Daniel Butterfield (1831–1901) was born October 31, 1831. His father John was a leader in the express mail business, and helped found the American Express Company. Butterfield graduated from Union College in 1849, and became a merchant in New York City. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, he served as a colonel in the 12th New York militia. Demonstrating leadership in military engagements on the upper Potomac in the Shenandoah Valley, Butterfield rose rapidly in the ranks to brigadier-general of volunteers in the 12th Infantry.
Butterfield distinguished himself as an officer, and during the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns he served as chief of staff to the Army of the Potomac. Wounded at Gettysburg, he was reassigned as General Hooker’s chief of staff at Chattanooga and the Atlanta campaign. By the war’s end, Butterfield was promoted to a major general “for gallant and meritorious conduct.” Among all his wartime achievements, he is best remembered as the composer of the mournful bugle call “Taps.”
After the war, Butterfield remained in the Army in New York City, where he was superintendent of the recruiting service and commander of the troops in New York harbor. He resigned in March 1870 and headed the local United States sub-treasury before joining the family business, American Express. Butterfield also displayed considerable business acumen in real estate and railroad construction ventures. In 1886, he married Julia Lorrilard James in London, England.
In his later years, Butterfield was the master of ceremonies for several notable events and public spectacles including the Washington Centennial Celebration (1889), General Sherman’s funeral (1891), and Admiral Dewey’s triumphant return from Manila (1899). He is entombed at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
This bronze statue of the general was created by the famous sculptor John Gutzon Borglum (1867–1941), better known for his sculptures of four U.S. presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The firm of Ludlow and Peabody designed the granite base. In her will, Julia Butterfield specifically directed the executors to “cause to be made and erected in the Borough of Manhattan, near or in Central Park, a colossal statue of General Daniel Butterfield, representing him standing with his arms folded and wearing a cocked hat, as shown in a picture of him in bronze bas relief in the rooms of the Historical Society at Utica, New York.”
The sculptor Borglum was born in Idaho, the son of Danish immigrants. One of several brothers who became sculptors, he studied in France before settling in New York City in 1902. He maintained a sculpture studio at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine at Amsterdam Avenue and West 112th Street. In accordance with Mrs. Butterfield’s will, Borglum depicted the General in heroic size, in full-dress uniform, head held high, with arms folded. The general stands on a stylized rock intended to evoke the rocky terrain of Little Round Top at Gettysburg.
The statue was cast by the Gorham Bronze Foundry in 1917, and erected on February 23, 1918, in the southeast corner of Sakura Park, east of Grant’s Tomb. Disputes between the sculptor and the executors caused the artist to sue for claims of $32,000. He was asked to modify his design so extensively that he signed the piece on the top of its head, commenting wryly, “That is the only part of the original statue they didn’t make me change.”
In 1936, the statue was restored and a replacement sword was attached. In 1986, adjoining granite benches were removed and the balustrade modified as part of the overall reconstruction of Sakura Park. In 1999, the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program restored the monument with funding from the American Express Company, the Florence Gould Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
General Daniel Butterfield Details
- Sculptor: Gutzon Borglum
- Architect: Ludlow and Peabody
- Description: Standing figure (over life size) on rock on pedestal
- Materials: Bronze, Deer Isle granite
- Dimensions: H: 15'4" D: 3'3"
- Cast: 1917
- Dedicated: February 23,1918
- Foundry: Gorham Company
- Donor: Estate of Julia L. Butterfield
- Inscription: 1) Sculpture signed: GUTZON BORGLUM / SCULPTOR 1917 /
2) Pedestal front: BUTTERFIELD / 1831-1901 /