Young Benjamin F. Butler
In 1839, Benjamin F. Butler met a man named Fisher Aimes Hildreth. Fisher lived in the next town over from Lowell where Ben lived in Massachusetts. Ben and Fisher connected immediately and developed a life-long relationship. That same year Fisher invited Ben to his family Thanksgiving meal. It was there, Ben, met Fisher’s daughter, Sarah. According to Ben, Sarah was attractive, educated, and intelligent and, she had a passion for acting. In fact, she appeared in plays in New York and Boston. Ben showed a curiosity for a romantic relationship with Sarah but she was not interested in giving up her career to accompany a small town lawyer just starting out (1).
As time went on Sarah acquired popularity and stardom for her work. Ben, worked his way into a successful law office, and the two continued to stay in contact with one another. In May of 1844, after a long courtship, they married. Ben brought Sarah to his home in Lowell, and there they lived until she passed away from “an untimely death” in 1877 (2).
Ben and Sarah’s Children
Together Ben and Sarah created a good sized family: a girl named Blanche, and three sons: Paul, who died at age four, Paul II, and Ben-Israel. Ben-Israel decided to follow his father’s footsteps and enter into public service. He was appointed to West Point, graduated with honors and commissioned Lieutenant. Ben, proud of his son’s accomplishments encouraged Ben-Israel to take command and lead a “regiment of colored troops stationed on the Plains [so that] he might have, in addition to his instructions at the academy, the knowledge of the movement and care of the troops in actual service.” The significance of his decision by Ben Butler was that he wanted his son to acquire some military experience working as a volunteer and not someone who earned rank from being nobility (3).
After completing his military service, Ben-Israel planned to join in partnership with his father Benjamin’s law practice. But as Benjamin writes in his memoir, “I had hoped to lean upon him in my declining years, to take my place in that profession which I love and honor. ‘Man proposes. God disposes.'” Ben-Israel’s unexpected sudden death ended any chance of a father- son career dream for both of them. Ben’s daughter married a Civil War General, Adelbert Ames and raised a family while Paul sought a business career upon his graduation from Harvard. Ben, impressed with Paul’s accomplishment at a prestigious university, felt his choice of school would impact Paul favorably later in life if he desired to enter into politics (4).
A Valued Relationship
Throughout Ben Butler’s military and political career, Sarah, his wife, proved to be one of his staunchest supporters. She advised him from time to time. Her intelligence and education were a great asset to Ben. It allowed him to view his world not only from a humanitarian perspective but also that of a woman. Sarah related to Ben on a different level, but she never interfered and trusted Ben’s final judgment. When Ben experienced political strife and controversy, she remained by his side with poise and dignity (5).
Value of Family
Benjamin F. Butler’s credited his success as a lawyer, veteran, and political figure to the strong family support system he created with his wife, Sarah. He also credits his family upbringing as inspiration and passion for a lifetime of civil service to others. We can interpret his decisions and actions in his life through his experiences and thoughts about them.
1. Benjamin F. Butler, Butler’s Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major General Benj F. Butler : A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career (Boston: A.M. Thayer & Co., 1892),78-79.