HISTORY OF TAPS
Origins: It's hard to feel surprised when a melody as hauntingly beautiful as Taps picks up a legend about how it came to be written -- it's too mournfully direct a piece for the mere truth to suffice.
Taps was composed in July 1862 at Harrison's Landing in Virginia, but after that the fanciful e-mail circulating the WEB parts way with reality. There was no dead son, Confederate or otherwise; no lone bugler sounding out the dead boy's last composition. How the call came into being was never anything more than one influential soldier deciding his unit could use a bugle call for particular occasions and setting about to come up with one.
If anyone can be said to have composed 'Taps,' it was Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, during the American Civil War. Dissatisfied with the customary firing of three rifle volleys at the conclusion of burials during battle and also needing a method of ceremonially imparting meaning to the end of a soldier's day, he likely altered an older piece known as "Tattoo," a French bugle call used to signal "lights out," into the call we now know as 'Taps.' (Alternatively, he wrote the whole thing from scratch, a possibility not at all supported by his lack of musical background and ability.)
Whether he wrote it straight from the cuff or improvised something new by rearranging an older work, Butterfield brought 'Taps' into being. With the help of his bugler, Oliver W. Norton of Chicago, the concept was transformed into its present form. "Taps" was quickly taken up by both sides of the conflict, and within months was being sounded by buglers in both Union and Confederate forces.
Then as now, 'Taps' serves as a vital component in ceremonies honoring military dead. It is also understood by American servicemen as an end-of-day 'lights out' signal.
When "Taps" is played at a military funeral, it is customary to salute if in uniform, or place your hand over your heart if not.
Words to Taps
(Note: there are no "official" words to Taps
below are the most popular.)
Day is done, Go to sleep, Love, good night
gone the sun, peaceful sleep, Must thou go,
From the hills, May the soldier When the day,
from the lake, or sailor, And the night
From the skies. God keep. Need thee so?
All is well, On the land All is well.
safely rest, or the deep, Speedeth all
God is nigh. Safe in sleep. To their rest.
Fades the light; Thanks and praise,
And afar For our days,
Goeth day, 'Neath the sun,
And the stars Neath the stars,
Shineth bright, 'Neath the sky,
Fare thee well; As we go,
Day has gone, This we know,
Night is on. God is nigh.
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