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Daniel A. Butterfield and “Taps”


Daniel Adams Butterfield (October 31, 1831 – July 17, 1901) was a New York businessman, a Union General in the American Civil War, and Assistant U.S. Treasurer.  Butterfield was born was born October 31, 1831, in Utica, New York. He attended Union Academy and then graduated in 1849, from Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he became a member of the Sigma Phi Society. That same year, his father, John Warren Butterfield, founded the express company of Butterfield, Wasson, and Co., which later became the American Express Company. After graduating, Daniel studied law but as he was too young to sit the New York bar exam, he toured the country instead. Upon his return to Utica, he joined the Utica Citizen’s Corps as a private.   He was employed in various businesses in New York and the South, including the American Express Company, which had been co-founded by his father, an owner of the Overland Mail Company, stage-coaches, steamships and telegraph lines.

Butterfield went to New York City as superintendent of the eastern division of his father’s company. There, he joined the Seventy-First regiment of New York militia as a captain. Shortly after the fall of Fort Sumter, Butterfield joined the Clay Guards of Washington, D.C. as a first sergeant, but subsequently transferred to the 12th New York Volunteer Infantry as a colonel.  He was commissioned brigadier and major general of the Volunteers and commanded a division of the V Corps. He fought at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.   He wrote the 1862 Army field manual, Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry.  While the Union Army recuperated at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, from its grueling withdrawal during the Seven Days Battles, Butterfield experimented with bugle calls and is credited with the composition of “Taps.”  He wrote “Taps” to replace the customary firing of three rifle volleys at the end of burials during battle. “Taps” also replaced Tattoo, the French bugle call to signal “lights out.” Butterfield’s bugler, Oliver W. Norton of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, was the first to sound the new call. Within months, “Taps” was played by buglers in both the Union and Confederate armies. This account has been disputed by some military and musical historians, who maintain Butterfield merely revised an earlier call known as the Scott Tattoo and did not compose an original work.

After the war, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Butterfield Assistant Treasurer of the United States, based on a recommendation by Abel Corbin, Grant’s brother-in-law.   Butterfield resigned from the Treasury Department in October, 1869.  He then became active in business and banking, including an executive position with American Express.  He was also active in Union College’s alumni association and several veterans organizations, including the Grand Army of the Republic.  On September 21, 1886, Butterfield married Mrs. Julia Lorrilard Safford James of New York in a ceremony in London. The Butterfields built a summer residence, Cragside, across the Hudson River from West Point in Cold Spring, New York, where Daniel Butterfield died on July 17, 1901. He was buried with an ornate monument in the West Point Cemetery at the United States Military Academy, although he had not attended that institution. Taps was sounded at his funeral.

The following work attributed to Daniel A. Butterfield is contained in my collection:




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