Article by SFC(R) John Trowbridge
Percival Pierce Butler, Kentucky’s First Adjutant General.
On June 1, 1792,
Kentucky became the 15th State in the Union. One of the most pressing issues for the new government
was the establishment of an effective State Militia. At the time of Statehood Kentucky was the
western frontier of the nation. The
constant threat of Indian attack and the exposed situation of the settlements
in the Commonwealth caused the framers of Kentucky’s first Constitution to immediately
write into the document a provision that, “The freemen of this Commonwealth
shall be armed and disciplined for its defense . . .”
background and farsightedness of newly elected Governor Isaac Shelby, ensured
the prompt organization of a militia force for the defense and security of the
State and its citizens. As early as June
20th, Shelby began to outline, in his journal, the various units
which would comprise the Kentucky Militia.
On June 24,
1792, using Governor Shelby’s notes, the General Assembly approved “An Act to
arrange this state into divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions and
companies, and for other purposes.” This
act was in compliance with the recently enacted Federal law for the establishment
of a uniform militia in the United States.
The Kentucky Act provided for two Divisions, four Brigades and fifteen
Regiments. On this same day the Governor
began appointing the officer corps, with the advice and consent of the
Senate. Four days later approval of “An
Act for regulating the Militia of this Commonwealth” proved for the general
discipline of the organization.
At this time the
Governor would have appointed his Adjutant General, as directed by the Federal
Militia law, to assist in the administration of the State Militia, however
there is no appointment order in his papers pertaining to the position, or the
appointment of Percival Pierce Butler, as Kentucky’s first Adjutant General. There are newspaper accounts which state when
Governor Shelby appointed his cabinet in early June, Butler was appointed to
the position of Adjutant General.
Percival Pierce Butler
was born fourteen miles from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, April 4, 1760, the seventh
child of Thomas and Eleanor Parker
Butler. Little is known of Percival’s early childhood.
His parents were of Irish descent, his father was born in 1720, in
County Wicklow, and his mother was a native of County Wexford. In 1748, the family immigrated to America, settling
in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.
Thomas was a gunsmith
Few of the prominent first families of Pennsylvania
and Kentucky have been so distinguished as this one for high military bearing
and gallantry. Of Thomas and Eleanor’s five
sons, all were officers of the Revolutionary War, except Edward (who was too
young, but entered it before its close), and all rendered important service.
Major General Richard
Butler (1743 – 1791)
William Butler (1748 – 1789)
Butler, Jr. (1754 – 1805)
Pierce Butler (1760 – 1821)
Captain Edward Butler
(1762 – 1803)
An anecdote which shows the character of the family,
and that their military instinct was inherited, while the five sons were absent
from home serving in the army, their old father decided he needed to serve as
well. His neighbors tried to dissuade
him, but his wife said: "Let him go I can get along without him, and raise
something to feed the army in the bargain; and the country wants every man who
can shoulder a musket." This
extraordinary zeal to serve their country did not escape the observation of General
George Washington, who gave a toast to them at his own table, whilst surrounded
by a large party of officers—"The Butlers, and their five sons."
On September 01, 1777, Pierce Butler, at the age of seventeen years and
five months, was commissioned First Lieutenant in Colonel Thomas Craig's
Regiment of the Third Pennsylvania. He served in all action of this regiment
throughout the war. Fighting at Brandywine, Germantown, was with General
George Washington at Valley Forge and Monmouth; served under General Marquis de
Lafayette at Yorktown, his regiment being one of the battalions held in
reserve at the storming of the redoubts that assured the fall of Charles Cornwallis.
He then served with General Anthony
Wayne in the South, until 1783. He was
transferred to the Second Pennsylvania, on January 1, 1783, and on September
23, 1783, joined the First Pennsylvania, where he remained until the end of the
war. At the close of the war, he
was brevetted Captain.
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de
Lafayette, was an admiring observer of this family of soldiers, and in a
letter, paid them this tribute, "When I wanted a thing well done, I
ordered a Butler to do it." Additionally, General Lafayette presented a sword
to Captain Percival Butler for his service.
In 1783, Percival Butler became a
member of the Society of Cincinnati, an organization that was established by
the officers of the American Revolution Army, to perpetuate their friendship
and to raise funds for the relief of widows and orphans of those who fell in
the war. Today the society exists as a
hereditary society. Butler’s certificate
of membership was signed by George Washington, President of the Society; and
Henry Knox, Secretary.
Following his service in the
Revolutionary War, Percival emigrated to Kentucky around 1784, first settling
in Lexington, Fayette County, where he married Mildred “Milly” Hawkins,
daughter of John and Mary Langford
Hawkins, on May 30, 1786. Soon
afterwards the newlyweds moved to the mouth of Hickman, near the Kentucky
River, and located in Jessamine County, where Percival engaged in farming and
becoming a successful merchant. In 1794, they moved to Man’s Lick, in
Jefferson County, and finally on the last day of November of 1796, they moved
to Port William, Gallatin County, Kentucky
Percival and Milly were blessed with
eleven children: Eleanor Butler
(1787-1844); Thomas Langford Butler (1789-1880); William Orlando Butler
(1791-1880); Richard Parker Butler (1792-1885); Pierce Butler (1794-1851);
Frances Maria “Fanny” Butler (1796-1843); Caroline Thomas Butler Pryor (1798-1885); Edward Butler (1800-1801); Edward Butler
(1802-1821); Jane Hawkins Butler
Ewing (1804-1877); Mary Langford Butler (1807-1861).
In June 1792, Governor Isaac Shelby,
appointed Butler as Kentucky’s First Adjutant General, with the rank of Colonel
and aide to the Governor.
1793 and 1794, he assisted in the
organization of the Kentuckians who fought with Major General Anthony Wayne at
the Battle of Fallen Timbers, August 20, 1794, which ended the threat of Indian
raids into the Commonwealth up to the War of 1812.
In 1796, the Percival and his family settled
permanently in Port William (present day Carrollton), Gallatin County (now
Carroll County), Kentucky, at the mouth of the Kentucky River where it meets
the Ohio River, to enhance his business opportunities.
On 17 May 1799, he was unanimously elected Clerk
of Gallatin County, and held the position until his death. During this time Butler split his time
between his duties as Adjutant General, County Clerk and his business
interests, a practice not uncommon in those days.
As early as 1798, the State legislature in various Acts insisted that the
Adjutant General “shall keep his office in Frankfort.” Under penalty of a fine of $20.00 per month. There is no indication that Butler ever
complied with the law, or paid the monthly fine. On 12 August 1807, Governor
Christopher Greenup, dispatched an express letter to Colonel Butler at his home
Percival Butler Esq.
Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky
Sir: You will please to consider yourself under
arrest upon the following charges to wit:
1st Charge for neglect of duty.
1st Specification for failing to keep
an office at the seat of the State government.
2nd ditto for failing to keep the
necessary records of your office as Adjutant General.
3rd ditto for failing to furnish the
necessary forms of return as the law regulating the militia requires.
4th ditto for failing to furnish the
Secretary of State with the number of Officers entitled to the late Militia
5th ditto for failing to pursue the
necessary steps to compel the different Brigade Inspectors who failed making out
and forwarding their respective Brigade Returns in due time and forms.
2nd Charge for disobedience of Orders.
1st Specification of the Second
charge: For not attending in proper time to the orders of the Governor when
directed, to make out details for apportioning the number of Militia required
from each Division pursuant to instructions from the Secretary of War dated
July the 6th ultimo, under the act of Congress entitled “An Act
authorizing a detachment from the militia of the United States” passed the 18th
of April 1806.
The Courts Martial was held in
Frankfort, on September 7, as directed and the proceedings forwarded to
Governor Greenup on September 12, 1807:
Court having heard the said Butler in his defense and having examined all and
singular the testimony aforesaid and proceeding to decide a wording to evidence
agreeably to justice and the laws of this State are of opinion “That the said
Butler is guilty of the first charge exhibited against him and on the second
charge they are of opinion that the said Butler did not obey the order of the
Governor and Commander in Chief with the promptitude required, but they are of
opinion that the sickness by him in his place alleged and which has by him
satisfactorily proven to this court is a sufficient excuse for his delay of
that duty.” And the Court proceeding to
assess and affix the punishment due for the offense first mentioned are of
opinion and do consider that the said Butler
be reprimanded by the Commander in Chief for his neglect of duty aforesaid. William Russell, President attest William
Littell, Judge Advocate.” Annexed
thereto the following as the:
of the Commander in Chief on considering the proceedings of the General Court
Martial, convened at the house of Daniel Weisiger in the Town of Frankfort on
Monday the 7th day of September 1807 for the trial of Percival
Butler Esq. Adjutant General of this State; I am of opinion that the Decision
of the court is irreverent to the charges exhibited either in a legal or
political view, and therefore I cannot approve of it. Col. Butler is therefore requested to resume
the functions of his office.
Greenup, Septr. 12th 1807.
During the War of 1812, Governor Shelby and Colonel Butler were busy
keeping track of the Kentucky Militia units and responding to calls from the
Federal Government for troops. During
the war he would muster into the army three of his sons:
Thomas Langford Butler, in 1809 entered
the army as a Lieutenant. In 1813,
promoted Captain, and served through the northwestern campaign under William
Henry Harrison. In 1814, aide-de-camp to
General Andrew Jackson, he was at the siege of Pensacola, and in 1815, at the
battle of New Orleans, being brevetted Major for gallantry. After the War he received the appointment of
surveyor and inspector of the port of New Orleans. He resigned his post and returned to his home
in Kentucky. In 1826, he represented
Gallatin County in the legislature. In
1847, he again represented Carroll and Gallatin in the legislature. Died in Louisville, Kentucky, 1881.
William Orlando Butler, graduated Transylvania University in 1812,
proceeded to study law until outbreak of the War of 1812. Joined Captain Nathaniel G. S. Hart’s Company
as a Corporal. He fought at the battle
of River Raisin (present day Monroe, Michigan), taken prisoner. Released, rejoining the army participated in
the capture of Pensacola, Florida, and fought in the battle of New Orleans. He resigned from the army in 1817, with the
rank of Major. Returned to Port William
and commenced the practice of law.
Served in the Kentucky State Legislature from 1817 to 1818, had an
unsuccessful campaign against William Owsley for Governor. From 1839 to 1843, represented Kentucky’s 13th
District in the U. S. House of Representatives.
At the outbreak of the Mexican War, appointed a Major General of
Volunteers by President James K. Polk.
Served as second-in-command to General Zachary Taylor at the battle of
Monterrey, Mexico, where he received a wound.
While recovering, he served under General Winfield Scott in Mexico
City. In February 1848, after Scott’s
departure Butler was given command of all U. S. forces in Mexico. In 1848, he ran unsuccessfully for
Vice-President on the Democratic ticket with Lewis Cass and in 1852 was a
contender for that party’s presidential nomination. He was a delegate to the 1861 Washington
Peace Conference seeking to avert civil war.
He died at Carrollton, in 1880, and is buried in the family cemetery on
his estate, which is now the General Butler State Resort Park, named in his
Richard Parker Butler, Assistant Adjutant General of Kentucky during the
war. Served with his father during
General Samuel Hopkins’ 1812 campaign.
While serving in his capacity as the Adjutant General of the State,
Butler, accompanied by his son, Richard took part in General Samuel Hopkins’
campaign against the Wabash Indian tribes in the Northwest Territory, in late 1812.
In 1816, the State
legislature passed a tougher law, this time requiring the Adjutant General not
only to have his office in the state capital, but also reside in the capital
city, in an attempt to force Butler to either comply or resign his position.
1816 Acts of the
General Assembly, Commonwealth of
XIX, Section 16. Be it further
enacted, That within six months from the passage of this act, the adjutant
general shall reside at the seat of government, or the vicinity thereof; and on
his failing to do so his office shall be considered as vacant, and the governor
shall proceed to fill such vacancy in the same manner as though he had
Butler resigned, remaining on his plantation near Port Williams. Percival Pierce Butler died on September 9,
1821, and was buried in the Butler Family Cemetery (now located in General
Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton, Carroll County, Kentucky), the following
obituary appeared in the September 24th edition of The Kentucky Reporter:
Near Port William, Gallatin County, Gen. Percival
Butler, at an advanced age. He filled
the office Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky, for many years, and served his
country in various stations with the utmost fidelity and honor.
Percival Pierce Butler is the longest serving
Adjutant General of Kentucky having served 1792 to 1817. During his nearly a quarter century in the
position he served under Governors Isaac Shelby, James Garrard (2 terms),
Christopher Greenup, Charles Scott, Isaac Shelby’s second term, George Madison
and Gabriel Slaughter.
On June 24, 2002, Kentucky National Day in the
Commonwealth, a ceremony was held at the Butler-Turpin State Historic Home
located in General Butler State Resort Park, at Carrollton, which honored
Butler’s service as the First Adjutant General with the unveiling of a Kentucky
Highway Historical Marker and the naming of a section of Kentucky Highway 320
which runs in front of the State Resort Park.
Being the first chief
military aide to Kentucky Governors, and by the confidence placed in him by the
Governors he served, his place in our military history is well justified by his
courageous and significant service to Kentucky and the Nation.
Federal and State Legislation –
State Adjutant General, Duties and Responsibilities:
Second Congress of the United States, Session I, 1792.
Chapter XXXIII.—An Act more effectively to provide for the
National Defense by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United
States. Approved, May 8, 1792.
Sec. 6. And be
it further enacted, That there shall be an adjutant-general appointed in
each state, whose duty it shall be to distribute all order from the
commander-in-chief of the state to the several corps; to attend all public
reviews when the commander-in-chief of the state shall review the militia, or
any part thereof; to obey all orders from him relative to carrying into
execution and perfecting the system of military discipline established by this
act; to furnish blank forms of different returns that may be required, and to
explain the principles on which they should be made; to receive from the
several officers of the different corps throughout the state, returns of the
militia under their command, reporting the actual situation of their arms,
accoutrements, and ammunition, their delinquencies, and every other thing which
relates to the general advancement of good order and discipline; all which the
several officers of the divisions, brigades, regiments, and battalions, are
hereby required to make in the usual manner, so that the said adjutant-general
may be duly furnished therewith; from all which returns he shall make proper
abstracts, and lay the same annually before the commander-in-chief of the state,
and a duplicate of the same to the President of the United States.
Approved, May 8,
1798 Kentucky – Secretary of State Papers, December 22, 1798:
Chapter 60: Section 2.
There shall be appointed an Adjutant General who shall keep his office
in Frankfort, he shall perform the several duties enjoined him by the laws of
Congress, and of this State, he shall be allowed one hundred and fifty dollars
per annum on producing the Governor’s Certificate to the Auditor of Public
Accounts that he hath performed the necessary duties of his office as required
by law and the Auditor shall issue his warrant on the Treasurer for the payment
thereof out of any monies in the treasury.
Provided however be it further enacted, that if the said Adjutant
General shall fail or refuse to remove and keep his office in the Town of
Frankfort within six months from and after the passage of this act, he shall
forfeit and pay twenty dollars for every month he shall therefore refuse or
fail to keep his office at the place aforesaid, to be recovered by action of
debt in any court having competent jurisdiction, by any person who shall sue
for the same, and shall moreover forfeit all right or claim to any salary
hereby allowed during such failure or refusal.
1799 Laws of Kentucky:
Chapter L: Section 3.
And be it further enacted, That
there shall be allowed to the adjutant general of this state for his services
yearly, the sum of one hundred dollars. . .
CXIV: Section 2. . . . There shall be appointed an adjutant
general, who shall keep his office in Frankfort, he shall perform the several
duties enjoined him by the laws of Congress and of this state; he shall be
allowed one hundred and fifty dollars per annum, on producing the governor’s
certificate to the auditor of public accounts; that he hath performed the
necessary duties of his office, as required by law, and the auditor shall issue
his warrant on the treasurer for the payment thereof, out of any monies in the
treasury, Provided however, and be it
further enacted, That if the said adjutant general shall fail or refuse to
remove and keep his office in the town of Frankfort, within six months from and
after the passage of this act, he shall forfeit and pay twenty for every month
he shall therefore refuse or fail to keep his office at the place aforesaid, to
be recovered by action of debt, in any court having competent jurisdiction by
any person who shall sue for the same and shall moreover forfeit all right or
claim to any salary hereby allowed, during such failure or refusal.
Section 24. And be
it further enacted, That every general, field officer and captain, adjutant
general, brigade inspector and adjutant, on each muster day, that they are by
law directed to attend, shall appear on parade in uniform, with a cocked hat,
and a coat of blue cloth faced with scarlet, under the penalty of three dollars
each, for every failure.
1802 Acts of the General
Assembly, Commonwealth of Kentucky:
Part VI: Section 2.
. . . The adjutant general shall keep his office in the town of
Frankfort, under the penalty of twenty dollars for every month he shall fail to
do so; he shall perform the several duties enjoined him by the laws of congress
and of this state; for which service he shall be allowed one hundred dollars
per annum, upon his producing the governor’s certificate to the auditor of
public accounts, that he hath performed the necessary duties of his office as
required by law; and the auditor shall issue his warrant on the treasury for
Section 25. Every general, field officer & captain,
adjutant general, brigade inspector and adjutant, on each muster or train day,
shall appear on parade, or at court-martial, in uniform, with a cocked hat
& a coat of blue cloth, faced with scarlet, under the penalty of three
dollars each, for every failure.
1811 Acts of the General
Assembly, Commonwealth of Kentucky:
Chapter CCLXCVII: Section 13. The adjutant general shall be appointed and
commissioned as other officers; and keep his office in the state house—shall
keep a fair record of all orders and communications, which he shall from time
to time receive from the commander and chief of the militia of this state;
shall receive the annual returns made to him from the generals of division; and
shall make from the several division returns, a general return of the whole strength
of the militia of this state; which he shall lay before the commander in chief,
on or before the tenth day of December in each year; a duplicate of which
return, he shall, without delay forward to the secretary of war of the United
States; and he shall perform such other duties as are enjoined on him by the
laws of the United States. He shall
furnish blank printed forms of annual returns of divisions, brigades,
regiments, battalions and companies, on or before the first day of May in each
year:--And the public printer is hereby authorized and required, to print the
same, on application of the adjutant general.
All letters or packages, coming to, or sent by him, relative to the
duties of his office, by mail, shall be paid for by the state, on the same
being certified by the governor, that they relate to the duties of his office;
which the governor shall certify to the auditor of public accounts for payment
accordingly. He shall be entitled as a
compensation for the duties enjoined on him by the laws of this state and the United States,
one hundred and fifty dollars per annum—for which the auditor of public
accounts is hereby required, to issue his warrant on the treasury for payment
accordingly. Provided, however, he
shall produce the governor’s certificate that the duties of his office shall
have been faithfully performed.
Section 26. Returns of the Strength of Militia. That all commanding officers of companies,
after their military exercise for the day shall be over, in the month of June,
in each and every year, shall proceed to make their annual company returns,
agreeably to forms which shall be furnished them by the adjutant general; in
which shall be expressed the military strength, arms and accoutrements of such
company; who, after countersigning the same, shall deliver it to the commandant
of his battalion, on or before the tenth day of July in each year.
Section 30. It shall be the duty of the major generals,
to cause their aids to make out from the brigade returns, on or before the
first day of November, in each year, two fair division returns agreeably to the
form prescribed by the Adjutant General; and lay the same before the said
commanding officer of divisions, for his examination and signature; one of
which returns, the said commandants of divisions shall forward to the office of
the Adjutant General; on or before the last day of November, in each year.
Section 39. Be it further enacted, That the
resignation of all commissioned officers, shall be made in the following manner
to wit: All company and staff officers
of regiments, shall resign to the commanding officer of regiments; regimental
field, and brigade staff officers, to the commanding officers of brigades;
brigadier generals, and division staff, to the commanding officers of divisions;
and major generals, and the adjutant general, to the commander in chief of this
Section 58. As the reputation of the service will be
materially affected by a conformity to a regulation so essential in a military
point of view:--
it further enacted, That at all musters, reviews, courts martial, or courts
of assessment, as well as in actual service, the following shall be the uniform
and equipments of the following commissioned officers, to wit: Major generals, brigadier generals, and general
staff officers, shall appear in uniform and side arms to wit: With a coat of blue, lappells of buff, gold
epaulets, and buff underclothes, boots, spurs, a round black hat, cockade,
plume and small-sword or hanger.
Section 73. . . . And it shall be the duty of the
secretary of state, and he is hereby required, from time to time, to furnish
the adjutant general with a list of all general, staff and field officers, who
may be commissioned by the governor.
Section 86. That the fines inflicted under this act,
shall be as follows, without a reasonable excuse, viz:
ADJUTANT-GENERAL—On the adjutant
general, for failing to perform the duty or duties required of him, any sum not
exceeding fifty dollars.
1812 Acts of the General
Assembly, Commonwealth of Kentucky
CCXXXIII: Section 14. The adjutant general shall keep his office in
the state house, or such other house as the legislature shall provide. He shall keep a fair record of all orders and
communications which he shall from time to time receive from the commander in
chief of the state, and obey all orders from him relative to the duties of his
office. He shall receive the annual
returns from the brigade majors and division inspectors, from which he shall
make out a general return of the whole strength of the militia of this state,
which he shall lay before the commander in chief, on or before the tenth day of
December in each year; a duplicate of which return he shall, without delay,
forward to the secretary of war of the United States. He shall furnish blank printed forms of
annual returns of divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions and companies, on
or before the first day of April in each year, which, when made out, shall show
the strength, arms and accoutrements, as well as the number of men that have
performed a tour or tours of duty, and the number subject to the next call to
be made on the militia; and the public printer is hereby authorized and print
the same, on application of the adjutant general. All letters and packages coming to, or sent
by him, relative to the duties of his office, by mail, shall be paid for by the
state, on the same being certified by the governor, that they relate to the
duties of his office; which the governor shall certify to the auditor of public
accounts, for payment accordingly. And
he shall perform such other duties as are enjoined on him by the laws of the United States,
and of this state. He shall be entitled
to a compensation for the duties enjoined on him by the laws of this state and
the United States, of one hundred and fifty dollars per annum for which the
auditor or public accounts is hereby required to issue his warrant on the
treasurer for payment accordingly: Provided, however, that he shall produce
the governor’s certificate that the duties of his office shall have been
faithfully performed. Provided, however, that when a
detachment is ordered to march, he shall furnish the necessary blank muster
rolls, morning, weekly and monthly reports, and shall keep a roster of the
general and field officers, to enable the governor to make detail there from;
and the secretary of state is hereby directed to furnish a list of the several
appointments of officers in his office, to the adjutant general.
Uniform. Be it further enacted, That the following shall be the uniform and
equipments of the several officers of militia of this state, to be worn at all
times when they are required by this act to attend.
officer, general, division and brigade staff officer, blue coat and pantaloons,
made in the fashion of the United States dress uniform, yellow buttons, gold
epaulettes, boots, spurs, a round black hat, black cockade, white plume, and
small sword or hanger.
80. Adjutant General.—On the adjutant
General, for failing to perform the duty or duties required of him, any sum not
exceeding fifty dollars.
1816 Acts of the General
Assembly, Commonwealth of Kentucky:
XIX: Section 15. Be it further enacted, That on the
failure of the adjutant general by the tenth December each year, to return to
the major generals any delinquent brigadier generals, for failing to make their
returns by the time required by law, or to report to the governor the failure
of any major general to make his returns by the time required by law, or for
the failure to make his annual returns of the strength of the militia of this
state to the governor and secretary of war of the United States, for each of
such failures shall be subject to a fine of fifty dollars, to be assessed by a
general court martial.
Section 16. Be it further enacted, That within six
months from the passage of this act, the adjutant general shall reside at the
seat of government, or the vicinity thereof; and on his failing to do so his
office shall be considered as vacant, and the governor shall proceed to fill
such vacancy in the same manner as though he had resigned.
The Other Fighting Butler Brothers
Oldest of the
five Butler brothers of Pennsylvania, all of whom served in the Revolutionary
War. Richard was born in Dublin, Ireland
on April 1, 1743. He served as an Ensign
on Colonel Henry Bouquet’s expedition into the Ohio Territory of 1764, later
called Pontiac’s Rebellion. With his
brother William, he subsequently became an Indian trader at Chillicothe, Ohio,
and Fort Pitt. He led a Pennsylvania
Company against Pittsburgh during the dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia
that preceded Lord Dunmore’s War, 1774.
In 1775, Congress appointed him an Indian
agent, in which capacity he was charged with securing the neutrality of a
number of Native American nations.
Commissioned a Captain in the Second Pennsylvania Battalion on June 5,
1776, he was quickly promoted to Major of the Eighth Pennsylvania Continental
Regiment on July 20, 1776. On March 12,
1777, he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel of this regiment. He commanded the regiment at Bound Brook, New
Jersey, on April 13, 1777. Joining
Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen in the spring, he took part in the battles around
Saratoga, New York.
surrender of British General John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne at Saratoga on
October 17, 1777, Butler returned to General George Washington’s army as
Colonel of the Ninth Pennsylvania Battalion, leading this unit at the battle of
Monmouth, June 28, 1778. Taking action
against the British during the Tappan massacre, Butler’s men won a skirmish
above King’s Bridge (Manhattan) on September 30, 1778. At Stony Point, July 16, 1779, Butler
distinguished himself leading the Second regiment of General Anthony Wayne’s
Light Infantry Brigade.
mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line (January 1781), Richard and his brother William
accompanied General Wayne, who had become a close friend, to Princeton to
negotiate with the mutineers; the later insisting that they would only deal
with the Butler brothers. In the
reorganization of January 17, 1781, Butler took command of the Fifth
Pennsylvania Battalion, which became part of Wayne’s Light Infantry, and joined
Gilbert du Montier (General Lafayette in June 1781. He led the attack on John Graves Simcoe’s
troops at Spencer’s Tavern, Virginia, on June 26, and took part in the
engagement at Green Spring, Virginia, on July 6. In the siege of Yorktown he led the Second
Pennsylvania Battalion of Wayne’s Brigade in General Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus
von Steuben’s Division. After the
surrender of General Charles Cornwallis, Richard marched with Wayne to the
Carolinas and subsequently into Georgia.
Butler commanded the Third Pennsylvania Battalion from July 1 to November
3, 1783 and on September 30 of that year was brevetted with the rank of
After the war,
Congress again appointed Butler an Indian commissioner. This time, he acted far more aggressively in
negotiating a series of important boundary treaties during the years from 1784
to 1786. In 1786, he was appointed
Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District. After General Josiah Harmar’s Expedition of
1791 failed so disastrously to enforce these treaties, Butler, who had sat on
the inquiry vindicating Harmar’s conduct, was named Major General of U. S.
Levies. Commanding the right wing of
Arthur St. Clair’s Expedition against the Miami Indians. Richard and Thomas Butler were seriously wounded
in the battle of November 4, 1791, when their brother Edward attempted to
remove both from the battlefield.
Richard ordered Edward to take Thomas and escape to safety and leave
him. Edward and Thomas eventually made
it to safety, Richard died on the field of battle, sacrificing his life to save
the lives of his younger brothers.
Kentucky, formed in 1810, was named in honor of Richard Butler.
Lieutenant Colonel William
Butler (prior to 1748 – 1789)
Entered the War
as Captain in Colonel Arthur St. Clair’s Battalion, January 5, 1776. On October 7, 1776, promoted to Major,
serving during the Canadian campaign. Upon the organization of the Pennsylvania
Line he was promoted September 30, 1776, Lieutenant Colonel, 4th
Pennsylvania Regiment, at Monmouth. Shortly
after the battle of Monmouth he was ordered to Schoharie, New York, with his
regiment and a detachment of Daniel Morgan’s Rifles, to defend the frontiers of
New York from Indian incursions. In June
1779, he joined General James Clinton’s command, and came down the river to
take part in the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition.
He retired from
the service January 1, 1783, and died at Pittsburgh in 1789, and was buried in
First of the
Butler brothers to be born on American soil, he was studying with Judge Wilson
in Philadelphia when he joined the Continental army on January 5, 1776, as a
First Lieutenant in the Second Pennsylvania Battalion. On October 4, 1776, he was promoted to
Captain in the Third Pennsylvania Battalion.
Over the next four years, he fought with General George Washington’s
main army in most of the major engagements of that command.
personally congratulated by General Washington for rallying retreating soldiers
after the battle of Brandywine, and winning the thanks of General Wayne for
covering the retreat of his brother Richard’s regiment at Monmouth.
Thomas retired from the army on January 17,
1781, becoming a farmer in western Pennsylvania. In 1791, he rejoined the army as a Major,
commanding the Carlisle Battalion of Colonel George Gibson’s Regiment. He was twice wounded at the battle of the
Wabash, November 4, 1791. The following
year he was assigned to the Fourth Sub-Legion, Legion of the United
States. He was promoted to Lieutenant
Colonel on July 1, 1794, and took part in Wayne’s western campaigns, which
collimated in the battle of Fallen Timbers.
On April 1, 1802, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, of the Second
U. S. Infantry. He died on September 7,
1805, at New Orleans, Louisiana.
Youngest of the
five brothers, was too young to join the army at the first stages of the
Revolution, but at an early age he was appointed an Ensign of his brother
Richard’s Ninth Pennsylvania Regiment.
January 28, 1779, he was promoted Lieutenant, and continued in the army
until the close of the war were he was serving as a Lieutenant in the Second
Pennsylvania. He became Captain in
Gibson’s Regiment of Pennsylvania Levies in 1791 and was present at the battle
of the Wabash (St. Clair’s Defeat). He
became Anthony Wayne’s Adjutant General in 1796 and was a Major in the
permanent reorganization of the army in 1802.
He died at Fort Wilkinson, Georgia, on May 6, 1803.