Monday, May 26, 2008

The History of Taps

In Observance of Memorial Day

Of all the military bugle calls, none
is so easily recognized or more apt
to render emotion than Taps. Up to
the Civil War, the traditional call at
day's end was a tune, borrowed
from the French, called Lights Out.
In July of 1862, in the aftermath of
the bloody Seven Days battles, hard on the loss of 600 men
and wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams
Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought
"Lights Out" was too formal and he wished to honor his men.
Oliver Wilcox Norton, the bugler, tells the story, "...showing
me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an
envelope, (he) 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. The call was gradually taken
up through the Army of the Potomac."
This more emotive and powerful Taps was soon adopted
throughout the military. In 1874 It was officially recognized by
the U.S. Army. It became standard at military funeral ceremonies
in 1891. There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate
in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are
melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the
heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.
- from an article by Master Sergeant Jari AVillanueva,USAF

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