Remembering Thomas F. Butler of Syracuse

Hi there! I'm David Haas, owner of @SyracuseHistory  on Instagram.

In May 2017, I wrote a cover story for the Syracuse New Times regarding Private Thomas F. Butler. Butler was a Syracuse resident who lived at 411 Seymour Street and served as a member of the 13th Cavalry Regiment.

In 1916, he was stationed in what is now known as Camp Furlong in Columbus, NM. Butler spent his days on horseback riding east to west, west to east, along the U.S.-Mexico border, ensuring that anyone crossing into the country stopped at a customs house and paid any necessary taxes. Just south of Butler’s post, a bloody civil war was raging in Mexico, as several regimes were fighting for power. One of those rebellion leaders was Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

Before dawn on March 9th, Villa moved north and attacked the people of Columbus, burning their settlement and looting their homes. Surprised but prepared, the soldiers and residents acted quickly, engaging in battle until the Villistas retreated in less than two hours.

This is the last time the United States was attacked by a foreign power with boots on the ground.

In the end, 18 Americans perished at the hands of the Villistas: 10 civilians and eight soldiers. One of those soldiers was Thomas F. Butler, aged 28.

Upon his death, Butler’s body was returned to Syracuse by train on March 16 and a service was held the next day. The Syracuse Herald described the service by stating, “Seldom has there been a funeral service in Syracuse as impressive as that of Private Butler.” Beginning on Seymour Street, Butler’s body was displayed within the home as hundreds gathered inside. Outside, hundreds more filled the street to honor the fallen soldier.

Following a prayer service, Butler’s body was transported by horse carriage to St. Lucy’s Church in a procession that included family, friends, veterans and public officials. Father Sheridan gave the eulogy and spoke of Butler’s dedication to our country: “Greater love hath no man that this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” The ceremony ended with a second procession to a snow-covered cemetery at St. Agnes, where salutes were fired as Butler’s body was placed in a vault until a spring burial at St. Agnes Cemetery.

For unknown reasons, Butler was not buried until July.

Also for unknown reasons, he was never provided with a tombstone or marker.

This past year, I worked with Saint Agnes Cemetery to pinpoint his burial location.

It is now my hope that our @SyracuseHistory community can provide a proper marker to remember and honor one of our past residents.

Lutz Memorial will provide a marker for a discounted price of $400.

St. Agnes has a setting fee of $275. They have waived the cost to us.

Therefore, total cost to complete this project is $400.

If you would like to help,  you can donate to this cause. Please do not feel pressured to contribute, or contribute a large amount. Give what you wish, if you feel so inclined. Thanks for following.

Click here to read the full story from the Syracuse New Times.


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David Haas 
Syracuse, NY
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