Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Butler, James Armar

BUTLER, JAMES ARMAR (1827–1854), captain in the army, born in 1827, was the fourth son of Lieutenant-general the Hon. Henry Edward Butler, who had served in the 27th regiment in Egypt, and afterwards as a colonel in the Portuguese army at Busaco, where he was wounded. He was nephew of Somerset Richard Butler, third earl of Carrick. He was educated on the continent and at Sandhurst, and received his commission as an ensign in the 90th regiment in 1843. He served in the Caffre war of 1846–7, was promoted lieutenant in 1847, and purchased his captaincy in the Ceylon rifle regiment in May 1853. He was in England on furlough in the summer of 1854, when the war between Russia and Turkey had just broken out, and since he could not hope to be ordered with the expeditionary force, he set out with a friend, Lieutenant Charles Nasmyth, of the Bombay artillery, to see the fighting. The two friends went first to Omar Pasha's camp at Shumla; but as he did not seem inclined to advance, they asked leave to join the garrison at Silistria, to which the Russian army had laid siege on 19 May. Butler and Nasmyth soon obtained over the garrison the same absolute power that Eldred Pottinger acquired at Herat. The key to the fortress was believed to be the earthwork known as the Arab Tabia, and this work was perpetually bombarded and mined by the Russians, and attacked by heavy columns at all hours of the day and night. Mussa Pasha, the Turkish commandant, was killed, and so was the Russian commanding engineer; but still Omar Pasha would not send help, and when General Cannon (Behram Pasha) did introduce his brigade, he dared not keep it there, and retired within two days. On 13 June Butler had been slightly wounded in the forehead; privation and hard work made the wound dangerous, and on 22 June, two hours before the Russians retired, the hero of Silistria—who deserves the credit, though but a young English captain of twenty-seven, of defeating a whole Russian army—died peacefully without knowing of his triumph. On 14 July, before the news of his untimely death arrived, he had been gazetted a major in the army, and lieutenant and captain in the Coldstream guards.

[For the siege of Silistria see Nasmyth's letters to the Times in 1854; for a short memoir, Nolan's Illustrated History of the War against Russia, 2 vols. 1855–7; and generally, for the effect of the defence, Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea, chap. 30.]

H. M. S.