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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

From its origins the Army of the James was a pastiche formed from failure.

When Major General John Dix and his subordinate officers proved indecisive and timid against Lee’s forces in Virginia, the War Department finally dissolved Dix’s command in the summer of ’63 and merged the men into Major General John Foster’s Department of North Carolina (to which Cole had transferred); Washington named the combined command the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, which came to be known as the Army of the James.

But Foster soon proved to be poorly suited for field command, and thus little better than his predecessor, Dix.

What he did achieve seemed trifling.

In the words of his successor’s wife, Sarah Butler, the conquered areas were little more than “little villages many miles asunder…taken merely to give éclat to Gen. Foster.”17

By the fall of ’63, Lincoln and the War Department were on a hunt for a general who would drive into Lee’s forces and make a violent push for Richmond.18

The Beast

When the War Department came knocking on Benjamin F. Butler’s door the anxious soldier had been out of military command since the administration put an end to his seven-month stint as military governor of New Orleans.

When he was canned at the close of ’62, Butler had galvanized the nation’s political extremities, giving hard-war Republicans a taste of punitive war while kicking a hornet’s nest filled with southern despisers and seething copperheads.

Few could claim a better track record of forcing black emancipation into the center of the war.

In the first months of the war, when black refugees began flowing into Fort Monroe, it was Butler who began calling refugees “contraband” as a way to justify absorbing the human “property” of confederates into Union lines.19

And though the term connoted a less-than-human status, it pushed the administration to allow blacks to flee into Union army camps while destabilizing the slavery regime.

Butler’s mixed military record in Virginia was good enough to get him transferred to the Army of the Gulf where he would command an expedition to take New Orleans in May
of 1862.

After New Orleans fell into Union hands, he assumed command of the Crescent City where he wasted no time in dropping his gauntlets.

His brash actions astonished confederates, Europeans, and moderate Republicans alike.

He suppressed rebel papers, without authorization raised three black regiments, confiscated property, corralled conspicuous secessionists into prison, and, just after arrival, executed William Mumford for removing the Union flag from the mint building and dragging it through the streets.

In response to southern women spitting at, sneering at, or rebuffing Union soldiers, Butler issued the notorious “Woman’s Order.”

Any female secessionist who affronted or snubbed a Union soldier would be treated as a prostitute: “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.”

Despite his significant accomplishments of reducing yellow fever and ameliorating poverty (especially among African Americans), when Butler further antagonized much of Europe by confiscating cargo and money from foreign consuls and ships, or shut down church services, silencing clergy, his impolitic actions landed him back in Massachusetts.

Americans either feted him as the anointed answer to Lincoln’s guardedness, or maligned him as “the Beast” -- a contemptible, corrupted opportunist who exploited racial issues for personal advancement.20

17 Sarah Butler to Harriet Heard, November 27th, 1863 in Benjamin Franklin Butler, Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864 (Norwood, Mass: Plimpton Press, 1917), 163-64.

18 Longacre, "The Army of the James, 1863-1865: A Military, Political, and Social History." (Vol. 1-4)", 2-6; Terry L. Jones, Historical Dictionary of the Civil War, Vol. 18 (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002), 118-19.; Mark Mayo Boatner, The Civil War Dictionary (New York: D. McKay Co, 1959), 301-2 434.

19 Masur, "'A Rare Phenomenon of Philological Vegetation': The Word 'Contraband' and the Meanings of Emancipation in the United States", 1050-1084

20 Holzman, "Stormy Ben Butler", 62-105; Jones, "Historical Dictionary of the Civil War", 241; Boatner, "The Civil War Dictionary", 109; Howard Nash, Stormy Petrel: The Life and Times of General Benjamin F. Butler, 1818-1893 (Rutherford N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1969), 158-70.

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

Over the next several months Butler fished in vain for a justification from the Lincoln administration for his sudden dismissal.

A shelved general with no troops, Butler turned to writing letters and barnstorming at the pulpit, cashing in on his enormous popularity for waging hard war.

Northerners knew that after Butler’s regime ended in the largest city of the South, confederate president Jefferson Davis had called for Butler’s neck to be fitted with a noose.21

At war rallies in New England and the Mid-Atlantic States, Butler crafted his public image as a ferocious enemy to traitors of the Union.

Before the war Butler displayed unwavering commitment to the Democratic Party (he cast fifty-seven votes for Jefferson Davis at the Democratic Convention in 1860), but by 1863 he had come to embrace the main tenets of Republicanism, and as some saw it, moved beyond them.

His pre-war sympathies for ethnic immigrants and Massachusetts working poor made him a notable attorney and politician.

With the war, Butler expanded his commitment to the downtrodden to southern African Americans, and in doing so, once again parlayed his humanitarian sympathies into immense political capital.22

For a man with towering ambitions like Butler, the timing could not have been better.

After Lincoln sidelined “the Beast,” and Butler responded by showcasing his hard-nose credentials at war rallies, over the stretch of ’63 many Republicans began turning sour on their president,23 keeping watch for a leader who would rattle sabers, bully copperheads and rebels, and most importantly, go for their throats.

Lincoln replaced Butler with his Massachusetts political rival General Nathaniel Banks.24

This further tarnished Lincoln’s reputation within hard-war circles, especially when Banks immediately set out to undo the legacy of Butler’s radical regime.

Banks attempted to squeeze out remaining Butler men, conciliated secessionists, and brought the raising of black regiments to a halt while purging them of all their African-American officers.25

21 Part of the presidential proclamation reads: “Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and in their name, do pronounce and declare the said Benjamin F. Butler to be a felon, deserving of capital punishment. I do order that he be no longer considered or treated simply as a public enemy of the Confederate States of America, by as an outlaw and common enemy of mankind, and that in the event of his capture the officer in command of the capturing force do cause him to be immediately executed by hanging; and I do further order that no commissioned officer of the United States taken captive shall be released on parole before exchange until the said Butler shall have met with due punishment for his crimes.” General Orders No. 111: December 24, 1862. Davis goes on to state that officers under Butler had earned similar treatment upon capture. See: United States War Dept and others, "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies", Series 1, Vol. 15, pp. 905-08

22 Louis Taylor Merrill, "General Benjamin F. Butler in the Presidential Campaign of 1864," The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 33, no. 4 (Mar., 1947), 538.; Longacre, "Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865", 3-8

23 Actually, non-conservative Republicans began losing faith when, after Lincoln had finally purged the army of two of the most conservative, West Point generals (McClellan and Buell) the president replaced McClellan with yet another Democrat and West Point graduate, Ambrose Burnside. When Burnside immediately turned things from bad to worse with an ominous December whipping at Fredericksburg, Lincoln could feel the rug under him move. See: McPherson, "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era", 569-74; Harry James Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage (New York: Columbia University Press, 1943), 162-63.

24 Banks like Butler was a first-rate political general; both were promoted to Major General in the first year of the war. For an account of Banks’s Butler-like political ambitions see: Fred Harvey Harrington, "Nathaniel Prentiss Banks: A Study in Anti-Slavery Politics," New England Quarterly 9, no. 4 (1936), 626-654.

25 Glatthaar, "Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers", 8-9, 36 Also see: George S. Denison to Salmon P. Chase, February 26, 1863 in Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 17-8

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

After Butler was forced out, anxious letters from New Orleans apprised him that Banks was making things “uncomfortable” for those who had once enjoyed alliances with Butler.

One of these allies, General Shepley, informed Butler that Lincoln and Banks had spies afoot, digging up dirt on the shelved general.

Butler learned that Lincoln sent one of his confidants, a Jewish podiatrist, Dr. Isachar Zacharie to New Orleans.

Zacharie removed corns from Banks’s feet, but was suspected to be there to help pluck the thorny Butler from Lincoln’s heel.

“A retired corn-doctor, Jew, by the name of Zachary,” Shepley cautioned Butler, “is here as a spy, said to be directly under the appointment of the President, but the intimate associate and confidential advisor of Banks.”

One of Banks’s “employees,” continued Shepley, “approached various persons with the assurance that it they could communicate any information that would tell against Gen. Butler, it would be highly appreciated….”26

In the spring of ’63 a New Orleans port collector and admirer sounded the alarm that Butler was badly needed back in the Crescent City — which, it was argued, teetered on the cusp of returning back to rebel control.

But the administration would never risk such a move, he predicted, because “if placed in a high position, [Butler] might possibly become dangerous as a candidate for the Presidency.”27

Lincoln and his supporters had good reason to watch Butler with caution.

Butler returned home to enormous fanfare among erstwhile Lincoln supporters.

He proclaimed within the walls of Boston’s Faneuil Hall that he had not been too harsh toward rebels and that there was “no middle ground between loyalty and treason.”28

Radical Republicans like Charles Sumner had already begun to press the ears of Secretary of War Stanton, and the president, asking them when Butler would be returned to New Orleans or at least put to good use in the Union cause.29

Other friends began canvassing the populace and disseminating his speeches through pamphlets.30

In April, ex-Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, flattered the crestfallen general, by emphasizing Butler’s “usefulness” and “unprecedented labor and success.”

Cameron claimed to have been astonished by Butler’s dismissal: “for a long time” he believed the general would be rightfully “offered the War Department or the command of the army of the Potomac.”

Like Butler, Cameron had been ousted by Lincoln after mounting accusations of corruption and cronyism, especially in the handling of war contracts.

(Butler was widely accused but never categorically proven to have been similarly guilty of corruption; a Congressional committee, on the other hand produced report over 2,700 pages long, detailing Cameron’s use of contracts to enrich cronies and create political capital.)31

And like Butler, Cameron had endorsed the arming of escaped slaves before the administration officially did; and in so doing exposed Lincoln’s hesitancy.32

In the close of ’61 Cameron — without Lincoln’s approval — authorized using black soldiers, and to Lincoln’s dismay, issued a report to Congress recommending the formation of an army of freed slaves.

By doing so, Cameron was able to deflect Radical Republicans’ criticism of his corruption, and instead channel their angst toward the president’s feet dragging.33

As with Butler, Cameron’s advocacy for arming erstwhile slaves served ulterior motives.

“I never dreamed that your services were to be lost to the country,” Cameron gushed to Butler, “when everybody believed you to be the only man in arms who had been equal to the position in which Providence had placed him.”

After signing off as “your friend, truly” Cameron added a blandishment that Butler would grow accustomed to hearing from his “friends.”

“Remember,” Cameron wrote, “the next President will be a military chieftain, and may save his country or destroy it.”34

Butler had already come to that conclusion and he believed his war record qualified him for the job.

26 General Shepley to General Butler inibid., 14-15. For another letter claiming spies in New Orleans see, J.A. Griffin to General Butler, February 26, 1863, ibid., 18-20. Benjamin’s brother who garnered substantive accusations of corruption, especially with circumventing Union approved trade and dealing in corrupt contracts, had his own personal reasons for his anti-Semitism. In the same letter Shepley added: “The Christ killers, as Andrew calls [Jews], have it all their own way.” Butler too raised some hackles when he repeatedly reported that his men had captured Jews, as if Jewish men were somehow a rebel commodity or automatic union enemy. Holzman, "Stormy Ben Butler", 130 For more on Butler’s record of anti-semitism, see: Bertram Wallace Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951), 164-66.

27 Longacre, "Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865", 8 Butler supporter, George S. Denison, quoted in: Nash, "Stormy Petrel: The Life and Times of General Benjamin F. Butler, 1818-1893", 180

28 Butler quoted in: Taylor Merrill, "General Benjamin F. Butler in the Presidential Campaign of 1864", 540

29 Charles Sumner to General Butler in, Benjamin Franklin Butler, Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 2, June, 1862-February, 1863 (Norwood, Mass: Plimpton Press, 1917), 570-71.

30 See Alexander Hamilton to General Butler, April 6, 1863: Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 52-3

31 Carman and Luthin, "Lincoln and the Patronage", 147-50

32 Paludan, "A People's Contest: The Union and Civil War 1861-1865", 79; McPherson, "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era", 321-24 357-58

33 Carman and Luthin, "Lincoln and the Patronage", 130-31

34 Why Butler suddenly opened up to the idea of arming blacks when he had consistently doubted and dismissed the possibility of arming African Americans is hard to answer. He certainly showed unusual sympathies for the plight of fugitives but on numerous occasions voiced deep skepticism over black soldiers. But as Dudley Cornish suggested, Butler’s own wife’s assurance that backing such a venture would place one at the forefront of public approval, certainly tempted him to reconsider. “The administration will assent to it just as fast and as far as the country will sustain it. It has taken a step or two in advance, and been obliged to draw back. But events may give the opportunity. They will be seized as fast as they arise.” After making this striking proclamation about the nature of the war, Sarah Butler immediately switches into a more domestic voice, talking about her lonely home, and letters. Sarah provided rich descriptions of the private matters of hearth and affective love, but also, at times, spurred her husband onto the public stage, encouraging his political ambitions. Sarah, though, tended to spur and soothe at the same time, often mixing affectionate phrases with charges for Benjamin to grasp for more, and push on in the “game of life.” See: Mrs. Butler to General Butler, August 8, 1862 in Dudley Taylor Cornish, The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865, 1st ed. (New York: Longmans, Green, 1956), 56-65.; Benjamin F. Butler, Butler's Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benj. F. Butler (Boston: A. M. Thayer & co., 1892), 241-42.; Benjamin Franklin Butler, Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 5, August 1864-March 1868 (Norwood, Mass: Plimpton Press, 1917), 147, 170, 190.; Just before Sarah Butler penned her letter, Salmon Chase wrote Butler to encourage him to raise black troops as well. Salmon P. Chase to General Butler, July 31, 1862 in Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 2, June, 1862-February, 1863"; Edward Ayers, "Worrying about the Civil War" In Moral Problems in American Life: New Perspectives on Cultural History, eds. Karen Halttunen and Lewis Perry (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998), 144-65. Also: Simon Cameron to General Butler in, Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 58

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

After hearing initial reports of McClellan’s drubbing at Antietam in September ‘62, Butler wrote his wife from New Orleans predicting that the nation would soon turn to a hardliner.

If the news [about Antietam] is true, we are all required to look a sterner reality in the face than has yet been done. This war must then be carried on as one of extermination until any white man not a United States soldier, or openly and fully acting with the Government, is exterminated. Indeed, I don’t see but we must fight for our own existence. It is coming — a “Military Dictator.”

“God grant the man may be one of power and administrative capacity,” Butler added, in a poorly veiled reference to his own administrative acumen.

“Let it come — the man has not developed himself yet — but he will — in the field too, before long.”

In case Sarah Butler had any doubts about the sum of her husband’s grandiose visions, in the preceding paragraph he cast doubt on the Army of the Potomac’s ability to protect Washington D.C.

But even so, New Orleans, he pledged, would never fall.

“Indeed I think they had better move the Capital here as the safest place,” he added.

Butler had dreamed of using New Orleans to secure himself the presidential mantle.

Now he played with the idea of the Capital coming to him.

With such political momentum, when the War Department unexpectedly cut its iron-fisted general loose, Butler, Radical Republicans and all those of anti-Lincoln persuasion questioned the timing.35

After significant pressure, and over strong opposition from his Secretary of State, William Seward, Lincoln halfheartedly offered to reinstate Butler to his post at New Orleans.

Butler refused, however, because as he saw it, accepting would mean sharing command with his nemesis, General Banks.

Butler also claimed that Banks’s reversal on helping African Americans had all but ruined the delicate relationship between the government and those on the threshold of freedom.36

(Butler, of course, mentioned nothing about how earlier in his tenure at New Orleans he actually crushed a similar effort to arm blacks. When his subordinate general, abolitionist John W. Phelps, tried to force the hand of the War Department by enlisting African Americans, Butler sided with Lincoln and Seward, quashing the experiment and pushing Phelps out of the military. With impeccable timing, the day after Phelps resigned, Butler issued his own proclamation to raise black troops.)37

Shortly after refusing Lincoln’s offer, Butler penned a letter to Salmon Chase, Secretary of Treasury.

Like Butler, Chase had presidential ambitions; he also operated under a cloud of suspicion for awarding questionable contracts, especially for cotton.

In the letter, Butler complained that in a short time General Banks had spoiled Butler’s grand project of employing and arming blacks.

(Banks also attempted to clean up the tarnished image of contract scandals.)

Then, somewhat disingenuously, Butler bemoaned his “idleness.”

All past political associations broken up, no new ones formed; idle at home, no prospect of serving my country in the cause to be useful to which I had given up everything; eating unearned bread which I have never done before; asked a hundred times a day, “when are you going into service?” or “why are you unemployed?”38

35 General Butler to Mrs. Butler, September 9, 1862, in Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 2, June, 1862-February, 1863", 271-73

36 Butler also believed he would be sent back to New Orleans as a sop for Radical Republicans, but in fact be a general with no real power. He felt this had been done to him in the beginning of the war, and would not suffer it again. “Let something be done or let me see that something can be done except pitiful intrigues be which I am removed from command, and the arrow shall not leave the bow with a swifter flight that I into the service. But with the expectations of the country roused into a belief that I can achieve something like success, I cannot of my own will be sent into that honorable exile again to which [Gen. Winfield] Scott banished me at Fortress Monroe, without men, without means, and without support, as a punishment for taking Baltimore without his column of 12,000 men.” See: General Butler to Salmon P. Chase, Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 24-27a

37 Ira Berlin, Slaves no More: Three Essays on Emancipation and the Civil War (Cambridge England ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 196. Even Butler’s vociferous apologist, George Denison, confessed to Salmon Chase that Butler shut down Phelps’s daring experimentation for questionable ends: “I believe Gen. Butler’s opposition to the enlistment of Negroes by Gen. Phelps was not a matter of principle. Gen. Phelps had the start of him, while Gen. B. wanted the credit of doing the thing himself, and in his own way.” See: George S. Denison to Salmon P. Chase, September 9, 1862 in Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 270-71

38 McPherson, "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era", 623-24, 713-15 From General Butler to Salmon Chase, April 27, 1863, Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 57, 59

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

When he turned down a second stint in New Orleans, Butler had already lifted his sights to loftier spheres.

Since the gnawing losses at Antietam and Fredericksburg at the close of ’62, divisions in the Republican Party manifested themselves through internal machinations within Lincoln’s cabinet.

With many Radical Republicans behind him, Salmon Chase positioned himself as the aggressive answer to Lincoln’s soft handedness.

By casting William Seward as the whip hand driving Lincoln’s bungled war, Chase was in effect painting himself as the last best hope.

Blaming Butler’s dismissal on Seward — who it was argued controlled the president — was part of this inner game.39

In this stratagem of divide and conquer, and tarnish by association, Butler and Chase found a mutually useful friendship.

In his letter to Chase, Butler confided his own comprehensive plan to overhaul the entire Union war strategy.

He would consolidate the many armies into two or three Union juggernauts that would descend swiftly and mercilessly upon helpless confederates.

“Let them [the juggernaut armies] be overwhelming."

"Above all, let us have one pitched battle in this war.”

Butler confessed, “I have dreamed of such an army.”

No doubt he dreamed himself standing close to the helm.40

That spring, Butler’s friend, James Parton, set out to puff the general’s military career (and play down accusations of corruption) in a well-timed biography that would surface by election year.41

Meanwhile admirers and hangers-on showered Butler with letters and suggestions of future military exploits and political possibilities.

On one hand Butler served the interests of Republicans.

If a devout Democrat like Butler supported the war and emancipation, so should his fellow party members.

Yet Butler continuously pressed his vision of the war forward, often making the War Department appear hidebound.

For Lincoln, Butler presented a dilemma, as the general had the power to command pro-war Democrat votes along with the support of radicalized Republicans.

Lincoln could not win a second term without first reversing the Union army’s fortunes, and therefore needed aggressive officers like Butler in the field to execute a harder war.

But by putting Butler back in the harness the president ran the risk of creating his own political nemesis, and providing him with a presidential launching pad.

Thus, when the War Department reconfigured various hapless forces into the Army of the James, Lincoln turned to a general he thought would galvanize the soldiers, and yet be slightly hamstrung by the assignment.42

39 McPherson, "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era", 574-5

40 There is a small but rich literature about the ways in which the war hardened and Americans grew more comfortable with — indeed often pushed for — a vengeful, apocalyptic war with visions of one massive battle. The literature finds this ratcheting up of violence in personal leaders like Stonewall Jackson, U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman. Or the cause is traced to evangelical yearnings for biblical purges and bloody apocalypse. Others claim the facile conflation of religion and state --- burgeoning civil religion — helped to underwrite the dark final half of the war. Yet there has not been enough emphasis on how opportunism, in a war of “volunteers,” in a time where the standard of manhood was anchored in upward mobility, helped push race onto center stage. For every committed abolitionist in the field, the war created race mercenaries ready to outstrip, outdo, and capitalize on the convergence of wartime imperatives and home front sympathies for emancipation. Royster, "The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans", 523; Stout, "Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the American Civil War", 552 Butler quoted in: Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 59-64

41 James Parton, General Butler in New Orleans. History of the Administration of the Department of the Gulf in the Year 1862: With an Account of the Capture of New Orleans, and a Sketch of the Previous Career of the General, Civil and Military (New York, Mason Bros.; Boston, Mason & Hamlin: etc, 1864).; Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 30-1 70-1

42 Longacre, "The Army of the James, 1863-1865: A Military, Political, and Social History." (Vol. 1-4)", 12-14

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

By the fall of ‘63 the prospect of returning to command in New Orleans was all but dead.

He had been a commissioned officer with no command for roughly ten months, and could hardly refuse the administration’s offer to assume command in southeast Virginia and coastal North Carolina.

And though the Army of the James was to play a supporting role to the Army of the Potomac, it was not ridiculous to imagine the new command thrusting Butler into the public’s consciousness once again.

He could not fault his admirers for not pulling wires hard enough.

They had barraged the administration and fellow politicians with suggestions for Butler’s rehabilitation since his fall from grace.

A friend, Senator S.C. Pomeroy, soothed Butler’s pride, counseling that,

It is not a department in a military sense, such as you ought to have. But in a political sense, and as being able to settle there even the great conflict of opinion now likely to ruin us, I hope I may advise you to go. I tried to get a more promising field. But if you can do there what you hoped to do in Louisiana, the results will not be less gratifying.43

With this “political sense” in mind, Butler took command of the Army of James and immediately set out to finish what he had only begun in New Orleans: the raising of a massive black army.

He also had his eye on what would be perhaps the greatest of all political windfalls, to capture nearby Richmond.

When Butler launched what would be the most aggressive effort to arm black men, he opened up new chances at promotion for soldiers like Cole, Dollard, Fox and hundreds of men looking for rank.

Cole’s story cannot be separated from the high-stakes political game above him that placed Butler at the helm of a relatively lame army, and the volatile, often violent experiment just below him, of militarizing the lowliest of Americans (who Butler hoped to use for political ends).

Interwoven between the politics of would-be presidential candidates and the hundreds of thousands of black soldiers who at times created (and at others were blown about by) political winds, were middle men like George Cole, mediating between the most and least privileged men in America — between patronage and the collapse of bondage.

Laying Pipe, Pulling Wires

Over the seven decades since the Revolution a new, widely shared understanding of manhood had emerged primarily in the northeastern states.

This new ideal of manliness did not replace older forms, which were more defined by rationality, civic duty, and piety, but instead became enmeshed with them — modifying men’s relationships with other men (fathers, sons, and peers), wives and mothers — and with money, work, democracy, and their own bodies.

What Gordon Wood referred to as “new men” challenged an anemic and unstable aristocracy in the early Republic.

“New men” spent less time polishing their Latin, were less cosmopolitan, and less well-bred.

In the 1820s the term “businessman” emerged as a way to talk about this emergent set of men who were by and large traders, speculators, and restless merchants “busy” getting money.44

Antebellum elections were increasingly physical, where at the polls it would not be uncommon to witness fisticuffs, yelling matches, and even a bludgeoning.

This bodily experience of American democracy cannot be dismissed as the preserve of intoxicated Democratic Irish in New York City; instead it was part of a collective male rowdyism that cut across region, class and party.

Supposedly mild-mannered Whigs, Illinois men, and southerner gentlemen participated in what a historian has called “the manly sport of politics.”

It isn’t that every soft-handed Whig wrestled his way to the polls, so much as the fact that, in the two decades before the Civil War all men were forced to grapple with the ways in which manhood was increasingly anchored in the aggressive body.

Because these turbulent elections occurred in public spaces, and because voting was the preserve of white males, antebellum democracy, in effect, helped create a new version of manhood irresistible to any boy who wanted to be a citizen, and thereby set himself apart from women and African Americans.45

43 Butler, "Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler during the Period of the Civil War. Vol. 3, February 1863-March 1864", 136

44 David Leverenz argues for the emergence of an entrepreneurial set of men looking to get ahead, compete, grow rich, and avoid being shamed by their rivals. Other scholars like Gail Bederman have argued for a significant shift in manliness that took place in the later nineteenth century --- from manhood anchored in self-control and character, to a masculinity defined by the raw power of the muscular body. No doubt, though, antebellum men experienced the volatile nature of gender, and negotiated its competing forms. From “muscular Christianity” to the rise of sporting culture, urban prostitution, bare-knuckle boxing, dueling, evangelical restraint, self-made men of character, artisan men who took pride in craft, and Harvard boys --- white males in the North wrestled with multi-faceted gender norms. Yet on the whole, the center of gravity was shifting toward a more competitive, individualistic, ambitious and physically robust ideal across class lines in the North. This is what makes mid-nineteenth century conceptions of manliness so difficult to pin down — and fascinating. Many men still subscribed to older ideals of rationality, piety, patriarchal kin networks, and civic duty while at the same time entering a wildly competitive workplace where these older priorities made less and less sense. Amy Greenberg reminds us that the “primitive” masculinity so dominant at the end of the century was only part of a group of competing forms of manliness at mid-century. Greenberg pares down the various types in what she sees as the two dominant, competing forms: restrained versus martial. Greenberg concedes the ways in which men could draw from different categories of manhood simultaneously; yet, she argues these two forms go a long way in describing how men viewed manhood. “Restrained” manhood was grounded in family, evangelical piety, and business success; while “martial” men rejected feminizing restraints, drank heavily, were more aggressive and sympathetic to violence; they also tended to identify with chivalric knighthood. What is often frustrating about gender histories is that constructed categories often drive the narrative more than the subjects who inhabit them — and whose personal lives regularly failed to conform to such boundaries. What men’s studies needs more than anything are narratives that show how individuals played these ideals off one another, and cobbled together various manhoods through lived experience. What I hope to do with the narrative of Cole and those around him is show how war blurred the lines between these categories created by historians. Cole was both martial and restrained; A man of violence and a teetotaler with Republican roots. He was a family man, and a jealous, vindictive placeman — at the same time — always on the hunt for station, yet longing for a moral center located in the wife and mother. He at one time wanted to live in the country, yet he gave up being a physician to trade in lumber in the city of Syracuse. And he talked about money just about as much as he did honor, or merit. Leverenz, "Manhood and the American Renaissance", 372; Amy S. Greenberg, Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire (Cambridge, UK ;; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 8-11.; Axel Bundgaard, Muscle and Manliness: The Rise of Sport in American Boarding Schools, 1st ed. (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 223.; Elliott J. Gorn, The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), 316.; Gail Bederman, Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 307.; Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001), 11-44.; Rotundo, "American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era", 382; Anne S. Lombard, Making Manhood: Growing Up Male in Colonial New England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 170-80.; Wood, "The Radicalism of the American Revolution", 325-27

45 David Grimsted, American Mobbing, 1828-1861: Toward Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 181-217.. This does not mean that African Americans did not subscribe to similar, overlapping ideals of manhood. And of course, many white men denounced the coarse, animalistic behavior on election days and in politics in general. Yet, even as they denounced it they were testifying to the changing winds, and the ways in which democracy and manhood played off one another. For a narrative that uses this aggressive manhood as a way to understand American politics, westward expansion, and relations with Latin America, see Greenberg, "Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire".

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

Cole’s attempt to claw himself upward through performance and by exploiting intimate networks, reveals an essential component to nineteenth-century manhood among white northern men.

Since Andrew Jackson adopted the “spoils system” or rotating offices, many less notable American men came to believe that they could win appointments and posts in return for party loyalty.

Loyal “ordinary” men believed they could make claims on all sorts of politically appointed posts.

After an election a small-town merchant or lawyer might write the newly elected official, providing a list of works done for the party (i.e. merits), and ask for a preferred position, with maybe a list of second and third choices.46

After Jackson’s eight years in office governmental patronage increased until it peaked with Lincoln’s election in 1860.47

When the war broke out there were only some 16,000 regular soldiers in the Union; thus the dire need to radically expand the army created a windfall for placemen — especially for those beaten down by competitive marketplace relations, or for party wheelhorses still waiting for their rewards.

Lincoln did — writ large — what was done in all previous American wars: he used the military to not only win war, but to help friends win in the political realm.

On a much smaller scale, President Polk had appointed more than a dozen “political generals” during the Mexican War — all of them loyal Democrats.

But the Civil War turned a dozen appointments into several hundred.

Lincoln’s meager forces lost over 230 professional officers who cast their lots with secession.48

Lincoln, of course could not shake that many professional soldiers out of the northern population, which gave him added reason to fill the gaps with amateurs who had proven to be loyal Union men.

As Stanton summed it up, the spoils were “to be bestowed on persons whose only claim is their Republicanism — broken-down politicians without experience, ability, or any other merit.”49

Several members of Lincoln’s cabinet secured for their own sons coveted commissions (some of these far from the heat of battle).

Lincoln, too, made sure the sons of old allies, or of important newspapers editors, started their service in officer’s jackets.

Seventeen congressmen alone used their own influence to secure commissions, almost all of them colonel or higher.50

Frederick Douglass, the apotheosis of black self-made manhood, decided to don the army uniform but when he found out he wouldn’t be sporting officer’s stripes, as was promised, he scrapped his plans.51

So many political friends entreated Lincoln for an appointment to major general, that Lincoln famously quipped that “major generalships in the regular army are not as plenty as blackberries.”

Less than a year into the war, Senator James Grimes, who deemed the false promotions a danger to the Union, called for a moratorium on spoilsmen becoming generals unless they could first point to a meritorious military record.

Grimes complained that the War Department had appointed nearly twice the number of brigadier generals than the army’s size actually dictated.

Senator William Fessenden concurred with Grimes, but turned the blame on his fellow congressmen.

The problem begins, he submitted, “in part with us, and it arises from the fact that we are so ready to lend our names and our influences to certain gentlemen because they belong to our States, who desire to be brigadier generals.”

But fellow Senators found war-time patronage too sweet to abandon.

Grimes’s crusade fizzled almost immediately, and within a week Lincoln submitted to the Senate another list of nominations for “deserving” men — more than a dozen for brigadier general.52

46 Wood, "The Radicalism of the American Revolution", 302-04; Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, 1st ed. (New York: Knopf, 1963), 167-71. Wood points out that this new spoils system was at least ostensibly different from the patronage of past monarchies. First off, ordinary men could and regularly did receive appointments. These posts though would be purged of careerism and corruption apologists believed — through a regular rotation, and stifling, bureaucratic rules, bookkeeping and crosschecking. In other words, while patronage informed the lives of many men in antebellum America, contemporaries could (not-so-convincingly) argue that unlike European patronage, this system did not create dependence and corruption.

47 After the election of 1860, nearly 90% of federal positions changed hands, most of them going to Lincoln’s disciples. Thomas Joseph Goss, The War within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship during the Civil War (Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2003), 4.

48 Polk’s own secretary of war actually popularized — and brought into full bloom -- the phrase, “To the victors belong the spoils.” See: ibid., 5, 15

49 Carman and Luthin, "Lincoln and the Patronage", 149-65. Stanton quoted on pages 154-55.

50 ibid., 114, 123-25.

51 After visiting D.C. and talking with Lincoln and Stanton, Douglass believed that he had secured an appointment as an officer. This reminds us of the limits of patronage and how, in the end, the spoils were reserved for networks created and exploited by white males of a common ideological bent. Blight, "Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee", 169-71.

52 Lincoln, Grimes, and Fessenden quoted in: Carman and Luthin, "Lincoln and the Patronage", 155-58

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

The war created a spoils system that tossed thousands of bones to un-appointed officeseekers while giving men a place to channel various modes of manhood — bounded in merit, aggression, honor, hierarchy, and male-male intimacy.

But the majority of bone tossing came from local male networks, not from Washington.

Because the relatively decentralized Federal government was unprepared to mobilize such a massive army, the War Department relied heavily on state governments to raise men and appoint officers.

Thus the bulk of military spoils did not flow so much from connections to Washington, as they did from smaller webs between men of local accomplishment and state and county politicians.53

Butler, for example, first used his own service in the Massachusetts militia — where his “experience” amounted to leading a handful of encampments every year — to obtain the duty of raising local troops for the war.

He then wired Secretary Cameron “through” a Massachusetts Senator, with the rather cheeky statement: “You have called for a brigade of Massachusetts troops; why not call for a brigadier general and staff?"

"I have some hope of being detailed.”

Not satisfied that this connection would suffice, during his train ride to Boston, Butler convinced a bank president from that city to offer an immediate loan to Governor Andrew for mobilizing the state’s troops.

Butler knew that sufficient funds could not be appropriated in time for the looming war, as the state’s constitution required such funding to be approved by the legislature — which had already adjourned.

After securing a letter promising such a loan, Butler shrewdly asked for the banker’s written recommendation for him (Butler) to lead the brigade in question into war.

Knowing that the recommendation would accompany the pledged loan, Butler was able to approach the governor with something of a political inducement.

When Governor Andrew — no fan of the acerbic Democrat — resisted Butler’s request to be made brigadier general, pointing to the fact that two other militiamen had higher rank, Butler divulged his newly won financial commitment, which all but sealed up his generalship.54

Cole, like his commander, had a history of obsessing over promotion and merit; if he was singular in his mania, it was only by small degrees.

As he grew increasingly hostile toward his fellow officers, he did not feel left behind so much as outdone in a game he well understood.

The corruption and cronyism that propelled some men above him, was what Cole had used to distance himself from others below — a confidence game where men presented themselves as independent agents rising upward, while behind the scenes they scoured networks of kith and kin for any advantage over ostensibly “independent” rivals.55

Long before Butler arrived, Cole began scrutinizing army regulations and writing his commanders to establish his rank.

While Cole had begun the war as a captain in May of ‘61, when he transferred into the 3rd New York Cavalry, his date of becoming a captain was pushed back in regimental records to September.

Other captains now outranked him within his new regiment, though Cole had officially been captain before any of them.

He argued that this regimental system was unfair.

“I find the usages of other [regiments] would make me senior,” he wrote General Foster.

Cole admitted that the official regulations were “somewhat obscure,” but asked for Foster’s opinion.

“Having had much more & longer service than any of our officers, I naturally wish whatever I may be entitled to in position.”56

Though Cole obtained a modest promotion to Inspector of Cavalry at Fort Monroe around the time of Butler’s arrival, Cole made a case that he merited greater rewards to his most vital ally, his brother Cornelius --- recently elected congressman from California.

“The command of a brigade of darkeys,” he wrote Cornelius, “is the height of my ambition, for I know how they fight….”

He would get his promotion to brigadier general if only other men would take notice and confess Cole’s merits.

“Our regiment [3rd NY Cavalry] has a good name & I have made it!”

53 Goss, "The War within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship during the Civil War", 18

54 Butler, "Butler's Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benj. F. Butler", 173-73; For more on Butler’s renowned self-promotion see: Smith, ""the Enemy within: Corruption and Political Culture in the Civil War North."", 32-33

55 However much colonial pamphlet writers and editors denounced men appointed by the British crown as “favorites and flatterers,” as “tools,” or as fops dependent on parliament and thus less manly, by the Age of Jackson, American men aggressively competed for the spoils of party triumph. As Mark W. Summers has argued in the context of Gilded Age politics, political patronage and its accompanying begging for appointments actually created an illusion that position correlated with merit --- and that talent was rewarded in America. The letters that piled into the offices of recently elected officials always included a detailed list of the merits of the writer, and as Summers notes, the few letters from women instead emphasized pity and male protection (thus further reifying the connection between manliness and merit). Lombard, "Making Manhood: Growing Up Male in Colonial New England", 159-63; Mark W. Summers, Party Games: Getting, Keeping, and using Power in Gilded Age Politics (Chapel Hill ; London: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 177-78. After his election in 1860, Lincoln was overwhelmed by the great number of letters sent by placemen and officeseekers. Lincoln’s party continued the tradition of patronage and spoils so abundant in antebellum politics; but because of the exigencies of war, and the need to cement alliances and foster support, Lincoln and his inner circles actually made a decided effort to advantageously hand out massive amounts of federal appointments in the postal system, foreign consuls, customs, gubernatorial posts in the territories, and of course commissions for officers. Butler, who was not shy about asking for a commission, was one of Lincoln’s key political appointments. For more on the office seeking, letter writing, nepotism, and officeseeking, see: Carman and Luthin, "Lincoln and the Patronage", 375; Goss, "The War within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship during the Civil War", 24-50. For more on war era patronage and accompanying corruption, see: Sanford J. Ginsberg, "Corruption and Fraud in Government Contracts during the Civil War" (MS, M.A. Thesis, Columbia University); Summers, "The Spoils of War", 82-89; Surdam, "Traders Or Traitors: Northern Cotton Trading during the Civil War", 301-312; Carman and Luthin, "Lincoln and the Patronage", 375; Smith, ""the Enemy within: Corruption and Political Culture in the Civil War North."", 3069-3070-A. DA3187563

56 Captain George W. Cole to General Foster [undated] found in Compiled Service Record of George W. Cole, 3rd New York Cavalry. NARA, Washington DC.

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

Though we have only a dozen or so letters from Officer Cole, the surviving missives portray a frustrated soldier working his way through the maze of male networks and favor seeking.

He was looking for a patron to help him parlay his war record into deserved promotions.

I want to get out of this, where I can have the credit of what I do & be robbed as I have been, no more…. I have never since April 1861 been off duty an hour, unless wounded or sick, in the year 1862. I with my company took prisoner & killed more rebels than the whole number of my company, (over a man each)….ask Smith for the particulars of my rescuing with my own hands the regimental flag of the 12th [New York regiment] at Bull Run…. Ask Henry J. Raymond of the Times if he recollects on the 18th of July 1861 that I alone in the 12th Regt rallied my company at Blackburn Ford. Describe my tall black appearance & swearing some & see if he will remember it! [Cole, added “with my company” after writing the sentence, as an apparent afterthought.]

Cole wanted to shake loose a repository of memory that bore record of his exploits — lodged in medical records, lists of the captured and killed, and newspaper men’s purchasable memories.

“Smith” almost certainly was a reference to Vivus Smith, a paper editor from central New York; Raymond, of course, was the editor for the New York Times.

Two and half years after Bull Run, though his exploits in North Carolina were crowded out by reports of major battles, Cole continued to believe that newspapermen, for whatever reason, kept heroic narratives about Cole from entering public discourse.

The way Cole writes, it is as if from the beginning of the war he saw his own battlefield exploits from the vantage of an onlooker, jotting down “particulars” and taking notes of the way he (Captain Cole) looked and sounded in battle.

His own memory of events had come to resemble what his exploits would have looked like in a newspaper.

Even if Raymond or Smith had buried it all in their minds, if someone — a friend — could just jog their memories and “describe” Cole’s “tall black appearance,” for example — the almost forgotten deeds could still be salvaged and applied to Cole’s “credit.”57

Yet while Cole gloried in his having “alone” rallied his company at Bull Run, and in rescuing the flag “with his own hands,” his letter was part of a nineteenth-century ritual where publicly “independent” men begged for other men’s help in private.

Though Cole had just admitted that the height of his ambition was to lead a “brigade” of black soldiers he felt compelled to (almost) directly ask his brother for it once more.

Now I think you know my very desires, if you can properly assist me. I’ll do the fighting for both of us meanwhile, for I like soldiering….The reason I said I might prefer a commission as [colonel] now in a darkey regt is that [it] would come at once & cost nothing to get it up, for you must know the loss from my business (by hasty leaving when war broke out) has left me nearly poor again, but I count it gain in self respect58

If his brother would just help him obtain a colonel’s commission it would suffice — for a while.

Cole made sure to emphasize his financial troubles brought on by the war, because, as he believed, his counterparts had loitered at home for personal gain.

He wasn’t asking for a favor — only justice.

“I am mortified to see many a man less capable, by staying home & pulling wires, has outstripped me because I staid back to fight on principles,” Cole fumed.

Though principles “don’t pay in public,” he argued, as if he almost believed it, “it makes a man respect himself.”59

To Cole’s mind, his superiors and peers had worried more about cementing deals at home than winning the war.

“They don’t know the first thing, but to pipelay and hang around home.”

Laying pipe.

Pulling wires.

Cole used terms that any antebellum American man on the make would have recognized — and seen in others (not themselves).

These colloquialisms evoked images of men tugging at webs of relations, dependents, and allies to further personal ends.

By manipulating connective networks, wirepullers used chains of friendships to make seemingly out-of-reach functions move or bend to their will.

While the term “laying pipe” supposedly originated in a shady election bargain where plumbing jobs were traded for votes, the term at once denoted political corruption and evoked an image of hidden, buried connections.

Water found its way into arid climes, miles from the spring.60

57 George Cole to Cornelius Cole, November 29, 1863, Cole family, "Papers".

58 George Cole to Cornelius Cole, November 29, 1863, ibid.

59 George Cole to Cornelius Cole, November 29, 1863, ibid.

60 From the late 1830s on the term was used by various political groups to denounce corruption, particularly in politics. The term supposedly originated with electoral fraud wherein a plumber from Philadelphia promised to send nineteen plumbers to vote for a Whig candidate in 1838 election in New York City. See: Grimsted, "American Mobbing, 1828-1861: Toward Civil War", 195 In many cases “pipe-laying” was explicitly presented as the antithesis of merit based promotions and station, or a direct threat to free labor. All parties used it. Democrats wielded the term to denounce Whigs, Henry Clay, and the “black tariff” of 1842. In an anti-Whig diatribe, defending the patriotism of Irish-Americans, one antebellum editorial denounced “internal improvements” and “canal enlargement” as ways to buy working-class votes, and in particular Irish men’s loyalties. Here laying pipe meant trying to court Irish-Americans with chicanery and double talk in an election year. See: "A Letter to Farmer Issachar," The United States Democratic Review 15, no. 76 (October, 1844), 388.; "Whig and Fogey Pipe-Laying: Free Trade and the Irish Vote ," The United States Democratic Review 31, no. 170 (August 1852), 105-11.; By the end of Reconstruction Henry Dana (Charles Francis Adams’s legal mentor before the war) used the term to denounce the spoils system that followed elections. Pipe-laying created political “body-servants,” dependency, and worst of all pitted patronage against merit. See:: Richard Henry Dana, Points in American Politics (New York: 1877), 19-21. See too how in the Gilded Age “laying pipe” in labor unions, supposedly destroyed personal ambition, individual motivation and the Lincolnian system of merit over family connections. "A Tyranny that Cannot Live in America," The Century 33, no. 3 (January 1887), 488-89.

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Post by thelivyjr »


by Michael E. DeGruccio

CHAPTER 3: BELOW THE BEAST, continued ...

Laying pipe and wire pulling, most essentially were what others did.

When similar actions were used to achieve one’s rightful station, merit triumphed, even if it needed a little finessing from bosom friends.

For example, at the close of ’62, General-in-Chief, Henry W. Halleck wrote Brigadier General, John Schofield to complain of what lay beneath a recently bumbled campaign in Missouri.

“But it seems there were too many private axes to grind,” groused Halleck.

If you could be here [military headquarters, D.C.] a few weeks you would see how difficult it to resist political wire-pulling in military appointments. Every Governor, Senator, and Member of Congress has his pet generals to be provided with separate and independent commands. I am sick and tired of the political military life. The number of enemies which I have made because I would not yield my own convictions of right is already legion.

A professional army man, trained at West Point, Halleck felt that handing soldiers over to “political generals” like Butler, Banks, and others “seems little better than murder.”61

But as Cole’s and Halleck’s letters suggest, political wire pulling was often decried in the first part of letters and then perpetrated in the back half.

Tellingly, after denouncing “pet generals,” in the very next paragraph, Halleck promised Schofield that personal pipes were being laid.

Rest assured, general, your services are appreciated, and will not be overlooked. I have already presented your name to the Department, and will again urge it on the first opportunity. There are, however, only a few vacancies to fill, and hundreds of applications backed by thousands of recommendations. Under such circumstances results are always uncertain.62

Thus antebellum men continually worried that other men were laying pipe inches beneath their own.

After Cole had been colonel for about four months his military crony and family friend, Asa Biggs, wrote Cole’s brother, Cornelius, to apparently keep the latter informed of George’s promotions (or, more likely, pester Cornelius about the lack of progress on that front).

Biggs speculated that Cole’s cavalry would be brigaded with the other Colored Cavalry regiments, but, unfortunately another colonel had taken temporary command, and yet another, Jeptha Garrard, outranked Cole.

Biggs reported that General Butler’s “opinion of your brother’s merit is very high” – something about which George Cole regularly fretted.

“I think your brother’s chances are very good."

"He has many friends and his service merits them.”

But as might be expected in such letters, men writing on behalf of friends figured that the pulling hand could just as easily tug two at a time.

Biggs massaged the discussion of Cole’s merits into one about his own.

He asked Congressman Cole about the chances of a bill in the House that would reorganize Butler’s Army of the James.

“I want to be appointed chief of the 8th Division to take charge of the Inspection Dept,” he wrote with anxiousness.

“Can you help me in the matter?” Biggs queried.63

61 United States. War Dept and others, "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies", Series 1, Volume 34, part III, 332-33

62 General-in-Chief H. W. Halleck to Brig. Gen. John M. Schofield, November 28, 1862 in ibid., Series 1, Volume 22, part I, pages 793-94 Just more than a year later, realizing that he was soon to be replaced by Grant, Halleck wrote a letter to Grant’s ally, General Sherman, to thank Sherman for his “kind allusions” in a speech he delivered in Memphis. Halleck wrote in the letter begun with, “My Dear General,” that the armies in the west did not suffer from the epidemic in laying pipe and infighting: “There is less jealousy and back-biting, and a greater disposition to assist each other. Here we have too much party politics and wire-pulling. Everybody wants you to turn a grindstone to grind his particular ax, and if you decline he regards you as an enemy and takes revenge by newspaper abuse.” See: H. W. Halleck to Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman, February 16, 1864 in ibid., Series 1, Volume 32, Part II, pages 407-08

63 Colonel Biggs to Cornelius Cole, May 22, 1864, Cole family, "Papers".

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