Confederate reaction to “Beast” Butler’s orders, 1862

A primary source by P. G. T. Beauregard

P. G. T. Beauregard, General Orders 44, May 19, 1862. (GLC00666)In April 1862 Union forces led by Captain David G. Farragut steamed past the weak Confederate defenses and captured New Orleans. During the occupation of the city Union troops were repeatedly insulted by New Orleans women and one woman went so far as to empty a chamber pot on an officer’s head from her window. The women hoped their actions would prompt a reaction from Union troops that would incite paroled Confederates to act. General Benjamin F. Butler’s men showed remarkable restraint against the insults, but Butler realized that it was only a matter of time before one of them, pressed too far, would react. As military governor of the city, Butler issued General Orders 28 on May 15, 1862, which declared that any woman behaving disrespectfully would be “treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.” In other words, they were to be regarded as prostitutes and therefore were subject to arrest. While reaction in the North was mixed, the South saw “Beast” Butler’s ruling as an affront to womanhood, dishonorable and offensive.

In response, on May 19, Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard issued his own General Orders 44, shown here. Beauregard’s orders reprinted Butler’s orders and stated that they were to be read aloud to Confederate troops in order to stir their emotions: “Arouse friends, and drive back from our soil, those infamous invaders of our homes and disturbers of our family ties.” Butler’s orders backfired as they only served as a tool for increasing Southern anger against the Northern occupiers.

A full transcript is available.

Excerpt

Men of the South! shall our mothers, our wives, our daughters and our sisters, be thus outraged by the ruffianly soldiers of the North, to whom is given the right to treat, at their pleasure, the ladies of the South as common harlots? Arouse friends, and drive back from our soil, those infamous invaders of our homes and disturbers of our family ties.

G. T. BEAUREGARD.
                          General Commanding.

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