Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Unreconstructed Eulogy for Benjamin Butler

Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler was among the most hated of Union officers by Southerners. His role in refusing to return runaway slaves very early in the war helped speed the institution to its ultimate death. His issuing of Order No. 28 while commanding the occupation of New Orleans earned him the nickname "Beast Butler." And his praise for African American troops at the Battle of New Market Heights, along with his commissioning of a medal to honor their bravery brought the disdain of Confederates far and wide.

Recently a most unreconstructed eulogy which was printed in the Nashville American was shared with me. I thought it provided an important perspective of how some former Confederates carried their hatred toward their enemies forward years after the war. Butler died in 1893, almost thirty years after the Civil War.

"Old Ben Butler is dead! Early yesterday morning the angel of death, acting under the devil's orders, took him from earth and landed him in hell. In all this Southern country there are no tears, no sighs and no regrets. He lived only too long. We are glad he has at last been removed from earth and even pity the devil the possession he has secured.

If there is a future peace in store for Ben Butler, after his entrance upon eternity, then there is no heaven and the Bible is a lie. If hell be only as black as the good book describes it, then there is not the degrees of punishment in which some Christians firmly believe. He has gone, and from the sentence which which has already been passed upon him there is no appeal. He is already so deep down in the pit of everlasting doom that he couldn't get the most powerful ear trumpet conceivable to scientists and hear the echoes of old Gabriel's trumpet, or fly 1,000,000 kites and get a message to St. Peter, who stands guard at heaven's gate.

 In our statue books many holidays are decreed. It was an egregious oversight that one on the occasion of the death of Ben Butler was not foreordained. The 'Beast' is dead. The cymbals should beat and the tin horn should get in its work."

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