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Confederate General Matthew Calbraith Butler

Item CON-10211
Price: $80.00


Major-General Matthew Calbraith Butler was born near
Greenville, S. C., March 6, 1836. His father was Dr. William
Butler, an assistant surgeon in the United States navy, and a
congressman in 1841; his mother, Jane T., daughter of Captain
Perry, U. S. N., of Newport, R. I., and sister of Commodore
Oliver H. Perry and Matthew Calbraith Perry.

Judge A. P. Butler, United States senator, and Gov. Pierce M.
Butler, colonel of the Palmetto regiment and killed at
Churubusco, were his uncles; his grandfather, Gen. William
Butler, was a gallant officer of the revolutionary army, and
his great-grandfather, Capt. James Butler, a native of Loudoun
county, Va., was the founder of the family in North Carolina.

In childhood he accompanied his father to Arkansas, but after
the latter's death returned to South Carolina in 1851, and
made his home with Senator A. P. Butler near Edgefield. He
was educated at the South Carolina college, and then reading
law was admitted to practice in 1857.

In the following year he was married to Maria, daughter of
Gov. F. W. Pickens. He was elected to the legislature in
1860, but before the conclusion of his term, entered the
military service of his State as captain of a company of
cavalry in Hampton's legion.

This command took a distinguished part in the first battle of
Manassas, and Captain Butler was promoted major to date from
July 21st, the beginning of his famous career in the cavalry
of the army of Northern Virginia. He commanded the cavalry of
the legion under Stuart in the withdrawal of the troops from
Yorktown, and was warmly commended for gallantry at

In August, 1862, he was promoted to colonel of the Second
regiment, South Carolina cavalry, Hampton's brigade, and in
this rank he participated in the Second Manassas and Maryland
campaigns, winning favorable mention for gallant leadership in
the affair at Monocacy bridge, and in Stuart's Chambersburg

He commanded the main part of his brigade in the Dumfries
expedition of December, 1862, and in June, 1863, he was one of
the most conspicuous leaders in the famous cavalry battle of
Brandy Station. Here he was severely wounded by a shell,
losing his right foot, and promotion to brigadier-general
followed in September.

Returning to service before his wound healed he was sent home
to recover. He succeeded General Hampton in brigade command,
and took part in the fall campaigns of the army in 1863, and
throughout the famous struggle of 1864, at the Wilderness,
Spottsylvania, and before Richmond in opposition to Sheridan,
he was one of the heroic figures of this last great campaign
of the Confederate armies.

The reports of Sheridan himself attest the splendid fighting
of Butler and his brigade at Hawe's Shop and Cold Harbor. At
Trevilian Station he was in command of Hampton's division, and
repulsed seven distinct and determined assaults by the largely
superior forces under Sheridan, his command occupying the most
important point of the Confederate line and fighting as

In September he was promoted major-general, and in the spring
of 1865 he was detached with a small division for the campaign
against Sherman in the Carolinas. He commanded the rear guard
of Hardee's army at the evacuation of Columbia and Cheraw, and
at the last had division command of cavalry, his forces and
Gen. Joe Wheeler's forming the command of Lieut.-Gen. Wade

The close of the war left him in financial ruin, but he
bravely met the exigencies of the occasion, and in a short
time attained national repute for the firmness and boldness
with which he handled the political questions which concerned
the essentials of the reorganized social life. While he
powerfully advocated obedience to the reconstruction measures
as the law, law being preferable to chaos, he receded at no
time from a persistent opposition to infringements on good
government, and was largely instrumental in securing the
election of Gov. Wade Hampton.

In 1876 he was elected to the United States Senate, where his
admission was met by a storm of partisan protest which is
memorable in the history of the nation, but his career of
eighteen years in that exalted body vindicated the good
judgment and patriotism of the State which deputed him as its

In the stormy days of sectional debate in Congress he was one
of the foremost champions of the South, but at a later period
he was enabled to make a splendid record in constructive
statesmanship by his staunch advocacy of a strong navy, of
civil service reform, and other measures now settled in
national policy. A fter the expiration of his service in the
Senate, March, 1895, he engaged in the practice of law at
Washington, D. C.

In 1898 he was appointed a major-general in the volunteer army
of the United States, for the war with Spain, and after peace
was secured he served as a member of the commission for the
removal of the Spanish forces from Cuba.

Source: Confederate Military History, vol. VI, p. 380