In 1750, Virginia claimed the land around Fort Pitt citing the boundaries established in the charter presented to the colony by the mother country. Virginia claimed that the western boundary of Pennsylvania stopped east present day Pittsburgh. The Land charter issues by the King to wealthy Virginians support this claim. The Ohio Company formed in Virginia paid large sums of money to frontiers men to explore the Ohio River and the surrounding land. In 1753, Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent George Washington to meet with the French to represent Virginia’s claim to the land along the Allegany and Ohio Rivers. He sent the Virginia Militia to build the first fort at the Forks of the Ohio, based on a recommendation from George Washington. The Virginia Militia were present during most attempts to remove the French forces from the region. First, the Virginia Militia was with Colonel Washington at Fort Necessity. Then, they served under General Braddock and later, with General Forbes and Colonel Bouquet. It was only natural that the Virginia Militia was placed in charge of Fort Pitt after there excellent performance with the Forbes Expedition. The year was 1764. Richard Butler came to America when his father Thomas Butler moved the family from Killkenny, Ireland to Carlisle, PA., in 1743. Thomas Butler was a gunsmith of the highest order. His shop still stands in Carlisle, PA, today. Richard trained as a gunsmith under his father. In 1764, he went to Fort Pitt at the Forks of the Ohio while serving with Colonel Henry Bouquet during his campaign to defeat the Shawnee and Delaware during Pontiac’s Uprising. Ensign Richard Butler was an armorer with Colonel Bouquet.
In 1765, Richard signed on as an armorer at Fort Pitt. His daybook from Fort Pitt survived and is now owned by the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pa. The daybook list many pipe tomahawks and axes as being made by Richard Butler. This Pipe Tomahawk with an engraved and silver inlaid forged blade signed “Richard Butler”, with a silver screw off bowel, silver end cap engraved Lt J. Maclellan, and a maple haft with a silver band which also includes the magnificent Shawnee dyed porcupine quillwork is an example of the work he made while an armorer at Fort Pitt.
In 1772, Richard Butler was a commissioned as a Captain in the Pennsylvania Militia. Within a few years, Richard and his brother William formed a company north of Fort Pitt in the town already known at Pittsburgh. As partners they provide gunsmithing, blacksmithing and trading services. Together they worked in the fur trade. They specialized in providing supplies and goods to the region. There business prospered as their relations with the Shawnee Indians from along the Scioto and Ohio Rivers developed. Not only was he a successful businessman, Richard was highly trusted by the Indians in the region. In 1775, Richard resigned as Captain of the Pennsylvania Militia and accepted a Pennsylvania commission as Agent of Indian Affairs for the middle-western region of Pennsylvania. Richard strengthened relations with the Shawnee and with the Delaware whereby he signed a Treaty of Neutrality with them. Peace would not last.
In April, 1776 Richard Butler was commissioned as a Major in the Continental Army in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment. He fought with the Riflemen at Saratoga. He commanded the 9Th Pennsylvania Regiment at Stoney Point and was Colonel of the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment at Yorktown. Richard Butler continued to serve his country after the War for Independence. He was appointed Major General and was second in command under General Arthur St. Clair on an ill-fated campaign against the Ohio Indians in 1791. On November 4, 1791 Richard Butler was killed at the battle on the Miami River in Ohio. The battle was a disastrous defeat for the American Army.
The silver end cap on the haft is engraved Lt. Maclellan. Lt John McClelland was a First Lieutenant of Company D of Thompson’s Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen. The D Company of riflemen was raised in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Riflemen were required to carry tomahawks as a secondary weapon since their longrifles were not equipped to receive fixed bayonets.
The riflemen recruited on the frontier of Virginia and Pennsylvania were the first units authorized by the Continental Congress in 1775. They were immediately ordered to join General Washington’s Army for the siege of Boston. The riflemen though undisciplined and ill suited to siege warfare perform exceedingly well as undisciplined soldiers.
After General Anthony Wayne had played a key role in the capture of Ft Ticonderoga, he convinced General Washington to appoint him commander of 1,100 men to attach the British forces at Quebec. General Wayne’s Army included three companies of riflemen under the command of Captain Daniel Morgan of Virginia. One of these companies was Company D of Thompson’s Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen of which Lt John McClelland was an officer.
In September, 1775 General Wayne’s men including three companies of riflemen under Captain Daniel Morgan of Virginia sailed up the Kennebec River to the interior of Maine. The weather was extremely cold even for that region. The wilderness river and bitter cold from the early onset of winter exhausted the troops. The overland trip through Maine toward Quebec was extremely fatiguing. Doctor Isaac Senter, a physician from Rhode Island, joined the expedition as it’s surgeon. On October 31, 1775, Dr Senter made this entry in his journal in the northern wilderness of Maine near the Canadian border:
“At this encampment was Lt McCleland of Morgan’s Company, almost expiring with a violent peripneumonia. Necessaries were distributed as much as possible, with two lads of the company in charge of him. Nor was this poor fellow the only one sick upon the river.” Lt John McClelland died on November 3, 1775 at that encampment. No doubt his soldiers took his rifle and tomahawk on to the Battle of Quebec. When the Continental Army meet the British at Quebec the Continental Forces was reduced to less than 700 men. Captain Morgan and most of his riflemen were captured. The Richard Butler Tomahawk was in the collection at the Warwick Castle in England from colonial times until the mid 1990’s. It is safe to assume that this wonderful artifact made it’s way to the Battle of Quebec, probably in the hands of Lt John Macclellan’s brother, where it was captured and taken back to England as a souvenir of war.
Special thanks to David Kliener, Bloomingburg, New York for facilitating the opportunity for me to own this magnificent and important pipe tomahawk. Also I want to thank the following scholars of the American Longrifle for their important research provided to me relating to the Richard Butler Pipe Tomahawk.
Rick Rosenberger, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Walter O’Connor, Warminster, Pa.
Stephen Hench, Lancaster, Pa.
Flintlock Magazine 2002 Volume 5 Number 1.