Rear Admiral Henry Varnum Butler, USN

A Register of His Papers in the Navy Department Library


Table of Contents

Overview of the Collection

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement of the Records

Detailed Description of the Collection

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Collections

Administrative Information


Overview of the Collection

Repository: Navy Department Library
Creator: Henry Varnum Butler, 1874-1957
Title: Henry V. Butler Papers
Dates: 1891-1939 (Inclusive)
Dates: 1895-1917(Bulk)
Quantity: 2 boxes
Abstract: Papers of Rear Admiral Henry V. Butler, containing official correspondence (1891-1919) and memorabilia; scrapbook (1897-1906); and a letter describing his participation in the Battle of Manila Bay.

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Biographical Note

Henry Varnum Butler was born in Paterson, New Jersey on 9 March 1874. He was appointed to the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from the Sixth District of New York in 1891. He served two years at sea as a passed midshipman as was then required by law before receiving his commission as an ensign in 1887. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War he was aide to Captain Charles Vernon Gridley, commanding officer of USS Olympia, Admiral George Dewey's flagship. He participated in the Battle of Manila Bay and was present when Admiral Dewey uttered his famous words: "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."

He was attached to USS Buffalo during the Boxer Uprising in China and was aboard that vessel at Taku when the Seymour Relief Expedition started for Peking in 1900. During the Philippine Insurrection he commanded USS Mindora, a small river gunboat, and in the fall of 1901 he went aboard USS Vicksburg. After his return to the United States in 1903, he had a two-year tour of shore duty at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island, and in the Bureau of Steam Engineering, in the Navy Department, Washington, DC. In 1906 he was assigned to USS West Virginia.

He commanded USS San Francisco, flagship of the Mine-laying Squadron in World War I, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for service in command of that vessel. In 1926 he was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida where he qualified as a naval aviation observer. He was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in 1927 and was placed in command of the Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet in 1929.

From 1931 to 1933 he served as the commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. The sudden death of Rear Admiral Ridley B. McClean in 1933 left a vacancy in the battleship divisions, causing the unexpected transfer of Admiral Butler from Washington to the West Coast. In May 1934, Rear Admiral Butler assumed command of the Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Force. Shortly after taking that command, he was appointed a vice admiral, becoming the first officer of that rank to be placed in command of the Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Force. He reverted to the permanent rank of rear admiral when he was relieved of that command in 1936.

Rear Admiral Butler retired from the Navy in 1938. He was recalled to active duty in 1942 and served until 1944.

Note: For additional details of Butler's career, see the official Navy biography and the collection of newspaper clippings in the Henry Varnum Butler ZB File and the 20th century biography files.

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Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of official correspondence from 1891 to 1919 and was either addressed to Butler or related to the ships or commands in which he was serving. A significant portion of the collection consists of a 54-page scrapbook assembled by Butler from 1897 to 1906. Additional material includes a booklet and a menu from the Order of the Carabao, to which Butler belonged, various items of ephemera, and a letter written by Butler to his mother following the Battle of Manila Bay.

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Arrangement of the Records

These records are divided into two boxes:
One box contains a scrapbook, the other contains 16 folders arranged by subject.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

Scrapbook, 1897-1906; 1 box
Except for the first pages that contain official documents and various publications concerning the Battle of Manila Bay, the bulk of this material consists of sight-seeing photographs (originals and reprints from published sources) of places visited by Butler during his service during this time period. One notable section contains original photographs that appear to have been taken in and around Niuchwang (Yingkou Shi), China in the winter of 1902 during Vicksburg's visit to that port.
Official Correspondence, 1891-1919; 11 folders
Official correspondence addressed to Butler or pertaining to the commands in which he served. Arranged chronologically in folders. Included is the official letter authorizing Henry V. Butler to report to the superintendent of the Naval Academy for examination of his qualifications as a naval cadet.
Letter to His Mother, 2/18/1899; 1 folder
Describing his participation in the Battle of Manila Bay [located in the Henry Varnum Butler ZB file in the Navy Department Library].
Menus and Ephemera; 1 folder
Selected Items
Autographed menu: The Raleigh,Washington, DC, 1 May 1904.
Autographed menu: Hotel de la Ville [no date].
Menu: Dinner for the Officers of German light cruiser SMS Niobe, USS West Virginia, 22 May 1907.
Panama Canal Zone Pass [no date].
Invitation from the Bachelors German to Lieutenant Henry V. Butler.
Military Order of the Carabao, circa 1903-1939; 1 folder
Selected Items
Menu: Washington Coral, Military Order of the Carabao of the Philippines, The Raleigh, Washington, DC, 12 December 1903.
Booklet: Military Order of the Carabao, 1 October 1933; includes history of the Order of the Carabao.
Song Lyrics: "Governor-General, or Hobo."
Song Lyrics: "The Carabao."
Photographs, circa 1902; 1 folder
Selected Items
Photograph: USS Mindoro, Cebu, Philippine Islands, August 1906.
Photograph: USS Vicksburg, Niuchwang (Yingkou Shi), China, 1902.
Photograph: Butler[?] with unidentified companions, Niuchwang (Yingkou Shi), China, 4 January 1902; caption: 22 below zero
Photograph: Burning a town in Southern Samar, November 1, 1901; caption: 90 in the shade
Photograph: James P. Morton; miniature photograph of a naval officer
Photograph: P. Y. Shea; miniature photograph of a naval officer
Miscellaneous; 1 folder
Selected Items
Cartoon: Mutt and Jeff cartoon on blueprint paper
Map: The Battle of Manila Bay, drawn by J. J. Vanderveer
"A Soldier's Description of Manila Bay"

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Restrictions

Restrictions on Use

Manuscripts are unavailable for loan and must be consulted in the library. Photocopying of manuscripts is generally prohibited, though the use of digital cameras by researchers to reproduce non-copyrighted materials is permitted. Permission to photocopy a limited number of pages may be granted by the reference staff, contingent upon the physical state of items. All photocopying of materials shall be done by the reference staff, or under their close supervision. The use of personal scanners by non-library staff personnel must be approved by the reference staff on a document-by-document basis (Reference: Naval History and Heritage Command Instruction [NAVHISTCENTINST] 5070.1C.).

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Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Personal subject:

Butler, Henry V.

Corporate subject:

Mindoro (gunboat)
Order of the Carabao
United States. Navy--Officers
Vicksburg (gunboat)

Subject term:

Manila Bay, Battle of
Spanish-American War, 1898--Naval operations

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Related Collections

See the collection of 20th Century Biographies for additional material on Henry Varnum Butler.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Historical Manuscripts, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC, Henry V. Butler Papers.

Processing Information

The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by ThomasWildenberg in April 2004.

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