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Butler, 1862

Butler, circa 1864




Benjamin F. Butler (1818–1893)

Union general Benjamin Franklin Butler was something of a novelty. An arch Democrat fighting a Republican war, Butler was a politician in military garb. At the start of the conflict, he raised a regiment out of patriotism but soon thereafter looked upon the conflict as a way to advance his political aspirations and the financial fortunes of his family and friends. His heavy-handed administration of the military district of New Orleans was the most controversial part of his wartime career. During his stay in that city, he was accused of everything from issuing orders designed to harass female secessionists to personally pilfering the silver spoons from the house he occupied.

The Boston sculptor Edward Augustus Brackett finished this portrait of Butler sometime in 1863. Butler may have posed for it during one of his leaves from the army over the previous two years. In the summer of 1864, Butler wrote to his wife from his headquarters in Virginia, “Do you want to see me?” If the answer was yes, he continued, “Do the next best thing—send down to Brackett and get the marble bust he has done.”

Edward Augustus Brackett (1818–1908)
Marble, 1863
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of the children of Oakes and Blanche Ames


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