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Ben Butler

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  • Ben Butler

    Okay, I am going to throw a little something out about one of the most controversial generals of the US Civil War, Benjamin Butler.

    For those of you who are unaware of him, Ben Butler was a Massachussetts Congressman who, because he was a War Democrat, had a lot of power. He was one of the political generals the US was saddled with during the war. He was known mostly for his ineptness....a guy who could make Burnside look good!

    Okay, here is my question and it involves the Bermuda Hundred campaign of May 1864. Butler was given 3 missions to accomplish

    a. To seize a deep water port on the James River east of Richmond to support army operations against Richmond area
    b. To interdict the Richmond-Petersburg Railway
    c. To cooperate with the Army of the Potomac against the Army of Northern Virginia

    These were the results

    A. Butler captured City Point and turned it into a huge supply base
    B. Butler destroyed over 10 miles of tracks during various forays
    C. Once the AOP moved south Butler cooperated and worked succesfully with the AOP during the Petersburg campaign.

    Bermuda Hundred Campaign - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Okay, we know what has been written and folks opinions.

    Now you decide....was Butler's Bermuda Hundred Campaign the complete failure historians often say it was? Or did he accomplish the missions assigned him and any expecatations he would accomplish more just unrealistic?

    Talk amongst yourselves, show all work and no looking at your neighbors paper. :)
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

  • #2
    A. Was accomplished as well as can be expected.

    B. Here's where the problems started. With the amount of forces at his disposal, what he should have accomplished was the physical severing of the Richmond-Petersburg rail line by sitting on top of it with his army. What damage he actually managed to inflict was no worse than from a large cavalry raid.

    C. Yea, sure he cooperated once Grant actually got close enough to start ordering his various units around. But by then the window of opportunity as long since passed for his to accomplish something useful. THAT was back when the Army of Northern Virginia was fighting for its life against Grant from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor. Instead of either cutting off Richmond from behind or tying down enough Confederate soldiers for the Army of the Potomac to crush Lee; all Butler managed to do was get himself penned up on a peninsula. And this was in spite of the horrendous system Davis set up where Lee had NO authoritay south of the James River.

    On a side note, Butler was also infamous for his occupation of New Orleans. Was that where he got his nickname "The Beast"?
    Last edited by lazybastard; 08 May 07,, 17:52.


    • #3
      As is often the case in these sorts of situations, the truth probably lies somewhere 'inbetween'. IMHO a 'complete failure' would have resulted if Butler had gotten his army crushed and was forced to evac. He avoided that outcome. As you've mentioned Albany, he did accomplish some of his mission objectives. However, as lazyb has pointed out, he may not have fullfilled the potential of the force allocated to him, ultimately getting stopped and 'bottled up' by smaller Confed forces.

      One also has to keep in mind that Grant was not reluctant to share 'blame' with those whom he did not favour (e.g. his treatment of Thomas during and after the battle of Chattanooga). Further, Grant felt he had to 'justify' his own slow progress and heavy losses against Lee. Grant had a great influence on postwar views of these campaigns, via his memoirs etc. Since he didn't feel he really 'owed' Butler anything, it was easy to blame his own problems with Lee on Butler's 'lack of action'. IMHO, this charge of 'underachivement' was far more justified when applied to the Shenandoah Campaign, at least until Sheridan took charge of it.