Private, Revolutionary War
My Third Great-Grandfather
Until about ten to fifteen years ago, I was not aware of any Irish heritage. Although my parents has always "celebrated" St. Patrick's Day, it was because that was their wedding anniversary day, not because we were Irish, or had Irish blood.
For a few years, I had been doing research, off and on, to overcome my Aunt LVene's (historically the family genealogist on my father's line - even a "book") comment: "We don't know much about Grandpa Preston." My wife and I figured out fairly early on that it wasn't that she didn't know (she was too smart and good for that) - it was that "She didn't want to talk about him" because of some family conflicts that had occurred earlier and during her lifetime. While we respected her for her position, we were certainly not taking that for a final answer; this was my great-grandfather, after all.
His story is told elsewhere, off course; he is my father's mother's father: James P. Preston. In the information we found on him, we discovered his mother was Asenath Butler, the daughter of John Butler, who fought in the Revolutionary War. It turned out that our John Butler (there are thousands - it seems - by the way) was actually born in 1745 in Cookeny Parish, County Wicklow, Ireland! This is my third Great-Grandfather. I do have Irish blood.
About the same time that we were visiting northwest Ohio to gather some of this information, and share it with others, in hopes of learning more, it came to our attention that the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) were researching Rev War soldiers that were buried in the area. They had identified our John Butler as being buried near the small town of Florida, a few miles east of Defiance, Ohio, along the Maumee River. He died in Richland Twp, Williams Hull Co, Ohio, 22 Nov 1830. The SAR placed a marker for him and held a ceremony. I was unable to attend, but did receive a photo and a VHS video tape of the event.
What more do we know about our John Butler? He served as a private throughout the war and believed that he continued to serve as a soldier through the War of 1812, although only his service in the Rev War is recognized in US military records. He likely served with various state and/or local militias, which we continue to attempt to identify. This is based on his pension files information. He was "serving" or at least living in Detroit at the time it was surrendered to the British by US General William Hull. Gen Hull said he surrendered in order to save the lives of the several hundred civilians there who would surely have been massacred by the Indian allies of the British. By way of the surrender, the civilians were allowed passage back down to Ohio. That is how they got there for his daughter, Asenath, to meet and marry William Preston in Defiance in 1820. Thank you General Hull. General Hull received a court martial for his actions, but I will always thank him, every chance I get. This is based on information left behind by Asenath, retold many times to her family through her long life (1803-1888), and generally confirmed by our subsequent research.
While his father, James Butler, never left Ireland, two brothers did, and served with John in the Rev War. James' brother, Thomas Butler, had come previously to the USA and had a gun shop in Carlisle, PA. Thomas was a supplier of guns to Gen. George Washington and the US army - I've seen the paperwork. Thomas had five sons, first cousins to our John, who all served as Officers in the Rev War and some later in the Mexican War. They were touted as the "Fighting Butlers" later by LaFayette. I'll post that story later, as well, of course. All eight Butler soldiers (first cousins) appear to have served at Valley Forge with Washington. The gun shop building still stands in Carlisle - I have photos of our visit - and a prominent plaque stands on a nearby street celebrating the contributions of Thomas to the war effort.
Finally, there are at least three mysteries regarding our John Butler I continue to research, and I would appreciate help or suggestions:
1. Where did he serve, and where was he between 1782 and 1803?
2. Who was his wife, Lena, and where did he meet her? What became of her?
3. There were apparently two to four sons of John and Lena Butler in NW Ohio around the time daughter, Asenath, married William Preston... what became of them?
Families are Forever! ;-)