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1865 February 11: General Butler’s Sharp and Bitter Criticism of His Superior Commanders

February 16, 2015

The following article appeared in the February 11, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.

Butler on Generals McClellan and Grant. 

Butler’s [Benjamin F. Butler] speech at Lowel is sharp and intensely bitter on his superiors in command.  Here is a specimen :

“I understand that there are those who were among my old friends in politics, but, who, unfortunately, have lately got upon the other side, who sneer at me as the “Hero of Big Bethel and Fort Fisher.”  I accept the title.  They do me honor overmuch.  What was Big Bethel ?  It was a skirmish, in which twenty-five men were killed and wounded.  But Big Bethel was not Bull Run ;  Big Bethel was not Fair Oaks ;  Big Bethel was not Seven Pines ;  Big Bethel was not the Chickahominy.—Big Bethel was a failure, but it was no disaster.  No West Point General commanded there.  I claim credit for this, that when we of the Volunteer army of the United States make failures we do not make disasters.  Stop a moment and compare the battles I have named with Bethel.  Why, at these there were more men slaughtered and homes made desolate than there were leaves on the trees in the forest around Big Bethel—not to be numbered.

But I am the hero of Fort Fisher too.  Well, Fort Fisher was not Chancellorsville ;  Fort Fisher was not the Wilderness ;  Fort Fisher was not Coal Harbor.  A volunteer General commanded at Fort Fisher at each attack ;  one was without result but not disaster ;  the last was a success ;  all honor to Gen. Terry [Alfred H. Terry] and his brave volunteer soldiers.  Again, it is charged upon us that we did not make so big a hole in Dutch Gap Canal as we ought to have made.  It may be that we did not (although Dutch Gap Canal was a success) make so great a hole there as was made by the explosion of the mine at Petersburg last summer ;  but, thank God, neither did we fill uselessly that hole up with American dead until it ran blood.  (Renewed applause.)  I am, therefore, content, nay, I claim to be the hero of the comparatively bloodless attacks on Big Bethel and the wholly bloodles failure of Fort Fisher ;  I do not claim to be the hero of Fredericksburg, of Chancellorsville, of the Chickahominy, of Fair Oaks, of the Wilderness, of Coal Harbor, nor of that charnel-house of useless dead in the mine before Petersburg.

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