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Boutelle, Frazier Augustus (1840-1924)

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frazier Augustus Boutelle, army officer and conservationist, was born on September 12, 1840 in Troy, New York.  No significant information exists regarding his childhood, though it is known that his father James Augustus Boutelle of Fitchburg, Massachusetts was a descendent of Revolutionary War soldier Ebenezer Boutwell (Boutwell being a variance of Boutelle).  

On June 4, 1861 Frazier Boutelle entered the United States Army as a volunteer for the 5th New York Cavalry Regiment, Company A.  Initially serving as a quartermaster sergeant, he was commissioned a second lieutenant on November 5, 1862.  While engaged in battle on June 30, 1863 at Hanover, Pennsylvania, he fell from his horse and sustained an injury.  Following his recovery he was reassigned in January of the following year to the First Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division as an ambulance officer.  Rejoining the 5th New York a few months later, Boutelle was again mustered out on disability in August of the same year but eventually returned to full duty as a captain on January 10, 1865.  He retained the rank of captain upon being discharged on July 10, 1865.

On February 12, 1866 Boutelle enlisted in the regular army as a private.  Shortly thereafter he traveled through Panama to the American West, where he was stationed at Fort Boise, Idaho with the First Cavalry’s Company F.  From here he participated in numerous battles and skirmishes against American Indian tribes over a 20 year period.  He was awarded a medal for his skill and bravery in a prolonged campaign against the Nez Perce, and following his courageous actions in the battle at Lost River, Oregon in the Modoc War (1872), was given a brevet promotion.

Ascending the military ranks, Boutelle served as regimental adjutant and inspector of National Guard organizations.  Eventually he became commander of First Cavalry’s Company K.  While serving as commander in June of 1889 he was appointed superintendent of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  As acting superintendent he fought for the preservation of bison by banning sport-hunting, restocked rivers and streams with fish to maintain healthy populations, and developed effective firefighting strategies that saved acres of forestland.  Additionally, Boutelle adamantly enforced designated camping areas, demonstrating that human activities were the usual culprit in preventable forest fires.

Boutelle retired from the military a second time on August 27, 1895, only to immediately enlist with the Oregon National Guard.  He was quickly appointed Brigadier General of the Guard the following year by Governor John H. McGraw as the first unelected Brigadier General ever to serve.  Following his appointment he initiated many institutional reforms, increasing fluidity and minimizing what he considered unnecessarily burdensome protocol.  He resigned his position on January 13, 1897.

Following his service as a recruiter from August 1, 1905 to September 20, 1918 Boutelle continued to remain active at the Seattle Office of the Washington National Guard.  He was active through World War I as the oldest officer of his time until the Seattle office closed in 1919.  The same year he retired from military service for a third and final time.  

Throughout the course of his military service Boutelle fought in many famous Civil War battles.  These include Antietam, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Wilderness, Gettysburg, and the second battle of Bull Run, all of which he served under General Phil Sheridan.  During the Indian Wars he contributed in campaigns against the Nez Perce, Apache, Piute, Snake, and Modoc tribes.  Altogether Frazier Boutelle spent 57 years in the armed forces.

Frazier Augustus Boutelle died on February 12, 1924 in Seattle, Washington.

Sources:
Dan L. Thrapp, Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994); H. Duane Hampton, “The Army and the National Parks,” Forest History, 10: 3 (October, 1996); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).

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