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HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
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:
GEO. C. STRONG,
Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief of Staff.
[Source: "General Order #28" O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME XV [S#21]
Union Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations In West Florida, Southern Alabama, Southern Mississippi, And Louisiana From May 12, 1862, To May 14, 1863: And In Texas, New Mexico, And Arizona From September 20, 1862, To May 14, 1863.–#1 General Orders, No. 28 (Butler's Woman Order)]
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"Not only does he murder our menfolk, he's proclaimed us all whores!" Angele Valmont exclaimed as she read the posted proclamation. Growing anger and dismay twisted her pale face into a mask of intense resentment. "That…bastard!"
"Mam'selle!" her maid gasped. "Such language!"
"Hush, Essie," she ordered the quadroon woman, her voice sharp edged and biting. She ignored the dismay on her abigail's face. "Major-General Butler is most certainly exactly what I just called him." Her Creole French accent was less evident than it usually was.Anger made her English clipped and precise.
"Actually he's worse than that. I doubt he is human at all. He's nothing but an animal!" She pointed at the proclamation. "This is unconscionable. That a lady be regarded as a common prostitute for any real or imaginary insult is just barbarous." She reached up and grabbed the edge of the order.
"Oh, Mam'selle Angele, don't!" Essie cried. "There's no telling what the Yanquis will do to you if you tear that down." She looked about as if expecting one of the blue-clad soldiers filling Jackson Square to clap irons on her charge's wrists.
Angele stilled. The bright sun shone down and the faint breeze that stirred the light net of Angele's veil was humid and hot. Her upper lip was heavily dewed, a testament to the discomfort of the black crepe mourning she wore for her brother William. He had fallen nearly seven months earlier at Leesburg in the battle of Ball's Bluff. She had declared to one and all she was glad he'd died before he could see his beloved New Orleans fall under the dominion of the accursed Yankees. Indeed she continued to wear mourning for the fall of her city rather than for the loss of her brother. She could return to colors any time she wished, according to Creole custom, but had returned to the full black of deepest mourning the day the United States flag had been raised over City Hall, only eschewing the heavy veil in favor of a lighter bit of net and lace that barely concealed her face. She felt to go fully veiled would have been poor taste as well as too uncomfortable and impractical for a New Orleans summer.
She stared a moment more at the latest example of General Butler's hated martial law. She might sacrifice her comfort to the point of wearing dull black in the heat of a Louisiana summer, but she wasn't William, willing to die for a cause without considering the consequences to the family. If anything happened to Angele, her sister would be devastated and there'd be no one to see to the warehouses and businesses here in town. She held the order for a moment before she allowed her hand to fall back onto her prim black skirts.
"Let's go home, Essie. I need to write to Mademoiselle Charlie. It may be best that she not visit me for a while yet. She should stay home with her godfather. Thank the Holy Virgin she has Cousin Séverin to take care of her. He is such a good man." She sighed. "My sister won't like the news, but New Orleans is no place for her right now."
With rage burning her fair cheeks, she turned and automatically twitched her skirts away from a Union officer who stood behind her. She didn't want her clothing so much as to brush his boots. She stared with decided desdain at his bulk blocking her way.
"Come. I can't bear to be near these savages," she said to Essie.
"Pardon me, ma'am," he said with a tiny, ironic smile and a tip of his hat.
She blinked as a tiny chill raced up her spine. He had the most melodic voice she'd ever heard. Those three words were so astoundingly beautiful they robbed her of the power of speech. She stared up into a face as lovely as his voice.
"And I agree that this order is ludicrous," he said as he stepped out of her path. "Butler is an imbecile."
Her cheeks flamed beneath her veil, the chill in her spine turning to fire as it reached her face. He was utterly magnificent and now he showed sensibility as handsome as his face. She rediscovered her voice enough to agree with him.
"He most certainly is. And a complete blackguard, just like every Yanqui ever born." She ignored Essie's tug on her sleeve and gazed up at the officer realizing how very tall he was. The crinkles around his eyes spoke of long days spent staring at broad horizons from beneath his wide-brimmed cavalry hat. His shoulders were broad and his whole aspect radiated quiet strength. He was undoubtedly as handsome and manly as anyone she'd ever seen, but it was his look of outrage at the posted order that won her complete admiration. He obviously found the posted order as repugnant as she did. The indignation on the officer's strong face as he read General Order Twenty-Eight caused her heart to warm as much as her flushed cheeks.
He moved slightly and the sun glinted on his buttons and braid. They stood out against his uniform calling the deep blue to her attention. She realized with an unpleasant shock she was openly admiring a Yankee officer in the middle of a public square. It wouldn't do for anyone to see her conversing with a Yanqui. She knew that social conventions required she offer him her coldest glare and sweep away, but her sense of fairness wouldn't allow that. His words were too admirable for her to render him that sort of insult. Indeed she had already insulted him and her breeding wouldn't allow such a thing. Oddly unsettled by his clear gaze, she framed an apology.
Copyright © 2004 by T. D. McKinney and Aimee Masion