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TAPS

The origin of Taps ------Whether true or not?  A touching story

We have all heard the haunting song, "Taps." It's the song that gives us
that lump in our throats and usually creates tears in our eyes. But do you
know the story behind the song? If not, I think you will be pleased to find
out about it's humble beginnings.

   Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army
Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in
Virginia.  The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of
land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who
lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or
Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the
stricken man back for medical attention.

   Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken
soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment. When the Captain
finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate
soldier, but the soldier was dead. The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly
caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the
face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in
the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy
enlisted in the Confederate Army.

   The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his
superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status.
His request was only partially granted.  The Captain had asked if he could
have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the
funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate.

   But, out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him Only one
musician. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series
of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead
youth's uniform. This wish was granted. The haunting melody, we now know as
"Taps" used at military funerals, was born.


Day is done
    Gone the sun
        From the Lakes
            From the hills
                From the sky.

                All is well,
                    Safely rest.
                        God is nigh.
                            Fading light
                                Dims the sight
And a star
    Gems the sky,
        Gleaming bright
            From afar,
                Drawing nigh,
                    Falls the night.

    Thanks and praise,
        For our days,
            Neath the sun,
                Neath the stars,
                    Neath the sky,
                        As we go,
                            This we know,
                                God is nigh.

This is, of course, a nice romantic story, but not true. The “True Story of Taps” is that it was written about the time of the Civil War by US Army General Daniel Butterfield and it was known as “Butterfield’s Lullaby” until later renamed by the US Army as Taps. During the Civil War, the tune had no connotation of death, but was simply meant rest for the night, rest after a long day in the dust and the sun, with the bugles blaring, finally rest at the end of day. Located on the Cornell University Web server is a short biography of this Medal of Honor recipient, Daniel Butterfield, who was George Meade's Chief-of-Staff during the Battle of Gettysburg, and was wounded on 3 July. Butterfield was originally appointed to the position by his friend, Joseph Hooker, who resigned as Commander, Army of the Potomac on 27 June 1863. Meade intended to replace Butterfield, but was persuaded to keep him on for continuity in the expected battle with Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.


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