Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Major-General Benjamin F. Butler to Edwin M. Stanton, November 7, 1864

Headquarters, City Of New York, Nov. 7, 1864.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary Of War:

Sir: — I beg leave to report that the troops detailed for duty here have all arrived and dispositions made which will insure quiet.

I enclose a copy of my order and I trust it will meet your approbation. I have done all I could to prevent the secessionists from voting and think have had some effect.

I think I may be able to punish some of the rascals for their crimes after election.

All will be quiet here. The State authorities are sending from the arsenal in New York arms and ammunition to Mr. John A. Green, brigadier-general at Buffalo, and I am powerless to prevent it.

This is what I mean by wanting “territorial jurisdiction.” I am in command of troops solely. It is none of my business to prevent arms and ammunition being sent to Buffalo.

This is one of the dozen cases wherein I cannot act without colliding with General Dix and the State authorities both.

I have not landed any of my men save those I have sent to Buffalo, which are two (2) regiments of regulars and one hundred (100) men at Watervliet for Albany. Now these regiments report to General Peck, but Peck does not report to me. He has some regulars besides those arriving and to arrive.

That is another instance of what is meant by wanting “territorial jurisdiction.”

I have three (3) batteries on ferry-boats all harnessed up ready to land at a moment's notice at any slip on North or East River; gunboats covering Wall Street and the worst streets in the city, and a brigade of infantry ready to land on the battery, and the other troops placed where they can be landed at once in spite of barricades or opposition. A revenue cutter is guarding the cable over the North River and a gunboat covers High Bridge on Harlem River which is the Croton aqueduct.

I have given you these details so that you may understand the nature of my preparations, and perhaps the details may be interesting and of use at some other time.

I propose, unless ordered to the contrary by you, to land all my troops on the morning of election in the city. I apprehend that, if at all, there will be trouble then. I have information of several organizations that are being got ready under General Porter, Duryea, and Hubert Ward, disaffected officers, and others who are intending, if the elections are close, to try the question of inaugurating McClellan, and will attempt it, if at all, by trying how much of an entente can be raised in New York City for that purpose. They propose to raise the price of gold so as to affect the necessaries of life and raise discontent and disturbance during the winter, declare then that they are cheated in the election by military interference and fraudulent ballots, and then inaugurate McClellan.

Now, that there is more or less truth in this information I have no doubt. One thing is certain, that the gold business is in the hands of a half dozen firms who are all foreigners or secessionists, and whose names and descriptions I will give you.

You are probably aware that the government has sold ten (10) or twelve millions (12,000,000) of gold within the past twenty days. The Secretary of the Treasury will tell you how much, it is none of my business to know; but one firm, IT. J. Lyons & Co., have bought and actually received in coin, by confession to me, more than ten millions (10,000,000) within the past fortnight, and his firm is now carrying some three millions (3,000,000) of gold. I felt bound to look up the case of Gentlemen H. J. Lyons & Co. I sent for Lyons, although I suppose I had no right to do so, wanting territorial jurisdiction, set him down before me, and examined him. His story is, as I made him correct it by appealing to my own investigations, as follows: His firm consists of himself, his brother, and the president of the Jeffersonville Railroad, Indiana. He is from Louisville; left there when Governor Morehead was arrested; went to Nashville; left there just before the city was taken by the Union troops; went to New Orleans; left there just before the city was taken; went to Liverpool; left there; went to Montreal and went into business; stayed in Montreal until last December; came here with his brother younger than himself, and set up the broker's business. He claims to have had a capital in greenbacks of eighty thousand (80,000) dollars, thirty thousand (30,000) put in by himself, ten thousand (10,000) by his brother, and forty thousand (40,000) by the other partner. This in greenbacks equal now at two forty-five (2-45) to about thirty thousand (30,000) dollars in gold. On this capital he was enabled to buy and pay for, not as balances, but actually in currency, almost twelve millions (12,000,000) of dollars in gold within the last fortnight, and now is carrying about three millions (3,000,000). This shows that there is something behind him.

He confessed that he left Louisville afraid of being arrested for his political offences. During the cross-examination, he confessed he was agent for the People's Bank of Kentucky, a secession concern which is doubtless an agent for Jeff Davis. Having no territorial jurisdiction, all I could do was to set before him the enormity of his crime, the danger he stood, having forfeited his life by rebellion to the government, and to say to him that I should be sorry if gold went up any to-day, because, as he was so large an operator, I should have cause to believe that he was operating for some political purpose, but that this was a free country and I had no right to control him. Does the Secretary of War suppose that, if I had an actual and not an emasculated command in the city of New York, such a rascal would have left my office without my knowing where to find him? He said, indeed, when he went out, that he thought he should not buy gold any more, and sell to-day all he has. It has got noised around a little that we are looking after the gold speculators, and gold has not risen any to-day up to five (5) o'clock, the time at which I am now writing, although Mr. Belmont's bet is that it would be at three hundred (300) before election, and the treasury is not selling.

Now, what I desire is to spend about a week in which I will straighten the following firms, which are all the men that are actually buying gold:

H. J. Lyons & Co., before spoken of; Vickers & Co., of Liverpool, an English house; H. G. Fant, of Washington; H. T. Suit, Washington house; Hallgarten & Heryfield, a Baltimore house of German Jews; and also to see if some of the rebels that are here cannot be punished. Substantially, none of them registered under General Dix's order.

I have stated all the reasons why I desire to be here. It is respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War, if I am desired to do anything at all, to telegraph me what I shall do, and it shall be done, or please let me return in the front. I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,
Major- General.

SOURCE: Benjamin F. Butler, Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benj. F. Butler, Appendix (the pages of which are separately numbered from the text of the book), p. 56-8

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