Union General Daniel Butterfield: A Civil War Biography (Pula)

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by Jim Pula

This book explores the complex legacy of Union General Daniel Butterfield, from his battlefield heroics and Medal of Honor to controversies and innovations that shaped the Civil War. James S. Pula unravels this enigmatic figure's life in this meticulously researched and long-awaited biography.

Dan Butterfield played a pivotal role during the Civil War. He led troops in the field at the brigade, division, and corps level, wrote an 1862 Army field manual, was awarded a Medal of Honor, composed “Taps,” and served as the chief-of-staff for Joe Hooker in the Army of the Potomac. He introduced a custom that remains in the U.S. Army today: the use of a distinctive hat or shoulder patch to denote the soldier’s unit. Butterfield was also controversial, not well-liked by some, and tainted by politics. Award-winning author James S. Pula unspools fact from fiction to offer the first detailed and long overdue treatment of the man and the officer in 
Union General Daniel Butterfield: A Civil War Biography.

Butterfield was born into a wealthy New York family whose father co-founded American Express. He was one of the war’s early volunteers and made an important contribution with his manual 
Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry (1862). He gained praise leading a brigade on the Virginia Peninsula and was wounded at Gaines’ Mill, where his heroism would earn him the Medal of Honor in 1892. It was in the solemnity of camp following the Seven Days’ Battles that he gained lasting fame for composing “Taps.” When its commander went missing, Butterfield took command of a division at Second Bull Run and did so with steadiness and intelligence. His abilities bumped him up to lead the Fifth Corps during the bloodbath at Fredericksburg, where he was charged with managing the dangerous withdrawal across the Rappahannock River.

Shocked and hurt when he was supplanted as the head of the Fifth Corps, he received another chance to shine when General Hooker named him chief-of-staff of the Army of the Potomac. In this capacity Butterfield was largely responsible for several innovations. He used insignia he designed himself to identify each corps, streamlined the supply system, and improved communications between commands. He played a pivotal role during the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns in managing logistics, communications, and movements, only to be discarded while home recuperating from a Gettysburg wound. Politics and his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War tainted his rising star. When Hooker was sent west, Butterfield went along as chief-of-staff and earned positive comments from Hooker and Gens. George Thomas, William T. Sherman, and U. S. Grant. Butterfield led a division in the XX Corps during the Atlanta Campaign with conspicuous ability at Resaca before a recurring illness forced him from the field.

Pula’s absorbing prose, meticulous research into primary source material, and evenhanded treatment of this important Civil War figure will be welcomed by historians and casual readers alike. 
Union General Daniel Butterfield: A Civil War Biography is a study long overdue.

  • Release date: June 15, 2024
  • Paperback
  • 280 Pages