Governor John Andrew and Major General Benjamin F. Butler
In late December 1861 by direction of the United States War Department, the Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas forwarded a list of names to Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts requesting immediate commissions of all on the list designated Eastern Bay State Regiment No. 2 of Massachusetts Volunteers, and that a legitimate and corresponding number be assigned to the unit. The names had been approved and submitted by Major General Benjamin F. Butler, all with the exception of companies K and I still in the process of being organized.
The governor was not impressed with the fashion the War Department elected to communicate wishing they would understand that the discretion of such commissions should be left with his seat in Boston. The character and qualifications would be better known at the state level and that he was not use to passing out commissions to those who did not meet his own approval.
Earlier correspondence directed to the department in regards to this regiment that had been identified as being raised in Lowell, Massachusetts were in the governor's eyes irregular troops illegally collected and in contempt of orders from the United States War Department. Whether lost, misplaced or simply ignored he already stated refusal in commissioning any of them.
Andrew had not only declined to comply with the request, after looking over the list of individuals named, many had been noticed to be awaiting commissions in other regular Massachusetts regiments. He was gravely disappointed that the national government had neglected to take action upon the facts as stated by him since the commencement of Major General Butler's insubordinate action which had not spared the state capital any confusion, division or distress in relation to the subject.
The following day, having now satisfied himself with the Adjutant General's office, John Andrew wrote directly to the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, presenting to him in spite of all his misgivings on the unaccountability and injury that this major general has caused him, that for the sake of the public service, he was willing to undertake the thankless task of organizing this body should the government insist.
Exasperated, the governor wrote personally to Senators Henry Wilson and Charles Sumner having been insulted enough by Washington's lack of attention, and asked for their intervention. He had remained candid with the federal officials regarding his distain for Butler, but before his representatives in the Senate, he was terribly concerned all were being invited into appropriate rank to make a financial profit off the war effort.
Once again it appeared all the official correspondence addressed to the War Department was received without due understanding. President Abraham Lincoln sent off a telegram to the governor's office on January 11, 1862 having felt obligated to ask Andrew to work with Major General Butler in officering two regiments now that currently had none.
Now having the President's attention, Governor Andrew addressed his concerns for a third time likewise being as cooperative about the commissions, but still expressing reservation in regards to names that conscience would offend his sense of honor and duty. He pointed out to the Chief Executive that Butler's proceedings in respect to recruitment have been altogether lawless and in violation of General Orders No. 78 of September 16, 1861 which placed in the hands of the governor the responsibility of raising such volunteer soldiers; furthermore drawing attention to the files at the United States War Department proving the governor's contempt at such illegalities through his letters of October 6th, November 27th, December 27th and 28th. For all other irregularities in the common practices of Major General Benjamin Butler, the governor referred the President to Senators Henry Wilson and Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate.
Andrew was frank, he would not see fit to utilize these men thus named for any other service than perhaps to recruit for the 15th and 20th Massachusetts Volunteers infantry who had recently been decimated at Ball's Bluff. For even the replenishment of their numbers had been checked and embarrassed by this nemesis.
The unorthodox mannerisms of Major General Benjamin F. Butler created headaches across the political stage both state and nationally, and Massachusetts had a governor that simply was not going to bend nor break to any of his opportune. Having been mistakenly appointed by Lincoln to be the first major general of volunteer infantry, it would prove to be a long war for many a politician. It was simply the beginning of the wonderful world of Butler politics. And there would be many other things that he would do in the course of the next four years that if they were written one by one, even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
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 email@example.com