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Tapping the roots of ‘Taps’

Historical Society hosts talk on Butterfield’s bugle call, local ties

Daniel Butterfield is known for creating the classic bugle song “Taps,” but some people might be surprised to know his local tie to Union College. Those ties and other aspects of his life were discussed at a recent Schenectady  Historical Society presentation by Frank Taormina.

Daniel Butterfield is known for creating the classic bugle song “Taps,” but some people might be surprised to know his local tie to Union College. Those ties and other aspects of his life were discussed at a recent Schenectady Historical Society presentation by Frank Taormina.

— When Butterfield was in Virginia in 1862 he arranged what is now “Taps” from a French bugle call signaling lights out for the night. He had felt the call was too formal and wanted to create something different from his troops.

Using an older bugle call that stopped being played just before the Civil War, he rearranged the last five and a half measures to create the ubiquitous 24-note song. The call quickly caught on throughout the Union army.

Taormina said searching the Internet for “Taps” reveals a plethora of information and theories behind the song.

“If you are an old guy like me, you can just sit there and spend the afternoon listening to ‘Taps,’” Taormina joked.

Taormina’s talk ties in with the ongoing focus the Historical Society has given to the Civil War.

“We have done a series of programming on commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War … we started last year and will go until 2015,” Ryan Mahoney, curator of the historical society, said. “Daniel Butterfield has a local connection with Union College … it fit in perfectly.”

Mahoney said Butterfield’s life after the Civil War is also interesting with several controversies.

“You just mainly hear about Butterfield with the Civil War, but there is really so much with his life going on afterwards,” Mahoney said.

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