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When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans Hardcover – October, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

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One of the most robust and astonishing characters of the Civil War, Major General Benjamin Butler has long deserved a modern biographer. He finally has a skilled one in Chester G. Hearn, author of The Capture of New Orleans, 1862. Butler headed the federal occupation of New Orleans, where he quickly imposed order on a rebellious city. He also made out like a bandit, diverting an enormous amount of money into his personal coffers. High society scorned him for his infamous "Woman Order," in which he castigated the "women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans" for rudeness toward his troops. An international furor erupted over this purported slight to southern womanhood, but history has always appreciated its comic element. "Butler--no matter where he was or what he did--attracted trouble," writes Hearn, who has given us a good rendering of an unforgettable man.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press; First edition (October 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807121800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807121801
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,214,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have always been fascinated with General Benjamin Butler both because of the story of his ill fated term as military governor of New Orleans during the Civil War and because of his physical image. The photographs always show someone who seems to be a grotesque characature of a human being rather than a real person, somehow appropriate for a man known as 'the Beast of New Orleans'. This book is significant not only for its detailed account of the conflicts and controversy that surrounded Butler during his time in New Orleans, but also for providing enough complementary material to see him as more than an evil abberation. The author does detail the evidence for Butler's depredations - his thefts, corruptions and overzelous application of lethal force - but also provides ample evidence that he was a complex and sometimes thoughtful person as well. In one case, he condemns a man to be hung because he had pulled down the union flag. The man's wife and children go to Butler to plead for his life. He refuses to stop the hanging but promises to be of whatever assistance he can be in the future. Years later the widow approaches him to say that she has been cheated by her lawyer out of her life savings and that she and her children are in jeapordy. Butler finds her a government job and, at his own expense, sees to the children's education. A very complex 'devil' indeed.
For those who enjoy new light cast upon old oversimplified history, this book is excellent. Well written and with a lot that is new to say, this book represents a chance to actually learn something new rahter than simply revisiting the old story.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on January 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So General Benjamin "Beast" Butler summed up his time as military governor of New Orleans. Chester Hearn's book is an examination of Butler's six-month tenure in the Crescent City.

Everyone who knows anything about the Civil War knows something about Butler. A political general from Massachusetts, Butler was cross-eyed, huge, bald, loud, arrogant, stubborn, and crooked as a hound dog's hind leg. He was also remarkably inept as a military leader. His arrogant tenure as commandant of Fortress Monroe came close to pushing Maryland into the Confederacy; he lost one of the initial battles of the war, Big Bethel, largely through extraordinary incompetence; he did absolutely nothing in the capture of New Orleans, but took as much credit for it as he could; he evacuated Baton Rouge when scared by the threat of a(nonexisting) Confederate invading force; and he famously allowed his entire Army of the James to be bottled up at Bermuda Hundred during Grant's overland campaign (where he was probably less bother to Grant than he would've been in the field).

But what Butler's primarily known for are two things: declaring runaway slaves "contrabands of war" and brutally ruling New Orleans. His depredations in that city are remarkable. Along with a crew of trusted scoundrels (including especially his brother Andrew Jackson Butler) equally interested in lining their own pockets, Butler stole everything he could get his hands on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joel unowsky on December 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
unbalanced, too anti-Butler
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