Benjamin Franklin Butler

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Butler, Benjamin Franklin,

1795–1858, American political leader and cabinet officer, b. Columbia co., N.Y. Butler, like his former law associate, Martin Van Buren, was a member of the Albany RegencyAlbany Regency,
name given, after 1820, to the leaders of the first political machine, which was developed in New York state by Martin Van Buren. The name derived from the charge that Van Buren's principal supporters, residing in Albany, managed the machine for him while he
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, and he devoted himself and his considerable power to reform politics. He was Attorney General (1833–37) under President Jackson and for a time held (1836–37) that post and the office of Secretary of War concurrently. He also served (1837–38) as Attorney General under President Van Buren, but he refused later cabinet appointments. He helped to revise (1825) the New York State statutes and organized what is today the law school of New York Univ.

Butler, Benjamin Franklin,

1818–93, American politician and Union general in the Civil War, b. Deerfield, N.H. He moved to Lowell, Mass., as a youth and later practiced law there and in Boston. He was elected to the state legislature in 1852 and 1858 and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1859 and 1860. Butler was a Democrat but a strong Unionist. At the beginning of the Civil War his contingent of Massachusetts militia was one of the first to reach Washington. He restored order (May, 1861) in secessionist Baltimore and was given command at Fort Monroe. He commanded the troops that accompanied Admiral Farragut in taking New Orleans and was made military governor of the city. There his highhanded rule (May–Dec., 1862) infuriated the people of New Orleans and the South and earned him the name "Beast." The government, severely criticized both at home and abroad for his actions, finally removed him. In May, 1864, as commander of the Army of the James, Butler was defeated by Beauregard at Drewry's BluffDrewry's Bluff
, high ground on the southern bank of the James River, E Va., S of Richmond; scene of two engagements in the Civil War. On May 15, 1862, the Confederates, positioned on the bluff, repulsed Union gunboats that were part of Gen.
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 and was bottled up at Bermuda Hundred until Grant crossed the James in June. After he failed to take Fort FisherFort Fisher,
Confederate earthwork fortification, built by Gen. William Whiting in 1862 to guard the port of Wilmington, N.C.; scene of one of the last large battles of the Civil War.
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 in Dec., 1864, he was removed from active command. From 1867 to 1875 Butler, by then a rabid radical Republican, was in Congress. He was one of the House managers who conducted the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson, and he ardently advocated the party's Reconstruction policy. He was said to have great influence with President Grant. Butler was (1877–79) an independent Greenbacker in Congress. After several unsuccessful attempts to secure the governorship of Massachusetts, he was elected by the Greenbackers and Democrats in 1882. In 1884 he received the nominations of the Anti-Monopoly and Greenback parties for President. Regarded by many as an unprincipled demagogue of great ability, Butler aroused intense antagonisms and was nearly always in controversy.


See his autobiography (1892); biographies by R. S. Holzman (1954), H. L. Trefousse (1957), R. S. West, Jr. (1965), and H. P. Wash, Jr. (1969).

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