Early in September, he was authorized by the war department to raise and equip six regiments of volunteers from New England for the war. This task was easy for the energetic general.
Early in the year 1862, the capture of New Orleans was undertaken, and General Butler was placed in command of the department of the Gulf, and fifteen thousand troops entrusted to him. After innumerable delays, the general with a part of his force arrived, March 20, 1862, at Ship Island, near the delta of the Mississippi River, at which rendezvous the rest of the troops had already been assembled. From this post the reduction of New Orleans was executed.
On the morning of April 24, the fleet under command of Captain Farragut succeeded in passing the forts, and a week later the transport Mississippi with General Butler and his troops was alongside the levee at New Orleans.
On December 16, 1862, General Butler formally surrendered the command of the department of the Gulf to General Banks. What General Butler did at New Orleans during the months he was in command in that city is a matter of history, and has been ably chronicled by James Parton. He there displayed those wonderful qualities of command which made him the most hated, as well as the most respected, Northern man who ever visited the South. He did more to subject the Southern people to the inevitable consequence of the war than a division of a hundred thousand soldiers. He even conquered that dread scourge, yellow fever, and demonstrated that lawlessness even in New Orleans could be suppressed.
The new channel for the James River, known as the Dutch Gap, planned by General Butler, and ridiculed by the press, but approved by the officers of the United States Engineer Corps, remains to this day the thoroughfare used by commerce.
The fame of General Butler’s career at New Orleans, and his presence, quieted the fierce riots in New York City, occasioned by the drafts.
General Butler resigned his commission at the close of the war, and resumed the practice of his profession. He is now, and has been for many years, the senior major-general of all living men who have held that rank in the service of the United States.
In 1867, Mr. Butler was elected to the fortieth Congress from the fifth congressional district of Massachusetts, and in 1869 from the sixth district. He was re-elected in 1871, 1873, and in 1877. He was a recognized power in the House of Representatives, and with the administration. In 1882, he was elected Governor of Massachusetts, and gracefully retired in December, 1883, to the disappointment of more than one hundred and fifty thousand Massachusetts voters.
Mr. Butler is a man of vast intellectual ability—in every sense of the word a great man. He possesses a remarkable memory, great executive abilities, good judgment, immense energy, and withal a tender heart. He has always been a champion of fair play and equal rights.