Lesser-Known Civil War Celebrities – Daniel Adams Butterfield

The Civil War was packed full of unsung heroes who led battalions, guarded towns, or even simply clothed and sheltered wounded soldiers. Today, we want to highlight one such hero; his name is not widely recognized, though his creation is one of the most well-known military calls in history.

The Man with the Plan

Daniel Adams Butterfield was born on October 31, 1831 in Utica, New York. A graduate of Union College, he quickly gained an integral role in his father’s business which later became the wildly successful American Express Company.

Despite Daniel’s lack of military experience, when the Civil War began, he joined the 12th New York Militia in 1861. He rose quickly through the ranks, achieving high honors as, brigadier general, major general, colonel and eventually chief of staff for the 11th and 12th Corps in 1864.

An Act of Heroism

In 1862, after achieving a brigadier general status and taking command of the Third Brigade of the Fifth Army Corps, Butterfield’s unit took part in a battle at Gaines’ Mill in Virginia. A serious injury could not stop Butterfield and his troops; they seized the colors of the Eighty-third Pennsylvania and rallied the regiment to hold their ground, allowing the Army of the Potomac to withdraw to Harrison’s Landing unscathed. This act of bravery later earned Butterfield the Medal of Honor.

A Tune of Pride

One of Butterfield’s largest contributions to the soldiers of the Civil War was his gift of music. No stranger to bugle calls, Butterfield is credited with composing the popular bugle call “Taps”, still used to this day in military funerals and flag ceremonies across the country. He also created a special bugle call for his own brigade called the “Dan Butterfield Call”.

Following a severe injury on July 3, 1863 in the heat of the Battle of Gettysburg, Butterfield would not retire from active service until falling victim to fever during Sherman’s March to the Sea. By war’s end, he was a major general and remained a superintendent of the army’s general recruiting service in New York City.

Butterfield died on July 17, 1901. By special order of the Secretary of War, he was buried with full military honors at the Military Academy at West Point despite never having attended the academy. Unfortunately, neither his ornate tomb nor his monument in New York City mention Taps or his association with the call, leaving the origin of the military bugle call shrouded in mystery to all but history buffs.

Daniel Adams Butterfield played an integral role in the Civil War and the United States Armed Forces throughout his life, and we want to honor him for his achievements. To pay your respects, visit the Soldiers’ National Cemetery for 100 Nights of Taps each night between Memorial Day and Labor Day, where each night a different bugler will play Taps as a tribute to those fallen soldiers of Gettysburg. Be sure to give us a call at 1-800-877-680 or check our calendar of  tours for even more history!