Benjamin F. Butler (18181893)
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 thingsend
down to Brackett and get the marble bust he has
Edward Augustus Brackett (18181908)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of the children of Oakes and Blanche Ames