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Absence of Evidence – A Story

Absence of Evidence – A Story
By Tom Mannle, Gloucester, MA 
© 2020 Tom Mannle

Mentioned in Dispatches

On 11 July 1862, Union Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield completed the second of his dispatches—what in current parlance would be considered “After Action Reports”—describing his actions and those of his Brigade between 26 June and 1 July 1862, in what has come down in Civil War history as the Seven Days Battles.

Daniel Butterfield

“Butterfield’s Brigade” was its unofficial name, part of a division commanded by Brigadier General George W. Morrell (“Morrell’s Division), and in turn was part of Brigadier General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps. Butterfield’s Brigade originally was made up of the 50th Pennsylvania, 16th Michigan, 17th New York Volunteer and 44th New York Volunteer Regiments.

In his second installment, Butterfield commended several officers and men for particular acts of gallantry or distinguished service—this practice is known as “mentioned in dispatches” in some armies—and the favorable sentiments expressed are prized by those on whom they are bestowed. In this report, Butterfield wrote:[1]

Privates Robert Mannle and Charles Guyer, 17th New York Volunteers, musicians, accompanied me during the engagement as buglers. Their devotion and courage deserve special commendation.

From the records of the 17th New York Volunteers,[2] we know that:

  • Charles Guyer was also known as George C. Gwire and “Gurgee.” He enlisted as a private in May 1861 in New York City. He was appointed a musician and transferred to the regimental band in July. He was discharged for disability in November 1862 but later served as a private with the 17th New York Veteran Volunteer regiment.
  • Robert Mannle, also known as “Manley”, enlisted as a private in June 1861 in New York City. He was promoted to Drum Major—presumably in charge of the regimental band—and mustered into the staff of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) on the same date in July as Charles Guyer was appointed a musician. He was reduced in rank and transferred to Company C on July 18th1862. He mustered out of the 17th New York in June 1863 at the end of the standard two-year enlistment period.
17th New York Veteran Volunteer regiment

Why was Robert Mannle, a new recruit, appointed to such a responsible position as “Drum Major?” Presumably because if it wasn’t known by the regimental leadership at the time of his enlistment, it became apparent shortly thereafter: Robert Mannle had enlisted in the United States Army in May 1857, four years before the outbreak of the Civil war, as a boy of sixteen in order “to learn music.” After an indoctrination period with the “music boys” at Fort Columbus on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor, in March 1859 he was assigned as a musician to Company A, Battalion of Engineers at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. In that capacity he continued the formal education in military music begun two years earlier.

In the spring of 1861, he found himself free (topic of an altogether different Robert Mannle story) to enlist in the 17th New York Volunteers. In addition to his being a school-trained field musician, Robert Mannle was also my great grandfather.

The Official Story of Taps

After the tumult of the Seven Days, in early July 1862 the Army of the Potomac was resting at Harrison’s Landing, VA. Thirty-seven years later in response to an article published in  Century magazine, the bugler of the 83rd Pennsylvania, Oliver Norton, related the story of how Taps as we know it came into being:

During the early part of the Civil War I was bugler at the Headquarters of Butterfield’s Brigade, Meroll’s [sic] Division, Fitz-John Porter’s Corp, Army of the Potomac. Up to July 1862, the Infantry call for Taps was that set down in Casey’s Tactics, which … was borrowed from the French. One day, soon after the seven days battles on the Peninsular, when the Army of the Potomac was lying in camp at Harrison’s Landing, General Daniel Butterfield, then commanding our Brigade, sent for me, and showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night and was heard far beyond the limits of our Brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring Brigades, asking for copies of the music which I gladly furnished.[3]

Norton and Butterfield Painting from Berekley Plantation, VA

General Butterfield, contacted by the Century editor, replied, I recall, in my dim memory, the substantial truth of the statement made by Norton, of the 83rd Pa., about bugle calls.[4]

Taps was first used at a military funeral, in addition to ending the day’s activities, in the summer of 1862:

Captain John C. Tidball of Battery A, Second Artillery, lost a cannoneer who was killed in action. This soldier then needed to be buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced position, concealed in the woods. Since the enemy was close, Tidball realized that it was unsafe to fire the customary volleys over the grave. He worried that the volleys would renew fighting. It occurred to Captain Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be the most appropriate ceremony to use as a substitute. He ordered it to be sounded during the burial. The practice, thus originated, was taken up throughout the Army of the Potomac….[5]

Captain John Tiball (second from left)

Although the notes of Taps came into almost universal use, the funeral and end of the day call retained its official name of “Extinguish Lights,” the call from which Taps was thought to have been derived, until 1891 when “Taps” was officially adopted by the Army. The Taps historian Jari Villanueva, after extensive research, has placed the true musical foundation of Taps not in Extinguish Lights, but the “Scott Tattoo”, a call published in Winfield Scott’s Infantry Tactics in 1835, and still in use at the outbreak of the Civil War.[6]

There are no contemporaneous accounts of the meeting in Butterfield’s tent from either Butterfield or Norton, whose exchange of letters with the Century occurred in 1898. Tidball’s account was written in 1890; his contemporaneous memoirs ended coincident with the end of the Seven Days and were not resumed again for twenty years.[7] So perhaps after a longer period of retrospection there is room for a different interpretation of the events surrounding the origin of Taps.

Oliver Willcox Norton, 83rd PA

A Possible Story of Taps

In comparing the accounts of Butterfield and Norton, Villanueva[8] notes several anomalies:

  • Norton says that the music given to him by Butterfield that night was written down on an envelope, but…
  • Butterfield wrote that he could not read or write music. All officers of the time were required to know the calls and were expected to be able to play the bugle. Butterfield was no different – he could sound the bugle but could not read music.
  • The Scott Tattoo was first published in 1835 as noted above and appeared in two other tactics manuals published between then and 1861. A second version of the Tattoo call came into use just before the Civil War and was in use throughout the war replacing the Scott Tattoo. It was most likely that the second Tattoo, followed by Extinguish Lights (the first eight measures of today’s Tattoo), was sounded by Norton during the course of the war. But, given Villanueva’s conclusion that Taps was based on the Scott Tattoo, he also concluded that it was evident that Norton did not know the early Tattoo or he would have immediately recognized it that evening in Butterfield’s tent.
  • Norton wrote that eventually “orders were issued, or permission given, to substitute it [Taps] throughout the Army of the Potomac for the time-honored call [the Scott Tattoo] which came down from West Point.”[9]

Butterfield’s response to Norton’s 1898 letter contains several other points worth noting:

  • I recall, in dim memory, the substantial truth of the statement made by Norton…his letter gives the impression that I personally wrote the notes for the call…
  • I cannot write a note of music….
  • The call of Taps did not seem to be as smooth, melodious and musical as it should be, and I called in some one who could write music, and practiced a change in the call of Taps until my taste without being able to write music or knowing the technical name of any note, but, simply by ear arranged it as Norton describes.[10]

Thus, the story of Taps as we know it contains three parts:

  • A written document containing musical notation of a melody, presumably the 1835 Scott Tattoo;
  • Oliver Norton’s playing of the Tattoo from the written document; and
  • Butterfield’s verbal modification of Norton’s playing, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he [Butterfield] first gave it to me, until Butterfield’s taste was satisfied as to the result.

We know two of the three participants involved: Butterfield and Norton. We do not know the identity of the “Unknown Musician” who provided the Scott Tattoo to Butterfield written in pencil on the back of an envelope.

Although there’s an absence of direct evidence, there’s a distinct possibility that the Unknown Musician was my great grandfather, Robert Mannle.

The Case for the Unknown Musician

There is indirect, circumstantial, and perhaps strongly circumstantial evidence suggesting that Robert Mannle may have provided the “notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope” to Butterfield.

  • Butterfield and Mannle were personally known to each other, based on the close contact they had during the Seven Days Battles.
  • Butterfield had some considerable favorable regard for Mannle, evidenced by the comments in his second dispatch. Butterfield would have known “devotion and courage” when he saw it, since Butterfield himself would later be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at the battle of Gaines Mill, on 27 June 1862, an action that Mannle may have witnessed as one of Butterfield’s buglers.
  • In Butterfield’s reply to the Century editor, he wrote that he “called in some one who could write music.” Mannle had spent over three years learning military music during twenty-two months with the “music boys” on Fort Columbus and another eighteen months as a musician at West Point. It would have been remarkable if after that prolonged exposure he did not know to both read and write music in the proper notation. It would also been more than remarkable if he had been promoted to Drum Major of the 17th New York shortly after his enlistment if he lacked these skills.
  • Further, because of his prior experience, Mannle was certainly familiar with the Scott Tattoo, having played it at the end of almost every day he was on duty; he probably had it memorized, and might have been able to commit it to written form in a timely manner.
  • Mannle was almost certainly present at Harrison’s Landing during the period when Taps was first developed—early July 1862. The 17th New York had been temporarily detached to another command on 26 June but returned to Harrison’s Landing and rejoined Butterfield’s Brigade on 2 July. As described above, Mannle accompanied Butterfield during the 26 June-2 July period, was already at Harrison’s Landing, and may have rejoined the 17th New York upon their return.

Perhaps several questions remain:

  • Why were the notes written on an envelope? In pencil? Weren’t there other and better materials available? Villaneuva provides a possible answer:

Lastly, it is hard to believe that Butterfield could have composed anything that July in the aftermath of the Seven Days battles which saw the Union Army of the Potomac mangled by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Over twenty-six thousand casualties were suffered on both sides. Butterfield had lost over 600 of his men on June 27th at the battle of Gaines Mill and had himself been wounded. In the midst of the heat, humidity, mud, mosquitoes, dysentery, typhoid and general wretchedness of camp life in that early July, it is hard to imagine being able to write anything.[11]

“General wretchedness” probably extended to the availability of standard supplies: food, water, clothing, fodder for the animals, medical supplies, etc. Not having “proper” paper would have been seen as a minor inconvenience. Assuming that Butterfield handed the envelope to the Unknown Musician for his task, it was probably the closest writing material readily to hand.

  • Are there candidates for the “Unknown Musician” other than Robert Mannle?
    • Oliver Norton is a logical candidate.
      • Norton’s original 1898 letter indicates that the envelope with the Scott Tattoo was shown to him by Butterfield. Even if that had not been the case, his lack of recognition of the Scott Tattoo also indicates he was not a formally trained military musician. There is nothing in Villanueva’s account[12] of Norton’s life that suggests otherwise: “….[he] enlisted with Company K [83rd Pennsylvania] and became the bugler for the unit.” But in Norton’s extensive correspondence, on a letter dated 28 January 1862 he mentions that while “I am passionately fond of music…The music of the field is the fife and drum or the brass band, and the songs sung in camp are not at all remarkable…”[13] suggesting that he was not involved with either the field music or the regimental band.
      • Norton’s first mention of a bugle was in a in a letter dated 27 February 1862, but in a non-musical context: he used it as a “balance weight”[14] for an over-laden pack. His first mention of himself as a musician was in a letter dated 17 March 1862: “I am acting as regimental bugler”[15], which suggests he was recruited to the role at some point and was still learning at the time. All of Norton’s previous letters from 1861 forward reflect a private soldier’s life: drill, guard and picket duty, more drill, food, more drill etc. How one “becomes” a bugler or musician in a Civil War unit is described in the next section.
      • In Norton’s 1898 letter to the Century, he describes himself somewhat awkwardly: “I was bugler at the Headquarters of Butterfield’s Brigade…”[16] There’s an article missing before “bugler,” either “a” or “the;” the latter would indicate his status as the brigade bugler, which is consistent with his 1903 description of the meeting in Butterfield’s tent, when he describes himself as “his brigade bugler.” But in his contemporaneous letter written to “Cousin L” on 18 July, Norton does not mention this status; rather, he tells Cousin L, “The first note of reveille this morning started me to my feet (for I’m a bugler, you know, have to give the regimental calls)”.[17] This exchange would indicate that on the 18th, Norton was still the bugler for the 83rd Pennsylvania, and could have been “a” bugler at Harrison’s Landing in July 1862—one of many similarly situated—and not “the” bugler for the Brigade as a whole.
      • It’s possible that Norton assumed duties as brigade bugler sometime in July, but in his very extensive correspondence with his parents, siblings, cousins and other friends—letters dated 4, 5, 7, 9, 13, 18, 26 and 31 July, and continuing through 1, 2 and 11 August, at which point “everything all packed up and we have marching orders”[18]—there is no mention of what would be considered a favorable change in his status.
    • Charles Guyer (or George C. Gwire) is also a candidate, since he too accompanied Butterfield as a bugler during the Seven Days, along with Mannle. But similar to Norton, there is no evidence that Guyer/Gwire was a formally trained military musician. In his subsequent service with the 17th New York Veteran volunteers, he is not listed as a musician.
    • Each company in a volunteer Infantry regiment had two musicians on their muster roll; but as described in the next section, they are unlikely candidates to have been the Unknown Musician.
Civil War Drum Corps with Fife and Bugler
  • How did a recruit become a “Musician” in a Civil War regiment without formal training? The short answer is that a recruit volunteered to be a musician and would receive “on the job training.” In his extensively researched Field Music of the Civil War, David Poulin[19] relates that:
    • [M]usician rank seems to have been a level of apprenticeship. Thus, … all regular army musicians were at least privates by the time they reached active service. But the enactments of Congress misunderstood the sub-private rank of ‘Musician’ which was reserved for apprentice musicians.
    • Regulations for U.S. and Volunteer regiments authorized two musicians for each company, one fifer and one drummer, in addition to the Regimental Principal Musicians, the Drum Major, and the Fife Major, or Principal Fifer.[20]
    • These “field musicians” were considered separate and distinct from the regimental band. In July, 1861 Congress authorized Volunteer regiments: “Each regiment of infantry shall have …two principal musicians, and twenty four musicians for a band; (and in addition) each company to consist of…two musicians (field music)…”
    • The Drum Major was expected to exemplify military bearing and conduct…. He performs the same duties with reference to the band that the first sergeant does in relation to the company. He parades the band at roll-call and calls the roll, superintends the police of their quarters, makes out the provision returns, and attends to the drawing of rations and other issues to the band…. He drills and instructs the band in their military duties; and the company musicians are usually under his charge and instruction…..As the leader of the band, he would in addition have charge of the instruction of the…musicians, the arranging of the music, and the selection.

My speculation from the 17th New York records and Poulin’s material is that Mannle and Guyer may have established a friendly relationship shortly after enlistment, and Mannle when appointed Drum Major may have encouraged Guyer to volunteer for the regimental band he led. Bandsmen were in some cases relieved of normal “fatigue” duties—drawing water, chopping firewood, digging latrines, etc.—assigned to other enlisted soldiers, so there was some incentive to volunteer to be a musician. Mannle would then have proceeded to “train up” the inexperienced volunteers to perform their musical duties. As a friend, Mannle also may have suggested that Guyer accompany him on the bugler detail supporting Butterfield.

  • Why does Robert Mannle not appear in the separate accounts of Butterfield and Norton? Looking at Robert Mannle’s military career as a whole, there are factors that might provide an explanation for this omission.

I think Robert Mannle was a bit of a troublemaker, and something of a disciplinary problem. Based on my own personal traits, and those of the males in my family, I suspect he could have been stubborn, argumentative, and short-tempered. He was a recent immigrant from Germany, and almost certainly spoke English with an accent; he may have been quick to take offense at any who made fun of him on that account.

He was also impetuous. After being stationed at West Point since March 1859, he deserted his post in September 1860. During his service at West Point, he made the acquaintance of his future wife, Ellen Sullivan, who was an Irish maid in an officer’s quarters in “Buttermilk Falls,” now Highland Falls, NY adjacent to the Academy. Why did he desert? I suspect because Ellen took a domestic position away from West Point, and he decided he could not live without her. Although Mannle enlisted in New York City, the 17th New York was known as the “Westchester Chasseurs”; Ellen’s new position could have been in that county, potentially Rye, NY.[21]

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, there may have been some discussion between Robert and Ellen about what he was going to do. It’s also possible that since many young men were enlisting, and Robert had only just turned 20, that there was some peer pressure about not doing so, including from Ellen. Further, Robert had “prior service” and a specialized skill, and there may have been enlistment bounties paid based on these factors that would have come in handy if they were contemplating a life together after the war.

I have no evidence for any of the above. However, Robert’s War Department pension file does contain several items supporting the “troublemaker/disciplinary problem” contention.

  • On 22 September 1861 the file indicates “Relieved,” presumably from his duties as Drum Major, after he had served two and half months in the position. Recalling that “The Drum Major was expected to exemplify military bearing and conduct,” there may have been some want of this.
    • On 31 December 1861 the file indicates “2nd Class, presumably a New Year’s reinstatement of a higher Musician rank than Mannle had been reduced to upon his relief in September.
    • In January and February 1862, the morning report of the 17th New York indicates that Robert Mannle “owes R. C. Erlich, Sutler, $49.68.”
    • Later that year, in November and December 1862, the morning report records that “$2.00 to be stopped per sentence of court martial.”

Although addressed by court martial and presumably lesser forms of administrative punishment, these offenses fall into the “conduct unbecoming” category, rather than more serious criminality. Because Robert Mannle was no longer the Drum Major prior to the Seven Days, he was both available and capable of performing the duties of Butterfield’s bugler during those battles.

Further, as the records of the 17th New York show, Robert Mannle “was reduced in rank and transferred to Company C on July 18th  1862.” However, this reduction and transfer could have been a result of the receipt by telegraph the previous day of “General Order No. 91 dated July 17, 1862, which spelled the demise of the previously-authorized regimental bands:

That so much of the aforesaid act approved twenty-second July, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, as authorizes each regiment of volunteers in the United States service to have twenty-four musicians for a band ….is hereby, repealed; and the men composing such bands shall be mustered out of the service within thirty days after the passage of this act…

Only the bandsmen however were to be discharged. Any enlisted man not originally mustered in as a member of a band was to be returned to the duties of his company and was not to be subject to the order for discharge.”[22] [23]Robert Mannle had originally joined Company C as a private, not a musician, so this explanation may absolve him of any “mischief” that might have led to his change in status.

No one knows the exact date when the events leading to the finalization of Taps took place in Butterfield’s tent. Norton in 1903 firmly places the tent meeting in July without any specificity.[24] Further, Tidball did not record the date of the funeral when Taps was first played at that type of event. However, it is possible to frame the relevant period as between 2 July when Butterfield’s Brigade consolidated at Harrison’s Landing, and 31 July which was Butterfield’s last day in command of the Brigade.[25] The relevant period may even be shorter, since President Lincoln visited Harrison’s Landing on 8 July, and Butterfield’s second dispatch commending Robert Mannle was written on 11 July.

The funeral in Tidball’s unit probably occurred after 19 July, when Tidball reported to a correspondent that he was recovering from a fever, “…absurd when the thermometer is about 110 to be wrapped in one’s blanket and to be shaking like a wet cur.”[26] The end point was likely on or about 11 August, when Norton reported that “everything all packed up and we have marching orders.”[27]

If Robert Mannle was indeed the Unknown Musician, and there were July troubles leading to his reduction in rank and transfer, these may not have been known to Butterfield prior to his request to transcribe the Scott Tattoo, but may have become apparent shortly thereafter. Alternatively, he may have lost his position as a musician through no fault of his own, but because of his prior training may still have been on hand to produce the penciled envelope.

If Norton was the brigade bugler, he must certainly have been acquainted with Robert Mannle, but less directly so than Butterfield—and Butterfield apparently did not tell Norton who provided the written notes that Norton adjusted to Butterfield’s satisfaction. After the passage of over thirty years, Butterfield’s “dim memory” of the events, colored by the numerous accounts of the misery of Harrison’s Landing after the Seven Days, may have made it easy not to recall the contribution of a soldier who, although gallant, was perhaps either not a model of exemplary conduct nor a skilled junior musician worth remembering.

The subtitle to this piece is “A Story.” Irrespective of my ability to prove it definitively, I think it’s a good story at least.


[1] Julia Lorrilard Butterfield, editor. A Biographical Memorial of General Daniel Butterfield. The Grafton Press, New York, New York, 2904. P. 93

[2] Unit Roster, 17th NY Volunteer Infantry. https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/17th_Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf

[3] Butterfield, op. cit., pp. 47-48

[4] Ibid., p. 48

[5] Jari Villaneuva, Taps Bugler, 2018. https://www.tapsbugler.com/how-taps-became-associated-with-funerals/

[6] Jari Villaneuva, Taps Bugler, 2020. https://www.tapsbugler.com/the-scott-tattoo/

[7] Eugene C. Tidball, No Disgrace to My Country: The Life of John C. Tidball, Kent State, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2002. Note 33 to Chapter 14, “Down the Peninsula.”, p. 524.

[8] Jari Villanueva, Taps Bugler, 2018. https://www.tapsbugler.com/an-excerpt-from-twenty-four-notes-that-tap-deep-emotions-the-story-of-americas-most-famous-bugle-call/, first tab

[9] Oliver W. Norton, Army Letters 1861-1865, privately printed, 1901. p. 327. https://books.google.com/books?id=xLMTAAAAYAAJ&q=taps#v=onepage&q=mannle&f=false

[10] Butterfield, op. cit., pp 48-49.

[11] Vilanueva, “Twenty four notes,”, op. cit., second tab.

[12] Jari Villanueva, Taps Bugler, 2019. https://www.tapsbugler.com/oliver-willcox-norton/

[13] Norton, op. cit., p. 43

[14] Ibid., p. 54

[15] Ibid. p. 59

[16] See Note 3

[17] Norton, op. cit., p. 103

[18] Ibid., pp. 90-116

[19] David Poulin, Field Music of the Civil War, undated. http://entrada1598.com/cw/cwmusic.pdf

[20] This is confirmed by the May 1861 Muster Roll of the 17th New York, which does reflect two musicians per company. Muster Roll, 17th New York Volunteer Infantry, May 24, 1861, https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/MusterRolls/Infantry/17thInf_NYSV_MusterRoll.pdf

[21] I grew up in Pelham, NY, also in Westchester County.

[22] Bufkin, William Alfred, “Union Bands of the Civil War (1862-1865): Instrumentation and Score Analysis. (Volumes I and II).” (1973). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 2523. Pp. 62-63

[23] The last sentence of Norton’s letter of 13 July (“The bands are to be discharged…”) indicates that the imminent discharge of the bandsmen was generally known prior to receipt of the General Order. Norton, op.cit., p. 103.

[24] Norton, op.cit., p. 327

[25] Butterfield, op. cit. p.100. The date is cited by Julia Butterfield describing Butterfield’s tenure in command. On or about this date, Butterfield was granted a furlough of twenty days to recover from typhoid fever. The Brigade did not move north from Harrison’s Landing until 29 August, after which he experienced a second attack of fever and received a second furlough of thirty days, which was extended. Although technically in command during these absences, his active tenure in brigade command effectively ended on or about 31 July.

[26] Eugene C. Tidball, op. cit., p. 253

[27] See Note 13.

Follow-up from Tom Mannle

I don’t know where Robert was after that, except….he took the bounty and enlisted in the 10th Connecticut in November 1864…..so Ellen could have moved there….he was with the 10th to the end of the war, I think present at Appomattox….the 10th was disbanded at Richmond on 25 August 1865, and he was mustered out….

But, on 15 September, he “joined from desertion, and restored to duty without trial”…so presumably at that point he was back in the Regular Army…perhaps back to West Point….he married Ellen on 26 July 1866 “at Newburgh NY by one of the clergymen connected with St Patrick’s R.C. Church”

He was discharged in March, 1867, but enlisted in April for 3 years, and was in the West Point Band….he re-enlisted in April, 1870 for 3 years…..but, discharged suddenly before his ETS in August 1872, “by reason of his services no longer being required.”

The various Federal and NY census’ show that Robert at times was living on post, and Ellen and the kids were variously in Highlands, Orange, Nyack, etc. Robert and Ellen had eight children, in order: Thomas, Ida, Elizabeth, Sophia, Robert, Alexander, Ellen Veronica, and Joseph John. I’m descended from Robert, my grandfather, who died in 1932….he had been a driver (horse and wagon) for a department store, B. Altman….in  that capacity he made the acquaintance of and presumably made a favorable impression on Mrs Flagler, the wife of the railroad tycoon who built lines in Florida etc….Mrs Flagler prevailed upon Robert to take up a position at their estate in Greenwich, CT, and he did, moving his family up there, first to a house on Steamboat Road, and then Soundview Drive….which is how we got to be Greenwich Townies (not, the gentry….) where my Dad Tom Sr grew up (also seven kids: Eleanor, Dorothy, Vera, Mildred, Robert, Thomas, and Ursula)….and where I and all of my siblings (also seven kids…I’m the oldest) were born, even after we moved to Pelham NY when I was 6

Most of what I know of Robert Mannle the musician I got from my Uncle Bobby, who had done the original research of Robert’s War Department pension file in the 1950s when he was stationed in Germany…what I have are photocopied excerpts from some visits to the National Archives in the early 90’s…I’m going to request the entire pension file, which should provide some additional detail

When I visited the Archives, and asked around, I was sent to the Military section, up and down a few back stairways, and into a 2 or maybe 3-level warren, with one “little old archivist”….who found for me the morning reports for the West Point band, from the time Robert was there 1867-1872….and, going down the roll, Robert’s name did in fact appear….along with several others, and the bracketed notation in the margin containing the deathless prose, “Field Musicians Attached to the Corps of Cadets”

To my undying mortification, I discovered that my great-grandfather, Robert Mannle, was a Hellcat……(I’m a graduate of West Point, Class of 1971…..Hellcats were NOT our favorite part of the 47-month experience….)

Next time I can go back to the Archives, I’m going to see if the morning reports shed any additional light on why Robert’s services were so suddenly “no longer being required” in August 1872….told you he was a bad boy…..

One Comment

  1. Rich Pawling Rich Pawling August 13, 2020

    There seems to be too much speculation for me to consider this article of value. Too many “perhaps” and “maybes” and “he may haves” to be of any concrete evidence that Robert Mannle is the “unknown bugler.” And furthermore, what is the point? Jealousy??? Pride????

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