Daniel Butterfield's Grave, United States Military Academy at West Point, New York
The cemetery was one of the highlights of our tour of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the fall of 2011. Notable people buried there include football coach Red Blaik, Lucius Clay (father of the Berlin Airlift), George Custer, Frederick Grant (son of U.S. Grant), Winfield Scott, and William Westmoreland.
One of the most prominent and ornate gravesites is Daniel Butterfield’s, the composer of the bugle call Taps. Taps used to signal lights out at the end of the day and is played by the military at funerals and memorial services. The 24-note bugle call is sad and haunting; I feel like crying every time I hear it. Here is an audio clip from Army Study Guide.
From WestPoint.org, “Daniel Adams Butterfield (31 October 1831-17 July 1901) was born in Utica, New York and graduated from Union College at Schenectady. He was the eastern superintendent of the American Express Company in New York when the Civil War broke out. Despite his lack of military experience, he rose quickly in rank. A Colonel in the 12th Regiment of the New York State Militia, he was promoted to Brigadier General and given command of a brigade of the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The 12th served in the Shenandoah Valley during the Bull Run Campaign. During the Peninsular Campaign Butterfield served prominently when during the Battle of Gaines Mill, despite an injury, he seized the colors of the 83rd Pennsylvania and rallied the regiment at a critical time in the battle. Years later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for that act of heroism.
As the story goes, General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for Extinguish Lights feeling that the call was too formal to signal the days end and with the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, following the Seven Day's battle. These battles took place during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. The call, sounded that night in July, 1862, soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was even used by the Confederates. Taps was made an official bugle call after the war.”
After the war, President Grant appointed him to Assistant Treasurer of the U.S. He was involved in the Black Friday gold scandal. Butterfield told Jay Gould when the government was planning to sell gold. Gould and James Fisk wanted to cover the gold market with the information and sold gold before prices dropped. Grant uncovered the plan and sold $4 million of government gold without telling Butterfield, resulting the panic of collapsing gold prices known as Black Friday, on September 24, 1869. See Wikipedia for more detail.
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