The Murder of William Bruce Mumford

Private Citizen of the Confederate States of America

Tried for Treason on 06/05/1862

Murdered (hanged) by the Union on 06/07/1862

 

SECTION 3, ARTICLE 3 of the United States Constitution (signed in convention September 17, 1787. Ratified June 21, 1788), states that “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.”

 

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[Newspaper] Particulars of the Execution of William B. Mumford for Hauling Down the United States Flag

NOTE: The use of “Image” numbers correlate to the text on the captured images. Text in BLUE are clickable links.

 

The New York Herald. (New York [N.Y.]), 19 June 1862, P.1, Col 6. Image 1.

I sent yesterday by the Connecticut the order of Gen Butler for the execution of Wm. B. Mumford, convicted of an overt act of treason, in pulling down the American flag from the Mint, after it had been raised there by Flag Officer Farragut. The solemn tragedy provided for by that order was enacted this morning, and the ???? of the rash and guilty man stands now before his Maker. It was with the doomed man frequently previous to his execution, and obtained from him some particulars of his life, which, as this is the first instance in the history of our country where a man has received the punishment of death for treason, will possess a strong interest for your readers. On Thursday night Captain Stafford, Assistant Provost Marshal, acting in place of Colonel J. [Jonas] H. French, who was confined to the house by sickness, visited on Mumford and read to him the General’s order for his execution on the second morning following. He also urged the prisoner with great earnestness not to indulge in the hope of a reprieve, but to devote the short time left him to seeking the intercession of Him who died for man. Mumford listened to him with respectful attention, but maintained the most stolid composure, merely protesting his perfect innocence of the charge against him. The next morning I visited him and found him as cool and collected as though there was nothing to mar the prospect of a long and happy life in store for him. I conversed at length with him, and found his mind to be in the most self-complacent frame. He repeated over and over again that he was innocent of the crime imputed to him, sad that he had labored hard to prevent riotous conduct since our occupation of this city, and claimed that he had saved the life of one of our soldiers from the hands of an infuriated mob. He said it was hard for an innocent man to die a felon’s death, but that he had no fear, and should meet his fate without trembling. Three times, he said, he had met the King of Terrors face to face, and never sent for a minister nor offered a prayer for himself, and that he did not care to see a clergyman in his present strait; not that he held the cloth in contempt, or looked upon churches with disfavor, but he had a religion of his own, which he had practiced through life, and which he had perfect confidence would carry him safely to Heaven,

The New York Herald. (New York [N.Y.]), 19 June 1862, P.1, Col 6. Image 2.

or whatever place was appropriated to the other good men in this world. Said he, “I never committed an intentional sin in my life, and have always done unto others as I would be done by, and when, tomorrow, I am no longer in this world, you can say that as just and good a man as there is in this City of New Orleans has gone from your midst.” He expressed great affection for his wife and children, for whom only he cared to live. In the evening his wife and children visited him, and afterwards Rev. Mr. Salter, chaplain of the Thirteenth Connecticut regiment, called with the hope of administering some consolation. Mumford received him pleasantly and conversed freely, but could not be persuaded to accept his ministrations, though he expressed himself as pleased with the interview. This morning I called again on him, and found his wife and three children with him, bidding him the last long farewell. He had slept throughout the whole night, and was quite free from nervousness. Mrs. Mumford is a delicate, respectable looking lady, and the children are quite interesting. The oldest is a girl of fourteen years, and the others boys of some six or seven years of age. The interview was of course extremely affecting, and the prisoner, for the first and only time, broke down and groaned piteously. Chaplain Salter came in and at the request of Mrs. Mumford engaged in an earnest prayer for the soul of him who would soon be beyond the knowledge of man. Mumford preserved a respectful attention, and appeared not displeased. After his family left he continued somewhat excited, pacing the room and protesting his innocence, but by the time that he was ordered to prepare to leave the prison his emotion? Had ceased, and he was again ??? self-preserved. At a little before 10?

The New York Herald. (New York [N.Y.]), 19 June 1862, P.2, Col 1. Image 1.

0’clock an army ambulance was before the prison door, and attended by a guard. Mumford was placed in it, accompanied by Chaplain Salter*. The procession was then formed, with Captain Magee’s company of cavalry in advance, Captain Stafford and his Deputy Provost Marshals following; then seven companies of the Twelfth Main regiment, under command of Colonel Kimball, with the ambulance in the centre. The line of march was taken through Fulton street, up past Jackson square, through Conde and Esplanade street, to the United States Mint.

          The procession was followed by an immense crowd that had surrounded the Custom House from an early hour in the morning. In front of the Mint there were probably ten thousand people, a fair proportion being women with infants at their breasts. The housetops in the neighborhood were also covered with curious observers. The scaffold, which was of very simple construction, had been erected from the portico right in the centre of the front of the Mint. The prisoner, with his escort, was taken up to a room on a floor level with the portico, and then allowed to rest some time. The chaplain again endeavored to induce him to rely on a higher Power than his own righteousness, but without any success. He reiterated his thorough confidence in the correctness of his whole life to insure his future happiness. In about half an hour he was enveloped in a long, flowing, black domino; his collar and cravat were removed, his arms pinioned, and he was then conducted to the gallows. He stepped upon it with great firmness and without the least hesitancy.

          Captain Stafford read the order for the execution, and then gave the prisoner permission to address the crowd. He made a long, rambling speech, which was a mere repetition of his assertion of innocence and of his peculiar views on his future existence, and closed with an appeal to his hearers to imitate him in bringing up their children righteously. The crowd received his remarks in perfect silence, and did not at any time make the slightest demonstration, although the night before the rowdies of the city held a meeting and voted that Mumford should not be hung. They certainly chose the wider part in not interfering with the administration of justice.

*According to one newspaper article, Mumford was seated on his coffin during the ride to the gallows.

The New York Herald. (New York [N.Y.]), 19 June 1862, P.2, Col 1. Image 2.

          A black silk mask was then put over Mumford’s face, the noose adjusted to his neck, and at five minutes before eleven o’clock Captain Stafford waved his handkerchief three times, and the drop fell, and the unfortunate man was on the limitless shore of eternity.

          His coolness was wonderful. In speaking his voice was perfectly steady, and when the hood was drawn over his head, I could not discern so much as a tremor of his hands. The fall, which was about four feet, dislocated his neck, but according to a slight accident the know was displaced and worked up under his chin., leaving the windpipe partly free. The result was that muscular contraction did not cease for ten minutes, though it was at no time violent. The body hung for thirty minutes when Dr. W.T. Black, Surgeon of General Shepley’s staff, who, with Dr. George A. Blake, of the United States Sanitary Commission, was in attendance on the execution, ascended a ladder and ascertained that the heart had ceased to beat (a prevailing custom, but hardly necessary after a man has hung for half an hour). The body was then allowed to hang nearly twenty minutes longer, when it was cut down and placed in a plain pine coffin. The crowd then dispersed quietly. There was little coincidence about this execution worth mentioning. The rope used on this occasion was taken from the parish prison, and was intended for one of Gen. Butler’s agents, who was captured early in April and confined in that place. He was to have been hung with that rope the same day that the fleet passed the forts; but that event caused a postponement, which saved the life of the agent.

          At five o’clock in the afternoon of the day of the execution the remains were taken from the Mint, and under an escort from the Twelfth Maine regiment, and followed by three carriages containing the bereaved family and a few friends, were borne to the Fireman’s Cemetery and deposited in a tomb where three children of the deceased had been previously buried. Chaplain Salter read a portion of the fifteenth chapter of Corinthians and made a prayer, and thus closed the last scene in the tragedy.

[NOTE: According to http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/05/the_execution_of_william_mumfo.html, Chunks of lead were placed on the platform to speed its drop.]

 

The New York Herald. (New York [N.Y.]), 19 June 1862, P.2, Col 1. Image 3.

          The following brief sketch of the life of Mumford is mostly from his own lips. He was born of a very respectable family, in Arslow county, North Carolina, on the 5th of December, 1819, and was consequently, at the time of his death, in the 43d year of his age. When but three years of age his father died, leaving him about fifty thousand dollars. While yet a boy he went to Florida, and remained there during the Florida war, returning to his home in 1837. In 1842 he left his home and went up the Red river, where he married an estimable lady, acquiring considerable property with her. In 1844 he came to this city, where he remained until 1846, when he went to Mexico as an orderly sergeant in the Third Louisiana regiment of General Persif[o]r F. Smith’s brigade. Shortly after he arrived in Mexico he broke his leg, got sick and was obliged to be discharged from service. Since then he has followed gambling as a profession and was so noted for his proficiency at cards that planters would come to the city and furnish him with money to play with, giving him half of all he could win. He was wild as a boy, and in manhood squandered his own and his wife’s fortune, leaving his family at his death almost penniless. He was uneducated, but not unintelligent, and I think his impulses were generally kindly. In person he was of middle height, about five feet seven, broad frame, but quite thin, dark complexion and eyes, straight, glossy black hair, and a long, flowing brown beard and moustache. His face was deeply pitted with smallpox. Before his death he requested that his beard should not be cut. On the morning of his execution he was dressed very carefully and neatly in a black and apparently new suit, white shirt and collar, and a black felt hat.

          This summary and severe punishment of active treason is something new in this country but, divesting one’s self of the natural feeling of commiseration, it is impossible not to see that there has been as much resolution at Washington in the early stage of this rebellion as General Butler has shown in New Orleans, six months at the outside would have suffered to have closed this unhappy war.

 

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Timeline of Events: Source: Wikipedia

12/05/1819 – Mumford Born

1837 - Returned to his home in North Carolina from Florida War

1842 – Left North Carolina again - Married Mary Baumlin

1844 – Came to New Orleans, Louisiana

1846 – Went to Mexico as Sergeant in Third Louisiana Regiment of General Persifor Frazer Smith’s Brigade – broke his leg shortly after arriving in Mexico and was discharged from the service

1846 to 1862 – followed gambling as a profession

04/25/1862 – Union Commodore David Farragut ordered New Orleans Mayor John Thompkins Monroe to remove the Confederate flags from the Mint, customs house and city hall.  Confederate Major General Mansfield Lovell and Mayor Monroe refused to surrender. New Orleans was still part of the C.S.A. at this time. It had NOT surrendered to any of the Union forces.

Lovell had pleaded with President Davis for more reinforcements, to no avail. General Lovell, Commander of Department 1, Louisiana, “was left with one tenable option after the Union Navy broke through the Confederate ring of fortifications and defense vessels guarding the lower Mississippi: evacuation. The inner ring of fortifications at Chalmette was only intended to resist ground troops; few of the gun batteries were aimed toward the river. Most of the artillery, ammunition, troops, and vessels in the area were committed to the Jackson/St. Phillips position. Once this defense was breached, there remained to face Union troops and warships only three thousand militiamen with sundry military supplies and armed with shotguns. The city itself was a poor position to defend against a hostile fleet. With high water outside the levees, Union ships were elevated above the city and able to fire down into the streets and buildings below. Besides the ever-present danger of weather-caused breaks in the levees, now an even greater threat to New Orleans was the ability of the Union military to cause a break in a major levee that would lead to flooding most of the city, possibly destroying it within a day.

Lovell loaded his troops and supplies aboard the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern railroad and sent them to Camp Moore, 78 miles (126 km) north. All artillery and munitions were sent to Vicksburg. Lovell then sent a last message to the War Department in Richmond, “The enemy has passed the forts. It is too late to send any guns here; they had better go to Vicksburg.” Military stores, ships, and warehouses were then burned. Anything considered useful to the Union, including thousands of bales of cotton, were thrown into the river. Despite the complete vulnerability of the city, the citizens along with military and civil authorities remained defiant. At 2:00 p.m. on April 25, Admiral Farragut sent Captain Bailey, First Division Commander from the USS Cayuga, to accept the surrender of the city. Armed mobs within the city defied the Union officers and marines sent to city hall.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_of_New_Orleans

As military commander of New Orleans when the city unexpectedly fell to the Union Navy, Lovell was fiercely criticized by local citizens for failing to predict a naval invasion. The Confederate government also heaped blame on him, to deflect attention from their own error in leaving so few troops to defend the city. A Court of Enquiry later cleared him of charges of incompetence, but his reputation never recovered. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansfield_Lovell

04/26/1862 - Capt. Henry W. Morris sent ashore Marines from the USS Pocahontas to raise the U.S. flag over the mint. Morris did so without any order from Farragut, who was still trying to receive an official surrender from the mayor. After the Marines raised the flag, seven individuals including Mumford decided to remove it. Mumford tore the flag down and drug it through the streets while enroute to the Mayor, thus reducing it to tatters. Pieces were taken as souvenirs by onlookers. Mumford was 42 years 4 months 21 days old when he removed the U.S. flag. New Orleans was still part of the C.S.A. at this time.

04/29/1862 – New Orleans surrendered to Union Forces. Three (3) days after Mumford had removed the American Flag from the C.S.A.-held city, New Orleans was now returned to the Union.

05/01/1862 – Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler and an army of 5,000 men occupied New Orleans without resistance. Butler had heard about the incident and decided to arrest and punish Mumford. When the Union Army occupied the city on May 1, Mumford was arrested and charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors against the laws of the United States, and the peace and dignity thereof and the Law Martial." 

Upon Butler’s arrival in New Orleans, “Marion Southwood, a lady of the city, watched the procession from the levee….” There was a perfect rush to see this awful representation of human authority,” she wrote.” “It was a scene which will not soon be forgotten; all seemed to be fearful that it would be the only chance they might have of seeing ‘Picayune Butler.’” [NOTE: In the 1860s, a “Picayune” meant something small and contemptable and, in a jocular sense, it was used in one of the many minstrel songs of the day. When Butler heard the crowd shout “Picayune Butler,” he thought it was a song and asked the band to play it. The band had never heard of it. The actual “Picayune Butler,” was a black barber in New Orleans who had a son named Benjamin F. Butler, and someone had spread the rumor that the general was the barber’s son. They were apparently disappointed to find this rumor to be false. Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. Pp.73-75.

While watching the marines march into New Orleans and hoist the flag over the Mint, and its subsequent removal moments later by Mumford, Sixteen-year-old Clara Solomon began packing. “We intended to take but a few clothes,” she wrote, “and were willing to make any sacrifice to behold our prided city reduced to ruins rather than it should fall into the hands of the barbarous invaders.” Ibid., 70-71.

05/02/1862 – Secretary of State William Seward officially declared New Orleans “recovered”

05/15/1862 – Butler issued the Woman Order - Because of New Orleans Mayor John T. Monroe’s disdain for the Woman Order, the day after it was issued [May 16, 1862], Monroe protested to  Butler, calling the order a “war on women,” and said that the edict only served to infuriate the citizens. Butler said that the order was essential because it enabled the females to classify themselves as ladies or common women. Ibid., 131.

While reading the New Orleans Bee, Butler discovered that on May 10, Monroe, with approval of the City Council, had invited the French to New Orleans. The letter to the French appeared to be an invitation to recapture New Orleans, especially since Farragut’s fleet was upriver at the time, leaving little to repel an attack. Butler warned the mayor that the meddling in foreign affairs was “simply an invitation to the Calaboose or the Hospital,” and said that the action must be reversed. The mayor asked to withdraw the letter and apologized to Butler, and Butler accepted the apology. However, when the Council learned of this, they unanimously objected to the withdrawal of the letter.  On May 17, the mayor sent a letter to Butler rescinding his apology and demanded that Butler place a notice in the newspapers assuring all decent ladies that the Woman Order did not apply to them. The mayor told Butler that he would be at his office prepared to be arrested. During this time, six parolees calling themselves the “Monroe Guard” had been arrested and confessed that they had planned to attack and overpower Union guards and escape back to the Confederacy. They implicated Monroe and several other prominent citizens for supplying them with money and weapons and the six were sentenced to death. Butler’s patience with Monroe had worn out. Butler had Monroe arrested and sent to Fort Jackson. Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. Pp.130-33.

05/30/1862 – Mumford was tried before a military tribunal of Gen. Butler’s officers. He was convicted, even though there was no clear attempt to determine whether the city was actually occupied when the event occurred.

06/04/1862 - The six “Monroe Guards” who were captured at the fall of Fort Jackson, were scheduled to be executed “immediately after reveille” on June 4, 1862. Butler’s officers and Union men of the city implored Butler to save the lives of the six parolees [Edward C. Smith, Patrick Kane, George L. Williams, Abraham McLane, Daniel Doyle and William Stanley] . In the appeal of two local Unionists, J.A. Rosier and Julian Durant, Butler saw an opportunity to perform a personal favor that – due to its political motive – required something in return at a later date. On 06/04/1862, Butler commuted the sentence of the six parolees to hard labor on Ship Island. Mumford would not be so lucky. Ibid., 135-36  Parolees’ names from Arnold-Scriber, Theresa and Terry Scriber., Ship Island, Mississippi: Rosters and History of the Civil War Prison. McFarland & Co., Inc., Jefferson, NC. 2008. P.45.

06/05/1862 - Butler issued the following Special Order No. 70: “William B. Mumford, a citizen of New Orleans, having been convicted before a military commission of treason and an overt act thereof, tearing down the United States flag from a public building of the United States, after said flag was placed there by Commodore Farragut, of the United States navy: It is ordered that he be executed according to sentence of said military commission on Saturday, June 7, inst., between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. under the directions of the provost-marshal of the District of New Orleans, and for so doing this shall be his sufficient warrant.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bruce_Mumford

Upon hearing of her husband’s death sentence, Mary Mumford sent a note asking to meet with Butler. He rode to her home, knowing that the gallows were already under construction. Although she and her children begged for the life of the condemned husband and father, their pleas fell on deaf ears. He told her to come to the jail and convince her husband to prepare for his death, but assured her that he would aid her family, should they ever require his help in making ends meet.** When Butler returned to his office, he found Dr. William N. Mercer, an octogenarian, waiting on him. The doctor begged to take Mumford’s place on the gallows, stating “I must soon go to meet my Maker; let me take with me that I have saved a fellow-creature’s life.” Butler refused the doctor’s request, knowing that the act of carrying out the execution would affirm his authority in the city and preserve its order. Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. Pp.136-37.

06/07/1862 - A little before noon, Mumford was taken to be hanged in the courtyard of the mint itself, a place that Butler had decided "according to the Spanish custom" would be the ideal place. Mumford was 42 years 6 months 2 days old on the day he was hanged. Many people came to the spot, and Mumford was allowed to give a final speech in which he spoke of his patriotism for the Confederacy and his love for what he considered the true meaning of the U.S. flag, a symbol he had fought under in the Seminole Wars and the Mexican–American War. Mumford’s body hung on the scaffold for almost 50 minutes before it was removed for burial preparation. According to Louisiana Governor Thomas O. Moore’s version of the execution, Butler offered to spare Mumford’s life if Mumford took the oath of allegiance, but Mumford rejected the offer, not wanting to stain his soul with such foul dishonor and to show what men will do when under the influence of “fervid patriotism.” Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. P.139.

Sixteen-year-old Clara Solomon noted in her diary, “Everyone is fired with indignation at the atrocious wonder of yesterday, the hanging of Mumford for tearing down the U.S. flag from the mint. . . .God help

us to revenge it.” The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon: Growing Up in New Orleans, 1861-1862, edited by Elliott Ashkenazi, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA, 1995, p. 399.

06/18/1862 - Confederate Governor of Louisiana Thomas Overton Moore issued a statement declaring Mumford a hero and a model. On April 27, 1862, The Daily Picayune reported "The names of the party that distinguished themselves by gallantly tearing down the flag that had been surreptitiously hoisted, we learn, are W.B. Mumford, who cut it loose from the flagstaff amid the shower of grape, Lieut. N. Holmes, Sergt. Burns and James Reed," the paper wrote. "They deserve great credit for their patriotic act. "Robert E. Lee demanded that Union Gen. Henry Wager Halleck explain how execution could have occurred for a crime committed before New Orleans was occupied.

12/12/1862 - Butler was removed from command of New Orleans. President Abraham Lincoln issued an order that no military execution should take place in any department until it has received presidential review and approval.

12/23/1862 - Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation stating that Benjamin Butler should be considered a criminal and worthy of hanging. Later on, Butler assisted Mumford's wife and helped her find a job in Washington. Mumford was originally buried in a vault in Cypress Grove Cemetery, New Orleans. His remains were transferred to the Confederate Monument at Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans, by the Ladies’ Confederate Memorial Association on January 11, 1950.

          Some examples claimed by President Davis’ proclamation were as follows (excerpts taken from Daily Intelligencer. (Wheeling, Va. [W. Va.]), 30 Dec. 1862, P1. Cols. 3,4.):

Peaceful and aged citizens, unresisting captives and non-combatants, have been confined at hard labor, with balls and chains attached to their limbs, and are still so held, in dungeons and fortresses Others have been subjected to a like degrading punishment for selling medicines to the sick soldiers of the Confederacy.

The soldiers of the United States have been invited and encouraged by general orders to insult and outrage the wives, the mothers, and the sisters of our citizens.

Helpless women have been torn from their homes and subjected to solitary confinement, some in fortresses and prisons and one especially on an island of barren sand under a tropical sun, have been fed with loathsome rations that had been condemned as unfit for soldiers, and have been exposed to the vilest insults.

Prisoners of war who surrendered to the naval forces of the United States on agreement that they should be released on parole have been seized and kept in close confinement.

Repeated pretexts have been sought or invented for plundering the inhabitants of the captured city by fines, levied and exacted under threat of imprisoning recusants at hard labor with ball and chain.

The entire population of the city of New Orleans have been forced to elect between starvation, by the confiscation of all their property, and taking an oath against conscience to bear allegiance to the invaders of their country.

Egress from the city has been refused to those whose fortitude withstood the test, even to lone and aged women and to helpless children; and after being ejected from their homes and robbed of their property they have been left to starve in the streets or subsist on charity.

The slaves have been driven from the plantations in the neighborhood of New Orleans till their owners would consent to share the crops with the commanding general, his brother, Andrew J. Butler, and other officers; and when such consent had been extorted the slaves have been restored to the plantations, and there compelled to work under the bayonets of guards of United States soldiers.

Where this partnership was refused armed expeditions have been sent to the plantations to rob them of every thing that was susceptible of removal, and even slaves too aged or infirm for work have, in spite of their entreaties, been forced from the homes provided by the owners and driven to wander helpless on the highway.

Hatred for Butler was not limited to the Confederate President. The editor of the Charleston Courier [Richard Yeadon] offered a $10,000 reward for Butler, dead or alive, for his delivery to “any proper Confederate Authority.” Together with the $10,000 offered in the aftermath of the Woman Order, the Jackson Mississippian added another $10,000 to the pot, bringing the price on Butler’s head to $20,000. The Charleston Mercury said that Butler should be poisoned or stabbed if he couldn’t be caught and hanged, but didn’t offer any money for the reward. Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. Pp.138-39. A “daughter of South Carolina” wrote to the Charleston Courier, “I propose to spin the thread to make the cord to execute the order of our noble president, Davis, when old Butler is caught, and my daughter asks that she may be allowed to adjust it around his neck.” Butler, Ben F. Butler’s Book: A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career. A.M. Thayer & Co. Boston, 1892. P. 547.

Citizens joined in their disgust. Women would spit on the Union soldiers that were occupying the City. On May 15, 1862, Butler issued General Order 28, stating that any woman insulting or showing contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States should be treated as a woman of the town "plying her avocation" - meaning soliciting of prostitution. The order had no sexual connotation; rather, it permitted soldiers to not treat women performing such acts as ladies. If a woman punched a soldier, for example, he could punch her back. Known as the "Woman's Order," it nonetheless was very controversial at home and abroad, as women throughout New Orleans interpreted it as Butler legalizing rape. Butler’s troops faced “all manner of verbal and physically symbolic insults” from women, including obvious physical avoidance such as crossing the street or leaving a street car to avoid a Union soldier, being spat upon, and having chamber pots being dumped upon them. The general dislike over No. 28 even went so far as people printing his portrait on the bottom of chamber pots. Women would play only Rebel tunes loudly whenever Union officers would pass below on their balconies. When a Union officer entered a streetcar, the female riders would spread out, leaving no room for the man to sit down. Ibid., 108. Even sixteen-year-old Clara Solomon had disdain for Butler, calling him “The Wretch.” Ibid., 104.  Perhaps Clara expressed the feeling in New Orleans better than anyone: “A gloom has settled o’er my spirit, she wrote, a gloom envelopes our dearly beloved city.” Clara Solomon Diary, May 4, 1862, quoted in Lang, “Gloom Envelops New Orleans,” 281.

In 1862, Mary Chesnut wrote: “There is said to be an order [Order 28] from Butler, turning over the women of New Orleans to his soldiers! Then is the measure of iniquities filled. We thought that generals always restrained by shot or sword, if need be, the brutal soldiery. This hideous cross-eyed beast orders his men to treat the ladies of New Orleans as women of the town. To punish them, he says, for their insolence.”  Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, Ed. By C. Vann Woodward, Yale Univ. Press, London. 1981, P. 343.

During his occupancy of New Orleans, Butler earned the titles of Benjamin “Beast” Butler, and “The Tyrant of New Orleans.” It is believed that he censored New Orleans newspapers and used his position to loot homes and improperly profit from the trade in confiscated cotton, and for allegedly stealing southerners' silver for the enrichment of himself and his Yankee friends, for which he earned the moniker “Spoons” Butler. McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. P.624.  He sent women to Ship Island, Mississippi, for teaching others to spit on Union soldiers and other offenses. Mrs. Eugenia Phillips, mother of nine children, was arrested on 06/28/1862 and sent there for laughing at the funeral procession of Union Lt. George C. Dekay on 06/27/1862. She was confined there for several months during the summer of 1862 and was not allowed to leave until she took the U.S. Oath of Allegiance on September 14, 1862, to not help the Confederacy in any way, and also due to the appeals of her husband, former Alabama U.S. Congressman Philip Phillips. After her release, she moved to Mobile, Alabama and became a symbol of Confederate defiance to the Union occupation of New Orleans. Arnold-Scriber, Theresa and Terry Scriber., Ship Island, Mississippi: Rosters and History of the Civil War Prison. McFarland & Co., Inc., Jefferson, NC. 2008. P.430.

Other women were sent to Ship Island, as well. Mrs. ? Burkett [or Berkett] was sent to Ship Island for carrying Rebel correspondence between the lines on 08/03/1862. She was released by Butler on 08/31/1862. Scriber, ibid. P. 426.  Mrs. ? Cowen was sentenced to imprisonment there by Butler for an unknown offense on 08/20/1862 and released on 09/01/1862. Scriber, ibid. P. 427. These three women and 103 men  [non-military] were declared Citizen Prisoners of War and were sent to Ship Island for offenses ranging from unknown to murder.

In Butler’s Book (1892) – as related at nola.com, it is said that Butler “…was not above insulting New Orleans women himself, of course. In his memoirs…, Butler describes riding his horse past a house where women stood on a balcony. It's hard to imagine he was expecting a salute, but he apparently was surprised when the women turned their backs on him in what he saw as a coordinated show of disrespect.” "The women all whirled around back to with a flirt, which threw out their skirts in a regular circle like the pirouette of a dancer," he wrote. "I turned around to my aide, saying in full voice: 'Those women evidently know which end of them looks the best.' "That closed that exhibition." 

Actions such as these caused Lincoln to remove Butler from command of New Orleans on December 12, 1862.***  He was replaced with Major General Nathaniel P. Banks.

01/07/1865 – Lincoln removed Butler from all command. After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson attempted to follow Lincoln’s policy of leniency. Butler remained loyal until he was that Johnson would not appoint him as military governor of a Confederate state or punish the South for its actions during the war. He resigned his commission as major general and ran for Congress in 1866, pledging to impeach Johnson.  He won the Congressional seat, but could not keep his impeachment pledge when, on 05/16/1868, the Senate failed to remove Johnson by 1 vote. Butler pressured and threatened seven senators to change their impeachment vote in a second session of Congress that was scheduled for May 26 and tried to bribe a junior senator – Edmund G. Ross from Kansas – a few days before the final vote. Butler said “Tell the damned scoundrel that if he wants money there is a bushel of it here to be had. The second vote to remove Johnson was cast, and the results were the same. After Johnson’s term ended, Butler did everything in his power to prevent Grant’s nomination, but his political career was now in shambles. In 1884, Butler failed to get the nomination for President and never held public office afterwards.

01/11/1893 - Butler died leaving a legacy of controversy. Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. Pp.236-39. Twenty-five years after Butler’s death, William Dana Orcutt tells of a time he and a friend were walking past the State House in Boston and noticed a statue of General Nathaniel Banks. Orcutt asked his friend why there wasn’t a statue erected of Butler. “Why should they?” the friend demanded, assuming a controversial attitude. “Why shouldn’t they?” Orcutt insisted, interested to draw him out. “A statue to that thief and rascal!” his friend replied. “It would be a disgrace to Massachusetts.” “What did he steal?” Orcutt asked. “Why, everything in sight – down at New Orleans.” “Do you know that he actually stole anything?” “Every one knows that,” he replied with conviction. “Just what does ‘every one’ know that he stole in New Orleans?” Orcutt insisted. “Why – silver spoons, for one thing; they caught him with the goods.” Orcutt, William Dana. “Ben Butler and the ‘Stolen Spoons’North American Review, CCVII (January, 1918), 66. At his death, Butler’s estate approached $7 million. The source of his fortune has remained a mystery, but much of it came from New Orleans…. Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. P.240.  COMPLETE TEXT of Ben Butler and the Silver Spoons by William D. Orcutt, 1918.

 

General B.F. Butler

by Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914)

Thy flesh to earth, thy soul to God,

We gave, O gallant brother;

And o'er thy grave the awkward squad

Fired into one another!

 

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The Case of Mumford and the Occupation of New Orleans – The New York Times, December 29, 1862 – Part 1 continued on Part 2

Robert E. Lee’s request from General McClellan as to the truth of the alleged murder of William B. Mumford and other citizens by the Union Army – 08/02/1862

Additional newspaper article about the execution of Mumford

Mumford’s Execution is found in an excerpt of General Butler in New Orleans (1862) by James Parton.

The Woman Order – excerpt of General Butler in New Orleans (1862) by James Parton.

Life of Benj. F. Butler by T.A. Bland

Record of Benjamin Butler – 1879

General Butler in New Orleans by James Parton, 1864 (FULL TEXT)

More about Clara Solomon and the Federal Occupation of New Orleans in May 1862

Piece of the U.S. Flag that Mumford tore down from the U.S. Mint in New Orleans

 

Arguments in favor or William Bruce Mumford’s actions and against his conviction and death as a traitor are twofold:

1.     Mumford removed the United States Flag from the Mint in New Orleans when the Mint was still part of and in the possession of the Confederate States of America. New Orleans did not surrender until three days later.

2.     Mumford’s actions do not fall within the scope of treason as established in the Section 3, Article 3 of the United States Constitution.

However, some sources make the valid claim that the city was occupied when Farragut pulled into New Orleans. “Despite the complete vulnerability of the city, the citizens along with military and civil authorities remained defiant. At 2:00 p.m. on April 25, Admiral Farragut sent Captain Bailey, First Division Commander from the USS Cayuga, to accept the surrender of the city. Armed mobs within the city defied the Union officers and marines sent to city hall. General Lovell and Mayor Monroe refused to surrender the city. William B. Mumford pulled down a Union flag raised over the former U.S. Mint by marines of the USS Pensacola and the mob destroyed it. Farragut did not destroy the city in response, but moved upriver to subdue fortifications north of the city. On April 29, Farragut and 250 marines from the USS Hartford removed the Louisiana State flag from the City Hall.” Source: Howe, Daniel W. (2007). What hath God Wrought, The Transformation of America, 1815–1848. Oxford University Press, Inc. “By May 2, US Secretary of State William H. Seward declared New Orleans "recovered" and "mails are allowed to pass."” Source: Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_of_New_Orleans), quoting Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 228.

With that argument, additional factors arise. 1. If Mumford was a C.S.A. citizen until the so-called time of Farragut’s arrival, did Mumford then automatically revert back to a being citizen of the United States, thus making him instantly guilty of so-called “treason” by the removal of the flag from his own country’s property – or – 2. If the Union claimed that Mumford was still a Confederate, how can a person commit so-called “treason” from a country they are NOT a citizen of – or – 3. What act of “…levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort…” did Mumford commit, as is clearly described in SECTION 3, ARTICLE 3 of the United States Constitution? As for question 3, there was NO levying war against the Union in any way by Mumford removing the flag. Apparently, Gen. Butler widely construed the “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” part by thinking that the removal of the flag somehow gave aid to the “enemies.” However, if these were the thoughts of Butler, how could they (citizens of New Orleans) be “enemies” if - a. - there was no resistance to the occupation or - b. - the facts in question 1 or 2. (above) were true?

“Prior to the Civil War, nobody who had been found guilty treason against the Federal government had actually faced execution.  In actuality, the first person to be convicted and executed for treason against the United States was William Bruce Mumford, who, during Benjamin Butler’s occupation of Civil War New Orleans, tore down a United States flag from a Federal building. He was arrested and tried by a military tribunal, who found him guilty and executed him a few days later. This act was not, however, overseen by the Supreme Court. It was something Butler did independently of any higher command.

This is an important distinction, as Mumford’s act could hardly have fit the Constitutional definition of treason as used by Chief Justice Marshall. The Supreme Court would certainly have taken a closer look at such an incident (if they wouldn’t have simply thrown it out).” From: Treason And The Illusive Guilt Of The Rebels at http://www.thiscruelwar.com/treason-and-the-illusive-guilt-of-the-rebels/

Regardless, Butler acted without approval from a higher authority (William H. Seward, Edwin M. Stanton, or President Abraham Lincoln) and he acted with malice toward the citizens of New Orleans by his determination to make an example out of Mumford. Mumford paid the price, and in doing so, became a martyr to the citizens of New Orleans and the Confederacy, and newspapers recommended reprisals against General Butler.

An excellent argument for the illegal actions of Gen. Butler can be found at Treason And The Illusive Guilt Of The Rebels (http://www.thiscruelwar.com/treason-and-the-illusive-guilt-of-the-rebels/), which states that “Prior to the Civil War, nobody who had been found guilty treason against the Federal government had actually faced execution.  In actuality, the first person to be convicted and executed for treason against the United States was William Bruce Mumford, who, during Benjamin Butler’s occupation of Civil War New Orleans, tore down a United States flag from a Federal building. He was arrested and tried by a military tribunal, who found him guilty and executed him a few days later. This act was not, however, overseen by the Supreme Court. It was something Butler did independently of any higher command. This is an important distinction, as Mumford’s act could hardly have fit the Constitutional definition of treason as used by Chief Justice Marshall. The Supreme Court would certainly have taken a closer look at such an incident (if they wouldn’t have simply thrown it out).”

 

 

** Butler held true to his word in aiding the Mumford family. After the execution, large amounts of money were raised to help the family, which allowed them to live in comfort until the end of the war. Butler left New Orleans in 1862, and did not hear from Mary Mumford and her family again until receiving a letter in 1869 from a lady in Malden, Mass., telling that the Mumfords were in distress. Remembering his promise of help to the family, Butler invited Mary Mumford to come to Washington. He found that a lot of the money Mary had received after her husband’s death, had been given to a trustee for the building of her a home in Wytheville, and the trustee had run off with the money, leaving the house and property to be sold to satisfy the lien. Butler paid the lien, but then suggested that she rent it out and move to Washington. He used his influence to secure her as clerk at the Internal Revenue Service. She lost the job later when the office was reorganized. He then found her a job with the postal service. Hearn, Chester G., When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 1997. Pp.140-141.  [NOTE: The aforementioned mechanic’s lien paid by Butler was more than $80 (eighty dollars). Mrs. Mumford ‘s land was two acres, and she said she would work the land, but as there was no other means of her subsistence until the crops from that land came in, and the fact that Wytheville had no school for the children, was the reason that Butler suggested that she and the family come to Washington. Butler, Ben F. Butler’s Book: A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career. A.M. Thayer & Co. Boston, 1892. Pp. 444-445.

***Butler and Lincoln never saw eye-to-eye on many subjects. In their first meeting in the White House in 1861, Butler told Lincoln that he (Butler) “…did all that I could to prevent your election.” Lincoln said, “All the better. I hope your example will bring many of the same sort [Democrats who supported the Union] with you.” Several years later [1863], while Lincoln and Butler were driving down a lonely road to the Soldier’s Home, Butler was appalled at the way Lincoln had eluded his guards once again. He told Lincoln that there were a half dozen places along the way where “a well-directed bullet might have taken you off,” to which Lincoln replied, “Oh, assassinations of officers is not an American crime.” Whereas Lincoln had showed leniency to deserters, Butler’s remedy was that of “vigorously shooting every man who is caught as a deserter until it is found to be a dangerous business.”  Brownstein, Elizabeth Smith,  Lincoln’s Other White House: The Untold Story of the Man and His Presidency. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ., 2005. Pp.199-201.  He had certainly shown no leniency to William Bruce Mumford on 06/07/1862.

To Major General B.F. Butler, U.S.A.

By Samuel Newton Berryhill (1832-1887)

Hail!  Massachusetts' cod-fish Mars!

Immortal Picayune!

Deeds as illustrious as yours,

I'm sure, deserve a tune.

And I have seized my one-string lyre

To chant those deeds in rhyme,

That boys may stare, and men admire,

Throughout all future time.

 

Not where the cannons' deaf'ning roar

Like an earthquake shake the ground;

Not where life's sanguine currents pour

Through many a gaping wound—

The laurels grew which you have won.

The blood, and fire, and smut,

You glad resigned to Neptune's son—

The famous Faragut.

 

Snug in your quarters, mighty man!

The bloody work all done,

You sent abroad the dread firman

That all your laurels won.

You've proved by deed, what sapient men

Have oft declared by word;

You've proved, O Picayune, your pen

Is mightier than your sword.

 

Far nobler game than men in arms

Attracts your vengeful ire;

Defencesless woman's sneer alarms

And set your soul on fire.

Let Jove his sceptre yield to you,

When the mighty deed is sung;

You've done what he could never do—

You've hampered woman's tongue!

 

Go home, O Picayune the great!

Go home and play the whale;

Through all the virtuous Codfish State,

Rehearse the wondrous tale.

And they whose sires in olden time

Burnt women at the stake,

To recompense the deed sublime,

Of you a god will make!

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Known children of William Bruce Mumford (12/05/1819 – 06/07/1862) and Mary Baumlin Mumford (10/24/1825 – 06/19/1912) are listed as follows:

  Mary Jane Mumford (07/09/1849 – 05/31/1882)

  Infant Daughter Mumford (01/??/1851 – 12/04/1851)

William Bruce Mumford, Jr. (1853 – 1922)

  Charles Baumlin Mumford (1854 - 1929)

  James Mumford (1857 - 1863)

 

 

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