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9th Michigan Cavalry Letter by Sergt. William Butler – Describes the Pursuit of Morgan & the Battle of Buffington Island - “I did not wish to waste shots and so got but one opportunity to fire. It was at a single man and judging from the blood splattered on the corn through which he passed, the shot must have taken effect.” – The Best Account of Fighting Morgan that we have Seen
William Butler was an 18 year old from Niles, Michigan. He was mustered in to Company L, 1st Battalion, of the 9th Michigan Cavalry on January 22nd, 1863. 6 months later he and his regiment were in hot pursuit of Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan. The letter is 4 pages written on legal size stationery. It is written in pencil (as they were on the move), but at the bottom of the last page the recipient (Louie) repeats his address in ink so as to be easily read. At the top he also writes in ink, “Answered August 6th, 1863”. The 9th Michigan Cavalry was hard fought. On the Civil War Database there are 98 rows of skirmishes and battles. Poor William Butler was wounded on August 27th, 1864 at Mt. Gilead Church, Georgia and died of his wounds two weeks later. He is buried in gravesite G-8344 in the Marietta National Cemetery.


The letter is headed, “Camp near Pomeroy, Ohio July 23, 63”. Here are the interesting parts:

• “It has been so long since I have written or received a letter that I have almost forgotten which of us wrote last. So I have seated myself on the mountains side with this large sheet of paper before me to try and interest my faithful friend Louie.”

• “I HAVE (WITH MY REGT.) BEEN CHASING JOHN MORGAN AND HIS MEN EVER SINCE THE "4" OF JULY.”

• “On the first of the month we shooed him from Lebanon, Kentucky and followed him many weary miles through that state, until we found ourselves on the banks of the Ohio at Westport.”

• “While we were wandering for what we were brought there, a fleet consisting of Gunboats and transports hove in sight which soon landed. Our company embarked on board the John Dove and we were soon plowing our way slowly up the Ohio.”

• “Morgan was there in Indiana, and at every point when we stopped we would learn that he had passed a few miles back of there a few hours before us, stealing horses, robbing stores and burning bridges, in his hurried march.”

• “Finally our fleet hove in sight of the lower city and we were soon tied at the levy. Here we stayed at night and the next morning we mounted our horses and started to intercept Morgan.”

• “On getting about 5 or 8 miles from Leavenworth we learned that he had passed during the night. So we took the pursuit. We followed him almost night and day until Sunday last, when we cornered him at a Ford near a small village named Portland, about 30 miles below Buffington Island.”

• “On our route we passed through a great many towns where we heard the same old complaint of stores plundered and bridges burned.”

• “On our route we passed (Excuse me for tonight. I have to make out another detail and it's late I'm sleepy. Goodnight pleasant dreams. I will not have time for sleep on a hillside so steep a stone will roll down it and there are plenty here).”

• “Good morning to you as the country man says, and it is a good morning for the sun shines bright making the trees to cast long shadows on the hillside and checking my paper with dancing images as it flickers through the leaves. I left you last night rather unnecessarily but when duty calls us here we are bound to respond promptly, no excuse being sufficient.”

• “Let's see, I was telling of our Morgan's hunt and was about to remark the number of poor worn out horses we passed on the route. We came up with Morgan on Sunday. He had come to the river to ford but the Gunboats prevented him.”

• “As soon as the two parties met, Skirmishers were thrown out to engage the enemy. I WAS ORDERED OUT WITH TWENTY MEN. We found him in full retreat.”

• “OUR MEN FIRED SEVERAL SHOTS AT HIM TO WHICH HE REPLIED PROMPTLY.”

• “I DID NOT WISH TO WASTE SHOTS AND SO GOT BUT ONE OPPORTUNITY TO FIRE. IT WAS AT A SINGLE MAN AND JUDGING FROM THE BLOOD SPLATTERED ON THE CORN THROUGH WHICH HE PASSED, THE SHOT MUST HAVE TAKEN EFFECT.”

• “I do not tell this as a boast, for I would not take delight in the killing of men. But the idea that they were robbers and even murderers cools my conscience and makes my rest sound.”

• “After following the enemy for about 2 miles we went back to our horses guarding some prisoners and had taken during the skirmish. On our way back we met the main force mounted and in full pursuit.”

• “The road through the green corn was strewn with saddles, dry goods, arms and of all the spoils of war.”

• “Occasionally we would pass a wounded or dead horse and here and there a man in grey uniform timidful of his plunders which was strewed around him.”

• “About 2 hours afterwards we came up with our forces. They were just mustering the captives.”

• “We had in cell about fourteen hundred among them was two or three Cols, Col. Dick Morgan was one of them, brother to the celebrated John.”

• “Some of the prisoners were dressed in their own gray uniforms others were dressed in stolen broad clothes. The day after the fight was spent in burying the dead and selling the plunders.”

• “From the battlefield we came to this place it was a dirty place with scarcely enough ground to contain the houses or shanties scattered over it. It is situated on the banks of the Ohio. There is just level ground between the river and the hills for two narrow streets. It is inhabited by local miners and salt workers, mostly foreigners. I do not know how many coal miners that are here but the hills are pierced nearly every few rods.”

• “There's eleven Salt-Works here, and they average 150 pounds of salt per day a piece. The owners are very rich and the working classes are very poor. I suppose it is a fair sample of English life.”

• “From here we go I know not where, but I weary you, so goodbye.”

• “I hope you will excuse this poor paper and pardon my writing with a pencil, as tables are very scarce here. Direct your next to me as before only via of Cincinnati, the letter will follow me. Company L "9" Mich. Cav. Via Cincinnati. From Butler”

Louie then dockets in ink:  “Sergeant M. W. Butler Comp. L. 1st Bat. 9th Mich. Cav. Via Cincinnati, OH.”


The letter has several stains, one minor hole, and since it is in pencil, is a bit hard to read in places, however, we easily transcribed everything and like Sergt. Butler said, it was poor paper, but all he could find and “tables are very scarce here”. WITH THIS LETTER THERE ARE OVER 50 PAGES OF ARTICLES ABOUT MORGAN… GREAT RESEARCH. The best account of Morgan’s raids that we have ever offered. Oh, and if you live in Pomeroy, Ohio, we are sorry.

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