sec. of War

At 6.30 P.M. yesterday the enemy sprang a small mine in
front of the eighteenth Corps near Petersburg, about 40 yards
in front of our works. They did not make an assault, a fresh
artillery fire was opened along the whole of our line. The cas-
ualties small. I regret to say that Col. Stedman, 11th Conn.,
is dangerously wounded. I beg leave to renew my application
that he receive promotion for gallant and meritorious services.
Our lines are intact, and all is quiet in front of Petersburg. The
enemy opened upon us from the Howlett House Battery. No

Benj. F. Butler
From General Butler to General Grant

Head Quarters, Aug. 6, 9.30 p.m.

All has been quiet today. Regular shelling is going on
before Petersburg. At noon, a thousand cavalry & 80 wagons


passed Junction toward Richmond. Riclimond papers of this
morning no news, save that a landing has been made on Dau-
phin's Island near Mobile, and an attack begun on Fort

Online LibraryBenjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) ButlerPrivate and official correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, during the period of the Civil War ... Privately issued (Volume 5) → online text (page 1 of 68)