Examples: [Collected via e-mail, October 2008]
During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moan of a soldier who lay mortally 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.
Suddenly, he 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, he had 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 partially granted. The captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for the son at the funeral.
That request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. 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 his dead son's uniform. This wish was granted. This music was the haunting melody we now know as "Taps" that is used at all military funerals.
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 aside from that basic fact the fanciful
If anyone can be said to have composed 'Taps,' it was Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, Commander of the
Summoning his brigade's bugler, Private Oliver Willcox Norton, to his tent one evening in
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.
Barbara "tap answer" Mikkelson
West Point: Origin of Taps
Arlington National Cemetery: Origin of Taps
Last updated: 23 June 2010
Ayres, Thomas. That's Not in My American History Book. Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-965-19118-4 (pp. 27-29). Deall, Tom. "Taps Stirs Hearts Despite Unsure Origin." The Times-Picayune. 30 May 1999 (p. F6). Schneider, Richard H. Taps: Notes from a Nation's Heart. New York: William Morrow, 2002. ISBN 0-06-009693-4. Vogel, Steve. "A Call That Lingers in the Heart." The Washington Post. 29 January 1999 (p. B1).