Day is Done, Gone the Sun
by Thomas R. Fasulo
37th Iowa Volunteer Infantry
One of the nice things about being the Webmaster of a Civil War site is the (mostly) wonderful people you meet and get to know, either in the present day or in the past. For example, after adding all the information about the units, commanders and the battle itself on the Battle of Olustee Web site during 1995-1996, I was extremely pleased to have a visitor to the site ask if I wanted to post some letters between their great-grandparents. Of course, I said yes, and that was the beginning of a flood, over the years, of letters, memoirs and photographs relating to the people who fought at Olustee and their loved ones. It was these items, contributed by their ancestors, that helped make the Battle of Olustee Web site one of the top 95 Civil War sites on the World Wide Web (if you can believe the book, The Civil War on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites).
I also find it interesting that I have joined at least two sets of distant relatives. These people visited the site, because they knew their ancestor fought there, and found that a previously unknown distant cousin had already contributed information on their common ancestor. But for me the most interesting story concerns a private in the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry. His name was Oliver Willcox Norton and I first encountered him in the book Brothers In Arms, one of those many large format books, heavy with photographs, that you often find for sale at discount book stores.
Reenactors often tell spectators how the soldiers in this war spent most of their time drilling, but Private Norton told it best when he 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 roll-call." I thought this quote so descriptive of what I try to convey as a living historian that I often use it in my presentations. So years later when I was creating the Battle of Olustee Web site, I was amazed when I once again ran across Oliver Wilcox Norton, except this time he was fighting at Olustee as a lieutenant in the 8th United States Colored Troops. Lt. Norton had some interesting things to say about his regiment and you can read them here. You can also read the letter he wrote his sister about the battle. Reading this letter, and seeing how many other battles Oliver Willcox Norton participated in, convinces you that the men of the new 8th USCT were fortunate to have such an experienced soldier as a line officer.
The majority of the enlisted men of the 8th USCT were "fresh fish" who had never been in combat before Olustee. However, the bravery they displayed there was equal to that of the veterans in gray on the opposite side who ran out ammunition at one point in the battle and stayed in line, rather then let the Federals know they were powerless to oppose an advance.
Speaking of "fresh fish"... I was drilling some new recruits at the 2003 Olustee reenactment. As I often do, I cautioned them to learn their manual of arms smartly and not to imitate some older "veterans" who never learned the correct movements. I also warned them about believing everything they hear. As is my habit, I asked them if they knew how the bugle call "Taps" came about. One replied, "Oh, yes. The guy in the tower at (another Civil War reenactment) told us how a Union officer was walking the field after a battle and found the score for Taps in the hand of his dead son, who was a Confederate and had been a music student before the war."
"Exactly my point," I replied, "That is a wonderful story that tears at your heart. But as we entomologists often say, that is a pile of frass." (Frass being insect waste.)
As we all know, the Civil War armies used bugle calls to issue commands, everything from church call to attack. The problem during the Civil War was that there were so many brigades and divisions in one place that the regimental officers had problems determining which bugle call they were suppose to respond to. One man who did something to resolve the problem was Major General Dan Butterfield (according to historian Bruce Catton in the book Glory Road, part of his trilogy on the Army of the Potomac). One day at Harrison's Landing, after the battle of Malvern Hill during the Peninsula campaign, General Butterfield got together with his brigade bugler and created a recognition call for his brigade - three whole notes, followed by a couple of triplets - which would precede all bugle calls meant for Butterfield's brigade. The men in the brigade quickly fitted a chant to the notes: "Dan - Dan - Dan - Butterfield - Butterfield." General Butterfield use to say that when his men were unhappy with him they converted this to "Damn - Damn - Damn - Butterfield - Butterfield."
General Butterfield didn't stop there, as Bruce Catton further explains. He sat down with his brigade bugler and together they modified the score for "Tattoo" or "lights out." The problem with this tune, itself adapted from a French bugle call, is that it did more to wake men up then put them to sleep. So Butterfield and his bugler reworked the last 5 1/2 bars of "Tattoo" and created a call that Butterfield liked. The brigade bugler played it every night and when other brigade buglers heard it they copied the call and it soon spread throughout the Army of the Potomac. When some of the troops were transferred out West for a period (remember that Hooker's corps participated at the Battle of Chattanooga in Tennessee) the call spread to the western armies too. Eventually, it became the traditional way that the military ended the day and is certainly the most recognized bugle call in America.
But my story doesn't end there. While reading the entry for "music" in my copy of the Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War to further validate the origin of "Taps," I came across a very interesting piece of trivia. Major General Butterfield's brigade included the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry, and his bugler came from that regiment. The bugler's name was Oliver Willcox Norton (see the story by Jari Villanueva, from pages 15-21 of his Twenty-Four Notes That Tap Deep Emotions: The story of America's most famous bugle call), destined to be an officer in the 8th USCT and a veteran of the Battle of Olustee.
Additional true story of Taps references:
Battle of Olustee home page