The History of TAPS

TAPS IS NOT A SONG BUT A SIGNAL

There is a soul rendering story about Taps, but it is only a myth. This is the real history.

The tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the "Scott Tattoo", which was used in the U.S. from 1835 until 1860. It was arranged in its present form by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, an American Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient. He was a commander in the Army of the Potomac while at Harrison's Landing, Virginia. Butterfield's version in July 1862 replaced a previous French bugle call used to signal "lights out". Butterfield's bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton of East Springfield, Pennsylvania] was the first to sound the new call. Within months "Taps" was used by both Union and Confederate forces. It was officially recognized by the United States Army in 1874.

"Taps" concludes many military funerals conducted with honors at Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere in the United States. It is also regularly played at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France, to commemorate the sacrifice made, at and around that site, by United States servicemen in WWII, during the Allied effort to liberate Europe from the Nazis.
Captain John C. Tidball, West Point Class of 1848, started the custom of playing "Taps" at military funerals. In early July 1862 at Harrison's Landing, a corporal of Tidball's Battery A, 2nd U.S. Artillery, died. He was, Tidball recalled later, "a most excellent man". Tidball wished to bury him with full military honors, but, for military reasons, he was refused permission to fire seven rifles three times (three volley salute) over the grave. Tidball later wrote, "The thought suggested itself to me to sound taps instead, which I did. The idea was taken up by others, until in a short time it was adopted by the entire army and is now looked upon as the most appropriate and touching part of a military funeral." As Tidball proudly proclaimed, "Battery A has the honor of having introduced this custom into the service, and it is worthy of historical note."

It became a standard component to U.S. military funerals in 1891
(Wikipedia)

There are no formal words to the music because it is a SIGNAL. But there is one original set of lyrics, meant to informally accompany the music, written by Horace Lorenzo Trim:

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 near 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 page created 7 September 2022