July 26, 2019 (12:36 pm)

The song ‘Taps’ and a historical connection to Heroes Hall

Mitchell Butterfield introduces the playing of “Taps,” played at 6 p.m. each night of the OC Fair at Heroes Hall. (Inset photo) Daniel Butterfield, largely credited with composing “Taps.” Main photo by Mike Goulding, inset photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

When “Taps” gets played at 6 p.m. nightly at Heroes Hall during the 2019 OC Fair, there’s one man standing there who has an especially direct attachment to the song.

Mitchell Butterfield, who works at Heroes Hall during the Fair, is related to Daniel Butterfield, the Medal of Honor-winning Civil War Army general largely credited with composing the song. 

Daniel Butterfield, along with bugler Oliver Willcox Norton, wrote “Taps” as a new way to establish the military call for the end of the day. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that it became the official end-of-day call.

Nowadays, it’s most associated with being played at military funerals.

Mitchell Butterfield salutes the flag as “Taps” plays at Heroes Hall. The song is played at 6 p.m. each night of the OC Fair at Heroes Hall. Photo by Mike Goulding

Mitchell Butterfield’s fellow workers at Heroes Hall had no idea about the connection.

“When we had the first kid who played ‘Taps,’ I went up and told him, ‘You know, my great great grandfather wrote that song,’ Butterfield said. “And (Heroes Hall Supervisor Carol Singleton) heard that and said, ‘Really?’ And then it just went from there.”

Taps has been played at Heroes Hall for the OC Fair since the military museum opened in 2017.

Mitchell Butterfield, 72, from Orange, is also an Army veteran, while his father was a Marine who was stationed at El Toro, lived in Tustin and later moved to Orange.

While Butterfield is proud of the historical connection — “I feel proud that he had something to do with it. I tell it to anyone who wants to listen” – he’s also reluctant to mention it when he introduces the playing of “Taps” at Heroes Hall.

Centennial Farm volunteer Richard Grogan, a bugler who plays “Taps” at Heroes Hall. Photo by Carol Singleton

“When I do the announcement, I don’t mention the family part of it,” he said. “It’s not relevant. It’s about the vets. It’s about the servicemen.”

During a recent night at Heroes Hall, “Taps” was played for the first time with the correct musical instrument: a bugle.

And the bugler playing it? Another OC Fair connection: Richard Grogan, a Centennial Farm volunteer as an oxen teamster.

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