Benjamin Butler Family

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Benjamin Butler

b. January 5, 1751. d. August 21, 1813

Eunice Robbins

b. August 22, 1755. d. October 1, 1847

married: December 13, 1775
Joseph 1776 - 1826 (married 1803)
Demas 1778 - 1800 (died at sea)
Jerusha: 1780 - 1851 (married Rufus Sage, 1807 ?)
Allen: 1783 - 1825 (married 1817)
Sylvester: 1785 - 1861 (married 1814)
Mary: 1788 - 1790
Mary: 1790 - 1863 (married 1822)
Eunice: 1793 - 1879 (married 1815)
Benjamin: 1795 -1795
Jamin:1796 - 1813
George: 1798 - 1841 (married 1824)
Sophia: 1800 - 1885 (married 1822)

Family Notes

Benjamin owned a home at 17 Wall St. in Cromwell. It was built in 1801 and has a ballroom on the second floor, according to info from the Cromwell-Belden Library.

In the bible of Eunice Robbins she makes the note that her husband Benjamin was drowned August 21, 1813 in the 64th year of his age.

See letters written by Jerusha Butler Sage's daughter, Jerusha Sage Gear.

The Seizure of the Betsey and Nancy and the subsequent "French Spoliation Claims"

In August of 1797 Benjamin Butler became part owner with Samuel Ells of a small schooner named the "Betsey and Nancy." Some accounts have Benjamin the Captain of the ship, but the records aren't explicit. It might be simply that an owner could call himself the Captain. The ship had been built the previous year and her description is recorded as a square sterned schooner, having no gallery and one deck, two masts, a length of 65 feet 3 inches, a breadth of 20 feet nine inches, a depth of 8 foot 8 inches.

A scan of the bill of sale for the Betsey and Nancy

On February 24, 1798 the ship embarked from New London with a hold full of boards, barrels of beef, potatoes, butter and buns as well as 40 sheep. They were headed for St. Bartholomew with Isa Sage as the Master of the ship. I found nothing that showed Benjamin Butler on board, but there are several references to him owning 5/6 of the ship and cargo.

A scan of the manifest of the Betsey and Nancy.

A month later (March 24, 1798) the ship was seized at sea by the French Corsair La Lorette, Captain of the "Sanspareil," and taken to the city of Basse Terre on Guadaloupe. The French tribunal that oversaw the taking of prizes determined that the schooner "...was not furnished with an invoice and bill of lading attested by a superior officer nor by constituted authorities." and "shall be reputed a lawful prize with its rigging and apparatus and cargo." They ordered that the whole should be sold for the benefit of the "Sanspareil."

Interestingly there are papers showing the "Betsey and Nancy" being sold to a couple men in August of 1798, making it appear that Samuel Ells may have been able to buy the ship back from the French.

This period of the late 1790s and early 1800s had a number of these seizures by the French in what came to be called the Quasi-Wars. The French later settled with the U.S. Government and paid a sum of money for the ships it had taken, then in 1885 the government announced the "French Spoliation Act" which would pay out legitimate claims to survivors or their survivors. Benjamin had died in 1813, but his grandson George Henry Butler applied to be the administrator for Benjamin's claim and began proceedings to show the legitimacy of their claim. The machinery of bureaucracy apparently moved at an incredibly slow pace, because even up to November of 1905, one month before George H. Butler died, there are petitions being made against the claim. Also there are letters from 1911 and 1920 inquiring about the claims.

In one letter George H. Butler's wife Lucinthia explains that Samuel Ells was also making a claim against the "Betsey and Nancy." Accordingly, the 1905 "Court of Claims" petition requests a 50-50 split between the Ells family and the Butler family. Not having values listed on the original manifest, the lawyers used the values claimed by other ships that had similar cargo. (See link below.) As far as I can tell, no money was ever paid out.

Extract from a booklet on claimants, showing Benjamin Butler being awarded 586.90. However it does not show that the award was approved by Congress.

Other interesting documents

Many of these documents came to me courtesy of from Andy J. Johnston, who had been researching Benjamin Butler and discovered this web site as a result. By an interesting coincidence, one day after receiving the photocopies from Andy, my sisters found several letters and papers in the basement of the Homestead in a folder marked "Benjamin Butler - French Spoilation Claims."

Original French document from the Prize tribunal, March 1798 (page 1) 161 K jpeg

Original French document from the Prize tribunal, March 1798 (page 2) 180 K jpeg

Sale of the Betsey & Nancy in August 1798 265 K jpeg

Geo. H. Butler's first power of attorney to become Administrator for Benjamin Butler 440 K jpeg

First estimates of ship and cargo value 180 K jpeg

Letters from Lucinthia Butler that talk about the claims (html)

Court of Claims document summarizing claim November, 1905 450 K jpeg

Butler family in Bahamas with ties to the merchant captains of the 1790s. 110 K jpeg