The haunting beautiful 24 note call known as "Taps" is used today for military memorial services, as an accompaniment to the lowering of the flag, and to signal the lights out command at the day's end. A staple of military procedure, Taps is a melody well recognized by military personnel and civilians alike for its somber yet musical tune. Hearing Taps played live is an impactful experience as the song evokes emotion, even when being used simply as the end of day call.
The Creation of the Tune
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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III)[/caption]The song originated during the Civil War as a revision to a French bugle call titled "tattoo". The French bugle call signaled to soldiers that it was time to stop drinking for the night and go back to the garrisons, sounding an hour before the final bugle call of the day.Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield (commander of the Third Brigade, First Divison, Fifth Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac) felt the end of the day music was too formal and instead should be more musical. In July 1862, he revised the French bugle call tattoo to make a new version. He hummed out his tune to the brigade bugler Oliver W. Norton who wrote out the notes. Butterfield then ordered Norton to play the melody as a replacement to the end of the day call.The tune was well received by the soldiers. Other brigades heard the melody and adopted it. The tune even making its way into use by the Confederate buglers. When the war ended, it became the official Army call. Later in 1891, it was officially made mandatory for funerals.The Origin of the Name[caption id="attachment_11219" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
(U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery/released)[/caption]The song officially received the name Taps in 1874. Historians differ on where they think the name came from. Some believe it originates from the Dutch phrase "taptoe" (which is the command to shut, or "toe to" the tap of a keg). Other think it is because the previous call was followed by three drum beats, known as "drum taps" which was later shorted to "taps". When Butterfield's song replaced the previous call, the name stuck around.
The First Use of Taps at a Funeral
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(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Julianne M. Showalter)[/caption]Some historians believe the first use of Taps at a funeral was during the Civil War. A cannoneer was killed in action and Union Captain John Tidball wanted to honor him without giving away the artillery battery's position in the woods. Instead of the traditional three rifle volleys fired over the grave, he ordered Taps to be played at the funeral.Historians do know for certain that Taps was played at the funeral of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson ten months after it was written. In 1981, it became the requirement to play the song at military funerals.Today, you can visit a monument at the site of the song's origin at the Berkeley Plantation. The melody was written at the plantation's old wharf known as Harrison's Landing and then played for the first time on the estate's property. A plaque rests on the land to serve as a monument to the creation of Taps.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WChTqYlDjtI