Robert Butler Background

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The evidence identifies the Butler of the Iowa soldiers’ account as Robert J. Butler whose plantation sat upon the aptly named Butler’s Hill. This land is now the City of North Augusta in Aiken County, South Carolina. In 1865, it would have sat within the southwestern corner Edgefield District, a region known for its fine homes and political power players. In the northwest section of the district lived another Butler family, of distant if any relation, which had become one of the state’s wealthiest families and bonified political dynasty producing two Congressman, a Senator, and a Governor of the South Carolina in the first sixty years of the republic. They were members of ruling planter class in the least democratic state in the nation.…show more content…
In the 1840 Census, the household of Robert Butler is listed as including thirteen enslaved people. By 1850, Robert and Catherine Butler’s household included six children, Catherine’s mother-in-law and 28 enslaved people. Butler made his fortune as a slavecatcher. Louis Schiller, a black man from Hamburg, would testify in 1876 that Butler “was an old negro-hunter. He has made his living, all he had made, by hunting negroes before the war. He kept a large number of hounds.” The term “bloodhounds” is used here as it was colloquially in the nineteenth century in reference not to a particular breed of dogs, but rather to any dog employed in the purpose of pursuing human fugitives. Also known as “negro dogs,” these animals were scent dogs of a variety of breeds. Their specialized training for the pursuit of enslaved people could entail their trainers dispatching enslaved people to serve as objectives for the dogs in practice chases. Successful slavecatchers like Butler would have taken great pride in the prowess of the dogs, a factor measured by the speed in which they could capture runaways. It was not uncommon for prowess of dogs to feature in advertisements in local papers. A well-trained negro dog could fetch a high price. Despite the involvement of some prominent men most notably President Zachary Taylor in breeding dogs, professional slavecatching with dogs was typically performed by men like Butler, without an upbringing…show more content…
were riding the family buggy to the nearby town of Hamburg when they encountered Lieutenant Colonel John David Twiggs, a Confederate officer and prominent member of the local planter aristocracy, at a crossroads. The two men seem to have been previously engaged in a dispute, possibly over the sale of an enslaved person. It appears to have been the position of the Butler family that the dispute had been settled and a third party named Bowers stirred up a new controversy. Colonel Twiggs and Robert Butler Jr. were both killed. The local newspaper, the Edgefield Advertiser, would report Twiggs fired first mortally wounding Robert Jr. and then Robert Sr. returned fire killing Twiggs instantly. This account almost certainly came from Butler himself as there were no reported witnesses. Both men killed in the “sad affair” were commended by the newspaper which did not speculate as to cause of the conflict: Twiggs was “a gentleman and a soldier of the highest and most irreproachable character” and Robert Jr. “gave promise of a most useful and honorable manhood.” An obituary for Robert Butler Jr. would provide no detail describing the “unhappy combat” which cost him his life. Twiggs’s obituary would allude to him dying in defense of his
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