William J. Behan

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William Behan
Major General Behan.jpg
1893 portrait of Major William J. Behan
Mayor of New Orleans
In office
November 20, 1882 – April 28, 1884
Preceded byJoseph A. Shakspeare
Succeeded byJ. Valsin Guillotte
Personal details
BornSeptember 25, 1840
New Orleans, Louisiana
DiedMay 4, 1928 (aged 87)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materWestern Military Institute
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Branch/service Confederate States Army
Years of service1861-1865
UnitWashington Artillery
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

William J. Behan (1840-1928) was an American Confederate veteran and politician. He served as the 41st mayor of New Orleans (November 20, 1882 – April 28, 1884).

Early life[edit]

Behan was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 25, 1840 to his parents, father John Holland Behan and mother Katherine Behan. He was the eldest of three boys, William J., Frank, and Isaac D. With deep family ties to the city, Behan was destined from a young age to live out his days in the area. William attended the Western Military Institute in Nashville, Tennessee. Behan became Captain of the Mistick Krewe of Comus.[1]

Behan joined the Washington Artillery of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War of 1861–1865. He held, at the time, the notoriety of being the youngest officer under that section of General Robert E. Lee's forces.[citation needed] He became a major in the CSA.


After the war, Behan headed the implementation of the Crescent City White League. This paramilitary group consisted of Confederate veterans who sought to keep Republicans from taking office. It was described by many to be the "Military arm of the Democratic Party.

Behan's involvement in the formation of this led to his nomination from the Democratic Party for the Mayor of New Orleans. He won in what is considered a landslide political victory in the 1882 election. He became the first Mayor in the new city charter which was constructed in the post-war process. In 1884, after two years in office, Behan lost his incumbent position in what is considered to be an travesty to the Democratic selection.[according to whom?] The popular vote in the election was thrown out and was deemed inconclusive, and the decision was made by a "Ring" of influential politicians. He was then ousted by fellow Democrat J. Valsin Guillotte. Outraged by this decision, Behan left the party and joined the Republican Party. Behan was defeated in his third attempt at Mayor in 1904, and stated that he would never strive to be Mayor of New Orleans for the rest of his life.

After leaving politics, Behan found riches as a business merchant and a manufacturer of sugar. He also was a partner in the Zuberbeir and Behan groceries company.


Behan died May 4, 1928 on Jackson Avenue at his home in New Orleans.


[2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

  1. ^ "Lot Information". Nealauction.com. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  2. ^ "Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans: Behan." Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans: Behan. Louisiana Division, New Orleans Public Library, 19 Nov. 2002. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.
  3. ^ Current, Richard N. The Confederacy: Selections from the Four-volume Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of the Confederacy. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998. Print.
  4. ^ Hirsch, Arnold R., and Joseph Logsdon. "The People And Culture of New Orleans" New Orleans Online, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
  5. ^ Miller, Mike. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Louisiana 2 (1997): 279-80.USGW Archives. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.
  6. ^ "Mrs. William J. Behan Obituary." Louisiana Research Collection [New Orleans] 1920: n. pag. Print.
  7. ^ Nystrom, Justin A. New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2010. Print.
  8. ^ Solomon, Clara, and Elliott Ashkenazi. The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon: Growing up in New Orleans, 1861-1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1995. Print.
  9. ^ United States of America. New Orleans. Office of the Mayor. Mayor Records 1862-1920. N.p.:Print.
Party political offices
Preceded by
E. Reems
Republican nominee for Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Henry N. Pharr
Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of New Orleans
November 20, 1882-April 28, 1884
Succeeded by