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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
General Butler entered New Orleans and established there the headquarters of the Department of the Gulf on May 1, 1862. From time to time various military expeditions were sent to points in the neighborhood; the most important, however, were those sent to Texas and the Red River, to Baton Rouge and Port Hudson. General Butler also from the first undertook the administration of civil affairs in New Orleans and the district immediately surrounding, appointing Brig. Gen. George F. Shepley to be military governor of the city. On May 12, President Lincoln raised the blockade and opened the port of New Orleans to trade. It was in consequence of this proclamation that those duties arose which Mr. Denison was appointed to perform. By the middle of August, General Shepley had been appointed military governor of the State of Louisiana and had begun the exercise of his functions, after personal conference with the Administration at Washington. By that time also those who wanted to know had already found out that President Lincoln was anxious to have the State " take her place in the Union as it was, barring the already broken eggs." (Letter to August Belmont, July 31, 1862; Abraham Lincoln, Complete Works, Vol. 11, p. 217.) Between the preliminary proclamation of September 22 and the election held by order of the military governor for the choice of two Congressmen on December 3, there is something more than a mere chronological connection, and the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, exempted parts of Louisiana, including New Orleans, from its operation. Some of the civil and military officers and some of the native Louisianians were exerting their
influence in favor of a free State, if not of general suffrage regardless of race. But there were others trying and planning to restore the State without jeopardizing slavery. Such conflict of purposes among the nominally loyal, under the circumstances, retarded reconstruction. At length, early in 1864, General Banks declared the constitution of 1852, except the slavery clause, to be in force and called an election for the choice of State officers. The officers were duly elected and installed, but Governor Hahn also received a supplementary commission from the President as military governor of the State, succeeding General Shepley. A constitutional convention was held and a free-State constitution was adopted in due time (September 5, 1864). But the movement failed to command the respect of the community. It bore the marks of outside influence, and it had been brought to pass by the agency of men among whom were many whose conduct had not been dignified and reassuring. But presently local antagonism turned into local support. The offices were filled by men acceptable to local public sentiment, but not to the sentiment that prevailed at Washington. The reconstruction acts of Congress put an end to this State government in March, I867.
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