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updated: 5/24/2013 8:23 PM

May Is Military Appreciation Month A National Song Of Remebrance

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  • Daniel Butterfield

    Daniel Butterfield

Sunshine Roth

During the Civil War to become an officer one needed to learn how to play the bugle and learn the bugle calls. It was also during that time that an officer could quickly make rank and take charge of brigades, even if they did not have any military experience. One such officer was Daniel Butterfield.

In 1862, under Butterfield's direction, a new Lights Out was adapted. Butterfield thought the call that was being used was too formal and asked his brigade bugler, Oliver Norton, to help revise a call. What transpired were the 24 notes that we know as Taps. Following the war Butterfield remained in the Army and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. He was placed in charge of special public ceremonies, and designed the Corps Badges system for distinguishing units. He died in 1901 and he was buried at West Point even though he did not attend that facility. Taps was sounded at his funeral.

Oliver Wilcox Norton volunteered to serve in 1861 as a private. It was in 1862 that he was placed in General Butterfield's regiment and was taught some bugle calls and became a bugler. In 1863 he became a first lieutenant in the Colored Troops. While in the Army Norton served not only as a bugler, but also as an orderly, a flag bearer and later he held the positions of staff officer and regimental quartermaster. In 1865 Norton was discharged from the Army and became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and served as commander of the Illinois Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion.

Later in life Norton wrote books, amongst them a private book containing letters of his experiences in 1903. One of his letters to his sister stated: "The first thing in the morning is drill, then drill, then drill again. Then drill, drill, a little more drill. Then drill, and lastly, drill. Between drills, we drill and sometimes stop to eat a little and have a roll-call."

Norton died in 1920 at the age of 81. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered. Nothing honors this man that revised a tune, "Taps", that would be named in January 2013, the official National Song of Remembrance in a resolution signed by the president of the US.