Housed in the collections of the Kentucky Historical Society are two swords that were given to General William O. Butler for his meritorious service in the Mexican War.
Butler was born in Jessamine County, Kentucky in 1791, and he attended Transylvania University in Lexington, where he graduated in 1812. When the War of 1812 broke out Butler enlisted as a private and was captured at the Battle of River Raisin. He was eventually exchanged, promoted to captain and participated in the Battle of New Orleans where he was promoted again, this time to major.
Butler remained in the army until 1817, when he resigned and settled in Carroll County, Kentucky, on the Ohio River to continue his law career and try politics. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1839 to 1843, and was nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor, but lost to Whig William Owsley.
In the Mexican War, where Butler earned military fame, he was made a major general of volunteers and served with General Zachary Taylor's invading force. At the Battle of Monterrey, Butler was only second in command to Taylor and was wounded in the fierce fighting. He was presented the above sword by the state of Kentucky for his actions in the battle. The state also honored Gen. Taylor and Major Philip Barbour with swords.
Butler's service in Mexico certainly was not finished at Monterrey. When Gen. Winfield Scott left Mexico in 1848, Butler was placed in command of the remaining United States forces and then oversaw the evacuation of the occupying army when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, which officially ended the war.
Upon return home, Butler was again honored, but this time by the United States Congress, who presented him with a beautiful gold sword (pictured above) for his bold and aggressive action in the street fighting at Monterrey.
Much like the Whigs, who nominated Gen. Taylor for president in 1848, Butler was nominated by the Democrats to run as the vice presidential candidate with Michigan's Lewis Cass. Of course, Taylor and Milliard Fillmore won, and Butler returned to Kentucky. He was offered the territorial governor position for the Nebraska Territory in 1855, but declined. Butler passed away at his Carroll County home in 1880 at age 89.
Today, General Butler State Park in Carroll County preserves the Butler home built in 1859.
Sword photos courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society.
1848 campaign image courtesy of the Library of Congress.