John Butler, Militia District Commander

On May 9, 1777, John Butler was appointed commander of the Hillsborough District militia.

Butler had settled in Orange County in the early 1760s and was elected sheriff in 1770. When the Revolution began, he was appointed to the Hillsborough committee of safety, and later commanded the Orange County militia at Moores Creek Bridge.  In 1776, the government divided the state into six military districts. Butler’s command put him in charge of militia regiments from Caswell, Chatham, Granville, Orange, Randolph and Wake Counties.

Though he held his command for the next seven years, Butler did not have a stellar military career. While he acted quite courageously in every engagement in which he was involved, he proved to be no great tactician. One soldier who served under him described him as just “an old man in a hunting shirt.”

During the “Tory War” in the early fall of 1781, Butler took an active part in trying to capture David Fanning. In September 1781, he engaged Fanning’s forces at Lindley’s Mill in an attempt to rescue Governor Thomas Burke and other political prisoners. After heavy fighting, Butler retreated, letting Fanning escape to Wilmington.

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