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tv   The Civil War 2022 Lincoln Forum - Rep. Benjamin Butler Reconstruction  CSPAN  February 25, 2023 4:29pm-5:30pm EST

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the shared animosity toward lincoln and antipathy toward blacks? these the folks we talking about, all the conspirators. yeah. do we know anything about their racial views or their biases against. yeah. i mean, he has three of his conspirators were, confederate veterans, who had been in the confederate army and certainly, yeah, they were, etc. . someone asked what axelrod's politics were and? the acquaintance said he always the -- and and louis thornton powell murderous muscleman. was it was a boy. they were all white supremacists. yeah. i just didn't know to what they express their views openly. that's what i was yelling. it comes. i think they were. they were. they shared booth's feelings.
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okay. thank you. sure. thanks. okay. thank you. thank good morning. my name is jonathan white and i'm the vice chair of the lincoln forum. it is a pleasure to introduce to you d leonard. elizabeth leonard is colby college's gibson professor of history emerita. she earned her ph.d. in u.s. history from the university of california riverside in 1992 and is the author of books on the civil war era, including yankee women, gender and the civil war. all daring of the soldier. women of the civil armies and lincoln's ally. judge advocate joseph hall of kentucky, which was named co-winner of gilder lehrman
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lincoln prize in 2012. her newest benjamin f butler, a noisy life, was published by the university of north carolina press, may of this year. i have a fond memory of meeting elizabeth a conference many years ago when i was still in graduate school. she treated me to a cup of coffee which as a graduate student i could not afford on my own. and we talked at length about my research. it an act of kindness that gave me comfort while i was just entering the profession. as a as a young historian, please me in welcoming elizabeth leonard elizabeth leonard. thank you, jonathan. can hear me all right. that is such a nice memory. i want to thank harold holzer jonathan white and the rest of the lincoln forum for inviting me. it's. i think my second time here and
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i really enjoyed my last visit, but it's many ago. it's a pleasure to be here. it's a pleasure to be back in gettysburg. i'm grateful for this opportunity. i just want to say this. my idea for how this talk will go. that i will talk to you about why i thought i should write a biography of butler at all. and then i will discuss the question of why reassess him and specifically reassess his caricature his reputation as a beast or spoons or this morning heard a new one butcher. and then with the remaining time, i would be happy to take questions. so i've been acquainted in terms of why a biography at all. i've been acquainted like almost every civil war historian know with butler for a long time. he keeps cropping up. i occasionally refer to him as forest butler or butler gump because he just keeps coming back. wherever you go, there's butler
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showing up again. of course i have taught or i just retired from colby in 2019, very cleverly before covid struck. i must have been prescient. i taught at colby 30 years, and of course, he a colby college alumnus. he graduated in 1838 when it was still known as college and as a little side. he was a little resentful it didn't get renamed. butler college, but that's another. and another little side note. he also thought waterville was a very dull town as students tend to say today. but being at colby, i was, of course always in some sense in his. but although he was a colby alumnus. he never the attention that elijah lovejoy did. elijah lovejoy was a native son. the area as well as an alumnus. he also was somewhat less contrary, though i like to point when people say, well, he's easy to love that lovejoy was,
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rabidly anti-catholic. and sometimes those sentiments seem to have faded from view in light of his efforts to protect freedom, the press. but it did always strike me as that we have lovejoy, this lovejoy, lovejoy, the other thing at colby, but nothing really to recognize butler except now this massive portrait has been brought back out into view, which i'll come to in a second. so i was acquainted with and interested in butler, but the choice of, the choice i made to write his biography some very specific prods. they brought me there. was a conversation with the great historian i know who is beloved by this forum. gary gallagher. i was at the virginia sasquatch centennial signature conference in thousand 13 at uva and i was chatting with gary and i made a crack, as i have been known, do
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about various things. i was not very thoughtful and. i said, i'm so sick of joshua chamberlain and bowdoin college and all have is benjamin butler and gary took that comment quite seriously but in his very kind way and he said i think you need to look deeper i think colby has a lot to be proud of and certainly was an impetus for me to go look and see more about mr. butler. then when the also in 2013 decided finally bring this truly massive portrait of which he himself brought up to the college shortly before he died. to bring the portrait back into view it had been in storage for a number of years and that's interesting story in and of itself. if it was hung when the college first had the portrait, they hung it in a prominent place. then it was tucked away and in 2013 it was brought back out and
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i was asked to write the legend would go next to the portrait after somebody else wrote one and wasn't very satisfied himself with what he had written and that required me to do some digging, which, you know, pushed me along the road as i was doing the work for legend, i discovered that there, right there at waterville colby college, there was a massive amount of butler material that you know who comes up to waterville to do research, i guess nobody. so there was a lot of material there. and of course, some of it is of what is elsewhere, but some of it is different. and there's material for about butler all the place in the united states, probably abroad as well. but the butler material that colby took me as it happens when i finally got into the project months and months and months to plow through it's a lot of stuff and among it that collection at
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colby i found an article from 1964 so on the 100th anniversary close to the centennial or during the centennial of the civil war, an article by my predecessor and the history department at colby, my predecessor as our civil war historian. this article was what was called the colby library quarterly, which no longer exists. sadly. but they had done a whole issue on butler and. my predecessor, harold raymond had written an article called ben butler a reappraisal. harold raymond was a harvard trained historian who taught at colby for over 40 years from 1952 to 1993 at and sadly passed away in 2008 and did not live to see this appear. i am glad to say his elderly son has a copy and the book is actually dedicate did to hal raymond who came to colby at a time when all you did was teach
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you teach you teach you teach you teach whatever. they tell you to teach you don't publish. you don't have time to do research. you're teaching courses or eight courses a year. you teach the revolution and you teach the russian revolution and you teach the civil war and whatever needs to be taught. so it's probably my benefit that he had to teach that and could not build the biography out of this article that he wrote. but it was a seminal article. me and in it notably how quote when stripped of their more dramatic overtones, butler's weakness is were those of the typical northern businessman and amateur soldier. and he went on to say that while butler had, quote, full share of failings nevertheless many accomplishments and successes has made a substantial contribution to the preservation of the union and the advancement of social in america.
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hmm. i was intrigued. why was it if this is the case and hal was a great history and a great teacher whose classes filled right up until the moment he retired, when he could hear any more students greatly admired him. why did my predecessor see butler this way? but others would say things. as soon as i mentioned benjamin. oh yeah. the beast. oh, yeah. spoons. even friendly circles. you know, i can understand if i know that there's no to butler in new orleans, i. but why? colby? his alma mater was reluctant to hang man's portrait. that's an interesting question. and why at colby? if i said benjamin butler people would say those same things. oh, yeah. the beast. that was intriguing to me, of course, as you know, i also am the author of. a biography of joseph holt,
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another rather challenging, prickly figure, but also very satisfying to study. didn't want to live with him. very glad to study him as a historical figure. and my sense of what i was able to accomplish there in of balancing the range of sources is dealing with a complicated figure, complicated in many ways. it went my appetite to try again. so we have this biography. so now i'll turn to the question of why we should stop calling him beast. this book. franklin butler, a noisy life, has a number of through lines one of the through lines in the book is the theme development grow, youth and change that can simultaneously be paired with a profound kind of consistency. recently i had the great
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privilege of speaking at mr. butler's 204th birthday commemoration in lowell, massachusetts, where he spent most of his life. and i said, there, as i hope i've also demonstrated the book that butler's paired this combination or demonstrated this pairing beautifully. he recognized that in 1883, a decade before his death, he wrote god made me in only one way i always be with the underdog in the fight. i can't help it. i can't change. and upon the whole, i don't want to. my research suggests that butler was indeed consistent throughout his on this score. he cared about the underdog, and he fought for the underdog.
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what changed as he grew and developed what expanded over time was his understanding of who the nation's underdogs really were. it came to be a group that included laborers, and the poor women immigrants enslaved, black americans, the freed people, free blacks and so on. and for his support for the nations, even as that group grew in size. butler earned the devotion and respect of many, many people. he also earned the hatred and denigration of many others confederates, neo confederates and many of the rich and powerful across the land, not only in the american south and
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still he pressed on, determined, clever, irascible old, humorous, imperfect, noisy and fearless as another theme of the book is perhaps an one certainly to this crowd, that perceptions of mr. butler varied in his lifetime, varied after he died, and very today a great deal on the socioeconomic, political, racial and gender. social position of the perceiver. and for the historian one of those character rich sticks of the creator of. the sources that one is using to understand him. indeed in my research for this biography, i made a point because i suspected this to true
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of examining sources that had been largely ignored or least missed by past biographers, and this importantly included source materials that, offered insights into black perceptions of mr. butler. i also made an effort, a very conscious effort, to ask new questions of, the same old sources that have been examined by butler biographers before me. why i wanted to know? did these see and describe and relate to butler this way? both during his life and after? but these people saw him so very differently. it seemed me that to understand him better, i needed to apply both approaches. looking at new sources, looking at old sources with new question as they were essential
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approaches for me and very beneficial as i tried to understand him as a historical figure and also understand the question of why it is that he has dropped so far off the historical map of popular understanding and been reduced to this caricature or beast or spoon. i have some theories about this. needless to say, and i think they pertain excuse me, not only him, but also to his son in law. adelbert ames. i've been mentioning this to people here since i've been here. yes, since i came yesterday. adelbert ames. also where his biography. where is it? why do we know more about adelbert ames? such a and courageous figure. and here, i'll take another aside and say you know, adelbert ames was butler's son in law. i recently gave a talk in augusta, maine, where somebody
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came dressed in a union officers uniform and introduced himself to me. adelbert ames and understand that adelbert, you know, who knows how to pronounce it unless ask somebody. but i thought you should know how to pronounce his name and. this person in the q&a took me to task for not saying more negative things about benjamin butler and as i told somebody this morning, i wished i had well, i don't wish i had said it, but i thought to myself because i to be nice, you know, here i am in my home state, but i to be nice. but i wanted i thought later you'd never talk to me that way if you were adelbert ames because he loved his and revered his father in law. and they worked very closely together and they had very similar political opinions. when i first drafting the manuscript for this biog or also
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i want to point out that i serious only considered starting book with his sudden death in washington dc in 1893 and his subsequent funeral. why would i do this? except to be perverse because while butler is so little remembered. and when he is remembered, it is usually as a much maligned caricature as i've said. i wanted readers to know right from the start what a hugely important and widely known, deeply loved and revered individual and historical he actor. he was in of 1893. i wanted to know who loved him and why, who came his funeral, who carried his coffin who sent flowers, including douglass, by the way, and one of frederick douglass sons was a pallbearer.
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in the end, i took a more conventional the more approach it is one of the benefits of writing biography. as i other historians narrative arc pretty clear starts with birth ends with death. you know you don't have to figure out how to organize the material if you just want to take the conventional approach. and it did make sense to do that. but i stand by the notion even now that his mass funeral tells us more about who he was and what he contributed to our history than his birth in obscurity in deerfield, new hampshire, or any absurd, minimizing, denigrating epithet ever could. so let's stop calling him beast unless unless we mean it in the way that urban dictionary does, which is to say this is how urban dictionary describes
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beast. he's a beast. a beast is a person that is talented at whatever they do and always displays determination, dedication and resilience to always or want to win. it's not a perfect definition. but if you're meaning it that way, you can still use the term. it certainly a better description of butler. he got his nickname course primarily from his command of the forces in new orleans where he. well i'll come back to that in a but obviously he behaved in a way that many people thought he was beastly but lost cause apologists and their sympathizers across the country carried nickname forward. i'm asking folks to consider setting aside. why should we set it aside. because of everything he achieved in his.
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he rose from poverty in new hampshire to. a position of great and profession. all military political prominence because he made vast, meaningful and contributions. when he had the power to do so or at least he tried. when so many people in community and across the nation were not willing to take those risks, he did a lot. he did everything he could as lawyer in lowell for. those factory workers who were part of an early american industrialization. and he fought for the ten hour day in massachusetts. he was an unhealed thing. unionist. and his efforts as a loyal democrat before the war to try and hold the nation together. and then during the war deserve
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commendation. someone else had a recent after i went through a litany. so you can this too. i'll give you the same answer. i went through a litany of reasons why we should think a little more positive, positively about, mr. butler. i went my litany, and then the person his hand and scolded for not mentioning that butler voted for jefferson in charleston in 60, 50, 55 times for the democratic nomination for president. i knew that. i was roundly scolded. this audience person. audience participant for not mentioning at the talk. and i and i responded, i think gently i hope so that. i, i know that. and i also don't understand why you're stuck on that when i've given you this list of things
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are surely more important. butler's vote for jefferson. he has explanations. it. i have explanations. it. it didn't cause the civil. you know, it's not the only thing he ever did. there's a lot of other stuff to look at. but it's fascinating to me that this sticks in the same way those caricatures stick. so i ask you to think instead about his unyielding unionism, his efforts as a loyal and so on. he also accomplished so much during the war, so much that was so much more important than those votes for jefferson davis, crying out loud. he may not have been a west pointer about which he had all the feelings, as they say, he really wanted to go to west point. his mommy wanted him to go to waterville college. she wanted him to become a clergyman. somebody recently said to me, you know, he an ardent baptist,
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and i burst out laughing and i said, oh, no, he wasn't. he paid fines on a regular to get out of chapel. he hated going to chapel? he hated the concept of predestination. he thought if you're already predestined, why do anything? i mean who cares? it's already set up. why we bothering? you know. but his mother was indeed an ardent christian. an ardent baptist. she wanted him to go to colby. that's where he went to waterville college. he was not a west pointer, but he a leading figure in an important figure, the massachusetts state, felecia militia. the militia that's the volunteer militia, i guess elided with the inn that. he, of course, went on to command the first federal troops to arrive in washington, d.c., to protect the capital against invasion. he went on after that to play an instrumental role in keeping the border state of maryland in the union. and you look at the cover story of harper's weekly in june of
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1861, before he went new orleans. you'll see how many people across the country, across the north, thought that he was the person who would save the union based on what had done so far. of course, in fortress virginia. he went on to establish the contraband policy. i'm sorry, i think is more important than the votes for jefferson davis. i just do. i think it's something we should emphasize, and it is true that people know anything about butler today. this may be the one. you know, one of the few things they do know about him, a positive thing, although there are many ways that it's been criticized. as well. but i would argue that the contraband policy established fort monroe was a major, unauthorized, unprecedented step along the way to emancipate. and the federal government did not stop him from this policy. they allowed him to go forward.
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and sure enough, soon congress is acting. and sure enough, the ball is rolling. of course, as i he went on to command the federal in new orleans from april to december of 1862, during which he did indeed act sternly. he executed william mumford for pulling the u.s. flag. he scolded and issued orders against confederate women who were spitting his soldiers. he handled rather roughly some of the self-important foreign agents who were operating in new orleans and wanted to have it both ways were not taking the loyalty oath. but, you know, okay, you don't have to bother us. you don't take our guns, don't take our slaves. but, you know, we're not taking the loyalty oath either. it's true. he was a stern commander in new orleans. but i ask people to consider what he was tasked with doing in such a precarious and rabidly place so far from the center of
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national power. so early in the war, including keeping the city safe from yellow fever and initiating some of the early is policies or the proto policies of what reconstruction would look like. it's interesting to me, new orleans is and i spend a whole on new orleans some people have asked me. why so much? because the book is chapters long three chapters on the war. one whole chapter is on new orleans. and it's because so much of the negative imagery around came out of new orleans and the after effects of that. but why is his harshness at new orleans his beastly ness if you must use that term emphasized and not successes not the important things did. and what does that say about who's controlling the narrative about this figure? he, of course, went on become a dedicated and passionate advocate of black soldiers both
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in new orleans, transforming the louisiana native guard, into federal soldiers, and then subsequently working closely with black regiments in the army of the james, he was increasingly devoted to them, and they likewise were devoted to him. and he learned a lot from and was transformed by his experience with them. some of the most moving quotes in his archive which relate to his of what black soldiers were willing to sacrifice when as he put it, they have so little hope of gain except their freedom which isn't even guaranteed, you know, and the things they will suffer for. their choices are so, so great for the duration of his life. black veterans reached out to him with love, respect. hope requests for help not because they thought was an easy
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mark b, but because they knew that he would try to help them. and in fact he did so the war. he did so many important and i do want to again i am not blind to his flaws and i hope folks who read the book will see that i try to point out places where he fell down a little bit or did things that maybe weren't made, some choices that weren't that good or that i would hope he had made. but he did. but and i agree it he wasn't, you know, general, he wasn't the greatest field commander for sure. but there were a lot of bumblers in the army. and it's interesting that he is remembered again in way as like, oh, yeah, he was just he was just awful, you know, if he was notably unlike everybody else who was fantastic and then there was butler, you know, and he was just awful. i think it's it's it's worthwhile to examine butler's
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failures. the field. big bethel bermuda. if you want fort fisher. if you want. although there are arguments that can be made to just rethink those are those issues as well. but it's also good to look at those failures cause in a larger context and of everything that he and everything else that was going on and everybody else who also failed why is why are his failures important than other failures and successes? who knows? who cares? i just want to spend my last few minutes mentioning his work after the war which it's you know sometimes when i meet people mention this biography i come to believe that people think he only lived for four years from 1861 to 1865, when grant, you know, dismissed him and then he was gone. and in fact, he lived for almost 75 years. and after the war, he spent a
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lot more time congress than he did during the war in the army. five outing for the right of the underdogs. he spent ten years and people don't seem to even people say, oh, my god, i didn't know. he had any life after the war. and that was 65 to to 93 to 8 years. during those 28 years, he spent ten years as a representative from massachusetts in the united states congress during which he did what he could and more than many others, to i use this phrase to stick the landing of union victory to make it mean something. he was frequently in his lifetime compared to thaddeus stevens, especially as the time as stevens died and the tide shifted in a different direction he led as sure you know the opposition to andrew johnson's
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cat straw thickly lenient reconstruction policies and he led the impeach ment process. he active and with great determination promoted the 14th amendment to the constitution the 15th amendment to the constitution the civil rights bill. the fourth force acts of the early 1870s to suppress whites supremacy. the kkk and other white supremacist groups across the which were earnestly rising again and terrorizing black and their white republican allies. he to supported women's suffrage and, gave opportunities for women suffrage to come to congress and speak on behalf of that cause, he workers rights. he supported greenback currency. he supported any policy. he could support many policies to level the economic playing field for ordinary laboring americans and the poor. he supported veterans rights. he worked hard to help
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individuals, especially black and black veterans get their pensions. he led the national homes for disabled volunteer soldiers, which had first home just a little way down the road from me in togas togas in augusta, maine. he led that organization. from 1866 to 1879 to great acclaim. he pressed for the segregated of west point by, nominating black men to cadetship. and although it's not him but his son, ben butler, his son benny, who went reluctantly to west point, was one of henry flippers closest friends at west point. henry flipper, the first black american to graduate from west point, speaks very kindly of benjamin butler the son because and i believe there's something that ben benny learned at home. he served of course, as a term as governor of massachusetts, which many people in
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massachusetts kids don't know in the course which it was only a year, couldn't get a lot done. but he investigated the corruption at the tewksbury almshouse, and he also appointed george lewis ruffin, the first african american to graduate from harvard law school. in 1869, he appointed him butler appointed him to the charlestown municipal court, making him the first african american judge seated in the united states. he crossed swords repeatedly with massachusetts elites, especially the harvard people. ongoing struggle there, especially massachusetts elites. and i think this has contributed mightily to the way he's been remembered today. he is, of course, and also ran for president in 1884. he ran as the candidate. he thought he might run as the democrat, didn't work out grover cleveland. he ran the candidate of the greenback and antimonopoly parties and.
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he didn't campaign for cleveland. and somebody was talking about if trump back, it's kind of like cleveland. they were talking twitter about this. and i was like, oh, are they sherrod? they elected butler. you know instead of cleveland. but anyway, still fighting for butler. i am. so over the course of his life, notably enjoyed the deep love and loyalty of many people, including his family. he also earned enduring affection, respect and gratitude of many, many americans, not least suffered gists. laboring people, men and women, black americans, more as was as i suggested in their response and i the book closes with how newspapers were reporting butler's death and black reported massive despondency about the loss of this figure figure for all that he did. he suffered.
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he earned great respect, but he also suffered enmity and derision not just as i've said from confederates, former confederates, but also from powerful northerners, especially the powerful and the wealthy white northerners in his and around the country sought diminish his influence popularity and undermine his agenda, where it conflicted with theirs. he was by no means perfect to. he was noisy and fearless is not to deny his flaws. but as an i'll return now to my predecessor at colby, hal raymond as hal raymond wrote in a separate article about benjamin butler. if colby students and i personally elisabeth add and the rest of us if colby students would champion the underprivileged as fiercely and
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uphold the american republic as faithfully as benjamin butler they too would deserve, be honored by the college. and i would say i agree. thank you. i'm i'm happy to take questions. and i apologize for my runny nose. i do not have covid. i promise. i just. yes, sir. walter. hi. so you talked a bit about beast and the women order, but you talk about spoons, the corruption. so could you talk a bit about alleged corruption in new orleans during his administration? yes. thank for that question. that's another reason that i spend a of time on new orleans in the biography and certainly there were questions, including by the department of the treasury and its agents in, new orleans, about what happening
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with regard to butler's use of military funds equipment. was he actually stealing people's silverware as he was confiscating stuff and so on? and to put it briefly, i will say that my is that he is not guilty of those charges. what is guilty of is allowing brother jackson, andrew jackson, butler to run amok a little bit out of and his he loved his brother. he probably turned a blind eye. he was very loyal to jackson. and i think that jackson was involved in some very questionable stuff. but try you might and butler said this throughout his postwar life. i been investigated unlike some people who say that it's really true i have been invested hated more than anybody else in the history. and he had and he said it would have been found. it would have been found. and all of my accounts are
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public and everything is public. but it's true. and when the treasury department agents and others finally said, you really need to get jackson out of new orleans because it's sullying, you know, people's impression of you. he sent him away. so thank you. i had steering from western virginia. yes, i remember you from our old well on the assassination circuit. first time we met was at the lincoln forum on the lincoln. exactly. and you spoke on joseph holt? yes. another maligned figure. yes, indeed. yeah, you have. yes. lived across the street. i do i do. perhaps i maligned myself. i, i want to live a noisy, fearless. well, i was hoping your next book would be on nathaniel preston banks. oh, well, am i incorrect thinking? i mean, you haven't said anything why? lincoln supported these guys early in the war? well am i wrong in thinking that both of them brought 50,000 troops out of new england into
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the union army? and that's why lincoln felt the necessity support these two guys early. you're saying both meaning he and banks. banks and butler? well, i'm sure most politicians in england. i'm sure that was a factor. but i, i also think i mean, there's the whole issue of him being a democrat as. well. and represent butler least. right. at least at that point in the democratic party. and the idea of making sure that you have officers who are not just republicans. you think might have preferred democratic generals. you think he might have? no, i don't. yeah. yeah. yeah. no, but i think that that's a reason why he was willing to you work with butler, and butler brought a lot to the table. he brought a lot of prominence. he brought skill. he brought money. he brought connections brought determination. i think. butler people have asked me about butler and lincoln's relationship and i think it's it's a little hard to tell didn't have a whole lot of
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immediate they had some they met a few times i think butler sort of falls into the category of someone who was extremely useful and also in other ways. you know but not problematic enough to. get rid of especially when you don't have anybody replace him. that's going to do better. so i still you look in enough banks. oh, banks. okay. in my next life. oh, sorry. there's people over here. yes, sir. i i was born and raised in new orleans and. i'm here to tell you that he is not forgotten. new orleans. but, you know, there were many new orleanians really loved and respected him. not so many white confederate women. my relatives apparently i. as thanksgiving i recall as a young boy in the sixties, my grandmother had a little ritual. my brothers and i would be allowed to set the table, which required us to go to a big tiffany chest with all of her silverware in it. and had a ritual. we had to draw the curtains and we had to look around the house to make sure that spoons butler was not around.
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i didn't know who the heck he was at the time, but was scared to death of it. so i guess my question, how can a and a pejorative moniker like that last for over a century and why isn't he called countryman? i think i guess i would re-emphasize guys that it wasn't just that he got that epithet in new orleans from confederates who were very angry at him and their allies, new orleans, but that others prepared awaited it in the south after the war. but also white northerners who objected his determination even to support the nation's underdogs. the tide was going in a different. direction more convenient. dismiss him. i've wondered, and i think i was talking to somebody about this. this morning why it is. yeah, i was talking with michelle crowell about why it is that there's like you know, we fondly remember thaddeus stevens
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being this great hero for, you know, civil rights and so on. well thaddeus stevens died, you much sooner? i think that i have that he died. it was in 1869 or something like that. 68. okay. and and i think butler, too, to butler or to at his positive efforts is comes in conflict conflict even today with with sentiment that oh you know really reconstruction. it was the best that we could for. there were, you know, thaddeus stevens with his radical views. he died and there was no one else to carry on the fight and well, there were people carrying on the fight and they were silenced. and holt was one of them, too. joseph benjamin butler and others and adelbert ames. and i think that's partly why adelbert ames has also. set him aside, because we don't want know that there were other voices speaking. i hope that's helpful.
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thank. somebody else called. i wonder you mentioned the long list of underdog groups that he stood up for. you didn't mention the ultimate underdog. i wonder what his views were on how the government dealt with the indian tribes. yeah i did not find i thought you were going to say the chinese because question has come up as well. i did not find. and i confess that was not my focus because. my god, the archive is massive. you know. but i. i did not find a of evidence about his thoughts about native people. i did find evidence about his thoughts and opinions about the chinese. and i would say this is a place where he did not shine like a bright star. he, on the other was in keeping with, you know, most white politicians of both parties at time. but he didn't stand up for chinese laborers the way he did for white laborers.
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what do you think about european immigration to america at that time? of all the immigrants coming, the mass of him, he was supportive of them and he was very angry when the governor of massachusetts disbanded an immigrant regiment in the massachusetts state militia, he went to bat for them. of course, he was of irish descent himself, but thank you. yeah, but he didn't do a great job on. on chinese laborers, which is a disappointment for sure. i don't know. yeah. would you say a word about butler's book, please? i own the copy, and i'm intimidated because it's 11 or 1200 pages. should i it's big. should i read this oral copies and it keeps the cold out my house? no, it's. yes. what? what in what sense would like. should i read the book? you tell us about it. i think the book. well, it depends. i, i obviously read the book and
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i think it's an essential source for understanding. butler. but it's not an essential source in the sense of being the true story of butler. completely. i mean, no autobiography. is there's a lot just self-justifying creation. there's a lot of ego. he had a very strong ego. he would have had to have. there's a lot of i'm trying to correct the record in there. but even that is very interesting source. it has to be read with other things. for example, i understand there's a new biography that you could read along with it, but it is it's a very interesting source. some of it is just tedious because it's reprinted reports parts. and one of the most interesting things to me, you know, it's almost as if he thought he only lived for years because the focus on the war in 1100 pages or whatever is probably 800 pages. i mean, it's really his war. to him, that was the high of his
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life, even though he wrote it at the very end of his life. i think worth reading. i don't think you have to read every word, you know, but you and the early chapters where he talks about his early life. you know, it's fascinating, actually. elizabeth, thank. one more question. thank you. i love your feistiness. and depending somebody you think needs to be this noisy and fearless. it's going to on my tombstone. oh, good. this is more of a comment and a question. i recently read a letter written by a soldier who was a union surgeon at an occupied new orleans. mm hmm. and he talks about several incidences that of tell what it like in new orleans at the time. and it brought mind to me things that butler had to deal with behind the scenes. one was he wrote to his sister about being in church and the it
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was all he was taught at church. the pastor was told had to read the emancipation proclamation in front of the congregation, which he did in half the congregation, properly stood up and left the church. another incident was he went to the the theater and the band would request to take requests songs. and when the union when asked for a union song to be played a riot broke out and so on. so it kind of brought to mind the things butler a small way had to deal with as a commander of a occupying force. and then one other you can comment that. and then one other question wasn't there were the longest living union official. yeah. yes. to the second, i believe is true. and regarding the first butler had to deal with a lot of small, petty annoyances, such as you mentioned and know, women crossing. the street when union soldiers came by. but he dealt with very, very grave dangers as well. not to mention union yellow
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fever, the danger of that. but he was threatened his life on a regular basis. and the he received when he was in new orleans from some new orleans new. and there's a wonderful quote from a shy rebel, a self-identified shy rebel at the start of one of the chapters. it's hilarious if you don't think, oh, my god, she really wants kill this man. she wants to slash his. so he dealt with dangers of grave of grave nature as well as petty annoyances. and he was all way out there. you. and i just want to close by saying. i think it's interesting that who remember, you know, oh, we executed william mumford for pulling down the flag. he also on to support william mumford's life wife for the rest of her life by getting a job in the federal and sending her money to support her and her children and had a nice correspondence with her and she herself who was a massachusetts native said you know he probably got what he deserved so.
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as a side note the national park service is in the process of interpreting and opening office where butler made the contraband decision at fort monroe. i'm hoping that'll be open to visitors in the next or two. if you go to fort monroe, you can see butler's tiffany chest in the case-mate museum and there's a microbrewery there called uzo that got permission to go in, swab his chest. and it took about 150 swabs till they found live yeast cultures. and then they didn't them and brewed beer out of them. and so you can go to ouzo finnegan and drink it. and i have to say. i owe such an apology to butler now because when the bar owner came to me and said, what should we call it? i call it beast butler. so i'll them to change the name,
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please. thank elizabeth leonard.
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"washington journal" continues. host: welcome back. i'm joined by jeff guinn the author of the book waco,


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