Benjamin Butler's Military Rule
General Orders Number 28 - Headquarters Department of the Gulf issued on May 15, 1862 had sent a clear message across Louisiana. Major General Benjamin Butler was not going to tolerate citizenry abuse particularly from the women of New Orleans. The nasty insults and discharging of chamber pots upon the heads of his veteran troops was going to stop.
Governor Thomas O. Moore was outraged himself. No where in the annals of modern history has the commander of an occupying army allowed his soldiers and sailors a free hand with the occupied territory's women for any such rebellious acts. The governor didn't feel occupation was enough for the present military authority but rather by seeking amusement and taking vengeance against unarmed men and helpless women would round out their victory.
In the order, General Butler had labeled the feminine rebels as "women of the town" and if caught openly disrespecting the federal occupational force, they would be considered as "plying their avocation." The seriousness of the order alarmed the governor. Any federal soldier or sailor exercising his own judgment regarding one's disloyalty could very well be subjecting the women to rape and brutalizing passions.
In a proclamation the governor instructed the loyal citizens to remove themselves from any association with the occupying force as well as those citizens who reside within those boundaries. Loyalty oaths became a must within their lines and Louisiana could not deprive itself by associating with those who could very well be obligated to report back to the federal army.
One month later in early June, Mr. William B. Mumford of New Orleans was executed for tearing down the United States Flag that was hoisted by Admiral David Farragut over the U.S. Mint and dragging it through the streets. Tearing the flag into pieces and distributing among his friends, he was convicted for inciting rebellion among the citizenry with his act and died on the 7th.
Butler's command and control may have left little to be desired however, as some of his actions caught the attention of the Federal Government in Washington City. Purchases of cotton on a loan and using naval vessels to transport large stores to his home in Boston for sale, the shipment was seized at the waterfront, and this Massachusetts officer lost whatever profit he was thinking about turning on the transaction.
Military occupation for the citizens of any city is a culture shock in the extreme, and the man now commanding the Department of the Gulf, the master of practicality. Colonel George Foster Shepley was appointed as mayor of the Cresent City and a short time thereafter, Washington appointed him military governor over the entire state of Louisiana. The Federal Government could claim a commanding victory in the city's subjugation, while one of the Confederacy's premiere seaports fell to one government rule.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org