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Ctt XV1I.] STATE OF AFFAIRS IN NEW ORLEANS. 183
DEPARTMENT OF THE GULP: NAVAL AND MILITARY EVENTS >N THE MISSISSIPPI.
Gen. Butler in New Orleans — State of affairs — Butler's proclamation — Feeling of the people — Proclamation, how printed — The poor of the city — Necessity of providing for — General order on the subject — Further steps of Butler to cleanse the city, etc. — Mode of raising funds — Trouble with the consul of the Netherlands about $800,000 — Result — Conduct of the women in New Orleans — The famous order No. 28 — Its effect — Vile sense put on the order — Anger of the rebels and others — Fierce tirades — Execution of four persons for burglary, etc. — Butler's activity and zeal — Farragut on the Mississippi — Visits Baton Rouge and Natchez — Arrives at Vicksburg — Strength of the place — Farragut passes the batteries — Butler's scheme for isolating Vicksburg — Rebel ram Arkansas — Reaches Vicksburg despite the fleet —Farragut repasses the batteries and tries to destroy the Arkansas—Baton Rouge attacked by Breckenridge in August
• —Gen. Williams killed— Rebels defeated—Ram Arkansas destroyed near Baton Rouge by Porter — The Lafourche district — Expedition into, in October — Weitzel's success — Butler recalled — Banks hia successor.
In giving an account of the capture New Orleans (see p. 154, etc.), it was stated that Gen. Butler with his forces took possession of the city on the 1st of May. The position in which he was placed was not one to be envied.
The impertinent language of Mayor Monroe to Commodore Farragut (p. 157), the insulting conduct of the great mass of the people, the prevalence of mob rule, the wretchedly reduced, almost starving, condition of the poorer classes, and the malignant, unquenchable hatred towards Butler and the United States authority, which the wealthier rebels exhibited, all these afforded indications, not to be misunderstood, that it would be no easy task to maintain the authority of the government and provide for the necessities of the case, as they were certain to rise. Evidently, it required a man of special qualifications to fill this position; a man of nerve as well as sagacity; a man quick
to act and determined in his action; a man who could and would crush insubordination or revolt at a blow; and, at the same time, a man who both knew and would respecf the rights and privileges of all. Butler who was in command of the Department of the Gulf, New Orleans being his headquarters, had now an opportunity to prove hia fitness for ruling such a city and its surroundings as was the Crescent City of the South in May, 1862.
The first step of the commanding general was to issue a proclamation, clearly stating the position of affairs, and his determination to restore order, maintain public tranquility, and enforce peace and quiet under the laws and Constitution of the United States. It was a business-like document, concise, and straightforward in its meaning. "The sum and substance of the whole," as Butler said, in reading it at his headquarters at the St. Charles Hotel, to the
mayor and several others, "is this: I wish to leave the municipal authority in the full exercise of its accustomed functions. I do not desire to interfere with the collection of taxes, the government of the police, the lighting and cleaning of the streets, the sanitary laws, or the administration of justice. I desire only to govern the military forces of the department, and to take cognizance only of affairs committed by or against them. ^Representing here the United States, it is my wish to confine myself solely to the business of sustaining the government of the United States against its enemies."
This conciliatory view of the position of affairs and of the determination of Butler to be the ruler in his place, according to his ability, was by no means acceptable to the mayor and inhabitants of New Orleans. They pretended to call themselves " unconquered;" they were, they said, merely submitting to "brute force;" they were accustomed to having their own way, and indulging in riot and disorder, with the attendant drunkenness and street murderings; they were, in fact, savage in their fury at being put under constraint, in not being allowed to insult, spit upon, or assassinate our men; and in having a muzzle put upon the rampant, seditious newspaper press, which, day by day, was striving to "fire" the southern heart.
In this latter respect, immediate action was called for. On sending to the several papers of the city to print the proclamation, they all refused; something must be done at once; the gentlemen owning and publishing news
papers must be taught a salutary lesson; so a guard was sent to the office of the True Delia; they took possession of the place, and some half dozen of their number being printers, they speedily put the proclamation in type and printed it off. There was no in terference with the office or its affairs, except for the business on which they came, and when that was accomplished they quietly retired.
The most pressing duty which fell upon Butler was to provide food for the starving population of a city containing 150,000 inhabitants, nearly half of whom knew not where to-morrow's bread was to come from, or whether to-morrow might not be actual starvation. The business of the city, being mostly in connection with the cotton trade, was virtually dead; the mechanics and working classes were without occupation; the wealthy rebels, with hearts of stone as it seemed, would not contribute one cent to the relief of the poor, but were studying all the time how they might give aid to rebel bands outside the city; and Butler saw and felt, that immediate action must be taken; the poor must be fed, and the rich must contribute towards doing it. The weather was hot; the streets were extremely filthy; the terrible yellow fever might soon be expected; and not a day's delay could be justified. Hence, the commanding general, on the 9th of May, issued a general order, which gave evidence of his spirit and purpose in the existing state of affairs. Speaking in deservedly severe terms of the hard-heartedness of the wealthy rebels, and their indif Cn. XVII.]
ference to the sufferings of the poor, he announced that, to the extent possible within his power, he would see that the hungry were fed and the distressed relieved with provisions.*
Finding that the city government was intentionally neglectful of the streets and the general sanitary condition of the city, Butler determined to take steps by which the poor should have work and the city be purified. Col. Thorpe, appointed city surveyor, at once employed 2,000 men—1,000 more were afterwards added—in sweeping the streets, purging the canals, repairing the levee, removing nuisances, and in every kind of work which could reader New Orleans clean, decent and fit to live in, despite the threatened yellow fever, which, the rebels declared, with much apparent satisfaction, would make short work of their hated oppressors.
The question immediately arose, where were the funds to come from to support the thousands of men, with families dependent on them, thus set at work by authority of the commanding general? Butler's plan was bold and ingenious; it was set forth in a general order, issued August 4th, in which he declared, that" those who have brought upon the city this stagnation of busi
* Butler, desirous to do well by the working men, was gratified by the result. Despite the impertinent protests of the Spanish, French, Belgian, and one or two other consuls, against requiring an oath of allegiance to the United States from all who desired protection, not less than 14,000 of the bone and sinew of New Orleans took the oath of allegiance within a month after Butler's arrival. Thirty-five thousand persons, too, were daily fed, through Butler's management, of whom only some 3,000 were natives, and out of more than 10,000 families thus kept from starving, less than one-tt'Dth were Americans.
VOT, IV— ft*
ness, this desolation of the hearth stone, this starvation of the poor and help less, should, as far as they may be able, relieve these distresses." Certain persons, subscribers to the million and a quarter loan, in the hands of a committee of public safety, for rebel defence of New Orleans against the United States, were assessed in proportion to their subscriptions, this assessment yielding nearly $313,000. Certain cotton brokers, who had advised planters not to send cotton to New Orleans, were assessed $29,000; making in all, for this charitable necessity, $342,001).* It appears, that there were some $800,000 in specie, at the office lSflil of the consulate of the Netherlands. On the 10th of May, Butler ordered the money to be seized, on the alleged ground that it was placed there, and held under cover of a foreign consulate, in order to aid and benefit the rebels. The consul, M. Couturie, took high ground as to inviolability, freedom from search, and such like; but as he refused to give up the key of his vault when it was demanded by the United States officer, it was forcibly taken out of his pocket; the vault was opened, and there were found to be, beside a number of other things which had no business there, 160 kegs, each containing 5,000 Mexican dollars. They were removed, and placed the next day in the United States mint building. Immediately all the consuls in New Orleans (except the Mexican), nineteen in number, prepared a strong protest
* In December, 1862, the funds were exhausted. Butler renewed his general order, and the same assessments were laid upon the same persons, much, we may well believe, to their indignation and disgust.
TiTJTLER'S MUNICIPAL MEASURES.