History - Vsn 2

History - Vsn 2

Version 2
Union Army Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield version


The Union 'Army of the Potomac' had conducted the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia. This particular Campaign was an all-out attempt to crush the Confederates by taking the capital city of the Confederacy - Richmond. The effort had gone badly. Not only had GA McClellan failed to take Richmond, but the Campaign was enormously costly to both sides - 16,000 Union casualties and 20,000 Confederates casualties. Nearly 11,000 men on both sides were killed just in one frightful week of the Seven Days' Campaign.

BG Butterfield commanded the Third Brigade which was mauled by the Confederates at the Battle of Gaines' Mill. More than 600 men were killed or wounded on that one day.

Though heavily outnumbered, BG Butterfield's men not only repulsed the Confederate troops, but they also covered the withdrawal of GA McClellan's Army to Harrison Landing, on the banks of the James River at Berkeley, southeast of Richmond.

On July 2nd, 1862, trying to heal their wounds and awaiting for replacements, the Third Brigade rested at their bivouacked positions at Harrison Landing. Amidst the heat, humidity, rain showers, mud, insects, dysentery and illness throughout the camp, BG Butterfield was overwhelmed with sadness. Never before had his heart been filled with such heavy melancholy over the loss of his men. Many old friends were now gone. Scores of young men committed to his command had died. He himself had received a serious wound.

At this point, we have to understand where MG Butterfield is coming from as regarding his knowledge of the bugle calls in his camps.

Although by his own admission, he could not read or write music, BG Butterfield was firmly convinced that each commander under him should have his own personal bugle call to enhance his quick and efficient communication on the battlefield, which was demonstrated on numerous occasions, even division sized forces moving at night such as his retreat from the Second Battle of Bull Run, "without loss of a straggler." His own call - Dan, Dan, Dan, Butterfield, Butterfield - which he composed was sometimes sung by his men as - Damn, Damn, Damn, Butterfield, Butterfield - when in difficult situations.

This next part explains the first appearance in the Union Army of the bugle call we now call TAPS as verified by BG Butterfield himself in response to an inquiry by the Century Magazine in 1898 which in turn was asking for verification on behalf of a letter they had received from a Major Norton as to the origin of TAPS.

In his reply, MG Butterfield, writing from "Cragside," Cold Spring, NY, his home, an ear shot from West Point, under the date of Aug 31st, 1898 wrote:

"I recall, in dim memory the substantial truth of the statement made by Norton, of the 83rd PA, about bugle calls. The facts are that at that time I could well sound calls on the bugle as a necessary part of the military knowledge and instruction for an officer commanding a regiment or brigade. I had acquired this as a regimental commander. I had also composed a call for my brigade, (Ed's note - he is referring to his call 'Dan, Dan, Dan, Butterfield, Butterfield') to precede any calls, indicating that such were calls, or orders, for my brigade only. This was of very great use and effect on the march and in battle. It enabled me to cause my whole command, at times, in march, covering over a mile on the road, to all halt instantly, and lie down, and all arise and start at the same moment; to forward in line of battle, simultaneously, in action and in charge.

"The call of TAPS did not seem to be as smooth, melodious and musical as it should be, and I called in (Private Norton) some one who could write music, and practiced a change in the call of TAPS until I had it to suit my ear, and then, got it to my taste without being able to write music or knowing the technical name of the note, but, simply by ear."
This is how he did it! By slowing down the bugle call and out of 23 notes in the melody only changing the pitch of the first note, and three others just rhythmically - VIOLA! - you're listening to the last 6 ¼ measures of the original 1835 version of Tattoo from Major General Scott's manual of 'Infantry Tactics.' (See music above and on page 8) To me that leaves no doubt in my mind that BG Butterfield knew this call from his prior, military experience and 'borrowed' it to fit the new occasion. Private Norton, just having arrived in the Army had no knowledge of this 1835 manual as it had been replaced by the time he came in to service.

Private Norton, now a Major, in 1898 writing to the Century magazine stated that
"During the early part of the Civil War, I was the bugler at the Headquarters of Butterfield's Brigade, Morell's Division, Fitz-John Porter's Camp, Army of the Potomac. Up to July 2nd, 1862, the Infantry call for TAPS was set down in Casey's Tactics. One day, soon after the seven day's battles on the Peninsular, when the Army of the Potomac was lying in camp at Harrison Landing, BG Butterfield, then commanding our Brigade, sent for me, and showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. (Ed's note - I believe these pencil marks were a series of long and short dashes that were indicative of the last 6 ¼ measures of the old Tattoo bugle call that was in the BG's mind- see music above- that was not being used at the time. This call was originally played faster.)

"After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for TAPS thereafter, in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night, and was heard far beyond the limits of the Brigade. The next day, I was visited by several buglers from neighboring brigades, asking for copies of the music, which I gladly furnished."
The call spread like a weed in summer from that time on. Just in passing, it is interesting to me to note that back on May 1st, 1861, the Secretary of War authorized a book entitled "U.S. Infantry Tactics for the Instruction, Exercise and Maneuvers of the United States Infantry" in which are listed 48 bugle calls for the Chief Bugler and Drum Major. On the night of July 2nd, BG Butterfield added the 50th call to be memorized by his Brigade bugler.

(Ed's note: Before the Laws of Copyright protected composers from others taking their songs it was common practice to use various melodies for other occasions. Take for example: Our National Anthem. The original music, changed to fit the words of Francis Scott Key's poem at Baltimore, MD was the drinking song of the Anacreonic Society, an all exclusive men's club in London, titled "To Anacreon in Heaven" a toasting song to the Wine God - Bacchus.)

BG Butterfield never took credit for the actual composition or act of composing this now world famous bugle call until 1898 when questioned by the Century Magazine. At that point, he just verified Major Norton's statement of the account of that night in July 1862. Now it is fitting that as 100 years have passed since 1898, we honor both "Private Norton, bugler" and BG Butterfield, a soldier obeying orders of his Commanding Officer, for their history making meeting at Harrison Landing.

BG Butterfield had a stroke in July of 1901 and several days later died, (age 69) on July 17th, 1901. His remains rest at the West Point Cemetery. The sixteen ornate columns on his monument record the thirty-eight battles and skirmishes in which he participated.