Joe Butler is a veteran Confederate soldier, apparently an artillery officer who lost his right leg during the Civil War. He describes Rhodes as his home, and it is implied that he is a native of Lemoyne if not also the town. Little other information is given about his life or military service, although he does tell Arthur that he has lived longer without his leg than he lived with it (technically, this means that he is no older than 76 years of age by 1899).
Joe is a slim man with a grey beard, who wears an old and dirty Confederate Army artillery officer's uniform. Given his officer's status, he probably was at least in his late 20s during the war, which would make him a man at least in his 60s by 1899. By 1907, his uniform is even more haggard, and he has patches of white in his hair and beard.
Joe is a cranky yet wise old man who frequents the outside of the Rhodes General Store. Upon his first encounter, he will ask Arthur for money. If Arthur obliges, Joe will strike up a friendly tone, share tidbits of wisdom, and give helpful insights. Despite Joe's cynicism toward the town and its residents, his friendly tone toward Arthur will continue throughout the game and can extend later toward John Marston. From a distance, Joe can be heard describing horrors of war, such as how his leg was "blown off." Once he is actually engaged in conversation, he is modest about his service and circumstances, and he otherwise offers scant details about his wartime experiences.
- Unlike his Valentine counterpart Mickey, Joe appears to be a genuine Civil War veteran.
- The red-colored facings on his uniform indicate that he was in the Confederate artillery.
- Joe's coat sleeves display gold braid Austrian knots, a distinctive feature of a Confederate officer's uniform. If the coat is genuinely his, the thickness of the braids would indicate that he was of high rank, probably at least a major. Because his collar insignia are missing or not visible, his exact rank is difficult to determine.
- At one point, Joe can be heard lamenting the fall of the Confederacy and the federal government's interference with his "property," implying that he may have been an antebellum slave owner. This, combined with his officer's uniform, hints that he was a man of wealth and status at one time, despite his present circumstances.
- After the initial encounter and donation, Joe can offer insights about Rhodes and give cryptic warnings. Arthur can converse with him on three separate occasions, and John can do so once during the epilogue. Although he can be heard from a distance complaining bitterly about a variety of people and topics, Joe shows a fondness for both Arthur and John.
- Joe can give an honest if rather harsh assessment of Rhodes and its residents, particularly with regard to the Gray family. On Arthur's third visit, Joe will warn of government agents and bounty hunters who are on the prowl in the area, but Arthur is not surprised.
- Joe's warning that the Grays served as Union ("Yankee") spies during the Civil War might seem paranoid, but it is telling nonetheless, as it suggests the Grays are experienced in surveillance and may be watching the Van der Linde gang more closely than its members realize.
- At one point, Joe can be heard saying that he watched his "five brothers fall." This may have been intentionally inserted into the game's script as a Confederate version of the famous Bixby story, in which a Union widow reportedly lost five sons in the Civil War. Especially on the Confederate side, it was common for families to have lost multiple brothers in the war.