Re: [G104] Re: Fwd: Fw: The History of Taps
- One: I sent this to all the groups I belong to because I've gotten that same dumb message about the "History of Taps" so many times over the years, including from many people who should know better (including some vets and historians), and if I send them to Snopes people still won't believe that it isn't true, so I went to a (arguably) more "authoritative" source.
Two: What, you mean tankers don't deserve "Taps"???
----- Original Message -----
From: Russ Morgan
Sent: Friday, 25 September 2009 8:52 PM
Subject: RE: [G104] Re: Fwd: Fw: The History of Taps
Ray, Did I miss how this fits in with G104 Sherman tanks???? Thanks Russ
From: G104@yahoogroups.com [mailto:G104@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ray
Sent: Friday, September 25, 2009 1:47 PM
To: WW2 File; WW2 Review; VI Corps Combat Engineers; Stuart Light Tank;
Sherman Medium Tank; Quarterscale Armor; AAFRL
Subject: [G104] Re: Fwd: Fw: The History of Taps
I received another of those dumb emails with the supposedly "true story of
Taps". Someone has a vivid imagination and has taken an old tale and turned
it into an email message that has been making the rounds for years and
cannot be killed. Below is the real story of TAPS, from West Point's web
site at http://www.west-point.org/taps/Taps.html (the incorrect story is at
the end of this message.)
133 Elm St Apt 3R
Bennington VT 05201-2250 USA
E-mail: ray@... <mailto:ray%40merriam-press.com> or
Web site: http://www.merriam-press.com
24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions
Jari A. Villanueva
Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to
render emotion than the call Taps. The melody is both eloquent and haunting
and the history of its origin is interesting and somewhat clouded in
controversy. In the British Army, a similar call known as Last Post has been
sounded over soldiers' graves since 1885, but the use of Taps is unique with
the United States military, since the call is sounded at funerals,
wreath-laying and memorial services.
Taps began as a revision to the signal for Extinguish Lights (Lights Out) at
the end of the day. Up until the Civil War, the infantry call for Extinguish
Lights was the one set down in Silas Casey's (1801-1882) Tactics, which had
been borrowed from the French. The music for Taps was adapted by Union
General Daniel Butterfield for his brigade (Third Brigade, First Division,
Fifth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac) in July, 1862.
Daniel Adams Butterfield (31 October 1831-17 July 1901) was born in Utica,
New York and graduated from Union College at Schenectady. He was the eastern
superintendent of the American Express Company in New York when the Civil
War broke out. Despite his lack of military experience, he rose quickly in
rank. A Colonel in the 12th Regiment of the New York State Militia, he was
promoted to Brigadier General and given command of a brigade of the V Corps
of the Army of the Potomac. The 12th served in the Shenandoah Valley during
the the Bull Run Campaign. During the Peninsular Campaign Butterfield served
prominently when during the Battle of Gaines Mill, despite an injury, he
seized the colors of the 83rd Pennsylvania and rallied the regiment at a
critical time in the battle. Years later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor
for that act of heroism.
As the story goes, General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for
Extinguish Lights feeling that the call was too formal to signal the days
end and with the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, wrote
Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison's Landing, Virginia,
following the Seven Day's battle. These battles took place during the
Peninsular Campaign of 1862. The call, sounded that night in July, 1862,
soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was even used by the
Confederates. Taps was made an official bugle call after the war.
The highly romantic account of how Butterfield composed the call surfaced in
1898 following a magazine article written that summer. The August, 1898
issue of Century Magazine contained an article called The Trumpet in Camp
and Battle, by Gustav Kobbe, a music historian and critic. He was writing
about the origin of bugle calls in the Civil War and in reference to Taps,
In speaking of our trumpet calls I purposely omitted one with which it
seemed most appropriate to close this article, for it is the call which
closes the soldier's day. . . . Lights Out. I have not been able to trace
this call to any other service. If it seems probable, it was original with
Major Seymour, he has given our army the most beautiful of all
Kobbe was using as an authority the Army drill manual on infantry tactics
prepared by Major General Emory Upton in 1867 (revised in 1874). The bugle
calls in the manual were compiled by Major (later General) Truman Seymour of
the 5th U.S. Artillery. Taps was called Extinguish Lights in these manuals
since it was to replace the Lights Out call disliked by Butterfield. The
title of the call was not changed until later, although other manuals
started calling it Taps because most soldiers knew it by that name. Since
Seymour was responsible for the music in the Army manual, Kobbe assumed that
he had written the call. Kobbe s inability to find the origin of Extinguish
Lights (Taps) prompted a letter from Oliver W. Norton in Chicago who claimed
he knew how the call came about and that he was the first to perform it.
Chicago, August 8, 1898
I was much interested in reading the article by Mr. Gustav Kobbe, on the
Trumpet and Bugle Calls, in the August Century. Mr. Kobbe says that he has
been unable to trace the origin of the call now used for Taps, or the Go to
sleep , as it is generally called by the soldiers. As I am unable to give
the origin of this call, I think the following statement may be of interest
to Mr. Kobbe and your readers.. .. During the early part of the Civil War I
was bugler at the Headquarters of Butterfield s Brigade, Morell s Division,
Fitz-John Porter s Corp, Army of the Potomac. Up to July, 1862, the Infantry
call for Taps was that set down in Casey s Tactics, which Mr. Kobbe says was
borrowed from the French. One day, soon after the seven days battles on the
Peninsular, when the Army of the Potomac was lying in camp at Harrison's
Landing, General Daniel Butterfield, then commanding our Brigade, sent for
me, and showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an
envelope, 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. I think no general
order was issued from army headquarters authorizing the substitution of this
for the regulation call, but as each brigade commander exercised his own
discretion in such minor matters, the call was gradually taken up through
the Army of the Potomac. I have been told that it was carried to the Western
Armies by the 11th and 12th Corps, when they went to Chattanooga in the fall
of 1863, and rapidly made it s way through those armies. I did not presume
to question General Butterfield at the time, but from the manner in which
the call was given to me, I have no doubt he composed it in his tent at
Harrison s Landing. I think General Butterfield is living at Cold Spring,
New York. If you think the matter of sufficient interest, and care to write
him on the subject, I have no doubt he will confirm my statement. -Oliver W.
The editor did write to Butterfield as suggested by Norton. In answer to the
inquiry from the editor of the Century, General Butterfield writing from
Gragside, Cold Spring, under the date of August 31, 1898 wrote:
I recall, in my dim memory, the substantial truth of the statement made by
Norton, of the 83rd Pa., about bugle calls. His letter gives the impression
that I personally wrote the notes for the call. The facts are, that at the
time I could sound calls on the bugle as a necessary part of military
knowledge and instruction for an officer commanding a regiment or brigade. I
had acquired this as a regimental commander. I had composed a call for my
brigade, to precede any calls, indicating that such were calls, or orders,
for my brigade alone. This was of very great use and effect on the march and
in battle. It enabled me to cause my whole command, at times, in march,
covering over a mile on the road, all to halt instantly, and lie down, and
all arise and start at the same moment; to forward in line of battle,
simultaneously, in action and charge etc. It saves fatigue. The men rather
liked their call, and began to sing my name to it. It was three notes and a
catch. I can not write a note of music, but have gotten my wife to write it
from my whistling it to her, and enclose it. The men would sing , Dan, Dan,
Dan, Butterfield, Butterfield to the notes when a call came. Later, in
battle, or in some trying circumstances or an advance of difficulties, they
sometimes sang, Damn, Damn, Damn, Butterfield, Butterfield.
The call of Taps did not seem to be as smooth, melodious and musical as it
should be, and I called in some one who could write music, and practiced a
change in the call of Taps until I had it suit my ear, and then, as Norton
writes, got it to my taste without being able to write music or knowing the
technical name of any note, but, simply by ear, arranged it as Norton
describes. I did not recall him in connection with it, but his story is
substantially correct. Will you do me the favor to send Norton a copy of
this letter by your typewriter? I have none. -Daniel Butterfield
On the surface, this seems to be the true history of the origin of Taps.
Indeed, the many articles written about Taps cite this story as the
beginning of Butterfield's association with the call. Certainly, Butterfield
never went out of his way to claim credit for its composition and it wasn't
until the Century article that the origin came to light.
There are however, significant differences in Butterfield's and Norton's
stories. Norton says that the music given to him by Butterfield that night
was written down on an envelope while Butterfield wrote that he could not
read or write music! Also Butterfield's words seem to suggest that he was
not composing a melody in Norton s presence, but actually arranging or
revising an existing one. As a commander of a brigade, he knew of the bugle
calls needed to relay troop commands. All officers of the time were required
to know the calls and were expected to be able to play the bugle.
Butterfield was no different-he could play the bugle but could not read
music. As a colonel of the 12th N.Y. Regiment, before the war, he had
ordered his men to be thoroughly familiar with calls and drills.
What could account for the variation in stories? My research shows that
Butterfield did not compose Taps but actually revised an earlier bugle call.
This sounds blasphemous to many, but the fact is that Taps existed in an
early version of the call Tattoo. As a signal for end of the day, armies
have used Tattoo to signal troops to prepare them for bedtime roll call. The
call was used to notify the soldiers to cease the evening's drinking and
return to their garrisons. It was sounded an hour before the final call of
the day to extinguish all fires and lights. This early version is found in
three manuals the Winfield Scott (1786 -1866 ) manual of 1835, the Samuel
Cooper (1798-1876) manual of 1836 and the William Gilham (1819?-1872) manual
of 1861. This call referred to as the Scott Tattoo was in use from
1835-1860. A second version of Tattoo came into use just before the Civil
War and was in use throughout the war replacing the Scott Tattoo.
The fact that Norton says that Butterfield composed Taps cannot be
questioned. He was relaying the facts as he remembered them. His conclusion
that Butterfield wrote Taps can be explained by the presence of the second
Tattoo. It was most likely that the second Tattoo, followed by Extinguish
Lights (the first eight measures of today's Tattoo), was sounded by Norton
during the course of the war.
It seems possible that these two calls were sounded to end the soldier's day
on both sides during the war. It must therefore be evident that Norton did
not know the early Tattoo or he would have immediately recognized it that
evening in Butterfield's tent. If you review the events of that evening,
Norton came into Butterfield's tent and played notes that were already
written down on an envelope. Then Butterfield changed it somewhat,
lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he
first gave it to me. If you compare that statement while looking at the
present day Taps, you will see that this is exactly what happened to turn
the early (Scott) Tattoo in Taps. Butterfield as stated above, was a Colonel
before the War and in General Order No. 1 issued by him on December 7, 1859
had the order: The Officers and non-commissioned Officers are expected to be
thoroughly familiar with the first thirty pages, Vol. 1, Scott's Tactics,
and ready to answer any questions in regard to the same previous to the
drill above ordered Scott's Tactics include the bugle calls that Butterfield
must have known and used.
If Butterfield was using Scott's Tactics for drills, then it is feasible
that he would have used the calls as set in the manual. Lastly, it is hard
to believe that Butterfield could have composed anything that July in the
aftermath of the Seven Days battles which saw the Union Army of the Potomac
mangled by Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Over twenty six thousand
casualties were suffered on both sides. Butterfield had lost over 600 of his
men on June 27th at the battle of Gaines Mill and had himself been wounded.
In the midst of the heat, humidity, mud, mosquitoes, dysentery, typhoid and
general wretchedness of camp life in that early July, it is hard to imagine
being able to write anything.
In the interest of historical accuracy, it should be noted that it is not
General Butterfield who composed Taps, rather that he revised an earlier
call into the present day bugle call we know as Taps. This is not meant to
take credit away from him. It is only to put things in a correct historic
manner. Following the Peninsular Campaign, Butterfield served at 2nd Bull
Run, Antietam and at Marye's Heights in the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Through political connections and his ability for administration, he became
a Major General and served as chief of staff of the Union Army of the
Potomac under Generals Joseph Hooker and George Meade. He was wounded at
Gettysburg and then reassigned to the Western Theater. By war's end, he was
breveted a brigadier general and stayed in the army after the Civil War,
serving as superintendent of the army's recruiting service in New York City
and colonel of the 5th Infantry. In 1870, after resigning from the military,
Butterfield went back to work with the American Express Company. He was in
charge of a number of special public ceremonies, including General William
Tecumseh Sherman's funeral in 1891. Besides his association with Taps,
Butterfield also designed the system of Corps Badges which were distinctive
shapes of color cloth sewn on to uniforms to distinguish units.
Butterfield died in 1901. His tomb is the most ornate in the cemetery at
West Point despite the fact that he never attended. There is also a monument
to Butterfield in New York City near Grant's Tomb. There is nothing on
either monument that mentions Taps or Butterfield's association with the
call. Taps was sounded at his funeral.
How did it become associated with funerals? The earliest official reference
to the mandatory use of Taps at military funeral ceremonies is found in the
U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations for 1891, although it had doubtless
been used unofficially long before that time, under its former designation
The first use of Taps at a funeral during the Peninsular Campaign in
Virginia. Captain John C. Tidball of Battery A, 2nd Artillery ordered it
played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Since the enemy was
close, he worried that the traditional 3 volleys would renew fighting.
During the Peninsular Campaign in 1862, a soldier of Tidball's Battery - A
of the 2nd Artillery - was buried at a time when the battery occupied an
advanced position, concealed in the woods. It was unsafe to fire the
customary three volleys over the grave on account of the proximity of the
enemy, and it occurred to Captain Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be
the most ceremony that would be substituted. The custom, thus originated,
was taken up throughout the Army of the Potomac, and finally confirmed by
orders. Colonel James A. Moss Officer's Manual Pub. George Banta Publishing
Co. Menasha Wisconsin 1913 Elbridge Coby in Army Talk (Princeton, 1942),
p.208 states that it was B Battery of the Third Artillery that first used
Taps at a military funeral.
This first sounding of Taps at a military funeral is commemorated in a
stained glass window at The Chapel of the Centurion (The Old Post Chapel) at
Fort Monroe, Virginia. The window, made by R. Geissler of New York and based
on a painting by Sidney King, was dedicated in 1958 and shows a bugler and a
flag at half staff. In that picture a drummer boy stands beside the bugler.
The grandson of that drummer boy purchased Berkeley Plantation where
Harrisons Landing is located. The site where Taps was born is also
commemorated. In this case, by a monument located on the grounds of Berkeley
Plantation. This monument to Taps was erected by the Virginia American
Legion and dedicated on July 4, 1969. The site is also rich in history, for
the Harrisons of Berkeley Plantation included Benjamin Harrison and William
Henry Harrison, both presidents of the United States as well as Benjamin
Harrison (father and Great grandfather of future presidents), a signer of
the Declaration of Independence.
It must be pointed out that other stories of the origin of Taps exist. A
popular one is that of a Northern boy who was killed fighting for the south.
His father, Robert Ellicombe a Captain in the Union Army, came upon his
son's body on the battlefield and found the notes to Taps in a pocket of the
dead boy's Confederate uniform. When Union General Daniel Sickles heard the
story, he had the notes sounded at the boy's funeral. There is no evidence
to back up the story or the existence of Captain Ellicombe. As with many
other customs, this solemn tradition continues today. Although Butterfield
merely revised an earlier bugle call, his role in producing those 24 notes
gives him a place in the history of music as well as the history of war.
As soon as Taps was sounded that night in July 1862, words were put with the
music. The first were, "Go To Sleep, Go to Sleep." As the years went on many
more versions were created. There are no official words to the music but
here are some of the more popular verses:
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.
Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.
Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.
Thanks and praise, For our days,
'Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.
Jari A. Villanueva, jvmusic@... <mailto:jvmusic%40erols.com> is a
bugler and bugle historian. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory and Kent
State University, he was the curator of the Taps Bugle Exhibit
http://www.arlingtoncemetery.com/tapsproj.htm at Arlington National Cemetery
from 1999-2002. He has been a member of the United States Air Force Band
since 1985 and is considered the country's foremost authority on the bugle
call of Taps.
His website, www.tapsbugler.com includes a history of Taps, performance
information and guidelines for funerals, finding buglers for sounding calls,
many photos of bugles and buglers, music for bugle calls, stories and myths
about Taps, Taps at the JFK funeral, ordering his 60 page booklet on Taps
(24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions) and many links to bugle related sites.
Jari is also working on book on the History of Bugle Call in the United
What follows has many errors of fact as can be seen after reading the above
TAPS: Interesting Info.
This is interesting...I did not know this....wonder if any of you did.....
any of you have ever been to a military
funeral in which taps was played;
this brings out a new meaning of it.
is something Every American should know. Until I
read this, I didn't know, but I checked it out
and it's true:
in the United States have all heard
the haunting song, 'Taps.' It's the song that
gives us the lump in our throats and usually
tears in our eyes.
do you know the story behind the song? If
not, I think you will be interested to find out
about its humble beginnings.
it all began in 1862 during the Civil War,
when Union Army
Captain Robert Ellicombe was with
his men near Harrison's Landing in
Virginia . The Confederate Army was
on the other side of the narrow strip of land.
the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of
a soldier who lay 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 his encampment..
the Captain finally reached his own lines, he
discovered it was actually a Confederate
soldier, but the soldier was dead.
Captain lit a 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.
following morning, heartbroken, the father asked
permission of his superiors to give his son a
full military burial, despite his enemy status.
His request was only partially granted.
Captain had asked if he could have a group of
Army band members play a funeral dirge for his
son at the funeral.
request was turned down since the soldier was a
out of respect for the father, they did say they
could give him only one musician.
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.
wish was granted.
haunting melody, we now know as 'Taps' used
funerals was born.
Day is done.
Gone the sun.
From the lakes
From the hills.
From the sky.
All is well.
God is nigh.
Dims the sight.
And a star.
Gems the sky.
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
too have felt the chills while listening to
'Taps' but I have never seen all 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 and I
didn't know if you had either so I thought I'd
pass it along.
now have an even deeper respect for the song
than I did before.
Those Lost and Harmed While Serving Their
Remember Those Who Have Served And Returned; and
for those presently serving in the Armed
send this on after a short prayer.
this a Prayer
wheel for our soldiers....please
don't break it .
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