Louis Benz (Bentz) was a US Army Musician and Chief Bugler of the US Military Academy for 40 years, 1834-1874. He died in his early 70’s, still on active duty at West Point. Born in Orlofen, Germany, the former cavalry musician was a master of the keyed bugle. Preceded in death two years earlier by his wife, Rachel, he remained devoted to his post at West Point. Often shadowed by his beloved pooch Hans and known for constantly chewing on a hunk of beeswax, Old Bentz’s eccentricities stole the collective heart of the Corps of Cadets, despite his job requirement of rousing them from peaceful slumber at 5:00 a.m. every morning.
He is recognized as one of the most distinguished buglers in American history Benz was also been memorialized in the “Taps Project” at Arlington National Cemetery. Although his surname is spelled “Bentz” on the monument marking his grave, he is registered on the official burial roster of the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration as “LOUIS BENZ, PVT/BUGLER DET ART, USMA/US CADET CORPS, DATE OF DEATH 7/09/1878, BURIED AT: SECTION A, SITE 403, US MILITARY ACADEMY”.
But as Benz or Bentz, a bugler by any other name could not have been held in greater affection by the West Point’s Corps of Cadets, who designed and paid for his monument. Made of then-fashionable cast zinc, the inscriptions on its facades pay tribute to his service, citing him as “The Bugler”, “A Faithful Soldier” and “Old Bentz”. A possible explanation for the Benz/Bentz discrepancy is that the cadets, being more accustomed to hearing Benz’s name than seeing it, assumed that it was spelled as it was pronounced