Benjamin Butler and David Farragut
Major General Benjamin Butler, USA, declared New Orleans to be under martial law on May 1, 1862. The successful invasion of the city by Union army and naval forces compelled the city government to surrender. Flag Officer David G. Farragut’s ships arrived at New Orleans on April 25th. Under Farragut’s orders, Captain Theodorus Bailey, USN, accepted the surrender of the city. CSA Major General Mansfield Lovell had already abandoned the city.
Jefferson Davis’ failures
The CSA Navy miscalculated on two major points in the defense of New Orleans. Davis’ Navy Department believed, right up to the upriver invasion led by Farragut’s squadron, that any attack on New Orleans would come from upriver. The meager resources allocated to the defense of the lower Mississippi River were focused on preventing gunboats approaching from the North. Even as Butler occupied Ship Island, off the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Farragut’s ships approached the mouth of the river, Davis would not agree to increase the support of the city. Additionally, the two rams/gunboats under construction at New Orleans, the CSS Louisiana and CSS Mississippi were so far behind schedule, they would not be effective in assisting with the city’s defense.
The second major miscalculation made by the rebels involved the forts. The men garrisoned in the two river forts were not loyal to the rebels. Two-thirds of the soldiers defending Fort Jackson were Irish and German immigrants. These men came to New Orleans to make a living in a busy port city. After the state seceded, it was a matter of time before the superior forces of the Union Navy implemented a blockade. The coastlines of the rebel states were blockaded. When that blockade reached New Orleans, it shut down the port. This caused massive unemployment and incredible shortages of food and other goods. The immigrants in the city had no other choice but to enlist in the rebel army. Their motivation was survival, not support of the principles of the Confederacy.
Mutiny and Surrender
When Farragut’s ships moved upriver to pass the forts, the men garrisoned at Fort Jackson mutinied. The reduced fire from that side of the river allowed the Union ships to pass the forts. The high water level of the river in the springtime positioned the Union ships so it would be very easy to open fire on and destroy the city. With Lovell and the rebel troops having run for better, more defensible positions outside the city, there was nothing the civil authorities could do but turn New Orleans over to Butler’s army.
Major General Benjamin F. Butler, Proclamation to the Citizens of New Orleans, May 1, 1862 (Full Text)
Headquarters, Department of the Gulf
New Orleans, May 1, 1862
The city of New-Orleans and its environs, with all its interior and exterior defences, having surrendered to the combined land and naval forces of the United States, and being now in the occupation of the forces of the United States, who have come to restore order, maintain public tranquillity, enforce peace and quiet under the laws and Constitution of the United States, the Major General Commanding hereby proclaims the object and purpose of the United States in thus taking possession of New-Orleans and the State of Louisiana, and the rules and regulations by which the laws of the United States will be for the present and during the state of war enforced and maintained, for the plain guidance of all good citizens of the United States, as well as others, who may heretofore have been in rebellion against their authority.
Thrice before has the city of New-Orleans been rescued from the hands of a foreign government and still more calamitous domestic insurrection by the money and arms of the United States. It has of late been under the military control of rebel forces. At each time, in the judgment of the commanders of military forces holding it, jt has been found necessary to preserve order and maintain quiet by an administration of martial law. Even during the interim from its evacuation by the rebel soldiers and its actual possession by the soldiers of the United States, the civil authorities found it necessary to call for the intervention of an armed body known as the European Legion to preserve public tranquillity. The Commanding General, therefore, will cause the city to be governed until the restoration of the United States authority, and his further orders, by martial law.
All persons in arms against the United States are required to surrender themselves, with their arms, equipments, and munitions of war. The body known as the European Legion, not being understood to be in arms against the United States, but organized for the protection of the lives and property of the citizens, are invited to still cooperate with the forces of the United States to that end, and so acting will not be included within the terms of this order, but will report to these headquarters.
All ensigns, flags, devices, tending to uphold any other authority save those of the United States and foreign consulates, must not be exhibited, but suppressed. The American ensign, the emblem of the United States, must be treated with the utmost respect by all persons, under pain of severe punishment
All persons well disposed to the United States, who shall renew their allegiance, will receive safeguard and protection in their persons and property by the armies of the United States, a violation of which will be punishable by death.
All persons still holding allegiance to the confederate States will be deemed rebels against the United States, and regarded and treated as enemies thereof.
All foreigners not naturalized, or claiming allegiance to their respective governments, and not having made oath of allegiance to the government of the confederate States, will be protected in their persons and property as heretofore, under the laws of the United States.
All persons who may heretofore have given adherence to the supposed government of the confederate States, or have been in their service, who shall lay down, deliver up their arms, return to their peaceful occupations, and preserve quiet and order, holding no further correspondence nor giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, will not be disturbed in person or property, except so far under orders of the Commanding General as exigencies of the public service may render necessary.
Keepers of all public property, whether State, National, or confederate, such as collections of art, libraries, museums, as well as all public buildings, all munitions of war, and armed vessels, will all, at once, make full reports thereof to these headquarters. All manufacturers of arms and munitions of war will report to these headquarters their kinds and places of business.
All rights of property of whatever kind will be held inviolate, subject only to the laws of the United States.
All inhabitants are enjoined to pursue their usual vocations. All shops, places of business or amusement, are to be kept open in their accustomed manner, and services to be held in churches and religious houses, as in time of profound peace.
Keepers of all public houses, coffee-houses, and drinking saloons are to report their names, numbers, etc., to the office of the Provost-Marshal, and will there receive license and be made responsible for all disorders and disturbances of the peace arising in their respective places.
Sufficient force will be kept in the city to preserve order and maintain the laws.
The killing of an American soldier by any disorderly persons, or mob, is simply assassination and murder, and not war, and will be so regarded and punished, and the owner of any house where such murder shall be committed will be held responsible therefor, and the house be liable to be destroyed by the military authority.
All disorders, disturbances of the peace, and crimes of an aggravated nature, interfering with the forces or laws of the United States, will be referred to a military court for trial and punishment. Other misdemeanors will be subject to the municipal authority if it chooses to act
Civil causes between party and party will be referred to the ordinary tribunals.
The levying and collection of taxes, save those imposed by the laws of the United States, are suppressed, except those for keeping in repair and lighting streets and for sanitary purposes. These are to be collected in the usual manner.
The circulation of confederate bonds as evidences of debt, (except notes in similitude of banknotes.) issued by the confederate States, or scrip, or any trade in the same is forbidden.
It has been represented to the Commanding General by the civil authorities that these confederate notes, in the form of bank-notes, in a great measure are the only substitute for money which the people have been allowed to have, and that great distress would ensue among the poorer classes if the circulation of such notes is suppressed. Such circulation will be permitted so long as any one will be inconsiderate enough to receive them, until further orders.
No publication, newspaper, pamphlet, or handbill, giving accounts of the movements of the soldiers of the United States within this Department, reflecting in any way upon the United States, or tending in any way to influence the public mind against the Government of the United States will be permitted.
All articles of war news, editorial comments, or correspondence making comments upon the movements of the armies of the United States, must be submitted to the examination of an officer, who will be detailed for that purpose from these headquarters.
The transmission of all communications by telegraph will be under the charge of an officer from these headquarters.
The armies of the United States came here not to destroy but to restore order out of chaos, and the government of laws in place of the passions of men.
To this end, therefore, the efforts of all the well-disposed are invited, to have every species of disorder quelled.
If any soldier of the United States should so far forget his duty to his flag as to commit outrage upon any person or property, the Commanding General requests that his name be instantly reported to the Provost-Guard, so he may be punished and his wrongful act redressed.
The municipal authority, so far as the police of the city and environs are concerned, is to extend as before indicated, until suspended.
All assemblages of persons in the streets, either by day or night, tend to disorder, and are forbidden.
The various companies composing the fire department of New-Orleans will be permitted to return to their organizations, and are to report to the office of the Provost-Marshal, so that they may be known and not interfered with in their duties.
And finally, it may be sufficient to add without further enumeration, that all the requirements of martial law will be imposed as long as in the judgment of the United States authorities it may be necessary.
While it is the desire of these authorities to exercise this government mildly and after the usages of the past, it must not be supposed that it will not be vigorously and firmly administered as the occasion calls.
By command of Major-Gen. Butler.
Geo. B. Strong,
Asst. Adj.-Gen. Chief of Staff.