Benjamin F. Butler

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     Benjamin F. Butler was born in late 1818 and would become known as an outspoken and controversial man during the Civil War era.  Butler studied law at Waterville (now Colby) College and had four children with his wife Sarah Hildreth.  A clever attorney who was known for using spectacular tricks to win cases, Butler often took on unpopular cases, especially those regarding the rights of labor.  He was active in politics, holding positions both as the Governor of Massachusetts in the 1850s and a general from New Hampshire during the Civil War.  Butler supported both the Democratic-Free Soil Coalition of 1850 as well as the Buchanan administration.  Benjamin F. Butler was a delegate to the Democratic Convention in Charleston during which he submitted a one-man minority platform that called for the re-endorsement of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  Also as a delegate Butler voted over fifty times for Jefferson Davis to be the party’s presidential candidate.  After the convention broke he sided with pro-southern faction and supported John C. Breckinridge.  Butler was well-known for his help rehabilitating the Middlesex Mills where he performed a valuable service to the Union by putting aside anti-Republican prejudices and helped supply overcoats to Governor John A. Andrew.  Butler has a series of highly sensational operations starting with the isolation of the capital in which he destructed railroad tracks north of the city so that troops could travel through Annapolis.  He was promoted to major general by Lincoln after capturing Baltimore and refused to return runaway slaves employed as Confederate fortifications, declaring them “contraband of war.”  Butler lost the Battle of Big Bethel near Yorktown, VA and assisted in the capture of Hatteras Inlet in NC where he earned the military rank of president.  His administration of New Orleans was one of his most sensational operations.  Here he issued General Order No. 28 which threatened to treat all females who misbehaved towards troops as “women of the town plying their avocation.”  Butler also cleaned up streets, prevented yellow fever, aided the poor, and kept order in the city.  His military career came to an end after the reelection of Lincoln and he was reelected to Congress during Grant’s administration.  During his last years he remained a radical, defending the Haymarket riots and supporting the Populist candidate for president in 1892.  Throughout his life Butler remained outspoken and controversial, never being able to shake off rumors of corruption.  He was credited for successful advocacy of the rights of labor, blacks, and women, and for rallying Democrats to the national cause during the Civil War.

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This page contains a single entry by RebeccaBayer published on March 17, 2009 11:48 PM.

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