December 23

This Day in History

Civil War

Dec 23, 1862:

Confederacy's President Davis declares Union general a felon

On this day in 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis declares Union General Benjamin Butler a felon and insists that he be executed if captured. Butler had earned few friends in New Orleans; indeed, his treatment of the city's residents outraged most Southerners.

The Union captured New Orleans in early 1862 and Butler became the military commander of the city. His actions there soon made him the most hated Yankee in the Confederacy. Butler worked to root out all signs of the Confederacy from the city. He hanged a gambler who tore down an American flag and he ordered civil officers, attorneys, and clergy to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. Additionally, he offended Southern women with General Order No. 28, which stated that any woman who insulted Union troops would "be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation." Butler confiscated the property of Confederates and was accused of stealing silver spoons from the locals, earning him the nickname Spoons. Butler's brother, Andrew, gained permits to trade in the area and made a fortune from the sale of contraband items.

Despite the Confederate president's declaration that Butler was a felon, the Union general was never captured by the Rebels. After the Civil War ended, Butler went on to serve as a U.S. congressman and the governor of Massachusetts. He died in 1893 at age 74.

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