“With the utmost fidelity and honor.”

Article by SFC(R) John Trowbridge

Percival Pierce Butler, Kentucky’s First Adjutant General.

PP Butler Plaque

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 . . .”          

The military 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)

Lieutenant Colonel William Butler (1748 – 1789)

Colonel Thomas Butler, Jr. (1754 – 1805)

Captain Percival 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 in Carrollton:

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 laws.

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:

            The 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:

            Decision 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.

                        Christo. 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 honor.    

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 Kentucky

Chapter 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 resigned.

In response, 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: 1792-1816.

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, 1792.

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. . .

Chapter 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 payment accordingly. 

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 state.

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:–

            Be 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

Chapter 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.

Section 78. 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.

Every general 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.

            Section 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:

Chapter 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

Major General Richard Butler (1743 – 1791)

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.

After the 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.

During the 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 Brigadier General.

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.    

Butler County, 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 Trinity Churchyard.

Colonel Thomas Butler, Jr. (1754 – 1805)

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. 

He was 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.

Captain Edward Butler (1762 – 1803)

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.

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