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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE

(Private)

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 14th, 1862.

DEAR SIR: Four days ago, General Butler showed me the letter he had just received from you, concerning the speculations of Col. Butler, and trade with the enemy. In my opinion, it was the right method of effecting a desirable object. The General [sic] pleased to talk to me confidentially. He says that his brother's gains have been less than Two Hundred Thousand - that he has done only a legitimate business - that without being interested he assisted his brother at first with his (the Gen't's) credit and that Col. Butler will close his business as quickly as possible and go home. He also said that some of his officers had engaged in .speculations, but only in a proper manner.
For one thing Col. Butler deserves credit. Many sugar plantations were abandoned. Col. B. bought the standing crop of a large plantation for $25,000, hired negroes at a fair rate per day - and will make a thousand hogsheads of sugar this year, from this one plantation. I say he deserves credit, as being the first man bold and enterprising enough to undertake the raising of a large crop of sugar by Free labor - which, a little while ago, was slave labor - in opposition to the Southern idea, long established, that Sugar and Cotton can be successfully raised only by compulsory labor. I lately visited this plantation, which is a few miles below the City, and never saw negroes work with more energy and industry. This single experiment refutes theories which Southern leaders have labored, for years, to establish. The crops of four or five other plantations down the river, and some above the City, were subsequently purchased by other persons and are conducted with the same success. The abolition of Slavery by whatever means accomplished, instead of destroying, will increase and invigorate labor.
I think there will not again, be any ground of complaint against Gen. Butler, for his toleration of speculators. Nothing objectionable has been permitted since the receipt of your regulations of August 28th. He is a man not to be spared from the country's service. I suppose he was a Pro-slavery man before the war, but he has since become the opposite. And nearly all real Union men from the South are Anti-Slavery, of whom Hon. A. J. Hamilton is a good representative.
The expedition to The Lafourche has been entirely successful. The whole country from here to Berwick's Bay and up as far as Donaldsonville, is in our possession. There was a short, sharp fight, and the undertaking was accomplished. Gen. Butler's Gun-boats did not reach Berwick in time to cut off the retreat - having got aground on the bar - and so the greater part of the enemy escaped.
These gunboats are four. Gen. Butler made three of them out of old River boats - iron plated them with plating designed for rebel gunboats, and, drawing but little water, they are of great service. The inhabitants of LaFourche are thoroughly subjugated, and express a desire for peace on any terms. They take the oath of allegiance voluntarily. The negroe severywhere flocked to the army, as to their deliverers, and many of the plantations were entirely deserted. Gen. Butler says they are free forever, but he has ordered them (I understand) back to their plantations to work there for proper compensation. This is the only method of providing for them at present. The situation of this country (Lafourche) is such that it is not probable the rebels will ever regain it. It is much to be regretted that Gen. B. has not more troops here. With 25,000 more, he could accomplish great things. If the enemy is attacked from the South, he will no longer think of invading Kentucky and Missouri, but turn Southward to protect the Gulf states.
The two colored regiments guard the railroad from here to Berwick. They have done well, and accomplished all that has been given them to do. About one year ago, the colored Reg't. was ordered out to escort the Yankee prisoners through the City, though the order was subsequently countermanded. A few days ago, a company of the same Reg't. marched into the City having under guard about twenty guerillas, whom they had captured. It seemed a just retribution.
The company officers of this first Reg't. are educated men, and each speaks at least two languages. Gen. B. will soon give his colored troops a chance to show themselves. He designs attacking Port Hudson, a strong position on the River.
The third colored Reg't. is full and will soon be in the field. I urged upon General B. the propriety of arming all the able bodied negroes in LaFourche, for they would willingly consent to it. He is undoubtedly in favor of it, but has not arms. He has collected in the City, smooth bore muskets enough for three more Reg'ts., but his supply will then be exhausted. This will be six colored Regiments. I fear the Government will not act decidedly, as to the army of negroes, until the rebels take the wind out of our sails, by arming them for the Rebel side.
The Rebels have found a new supply of salt. It is on an Island formed by a bayou, half way between Vermilion Bay and New Iberia, which island is called Petit Anse on the map I sent you. It is forty or fifty miles west of Berwick, and about ten miles inland, but the Bayou is navigable for Gunboats. The supply of salt is large, and wagons are hauling it to Mississippi and Alabama. Gen. Butler will take measures to destroy the works at once - or as soon as possible.
Texas Refugees have, at different times, reached this City. I proposed to Gen. Butler, that a Texas Reg't. of mounted Rifles be organized, at the same time suggesting the method of doing it. He adopted the plan. Judge Davis, of Corpus Christi, is selected as Colonel, and Mr. Stancel (Inspector in this Custom House) as Lieut. Col. The first company is mustered in - composed entirely of refugees - and two more are started. They will go to Galveston, where many persons will join - and a steamship will be sent to the Rio Grande, to bring off the Refugees who are at, or near, Matamoras. A full regiment can easily be raised. Perhaps the news reed. here, of the expedition to Texas under Gen. Banks, will interfere with the plan, but I hope not.
The whole country west of the Mississippi, can be subjugated in one campaign. Should this be accomplished, the Southern Confederacy would never be formidable, in case of its independence being established by Foreign interference, or by other means.

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Annual Report of the American Historical Association; Volume II; Washington, Government Printing Office; 1903

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