Union General Egbert Ludovicus Viel
Walking in the back gate of the West Point Cemetery, I passed by two very unusual structures in the cemetery. The first one was an Egyptian pyramid complete with two sphinxes in front. Inside is a recumbent statue of Union General Egbert Ludovicus Viele. To the left of Viele’s structure was a large gazebo in memory of Union General Daniel Butterfield.
Ms. Rebelle has done research on General Viele but has been unable to find out why he is buried in a pyramid. His is the third grave that I’ve seen in the form of a pyramid. John Core, one of Mosby’s Rangers, is buried in an even bigger pyramid in Norfolk. When walking through Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, SC, I saw one there as well. The interesting thing I did find out is that the general was extremely afraid of being buried alive. The fear of being buried alive seemed to be a common one in the 19th century. He had a buzzer and light installed in his coffin that connected directly to the caretaker’s house on the premises. The second interesting thing is that this buzzer was connected for twenty years after his death. Unfortunately for the general, he did not revive and never rang the buzzer.
General Viele was born on June 17, 1825 in Waterford, New York. He was the son of State Senator John L. Viele. After graduating with honors from The Albany Academy, he entered West Point and graduated 30th in the class of 1847. Classmates included Union Generals Romeyn Ayres, Ambrose Burnside, John Gibbon, and Orlando Willcox. Confederate Generals Henry Heth and A.P. Hill were also in the class of 1847. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the Second United States Infantry. After serving in the Mexican War, he established Camp Crawford in Laredo, Texas. In 1853 he resigned from the Army and became the State Engineer of New Jersey in 1855. One of his first jobs was to survey the area of Central Park in New York City and submit a design for the park. His original design had four roads going into the park. In 1856 he was appointed engineer-in-chief of Central Park and submitted plans for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY.
In 1860 he re-entered the Army with the Seventh New York and became a brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers in 1861. He was in command of the Union forces during the siege of Fort Pulaski in Savannah. Later in 1862, he was appointed Military Governor of Norfolk. He resigned again from the army in October, 1863 to work as a civil engineer in New York City. One of Viele’s greatest accomplishments is the Sanitary and Topographical Atlas of the City and Island of New York published in 1874. This map is still called the Viele Map and used today by engineers building new buildings in the city. It was used at the World Trade Center site when it was constructed in 1973. The map shows his surveys of the steams, marshes, and the coastline of the city. Over top of the colored map is the street grid of the city. Engineers today state that the map will probably never be updated as it would be practically impossible to trace all the streams today. Viele also developed plans for the subway system in New York.
General Viele helped design the Post Cemetery at West Point. His grave, even though in the back of the cemetery, is very prominent. The General’s wife thought the pair of sphinxes guarding the mausoleum were too buxom so they were thrown in the Hudson River. More modest new sphinxes were made per his wife’s request. Someone rescued one of the sphinxes and it resides behind one of the quarters at West Point. The general died in New York City on April 22, 1902.
Union General Daniel Butterfield
General Daniel Adams Butterfield final resting place is below an elaborate gazebo at West Point. The curious thing about his burial is that he never went to West Point. He was a Medal of Honor winner so most likely that is the reason he is buried there.
Butterfield was born October 31, 1831 in Utica, New York. He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY in 1849. He was originally employed by the American Express Company founded by his father, John Warren Butterfield. The elder Butterfield was also the owner of the Overland Mail Company, which had two different modes of transportation including stagecoaches, steamship lines, plus telegraph lines.
On April 16, 1861, shortly after Fort Sumter, Butterfield joined the Army in Washington, DC as a first sergeant. He was given a commission as a colonel in the 12th New York Militia later becoming the 12th New York Infantry. His unit was the first to cross the Long Bridge into Virginia. In July, 1861 he commanded a brigade and was appointed a brigadier general in September, 1861. He joined McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign, fought at the Seven Days Battles at Gaines Mill where he was wounded seizing the colors of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. In 1892 he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads: “Seized the colors of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers at a critical moment and, under a galling fire of the enemy, encouraged the depleted ranks to renewed exertion.” While recuperating from his wounds at Harrison’s Landing, VA, Butterfield experimented with bugle calls and is credited with the composition of Taps. Taps was written to replace the firing of three rifle volleys at the end of burials during battle. Shortly thereafter, both sides used Taps, and it is still in use today as the official bugle call.
Butterfield was the brigade commander at Second Bull Run, Antietam, and became division commander and V Corps commander at Fredericksburg. His corps went through the city of Fredericksburg taking fire from Marye’s Heights. When General Joseph Hooker became the commander of the Army of the Potomac, Butterfield became his chief of staff in January, 1863. He was promoted to major general in March, 1863. Hooker and Butterfield became close friends. Butterfield was disliked by many of his colleagues. After Hooker was replaced by General George Meade before the battle of Gettysburg, Meade retained Butterfield as his chief of staff even though he distrusted him. Butterfield was again wounded by a spent artillery shell at Gettysburg on the third day of battle. Meade removed him as his chief of staff. When he returned to duty as Hooker’s chief of staff, he then commanded II corps in the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. He led the 3rd Division of the XX Corps in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, then was sent to Vicksburg, and later commanded the harbor forces in New York before the war ended.
President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Butterfield as Assistant Treasurer of the United States. He was involved in the Black Friday gold scandal during the Grant administration in 1869.
General Butterfield died in Cold Spring, New York on July 17, 1901. The Butterfield Paramedic Institute, a former hospital, in Cold Spring, NY is named for him. There is also a statue of him in Sakura Park in Manhattan.
Ms. Rebelle is a member of the The Bull Run Civil War Round Table which meets every second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Centreville Regional Library. The public is invited to attend at no cost and visit the website www.bullruncwrt.org for additional activities (tours, etc.)