Rumors on Tap
Date Added: Apr. 18, 2003
It's a sobering reminder of the realities of war that this ages-old legend would resurface during the current war in Iraq.
You probably never knew the story of taps. Here it is.
The story how "Taps" was created
We have all heard the haunting melody of "Taps." It's the song that gives us that lump in our throats and usually 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 its 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, 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 was 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 the 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 the 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 to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted. The Captain asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral.
The request was denied since the soldier was a Confederate.
But, out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him 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.
The wish was granted. The haunting melody and words, which we now know as the "Taps" used at military funerals, was born:
Day is done...
Thanks and praise...
I, too, have felt the chills while listening to "Taps" but I have never seen the words to the song until now. I didn't even know there was more than one verse. I also never knew the story behind the song.
Perhaps you have not heard the story either - so I thought I would pass it along. I now have an even deeper appreciation for the song than I did before.
Given the emotionally charged response the haunting strains of Taps elicits when played at military funeral, it stands to reason that it should have an equally emotional story behind it. Taps was, indeed, composed at Harrison's Landing, Virginia in 1862, but that's about the only bit of factual information contained above.
It was Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, with the assistance of bugler Oliver W. Norton, who adapted a French bugle call, named "Tattoo," into what we now know as taps. The dirge filled what Butterfield felt was a hole in existing funeral ceremonies and was quickly taken up by both the north and the south.
There was no dead soldier, no family heartbreak, no posthumous composition and no improvised funeral. Although lyrics quickly followed the composition of the haunting melody, there are no official words to the song. The verses cited above are among the most popular that have been proposed over the years. Break this chain.
References: Snopes.com, West-Point.org