Daniel Butterfield

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Daniel Adams Butterfield
Daniel Butterfield.jpg
Daniel Butterfield
Born (1831-10-31)October 31, 1831
Utica, New York
Died July 17, 1901(1901-07-17) (aged 69)
Cold Spring, New York
Place of burial West Point Cemetery
United States Military Academy
West Point, New York
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861–70
Rank Union army maj gen rank insignia.jpg Major General
Commands held V Corps

American Civil War

Awards Medal of Honor
Other work Composer of "Taps"
Assistant U.S. Treasurer

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 in New York. He received the Medal of Honor for his service during the Civil War; he is credited with arranging a variation of an earlier bugle call and introducing it as Taps. In later life, he was involved in the Black Friday gold scandal in the Grant administration.

Early life[edit]

Butterfield was born in Utica, New York. He graduated in 1849, from Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he became a member of the Sigma Phi Society. 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, John Warren Butterfield, an owner of the Overland Mail Company, stage-coaches, steamships and telegraph lines.

Civil War[edit]

Union General Daniel Butterfield

Only days after Fort Sumter, despite having little military background beyond part-time militia activities, he joined the Clay Guards of Washington, D.C. as a first sergeant on April 8, 1861. On April 19, he obtained a commission as the colonel of the 12th New York Militia, which became the 12th New York Infantry. By July, he commanded a brigade and on September 7, he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers. In addition to his appointments in the volunteer army, he was commissioned as the lieutenant colonel of the 12th United States Infantry on May 14, 1861.

Butterfield joined Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac for the Peninsula Campaign in the V Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter. In the Seven Days Battles, at Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862, he was wounded but demonstrated the bravery that was eventually recognized in 1892, with the Medal of Honor.

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", probably the most famous bugle call ever written.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Butterfield continued in brigade command at the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Antietam, became division commander and then V Corps commander for the Battle of Fredericksburg. His corps was one of those assaulting through the city before facing an assault from Marye's Heights. After the debacles of Fredericksburg and the Mud March, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker replaced Ambrose Burnside as Army of the Potomac commander and Butterfield became Hooker's chief of staff in January 1863. Butterfield was promoted to major general of volunteers in March 1863, with a date of rank of November 29, 1862.[1]

Hooker and Butterfield developed a close personal and political relationship. To the disgust of many army generals, their headquarters were frequented by women and liquor, being described as a combination of a "bar and brothel".[citation needed] Political infighting became rampant in the high command and Butterfield was widely disliked by most of his colleagues.[citation needed] However, in the spring of 1863, the two officers managed to turn around the poor morale of the army and greatly improved food, shelter and medical support. During this period Butterfield introduced another custom that remains in the Army today: the use of distinctive hat or shoulder patches to denote the unit to which a soldier belongs, in this case the corps. He was inspired by the division patches used earlier by Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, but extended those to the full army; Butterfield designed most of the patches himself.

Hooker was replaced after the Battle of Chancellorsville by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, just before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade distrusted Butterfield, but retained him as chief of staff. Butterfield was wounded at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, and left active duty to convalesce. Meade removed him as chief of staff on July 14, 1863.[2] On July 1, 1863, Butterfield was appointed as colonel of the 5th United States Infantry.

After Gettysburg, Butterfield actively undermined Meade in cooperation with Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles,[citation needed] another crony of Hooker's. Although the battle was a great Union victory, Sickles and Butterfield testified to the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War that Meade vacillated and planned as early as July 1, to retreat from Gettysburg, thus damaging his reputation. Butterfield's chief evidence for this assertion was the Pipe Creek Circular that Meade had his staff prepare before it became apparent there would be a battle at Gettysburg.[3]

Butterfield returned to duty that fall as chief of staff once again for Hooker, now commanding two corps in the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga, Tennessee. When these two depleted corps (the XI and XII Corps) were combined to form the XX Corps, Butterfield was given the 3rd Division, which he led through the first half of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. Illness prevented his continuing with Sherman, resulting in Butterfield's assuming quiet duties at Vicksburg, Mississippi, followed by recruiting and the command of harbor forces in New York.

Life after the Civil War[edit]

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 agreed to tell Corbin and speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk when the government was planning to sell gold, a market that Fisk and Gould wanted to corner. Butterfield accepted $10,000 from Gould, which Butterfield said was "to cover expenses". Butterfield later testified to Congress that it was an unsecured real estate loan.[4] If Butterfield tipped them off, then Fisk and Gould would sell their gold before the price dropped. The scheme was uncovered by Grant, who sold $4,000,000 of government gold without telling Butterfield resulting in the panic of collapsing gold prices known as Black Friday, on September 24, 1869.

Butterfield resigned from the Treasury Department in October, 1869.[5] He then became active in business and banking, including an executive position with American Express.[6] He was also active in Union College's alumni association and several veterans organizations, including the Grand Army of the Republic.[7]

On September 21, 1886, Butterfield married Mrs. Julia Loriland Safford James of New York in a ceremony in London.

On July 17, 1901, Butterfield died in Cold Spring, New York. 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.


He was the author of the 1862 Army field manual, Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry.

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: At Gaines Mill, Va., June 27, 1862. Entered service at: Washington, D.C. Born: October 31, 1831, Utica, N.Y. Date of issue: September 26, 1892.


Seized the colors of the 83d Pennsylvania Volunteers at a critical moment and, under a galling fire of the enemy, encouraged the depleted ranks to renewed exertion.

In memoriam[edit]

The Butterfield Paramedic Institute in Cold Spring, New York, which was once a hospital, is named for him. He has also been memorialized in the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara—a character in the 20th Maine claims that their brigade bugle call was written by Butterfield and is based on his own name, sounding to the rhythm of "Dan, Dan, Dan, Butterfield, Butterfield".

There is a statue of the general by Gutzon Borglum in Sakura Park in Manhattan.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eicher, p. 158.
  2. ^ Hyde, pp. 264–265 gives the text of the letter.
  3. ^ Hyde, p. 275.
  4. ^ Smith, Grant, pp. 481–90.
  5. ^ Government Printing Office, Index of Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives, 1870, page 332
  6. ^ Easton Free Press, Butterfield is Dead, July 18, 1901
  7. ^ Julia Lorrilard Safford Butterfield, editor, A Biographical Memorial of General Daniel Butterfield, 1904, pages 234-235


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Joseph Hooker
Commander of the V Corps
November 16, 1862 – December 25, 1862
Succeeded by
George Meade