Butler, John

last name (variants): Buttler; Buller
Other names: Captain; Colonel; Lieutenant-colonel
Birth: 1728 in New London, CT
Death: May 1796 in Niagara

Indian Department; Butler's Rangers; loyalist


educated in New London until 14 years old




Anglo-American (father possibly from Ireland)


military officer, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, interim Superintendent of Indian Affairs, district judge, interpreter

  • New London, CT (from 1728 to 1742)
  • Niagara (from 1779 to 1796)

During the summer of 1778 he led Butler's Rangers in the Battle of Wyoming, or the Wyoming Massacre, in Wyoming Valley, PA.

Marital status

Captain Butler married Catherine Bratt, daughter of John Watts, Sr. of NY, around 1750. They had five children, including Walter Butler, Jr. (who is known for the Cherry Valley massacre), Thomas, and Johnson.


Captain John Butler was a prominent military officer and loyalist. He was born in New London, CT in 1728, and he received his education there. John’s father, Captain Walter Butler, had served well under Sir William Johnson, prompting Johnson to endorse the family. When Sir William became Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1755, he appointed John Butler and his brother, Walter Butler, Jr., as captains in the Indian Department; the two fought in the battle of Lake George on September 8 of that year. John Butler commanded Indian forces throughout the French and Indian War, and he often acted as an interpreter. He became Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs and a Lieutenant Colonel of the militia. While he lived in NY, he hosted various figures on their journeys to the Oneida Nation. When Sir William died in 1774, General Guy Carleton, the military governor of Quebec, appointed John Butler as the interim Superintendent of Indian Affairs; Sir William’s nephew, Guy Johnson, replaced him in July of 1776. In the summer of 1775, Colonel Guy Johnson, John Butler and his son, Walter, escaped to Canada, but the Revolutionaries seized Butler’s property and carried his wife and children to Albany, where they remained under surveillance. Captain Butler continued to be involved with Indian forces during the Revolutionary War. He commanded Butler’s Rangers, a loyalist special forces team that fought alongside Indians, and he is known for leading the Rangers in the Wyoming Massacre of 1778 in Wyoming Valley, PA. In 1779 the Americans released his family during an exchange of prisoners. They reunited in Niagara, where Butler maintained his headquarters during the war and remained thereafter. Butler secured compensation from London for the property losses he suffered due to the Revolution, and he lived the remainder of his life as a notable citizen in Niagara, serving as judge of the district court and Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He died near Niagara in May of 1796.


Bickham, Troy O. “Butler, John (1728–1796).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2008). Accessed 18 July 2014. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/53613. Harvey, Oscar Jewell, and Ernest Gray Smith. A History of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania: From Its First Beginnings to the Present Time, Including Chapters of Newly-discovered Early Wyoming Valley History, Together with Many Biographical Sketches and Much Genealogical Material, Volume 2. Wilkes-Barré:Raeder Press, 1909. Accessed via https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=rEYVAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&authuser=0&hl=en&pg=GBS.PP1.

General note

David McClure wrote that Captain Butler's son, Walter Butler, Jr., attended Wheelock's school in Lebanon.