Daniel Butterfield

BornOctober 31, 1831, Utica, NY
DiedJuly 17, 1901, Cold Spring, NY
EducationUnion College


Thoroughly hated by his fellow officers, Daniel Butterfield was wounded at Gettysburg and “fortunately for him and to the joy of all has gone home.” A New York businessman with the American Express company, he had been active in the militia before the war.


Leading his regiment of militia-the first to cross the Long Bridge-into Virginia, he later commanded a brigade of Patterson’s army. About this time he was given a commission in one of the new regular army regiments. In the Peninsula Campaign he earned a Congressional Medal of Honor-awarded in 1892-for the carrying of the flag of the 3rd Pennsylvania at Gaines’ Mill. He was also wounded in this action. While the army was encamped at Harrison’s Landing, he experimented with bugle calls, designing a special call for his brigade to be played before the regular calls to avoid confusion with those of other commands. He is also, somewhat questionably, credited with originating “Taps.”

His subsequent rise was rapid-commanding a brigade at 2nd Bull Run and a corps by Fredericksburg. When Hooker was given command of the army, Butterfield, by now a major general, was made his chief of staff. It was during this period that the army headquarters was termed “a combination of bar-room and brothel. ” Most officers considered the culprits to be Hooker, Daniel E. Sickles, and Butterfield. During the fighting at Chancellorsville, Butterfield was left behind at Falmouth to coordinate the actions of the two wings and communicate with Washington. With Meade’s taking command of the army, a few days before Gettysburg, he reluctantly kept Butterfield as his staff chief, preferring not to replace him during active campaigning. The problem was finally solved when Butterfield was struck by a spent piece of shell on the third day of the battle.

Returning to duty in the fall of 1863, he joined Hooker again at Chattanooga and was his chief of staff in the battle. With the formation of the 20th Corps he,was given a division, which he commanded in the Atlanta Campaign. Illness forced him to leave the field before its conclusion. He later was given an assignment at Vicksburg and then was on recruiting duty in New York as a regular army colonel following his August 24, 1865, muster out of the volunteers. Resigning in 1870, he returned to his business interests and was active in veterans groups. Ironically he is buried at West Point, which he never attended, with one of the most ornate monuments.

Military Achievements

  • First Sergeant, Clay Guards, District of Columbia Volunteers (April 16, 1861)
  • Colonel, 12th New York Militia (May 2, 1861)
  • Lieutenant Colonel, 12th Infantry (May 14, 1861)
  • Commanding 8th Brigade, 3rd Division, Department of Pennsylvania (July 1861)
  • Brigadier General, USV (September 7, 186 1)
  • Commanding 3rd Brigade, Porter’s Division, Army of the Potomac (October 3, 186 I-March 13, 1862)
  • Commanding 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 3rd Corps, Army of the Potomac (March 13-May 18, 1862)
  • Commanding 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac (May 18-August 30, 1862)
  • Commanding 1st Brigade (August 30, 1862) Commanding the division (November 1-16, 1862)
  • Commanding the corps (November 16-December 25, 1862)
  • Major General, USV (November 29, 1862)
  • Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac (January-July 3, 1863)
  • Colonel, 5th Infantry (July 1, 1863)
  • Chief of Staff, 11th and 12th Corps, Army of the Cumberland (October 1863-April 14, 1864)
  • Commanding 3rd Division, 20th Corps, Army of the Cumberland (April 14-June 29, 1864)

(Butterfield, Julia Lorriland, A Biographical Memorial of General Daniel Butterfield)