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Butler and the 1864 Election

From Bulter's book on his life he relates that the War Department sent him to New York, to be there on election day. He says to prevent Southerners from stealing the election. That couldn't have been the real reason. Could it have been because Lincoln knew he was about to loose the election and needed help?

[He (Stanton) then asked what troops I wanted, and I said:-—

" A couple of batteries of artillery, say twelve pieces, and about three thousand men will be enough, but a larger show of force may be better for overawing an outbreak."

"I suppose you will want your Massachusetts troops sent."

" Oh," said I, " not Massachusetts men to shoot down New Yorkers; that won't do. I have as faithful, loyal, good soldiers in my New York regiments as there are in the world, and I can fully rely on them. Perhaps I will take a Connecticut regiment or two and select the batteries."

"Do you think there are enough?"

"Plenty, with the addition of my headquarters guard of Pennsylvanians, who have already voted in the field."

"Make out your list of troops," said he, "and I will have them sent." ]

On Nov. 7th, the day before the election, after Butler had placed his troops and made all arrangements necessary to control the ballot, he wrote to Secretary of War Stanton a letter in which he said:

"I beg leave to report that the troops have all arrived, and dispositions made which will insure quiet. I enclose copy of my order No. 1, and trust it will meet your approbation. I have done all I could to prevent secessionists (Democrates) from voting, and think it will have some effect."

Butler says in his book....

"Monday my headquarters boat came up with my guard, one hundred Pennsylvanians. They were landed at the battery, and put into barracks there.

That day Major-General Sanford, commanding the division of State militia in the city of New York, called upon me and said that he proposed on the day of election to call out his division of militia to preserve the peace. I told him that that could not be done without his reporting to me as his superior officer; that being assigned to the command of the troops in the city of New York by the President, I of necessity became his commander; and, further, that the Articles of War required that I should be his commander. Of course a militia officer could not agree to that. I then told him that I did not need his division, and that I did not think it would be advisable to have the militia called out; that if they were called out they would be under arms, and in case of difficulty it was not quite certain which way all of them would shoot; and besides, it might cause a claim of interference with the election to have troops called out and hold positions while the election was going on, and thus might vitiate the election.

He was very obstinate about it, and said he should call out the militia.

"Then," said I, "here is an order that you do not. You have no power to call out the militia except in a case of disturbance." Still he did not yield.

Well," I said, " if there are to be armed forces here that do not report to me, and are not under my orders, I shall have to treat them as enemies. In case of disturbance they may suffer, for I cannot stop to select whom to shoot at of the armed troops which I find in New York not under my orders; but I certainly shall most efficiently take care of those who put them in arms."

He told me he should apply to the governor of the State for orders.

"Your governor (Heratio Seymour) is a very high militia officer," said I, "but I shall not recognize his authority here as against the authority of the United States any more than that of any militia officer of lower grade. And from the reported doings of Governor Seymour in the centre of the State in organizing new companies of militia, which I believe to be a rebellious organization, I may find it necessary to act promptly in arresting all those whom I know are proposing to disturb the peace here on election day."

He retired in disgust, and I have never seen the clever old gentleman since. It is sufficient to say that I at once took measures to ascertain where all the arms in the city were, and in whose possession they were. I immediately reported the matter to the Secretary of War, and asked permission to issue a general order on the subject, and to have a territorial jurisdiction given me. The Secretary of War afterwards advised me that I had better not issue a general order, because my right to do that would be the subject of "abstract discussion." But I wanted territorial jurisdiction, not so much for that as for another reason which will appear.

Meanwhile my troops had not arrived. They were not embarked at Fortress Monroe — such were the unaccountable delays — until Friday and Saturday. I then issued my General Order No 1, in which I made it plain that there were several thousand secessionists (Democrats) in New York. They were there in snch numbers as to impede the Union men (Union Party - Lincoln's new political party) getting lodgings and boarding-house accommodations, the landlords saying that they could let all the room they had to Southerners at their own prices. I took care that the Southerners should understand that means would be taken for their identification, and that whoever of them should vote would be dealt with in such a manner as to make them uncomfortable. That was sufficient, and substantially no Southerners voted at the polls on election day."

New York went for Lincoln (barely), when the papers prior had said there was no way Lincoln could win.

David Upton

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