The First Families Project - SC - Edgefield County - Butler Family
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 Williamsburg. 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 raid. He commanded the main part of his brigade in the Dumfries expedition of December, 1862, and in June, I863, 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 infantry. 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 Hampton. 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 representative. 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. After 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 - SC Volume