Maj. Butler Scolds Son For Being Lazy; Says Wife Should Use Salt Peter For Sale
9 ½” x 8”, 3 pp, ALS, with additional 1 pp postscript, from Major John B. Butler to his son Jack, Pittsburgh, May 1864. Butler signs the letter three times. Comes with Butler’s obituary from The New York Times.
Major Butler (1793-1870) retired from the U.S. Army, after having fought in three wars – War of 1812 and the Mexican War. He enlisted in the War of 1812 at 19 and served as a private. During the Mexican War, he served as paymaster under Gen. Taylor’s immediate command. After the war, he was stationed at the Allegheny Arsenal.
Butler came to Pittsburgh in 1813-14 and worked in the printing business with the founders of the Pittsburg Gazette, then was in a partnership in the book and job printing business. He purchased and ran the newspaper, "The Statesman."
He was a member of the Baltimore National Convention in 1846, Recorder of Deeds, a commissioner and president of the Pennsylvania Canal Commissioner. He also served as President of the Monongahela Navigation Company.
The Alice mentioned in this letter was Alice Lafferty Butler, married to Major Butler's son (Jack's brother), Joseph C. Butler (1823-73). Joseph was President of the Cincinnati Board of Trade. The same year of this letter (1864) Joseph ran for the U.S. Congress (as a Democrat) representing Cincinnati. He lost by 2,500 votes to General Rutherford B. Hayes.
Major Butler’s son, Jack was John Gazzam Butler (1842-1914), who graduated from West Point in 1863. After graduating he was appointed 2d Lt. of Battery M, 4th U. S. Artillery in the Army of the Cumberland, Tenn. campaign. He was Brevetted for gallant and meritorious services in battle of Chickamauga. He was then transferred to Ordnance Corps in 1864. After the war he stayed in the Army and served on various special duties and at 15 Arsenals and stations over a 40 year period, retiring in 1904 as a Brigadier General in the regular army. He also held a few U.S. Patents for improvements to ordnance and armaments.
In part: "...Had a very pleasant trip and visit to and at Cincinnati... Alice told he you made a decided hit on your ‘first appearance’ at Cincinnati, especially at Judge Hiltons. Nora, Lucy, the Judge, and a young lady (name not remembered) were enamored by you. Dear Alice is proud and was pleased with the report, because you are her brother-in-law. I am glad she is so easily pleased and for so slight a cause & for so small a matter...
“I had the satisfaction of seeing mother…I presume you have heard of her arrival in St. Louis...She will receive and give much pleasure during her visit to the ‘Far West’
“...Lieut. Farley has returned with a wife...I will call on them soon, not to congratulate them, but to console with them over their future prospects of break ups, tear ups, stampedes and separations. It is possible that you may meet with young ladies as easily subdued by yellow buttons, as was Mrs. Hilton, Lucy and that young lady referred to-- such persons are easily taken in by brass, a sword belt, and a small foot. And poor old men, as green and soft as Judge Hilton, would not object to be-knight so belted and footed for a son-in-law. But you [should] be informed that I do not want any more daughters-in-law...at least not until you have judgment & sense enough to choose aright! ‘Beauty and bright eyes’ -- Bitumen, charcoal, brimstone and salt-peter. These are the qualities and materials for a Soldiers wife, provided she has the skill and courage to use them... Your excuses for omissions & neglects [for writing] are generally good, especially as you furnish such good reasons for them. Your last apology to me was that you had no reason. A good one I admit, especially the ‘reason’ part of it.
“Matters are going on briskly at the Arsenal. Mrs. Whitely has been very ill...The death of her son has depressed the family very much....
“I send by current mail, a Chronicle, which contains a diagram or map of the new goegothy of the Army of the Potomac...
”Present me respectfully and kindly to the Major, his lady & daughter, to Lt. Field & Rockwell-- Your friend and father John B. Butler.
"P.S. On my return I stopped at Columbus & saw General Heintzelman, Colonel Burbanks, Major Wallace, Governor Brough, the Adjt. General and the Provost Marshall, and enjoyed myself... J.B.B.
[Additional page of postscript] P.S. Dear Jack; Your mother, sisters and brothers are fond and proud of you. Why or wherefore I do not know. Perhaps you do, and if so, tell me. You are vain, conceited, & lazy. I like conceit and vanity, provided a man has anything to show for them...I have run my course. It is one that has not ever disgraced my children. It never shall.. I have ceased from my labors. You are but just commencing your career. You will be watched by many. I shall be anxious to have you and all my sons do well for their own reputation, and render efficient and honorable service to society and to the country. You have a practical sense and a good memory [but] your are mentally deficient and lazy. I want you to read more. Say Shakespeare, the New Testament, Pope…and to study your professional works. Do this and in 5 years you will stand A No. 1 in your profession and as a scholar, and a gentleman. I hope to live for 5 years longer and to be able to discover that you have taken my advice, and secured the reputation that its adoption will be certain to give to you. Truly your friend. J. B. Butler."
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