Daniel Butterfield


Butterfield's career

Daniel Butterfield (1831-1901) used his political and family connections to arrange a high-ranking position for himself during the Civil War. After blunders at Second Manassas and Fredericksburg in 1862 resulted in thousands of casualties, Butterfield's superiors wisely relegated him to desk duties. He was with General Hooker at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 5/3/1863, but generally, his most significant contributions to the war effort were the inglorious but essential administrative tasks for which his experience in the family business (American Express) had prepared him.

A few years later, as director of the United States Sub-Treasury in New York, Butterfield again displayed notable lack of judgment - perhaps even outright dishonesty. He notified Jay Gould when President Grant telegraphed orders to sell millions of dollars' worth of gold. Gould and his partners had been attempting to corner the gold market; Butterfield's warning gave Gould time to sell his holdings before the price plummeted on September 24, 1869.

In the Congressional investigation that followed Wall Street's first "Black Friday," Butterfield was removed from office but not prosecuted. Small wonder that Mrs. Butterfield required her husband's statue to honor him as a soldier rather than a bureaucrat.

A century later, the only achievement of Butterfield's that's still remembered is not financial or military but musical. He modified a decades-old bugle call into the melody we know as "Taps." Despite his mediocrity as a major general and his machinations on Wall Street, Butterfield was buried honorably at West Point, to the somber accompaniment of "Taps."

Borglum's Advice to Artists

Gutzon Borglum, a short-tempered man, never hesitated to express his opinions bluntly. Here's his advice to fellow artists, quoted in Robert J. Casey and Mary Borglum, Give the Man Room, 1952:

This story is told to lend an encouraging, believing hand to all lonely, creative souls who are wandering into the uncharted, untraveled wilderness of God's greater universe, finding through their own understanding new and undreamed worlds; and to those who continue alone to pour into unpeopled space their cry - unafraid, expecting no answer. Courage to stand alone; courage to master, to know, to do alone. Courage to spurn the tradesman's reward and popularity. Courage to be without great approval, in spite of government, in spite of today's laws, tomorrow's threat - every threat - in spite of Heaven.

Further reading

For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,

Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;

But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.