Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Francis E. Butler Journal, 1862-1863

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
K.K, April 1992

Summary Information
Title: Francis E. Butler journal
Creator: Butler, Francis E., d. 1863
Inclusive dates: 1862-1863
Extent: 196 pages
Francis Butler, a chaplain of the 25th New Jersey Infantry, kept a journal including an extensive account of the bombardment and occupation of Fredericksburg during the Civil War.
Language: The material is in English.
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1989. M-2472.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Francis E. Butler Journal, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Butler, Francis E., d. 1863

Rank : Chaplain

Regiment : 25th New Jersey Infantry Regiment (1862-1863)

Service : 1862 October 6-1863 May 4

Francis E. Butler was mustered in as chaplain of the 25th New Jersey Infantry on October 6th, 1862, at Trenton, joined his regiment at Camp Cadwallader in Beverly, and departed for Washington, D.C. on October 10th. He remained with his unit stationed in the defenses surrounding Washington until November 30th, when it was ordered to join the First Brigade, Third Division, Ninth Army Corps. The regiment saw action during the Fredericksburg Campaign in December, 1862, after which they were assigned to garrison duty at Newport News from February 11th through March 13th, 1863, and at Dismal Swamp. During an engagement near Suffolk, Va., on May 3rd, 1863, Butler was wounded, according to one source, while carrying water to some wounded men. He died on the following day in the Division Hospital at Suffolk.

Collection Scope and Content Note

Butler's diary opens -- after some brief notations of the terms by which he hired "John H. Boggs (col'd)" as his servant and of his expenditures at Camp Cadwallader -- on December 11th, 1862, with a lengthy description of the bombardment and occupation of Fredericksburg. Butler was stirred by the "sublime sight" of the city under fire, the crossing of the troops on pontoon bridges lit up by pitch fires, and the officers' occupation of the best houses in the city. From his headquarters in a "small, neat, comfortable house," he watched with disapproval as soldiers plunder the city prior to the battle, and he prays with sympathy for "the poor family whose peaceful house is thus invaded," and on the following morning was greeted with the curious sight of soldiers lounging on mattresses lining the sidewalks and reading London quarterlies, awaited what he assumed (correctly) would be a bloody day.

Butler provides an hour by hour account of events in Fredericksburg on December 12th and 13th. His perspective is an interesting one in that he is not involved in the fighting himself, but is able to move freely about the city during the thick of battle in order to minister to the troops, to bring them coffee or to escort the wounded to the rear. Entries for the days following the battle provide an excellent picture of a chaplain's duties, visiting the wounded -- "what strange and dreadful wounds" -- officiating at the burials of men from his regiment, and making detailed notes on the location of the graves in order that families might later recover the bodies, though later in the week, mass burials became necessary. Detailed entries end on December 23rd, and thereafter there is a brief description and pencil sketch of Fortress Monroe, Va., and some pencil sketches of Newport News and of soldiers in camp. In the back of the notebook containing the diary is a register of wounded soldiers of the 25th New Jersey and a regimental return for the morning of December 15th, 1862.

Subject Terms

    • Fredericksburg, Battle of, 1862.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Soldiers--Religious life.
    • United States. Army. New Jersey Infantry Regiment, 25th (1862-1863)
    • United States. Army--Chaplains.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Soldiers--United States.
    • Fort Monroe (Va.)
    • Newport News (Va.)
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Drawings (visual works).
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   5.3, Schoff Civil War Diaries and Journals  
    Francis E. Butler journal,  1862 October 2-1863 April 10 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Special Collections at Rutgers University in New Brunswick holds additional Francis Butler materials (file number AC.1919). Their collection includes a diary that ends in early 1862; two folders of letters written by Butler during the period of his Civil War service, 1862-63; family scrapbooks; and a stereoscopic photo album.

    Partial Subject Index
    • 33,34,36,42-46
    Fort Monroe (Va.)
    • 47
    Fredericksburg, Battle of, 1862.
    • Passim
    • 20,23-25
    Returns, Military.
    • 186
    • 183-185,190-192
    Soldiers--Religious life.
    • Passim
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans.
    • 3,62-63
    United States. Army--Chaplains.
    • Passim