Benjamin F. Butler and John T. Monroe Correspondence

STATE OF LOUISIANA, MAYORALTY OF NEW ORLEANS,
City Hall, May 16, 1862.

Maj. Gen. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER,
Commanding U. S. Forces:

SIR: Your General Orders, No. 28, of date 15th instant, which reads as follows--

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--

is of a character so extraordinary and astounding that I cannot, holding the office of chief magistrate of this city, chargeable with its peace and dignity, suffer it to be promulgated in our presence without protesting against the threat it contains, which has already aroused the passions of our people, and must exasperate them to a degree beyond control. Your officers and soldiers are permitted, by the terms of this order, to place any construction they may please upon the conduct of our wives and daughters, and upon such construction to offer them atrocious insults. The peace of the city and safety of your officers and soldiers from harm and insult have, I affirm, been successfully secured to an extent enabling them to move through our streets almost unnoticed, according to the understanding and agreement entered into between yourself and the city authorities. I did not, however, anticipate a war upon women and children, who, so far as I am aware, have only manifested their displeasure at the occupation of their city by those whom they believe to be their enemies, and will never undertake to be responsible for the peace of New Orleans while such an edict, which infuriates our citizens, remains in force. To give a license to the officers and soldiers of your command to commit outrages such as are indicated in your order upon defenseless women is, in my judgment, a reproach to the civilization, not to say the Christianity, of the age, in whose name I make this protest.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,
JOHN T. MONROE,
Mayor


MAY 16, 1862.

General BUTLER:

This communication having been sent under a mistake of fact, and being improper in language, I desire to apologize for the same and to withdraw it.

JOHN T. MONROE,
Mayor.


MAYORALTY OF NEW ORLEANS,
City Hall, May 16, 1862.

Major-General BUTLER:

SIR: Having misunderstood you yesterday in relation to your General Orders, No. 28, I wish to withdraw the indorsement I made on the letter addressed to you yesterday. Please deliver the letter to my secretary, Mr. Duncan, who will hand you this note.

Your obedient servant,
JOHN T. MONROE,
Mayor.


HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, May 16, 1862.

JOHN T. MONROE:

        SIR: There can be, there has been, no room for misunderstanding of General Orders, No. 28. No lady will take any notice of a strange gentleman, and a fortiori of stranger simply, in such form as to attract attention. Common women do. Therefore, whatever woman, lady, or mistress, gentle or simple, who by gesture, look, or word insults, shows contempt for (thus attracting to herself the notice of) my officers and soldiers, will be deemed to act as becomes her vocation as a common woman, and will be liable to be treated accordingly. This was most fully explained to you at my office. I shall not abate, as I have not abated, a single word of that order. It was well considered. If obeyed, will protect the true and modest woman from all possible insult. The others will take care of themselves. You can publish your letter if you publish this note and your apology.

Respectfully,
B.F. BUTLER.

Source: "The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion"

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