HOW MANY OF US KNEW THIS ?
Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to render
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 type call known as Last Post has been sounded over soldiers'
since 1885, but the use of Taps is unique to 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 (1831-1901) 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.
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 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac
During the Peninsular Campaign Butterfield distinguished himself when,during the Battle of Gaines Mill and
despite an injury, he seized the colors of the 83rd Pennsylvania and rallied the regiment at a critical time in the battle.
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 (1839-1920),
wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison?s Landing, Virginia,
following the Seven Days battle. These battles
took place during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. The new call, sounded that night in July, 1862, soon
spread to other
units of the Union Army and was reportedly also used by the Confederates. Taps was made an official bugle call after the war.
THE TAPS MYTH
Almost every day when I check my e-mails, I get a
message or two asking about or
forwarding a story for my comment or enlightenment.
It starts with, "It all began during
the Civil War..." and goes on to relate the story of a
Union Captain Ellicombe and how he
finds his wounded Confederate son on a battlefield.
The story is that the music of Taps is
found in the pocket of the young man and that's how
the call came into being. It is a
heartwarming and poignant story...