Various locations: 1847-1848. Card. There are six stampless folded letters in this archive. Three letters from Butler’s wife (one from 1847 and two from 1848) regarding family matters and the management of their Louisiana sugar plantation, an 1848 letter-order from the War Department Adjutant General appointing Butler to investigate General Winfield Scott’s charges against Major General Gideon Pillow, an 1848 letter from General John E. Wool regarding occupation duty in Mexico, and an 1848 post-war letter informing Butler that he is to be presented with a General Officer’s Sword for his performance as the regimental commander of the 3rd U.S. Dragoons and subsequent appointment as the Major General of the Louisiana Militia.
The letters Butler’s wife, Francis Park Lewis, sent from Dunboyne, their large sugar plantation in Louisiana’s Iberville Parish, contain a total of about 15 text pages. All are unfranked and un-postmarked suggesting they were likely sent by military courier as all are addressed to “3rd Dragoons U.S.A / Mexico”, two in “Care of Major Eastland” at Brazos Santiago, Texas. The text is cross-hatched, faint, and difficult to read, although Photoshop manipulation of scans makes it much easier. They concern family news, Butler’s health and safety (“On Thursday I had the happiness of receiving your kind welcome letters . . . and rejoice to find you well although Peace is not [yet] certain.”), and Francis’s management of Dunboyne during Edward’s absence (“Write me a letter. . . authorizing me in your name . . . to borrow 20 to 30,000$. . .. At 6 years what a blessing it would be, for we could pay all due and buy negros besides and easily pay principal and interest.”)
The two-page War Department letter appointing Butler as a member of a court of inquiry with regard to the infamous Scott-Pillow dispute is datelined “Adjutant General’s Office / Washington, January 13, 1848 / General Orders: No. 2”. It is unaddressed and without postal markings. The inquiry investigated charges that Pillow – appointed as a Major General by his long-time friend, President James K. Polk – published an anonymous letter proclaiming that he was personally responsible for the army’s victories at Contreras and Churubusco. When his intrigue was exposed, General Scott had him arrested and court-martialed. Although, all concerned believed him guilty, Pillow escaped conviction and punishment when an associate, Major Archibald W. Burns, claimed that he had written the anonymous letter. Still, Pillow was discharged from the Army following the trial. Interestingly, Pillow later served as a general in the Confederate Army where he was widely reviled as cowardly and incompetent. (See Sifakis’s Who Was Who in the Civil War).
The two-page letter from General John E. Wool, Butler’s commander during the subsequent occupation of Mexico and one of the most respected and capable commanders of the war, is datelined “Monterey / 2d March 1848”. It was no doubt hand-delivered as it bears neither an address nor any postal markings. In it, Wool apologizes for being too busy to write a formal letter but assures Butler that he approves of “the course you have pursued toward [General] Garnales and the Mexicans” and clarifies that the reason he issued an “order of amnesty” was “in consequence of the disappearance of the guerrillas. . ..” He also assures Butler that he will deal with the Quartermaster’s reluctance to provide needed horses for the dragoons.
The final one-page letter in this group was sent to Butler after the 3rd Dragoon Regiment was disbanded, and he had returned home to his plantation where he was appointed as a Major General in the Louisiana Militia. It was from a committee representing Butler’s “affectionate friends” and datelined “Bayou Goula Aug the 30th 1848.” It, too, was hand-delivered as it bears no postal markings. In it, the committee informed Butler that he was to be presented with a sword recognizing that it was through his actions “that Genl Ganalis the Robber and Assassin was driven, day after day, from Rancho, to Rancho until he could find no rest in his own native mountains . . . thereby preventing much loss of valuable lives and property.” Butler’s sword, a M1840 General Officer’s Sword was recently sold at Michael Simens’ Historical Antiques.. Very good. Item #009684
Edward George Washington Butler, a ward of Andrew Jackson, graduated from West Point in 1820. After spending ten years on active duty, he returned to Dunboyne, his large Louisiana sugar plantation, and continue to serve in the Louisiana militia. During the Mexican-American War, Butler returned to active service and commanded the 3rd Regiment of U.S. Dragoons. He campaigned in Central Mexico, fighting at the Siege of Vera Cruz, the Battle of Churubusco, and the Battle of Molino del Rey. The dragoons were later assigned to General Joseph Lane and ordered pursue General Santa Anna and eliminate of the Jarauta guerillas. Following the war, Butler returned to his plantation. At the onset of the Civil War, he refused an offer of a senior command in the Confederate Army.
For more information see Plater’s The Butlers of Iberville Parish, Louisiana: Dunboyne Plantation in the 1800s, “3rd U.S. Dragoons” online at Wikipedia, “Wool, John Ellis (1784-1869) online in the Handbook of Texas, and “Gideon J. Pillow” online at the American Battlefield Trust.
A unique collection of personal letters and documents relating to a prominent, though little remembered, commander during the Mexican-American War, and his wife’s life at their Louisiana sugar plantation during his absence.
At the time of listing, there are no General Butler or Dunboyne Plantation letters or documents for sale in the trade. There are no auction records of General Butler materials at the Rare Book Hub or Worthpoint. OCLC shows only one General Butler item held by an institution; it is a letter to Butler from General Zachary Taylor reporting on the Battle of Buena Vista and discussing Taylor’s possible Presidential candidacy (See William Reese Co.’s Catalogue 300: One Hundred Rare Americanum).