Butler's Cruelty: Summary

1550 Words 7 Pages
On the afternoon May 22, 1865, a small band of soldiers from the 22nd and 28th Iowa regiments left their camp. There had been a heavy rain the night before. Their destination was a large peach orchard not far from the rows of white canvas. Some of the men had visited the orchard before. They had discovered a kennel of “bloodhounds,” ferocious animals whom they knew were once used in the pursuit of enslaved people and believed had been placed on the trail of Union prisoners of war. The owner of the orchard, an older man by the name of Butler, had previously threatened peach-seeking soldiers with the beasts. The 22nd and 28th Iowa regiments had been encamped at place called Shultzer’s Hill with another Iowa regiment, the 24th for several days. …show more content…
The soldiers actually present at the orchard slaughter were not in attendance. The other men of the regiment began to heckle him. Some imitated the cries of hounds. Others threatened to hang him from a tree. Afraid for his life and the lives of his wife and son who had accompanied him, Butler fled back to his buggy. Pryce and Jones would describe Butler as departing in the moment not to be seen again by the soldiers. Private Blake would describe a different scene. An angry mob of soldiers swarming the buggy would in his account cut loose the horses and in a fervor attempt to run it and its occupants off the steep hill to death below, only to be stopped by their officers. According to Blake, fearing further retribution, Butler crossed the river to Augusta and surrendered himself to be placed in the jail for his safety. The other accounts would merely assert that a guard was placed by the regimental officers to protect the Butler property from further intrusions.
The killing of “slave-catching dogs” while perhaps under discussed by historians was not an uncommon practice by Union soldiers during Sherman’s March to the Sea. The Iowa City Weekly Republican, by far the most mentioned publication in the letters of the 22nd Iowa, included an article in early 1865, which declared that “A significant feature” of Sherman’s March to the Sea has been that “wherever our army has passed everything in the shape of a dog has been killed.”
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This argument fails to explain the lack of other such incidents during the occupation of Hamburg and does not acknowledge the role of the bloodhound image in American politics at this time. A better argument though it fails the latter test, is that the events in the peach orchard were principally about peaches. This, after all, may seem to some readers the most parsimonious justification for the killing of the dogs: they were the foremost barrier to the attainment of the delicious fruit. The Iowa soldiers however would have known the killing of the dogs to be far from the most effective means of enjoying Butler’s orchard. They could have merely intimidated Butler with their weapons instead. This method would not have required the organization of a significant band of men from two regiments and Butler would have been far less likely to report the theft of his peaches to the military

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