Benjamin Butler, a talented politician and lawyer, inept general, utterly corrupt, was certainly in the running for one of the most colorful characters of the Civil War. He achieved immortality, certainly in the South, with his infamous “woman order”. Southern belles tended to be very outspoken about what they thought of the Union troops in the South, and, naturally enough, it was rarely complimentary. Butler decided to attack the problem with general order 28.
General Orders, No. 28.
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, May 15, 1862.
As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall by word, gesture, or movement insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.
By command of Major-General Butler:
GEO. C. STRONG,
Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief of Staff.
To say the South was outraged by this Order reveals the limitation of language. The anger against Butler after this in the South reached peaks of hatred that are almost indescribable except by a primal scream of volcanic rage.
One entrepreneur made a small fortune by manufacturing Butler chamber pots.
The Confederate government had a formal response which I will discuss in a future post.