We wanted to share with you some exciting and interesting information about Butler.
Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818-1893) was born in Deerfield, New Hampshire, and reared in Lowell, Massachusetts, where his mother was a proprietor of a boarding house for textile-mill workers. His father, John, had fought in the War of 1812 and later became a privateer, dying of yellow fever in the Caribbean. Despite his desire to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he was rejected by the Academy and instead attended Waterbury College to study law. After school, he married Sarah Hildreth and had one daughter and two sons. In 1845, at the age of twenty-seven, he was admitted to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, making him possibly the youngest attorney to argue a case before the High Court.
He was soon drawn into politics, and was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1853, advancing to a seat in the state Senate in 1859. Because Bulter had emerged as one of New England’s more prominent politicians, he was elected Brigadier-General of a Massachusetts militia. Within days after the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter, Butler raised a regiment and led his troops to Washington to protect the Capitol. In contravention to orders, Butler entered Baltimore with 1,000 troops on May 13th and assumed control of the civil government. Despite the strategy’s success, he was criticized for disobeying orders and was relocated to Fort Monroe, VA.
Over the next four years Butler became one of the most colorful personalities (and most disliked generals) of the war. In May 1862, he commanded the force that captured New Orleans, and subsequently became the military governor. He successfully reduced the city’s yellow fever deaths from 10% of its population to only 2 people. Despite this public health success, his acts made him highly unpopular, the most notable of which is Butler’s General Order No. 28. This law stated that any woman that insulted or showed contempt for a Union soldier would be regarded and held liable as a “woman of the town plying her avocation,” i.e. a prostitute. A string of unsuccessful military efforts, including his failure to capture Fort Fisher in 1865, contributed to his negative public opinion, earning him the nickname “Beast Butler.”
After General Grant removed him from military service, Butler pursued a political career and was elected into the House of Representatives from Massachusetts, serving four consecutive terms, and another single term in 1876. He lost the election for Governor of Massachusetts twice before being elected by the Democrats in 1882, and served for 2 years. As governor, he appointed the first Irish-American and African-American judges and the first woman to executive office.
Butler died while attending court in Washington, D.C., and is buried in his wife’s family cemetery in Lowell. The inscription on Butler’s monument reads, “the true touchstone of civil liberty is not that all men are equal but that every man has the right to be the equal of every other man – if he can.”