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Weston Wagons West, Ep. W9 - John Weston Followed the Butler Brothers' Next Generation

Updated on November 20, 2017
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

William Orlando Butler

Butler in his military uniform
Butler in his military uniform | Source

Pierce Butler fathered distinguished descendants

Pierce (given name Percival) Butler was not only a soldier of the Revolutionary War and the first Adjutant General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky but the father and grandfather of a number of distinguished soldiers and citizens of these United States. We can only mention a few, but let us do that from the notes and letters of our John Weston who watched them both up close and from a distance. They will get to William Orlando Butler, the most distinguished of the group, a bit further on.

The second child of Percival and Mildred, first son, was Thomas Langford Butler. Born in 1789, he moved with his family to Port William in 1796, receiving early education from Revs. Bishop and Sharp. From 1804 to 1809 he acted as deputy clerk in the office of General Bodley of Lexington and at the same time attended Transylvania College. In 1809 he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. In 1813 he was commissioned Captain and served with the Twenty-eighth Regiment in the Northwest campaign under General Harrison. In June, 1814, he was appointed Aide-de-camp of General Andrew Jackson and was at the signing of the treaty with the Creek Indians. He marched with General Jackson to New Orleans and he was entrusted with the command of that city during the great battle there. For his gallantry during the siege of New Orleans, he was brevetted Major.

At the end of the war, Major Butler resigned his commission in the army, though urged by Jackson to remain. He was appointed surveyor and inspector of the port of New Orleans by President Madison. He held the office only a short time before returning to his old home at Port William (later Carrollton), Kentucky. He was a successful planter until 1819 when he was elected Sheriff of Gallatin County, an office he held for six years. He served two years (1826-1828) in the Legislature from that county and retired to his plantation. In 1847 he was elected to another 2 year term in the Legislature but declined to run again. Major Butler lived past 91 years. He died in October 1880.

Richard Parker Butler, fourth son of Percival and Mildred, was a soldier, lawyer, planter and politician, as well. He served for many years as Clerk of the Carroll Circuit Court. Pierce, fifth son, graduated in the collegiate and law departments of Transylvania and practiced law in Lexington and elsewhere. He served several terms in the legislature represented different districts. At least two of his sons had active military careers. Husbands of daughters were known political and military figures of the time.

Presidential Campaign Poster

Cass-Butler Campaign Poster
Cass-Butler Campaign Poster | Source

William O. Butler earned his promotions

William O. (Orlando) Butler was advanced to corporal before his company marched to Fort Wayne. He was offered an ensign commission, but only accepted it when he was allowed to continue in the Northwest campaign, under General Winchester. Ensign Butler distinguished himself against the Indians at French Town. However, in subsequent actions, he was wounded and taken prisoner, and transported to Fort Niagara. There, still with no attention to his wounds, he made his way to Pittsburgh and by flat-boat back to his home in Kentucky. It took him several months to recover. He then accepted a Captaincy in a newly raised company. After some training, he marched his men to Nashville where he joined General Andrew Jackson's army. Their march through wilderness to join General Jackson received attention for the difficulties they overcame. They participated actively in the storming and capture of Pensacola in November of 1814.

During the Battle of New Orleans, Captain Butler was recognized for three individual acts of extraordinary bravery and courage, both individually and as leader of his company. After the battle, Captain Butler was given command of a detail to gather up the British dead. He received the brevet rank of Major for his gallant services at New Orleans as well as a lengthy letter of commendation from General Andrew Jackson, himself. Following the battle, he went home to Kentucky on furlough for six months, but returned in the fall of 1815 as aide-de-camp to General Jackson, with the rank of Colonel. In May of 1817, he resigned from the army and returned to practice law in his hometown. There he married Eliza A. Todd, daughter of General Robert Todd. They had a long married life but were never blessed with children.

In the fall of 1817 he served a two year term in the state legislature but declined to run for reelection. In 1839, he was elected to a term in Congress and was reelected once but declined a third term.

In June of 1846, President Polk called Colonel Butler from his rural retirement at Carrollton, Kentucky, to assume the high rank of Major General of volunteers and on his acceptance the President ordered him to Mexico to command the volunteers raised to support General Zachary Taylor in his invasion of Mexico.

NARA photo of Butler in later years

Butler in his later years, by Mathew Brady
Butler in his later years, by Mathew Brady | Source

Butler in Mexican War and as Democratic Vice Presidential candidate

William Orlando Butler commanded the 1st Volunteer Division of the Army of Occupation in Mexico. Serving as second-in-command to Zachary Taylor, he was wounded in the Battle of Monterrey. On the 18th of February of 1848, he became the commanding general of the American army in Mexico City, succeeding General WInfield Scott. He left the service in August of 1848 when he became the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. In the November election, the ticket of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore received 193 electoral voles to 127 for Lewis Cass and William O. Butler.

In 1851, Butler ran for the U.S. Senate for his party, but was defeated. He was offered the position of governor of the Nebraska Territory, in 1855, but he declined to leave his peaceful retirement in Carrollton, Kentucky.

Butler did leave Carrollton for one assignment. He served, in 1861, as one of the six peace commissioners from Kentucky to the Peace Conference at Washington held at the request of the Legislature of Kentucky. Congress rejected the recommendation of the Peace Conference. Butler stood firmly for the Union.

Historian General Francis P. Blair had this to say about General Butler, in Graham's Magazine, in 1848: "In person, General Butler is tall, straight and handsomely formed, exceedingly active and alert; his mien is inviting; his manners graceful; his gait and air military; countenance frank and pleasing; the outline of his features of the aquiline cast, thin and pointed in expression; the general contour of his head is Roman."

He died in Carrollton in 1880 at the age of 89 of natural causes. He was buried in the Butler Cemetery which in located behind the General Butler State Resort Park, named in his honor.

Historical note by the author

As with prior Weston Wagon West episodes, all members of the Weston family, their spouses and children, are fictional. All other characters and places are based on actual historical figures and places, used fictionally while retaining their historical detail as closely as feasible based on known historical records. For example, the author is a 2nd Cousin, 4 times (generations) removed of William Orlando Butler.

Much of the detail of the Butler family in this episode relied on the 1904 book, "The Butler Family in America," complied by William David Butler of St. Louis, MO, John Cromwell Butler, late of Denver, CO, and Joseph Marion Butler, of Chicago, IL. Other material was drawn from Wikipedia articles and extended family history and genealogy research of the author, supported by his wife, and other family contributors.


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