Who Was Ben Butler?
Benjamin Franklin Butler (Nov. 5, 1818 – Jan. 11, 1893) was truthfully more of a
civilian and politician than a military man. Born in New Hampshire and raised in Massachusetts, he was a successful lawyer who left a somewhat controversial Civil War legacy. Butler was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1840 and served terms in both the House of Representatives and Senate of the Commonwealth during the 1850s. Despite having had no formal military training, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General of the Massachusetts Militia in 1855. In 1859, Butler had voted for Jefferson Davis to be the next President of the United States. He was a Democrat but also believed in the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States. He therefore was eager to lend his services to the aide of Washington, D.C. and the Union cause.
By April of 1861, tensions were extremely high: Fort Sumter had been captured by rebel forces, eight southern states had seceded from the Union, and it was feared that Maryland, a slave state surrounding the capital city, would secede as well. In May, General Butler and his troops from Massachusetts were some of the first to come to the defense of Washington, D.C. Butler had stationed his troops in Baltimore to help prevent any further riots from occurring (a violent clash between civilians with Confederate flags who attacked Federal troops on April 19th had resulted in the deaths of nine civilians and four soldiers). On May 14th, Butler, now in charge of the Department of Annapolis, issued a proclamation stating, “no flag, banner, ensign, or device of the so-called Confederate States, or any of them, will be permitted to be raised or shown in this department.” Continue reading