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Full Version: Benjamin Franklin Butler: a Noisy, Fearless Life
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Just finished, and want to recommend, Elizabeth D. Leonard’s new biography, Benjamin Franklin Butler: a Noisy, Fearless Life. It’s exceptionally well-researched, and is neither a hagiography nor a denunciation of this oft-maligned general and (we sometimes forget) politician. It puts into proper perspective, for instance, that his time in New Orleans was only about six months, and the local population was so hostile that he needed to be somewhat oppressive, to protect his troops and local freedmen. It also lays out reasons why his failures in two minor Civil War battles might not have been totally his fault. The author also emphasizes, and documents, Butler’s lifelong dedication to bettering the plight of the poor and downtrodden, of any race. Very readable, too, and (rare, these days) actually free from typos, as far as I could see. A few paragraphs are a bit wordy in their documentation with supporting quotations, but you can easily skim these.
Thanks Tom for this report. I will add that Elizabeth Leonard, for this book, was a recent Lincoln Prize finalist.

I had the opportunity meet her and to hear her speak last year. She gave an excellent presentation related to her book on Butler and was a wonderful person to talk to. Readers of this post, and with particular interest in Lincoln related topics, may remember two of her other books: Lincoln’s Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion After the Civil War, and Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky.

I have not yet had an opportunity to read her book on Butler (I'm knee deep in reading for a couple of projects I'm working on) but I look forward to doing so.
Ordered, thanks! I seem to remember that he had an enlightened attitude toward women (hostile belles excepted), so I'm looking forward to reading this.
I highly recommend the book as well. It is an insightful look at Butler and the times and events that surrounded his life. I invited Professor Leonard to speak to Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia on March 22, which she did and was excellent. It was recorded, and as soon as it is available, I will post the link here.
In addition, the John L. Nau, III, Center for Civil War Studies at the University of Virginia has just awarded its 2023 Book Prize in American Civil War Era History to Professor Leonard for Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life (UNC Press, 2022).

The 2023 Nau Book Prize committee, comprised of Peter S. Carmichael, Jennifer Murray, and Angela Zombek, wrote in its report that:

"Benjamin Butler was one of the most maligned and misunderstood generals in the Civil War until the publication of Elizabeth Leonard’s Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life. She shatters the Lost Cause picture of Butler as a ruthless general, who preyed upon Southern women while seeking political and financial gain, even at the expense of Union armies in the field. Leonard shows that Butler was a competent military leader who, in the postwar years, emerged as one of the nation’s most vocal leaders for black equality and civil rights.

"Leonard’s narrative is exceptional, beautifully written, deeply researched, and carefully argued. Leonard demonstrates the power of biography to reveal new angles on familiar subjects. The book tells us so much about the Civil War era. She also unravels the controversies in Butler’s life without engaging in hero-worshipping. As a result, we have a masterful biography that reveals the struggles of a man trying to navigate the revolutionary waters of a war that Butler was partially responsible for unleashing. Benjamin Franklin Butler is a masterpiece."

Congratulations, Elizabeth!!
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