The Infamous “Woman Order” of Occupied New Orleans

Good afternoon! Earlier today, we shared an image of a Baltimore woman flaunting her Confederate sympathies which drew parallels to the actions of the women of Union-occupied New Orleans. Therefore, we thought it fitting to continue our Women’s History Month celebration by posting Major General Benjamin Butler’s Infamous General Orders No. 28:

General Orders, No. 28.

New Orleans, May 15, 1862.

As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall by word, gesture, or movement insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.

By command of Major-General Butler:

Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief of Staff.

Perhaps the most infamous order of the Civil War, Major General Benjamin Butler issued the above two weeks after taking command of New Orleans. Even after the Union occupation, the majority of New Orleans’s white population remained loyal to the Confederate cause and was therefore deeply resentful of the Union presence. They repeatedly disrespected federal troops, crossing the street to avoid direct contact or gathering up their skirts to signify the avoidance of “dirt.” There were also reports of women spitting on Union soldiers and of a woman emptying her chamber pot onto the head of Admiral David Farragut. The resulting order gained public disdain and international attention because Butler instructed his troops to treat any woman who insulted them as a prostitute.

For more on General Orders No 28, Benjamin Butler, and the Union occupation of New Orleans, please check out this video interview with historian Alecia P. Long.

Source: The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XV.

Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, July 12, 1862.

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