Civil War Wiki

Template:Infobox Senator Matthew Calbraith Butler (March 8, 1836 – April 14, 1909) was an American military commander and politician from South Carolina. He served as a major general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, postbellum three-term United States Senator, and a major general in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War.

Early life and career[]

Butler was born at Eagle's Crag near Greenville, South Carolina, to a large and prominent family of politicians and military men.[1] His grandfather was U.S. Congressman William Butler.[1] His mother, Julie, worked as a maid serving various members of congress between 1842 and 1853. His father, William Butler, Jr., was also a Congressman beginning in 1841.[2] His uncle Andrew Butler, was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and uncle Pierce Mason Butler was Governor of South Carolina.[2] One of Matthew Butler's first cousins was Congressman Preston Brooks, who assaulted Senator Charles Sumner in 1856 on the floor of the U.S. Senate with a gutta-percha cane because Sumner had insulted Senator Andrew Butler, at whose home Matthew lived as a young man.[3]

Butler was the nephew of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and Matthew Calbraith Perry, and the son-in-law of South Carolina Governor Francis Wilkinson Pickens.[4] Two of Butler's first cousins twice removed were James Bonham (killed at the Battle of the Alamo) and Confederate General Milledge Luke Bonham.[5]

In 1848 Butler went with his father to Arkansas, but returned in 1851 to live with his uncle, who resided in Edgefield, South Carolina. He received his initial education in the city's Edgefield Academy, and then attended the South Carolina College, graduating in 1856. He then studied law, was admitted to the state's bar association in 1857, and then began practicing as a lawyer in Edgefield.[6] On February 25, 1858, Butler married Maria Calhoun Pickens, the daughter of Francis Pickens. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1860, but resigned in 1861 when the American Civil War began.[7]

Civil War[]


1862's Peninsula Campaign

Butler entered the army of the Confederate States of America as a cavalry captain in Hampton's Legion on June 12, 1861, fought during the First Battle of Bull Run, and was promoted to major on July 21. He participated in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, and saw combat in the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, where he "fought gallantly."[6] Promoted to colonel of the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry on August 22, he took part in Second Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Antietam, Monocacy Bridge, and the Chambersburg Raid.[8] He also fought during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign. On June 9 he lost his right foot near Stevensburg, Virginia, in an action that was a part of the Battle of Brandy Station.[9]

After recovering from his injury, Butler was promoted to brigadier general on September 1, 1863, succeeding Major General Wade Hampton III to brigade command.[10] He led cavalry at the Battle of the Wilderness, Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, and the Battle of Trevilian Station. On September 27, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of major general.[11] During the Carolinas Campaign in early 1865, he led the rear guard of Lieutenant General William J. Hardee's army in South Carolina. On March 10, 1865, Butler led his unit in the Battle of Monroe's Crossroads under Hampton's command.[10] He ended the war as a division commander under Hampton, surrendering to the Union Army at Bennett Place on April 26.[12] He was paroled on May 1, pardoned on October 27, and allowed to go home to Edgefield.[11]


Financially ruined as a result of the war, Butler resumed his career as a lawyer in Edgefield and served in the South Carolina House of Representatives beginning in 1866.[6] He became a member of the Democratic Party and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1870.[1] In 1877, as Reconstruction ended and the Democratic Party regained control of the state, he was elected by the South Carolina state legislature to the United States Senate.[10] He also played a role in the Hamburg Massacre.[13] He served in the U.S. Senate for three terms, from 1877 to 1895, but lost the Democratic primary in 1894 to Benjamin Tillman.[14] He served on the Senate Foreign Relations, Territories, Military Affairs, Naval Affairs, Interstate Commerce, Civil Service and Retrenchment committees.[1]

Butler then practiced law in Washington, D.C., until 1898, when he was appointed major general of U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish-American War, one of a handful of former Confederate officers to serve in the U.S. Army during that campaign[10]. After the American victory that year, he supervised the evacuation of Spanish troops from Cuba.[15] He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on April 15, 1899.[16]

In 1903, Butler was elected vice president of the Southern Historical Society, and in 1904 he relocated to Mexico, where he served as president of a mining company. Two years later he married Nannie Whitman, after his wife Maria had died years before. Butler died in 1909 while semi-retired in Washington, D.C. His body was returned to Edgefield, South Carolina, where he was buried in the city's Willow Brook Cemetery.[6]

The Matthew C. Butler Camp #12 of the South Carolina Society of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars is named in his honor.[citation needed]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Boyd, p. 67.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hess, p. 649.
  3. Martin, p. 8.
  4. Wittenberg, p. 19.
  5. Burton, pp. 66–67.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Wakelyn, p. 119.
  7. Martin, pp. 11–12.
  8. Eicher, p. 157; Emerson, p. 78.
  9. Emerson, p. 78; Warner, p. 40.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Welsh, p. 32.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Eicher, p. 157.
  12. Madigan, p. 181.
  13. Trefousse, p. 100.
  14. United States Congress, p. 66.
  15. Porter, p. 44.
  16. Warner, p. 41.

See also[]


  • Boyd, James Penny; "Vital Questions of the Day: Or Historic and Economic Reviews of the Issues of Labor ... Tariff Legislation ...", Publisher's union, (1894)
  • Burton, Orville Vernon; "My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina", UNC Press, (1987) ISBN 0-8078-4183-8.
  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Emerson, W. Eric; "Sons of Privilege: The Charleston Light Dragoons in the Civil War", University of South Carolina Press, (2005) ISBN 1-57003-592-X.
  • Hess, Stephen; "America's Political Dynasties", Transaction Publishers, (1997) ISBN 1-56000-911-X.
  • Madigan, Patrick F.; "A Biographical Index of American Public Men", BiblioBazaar, (2008) ISBN 0-554-40642-X.
  • Martin, Samuel J., Southern Hero, Matthew Calbraith Butler, Stackpole Books, (2001) ISBN 0-8117-0899-3- .
  • Porter, Robert Percival; "Industrial Cuba: Being a Study of Present Commercial and Industrial Conditions, with Suggestions as to the Opportunities Presented in the Island for American Capital, Enterprise, and Labour", G. P. Putnam's Sons, (1899).
  • Wakelyn, Jon L., Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy, Greenwood Press, 1977, ISBN 0-8371-6124-X.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: The Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0807108235
  • Welsh, Jack D.; "Medical Histories of Confederate Generals", Kent State University Press, (1999) ISBN 0-87338-649-3.
  • Wittenberg, Eric J., Rhea, Gordon C.; "Glory Enough for All: Sheridan's Second Raid and the Battle of Trevilian Station", University of Nebraska Press, (2007) ISBN 0-8032-5967-0.
  • United States Congress; "Official Congressional Directory" (1882).

Further reading[]

  • Brooks, Ulysses Robert, Butler and His Cavalry in the War of Secession 1861–1865. original date of publication 1909, republished, 1991 J.J. Fox, Camden, South Carolina: South Carolina Regimentals Series, by Guild Bindery Press, Oxford Miss.
  • Martin, Samuel J., Southern Hero: Matthew Calbraith Butler, Confederate General, Hampton Redshirt, and U.S. Senator. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2001. ISBN 0-8117-0899-3.
  • Official Report of the "Battle of Hamburg" (a.k.a. "Hamburg Massacre")

External links[]

Template:Start box |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States Senate Template:U.S. Senator box |} Template:USSenSC

de:Matthew Calbraith Butler sv:Matthew Butler