The Story Of  Taps 

 It was July in Virginia.
The scent of the dogwood and the laurel lay
 heavy on the land, while the burgeoning fruit of the 
peach and the apple marked the full sway of summer.

For seven fateful days, the trees, the flowers,
yes, the very ground itself,
had shuddered under the roar of cannon.
The bark of howitzers...
and the crackling of a legion of rifles.

Now, all was silent.
The sledgehammer blows of Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall"
 Jackson had mauled the Army of the Potomac,
and yet that army was not destroyed.
Seven thousand men had fallen in that dreadful week...
and the savagery of the conflict was grimly evident in 
the river of wounded...that wound through the green hills.

Now, a new sound drifted in the soft evening sky.
For Colonel Dan Butterfield, a courageous and able soldier, 
was also a man of music.
To honor his fallen comrades, he had composed a simple
 and heartrending melody. On July second, 
in the year of 1862,  its strains floated over the graves
 that scarred the dark Virginia earth. 

It has been more than a hundred years since that sound
 was born, but those notes have never died away.
Every night of the year, throughout the world, fighting men of America, From the North and the South, the East and the West,
 close their eyes in sleep to its call. And in each of their hearts...
there glows a fierce surge of pride.

"Fading light...falling night...
Trumpet calls as the sun sinks in flight.
Sleep in peace, comrades dear...
God is near."

~ John Mitchum ~

The above story is said to be NOT true...
I am told by many that the following is the true
origin of TAPS. Whichever is true, I find both
stories beautiful and heart wrenching.



It all began in 1862 during the Civil War when a Union Army Captain, Robert Ellicombe, was with his men near Harrison’s Landing, in Virginia.  The Confederate Army was on the other side of this narrow strip of land.  During the night Captain Ellicombe heard the moan of a soldier who lay mortally wounded on the field.  Not knowing if it were 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 gun fire, the captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his own 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 the heart-broken 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.  The 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 the bugler to play a series of notes musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform.

This wish was granted.  That music was the haunting bugle melody we now know as “TAPS” used in all military funerals.


I pray that our Heavenly Father 
may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, 
and leave you only the cherished memory of the 
loved and lost, and the solemn 
pride that must be yours, to have laid so 
costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

~ Abraham Lincoln, November 1864 ~



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