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TAPS An Amazing Song with an Unbelievable Beginning

Updated on January 29, 2012

I have heard the bugle call “TAPS” at military funerals for soldiers that were killed in action answering the call to duty serving our country. Tears well up in my eyes as I think back to the mothers I hugged and said I am sorry for your loss.

So when I received an email the other day titled “TAPS WHERE DID IT COME FROM” I just had to read the email and found myself in awe of what the email said. I am copying and pasting it here for you to read…

Reportedly, 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.

During 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.

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 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 of his superiors to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted.

The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral.

The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate.

But, out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him only 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.

This wish was granted.


haunting melody, we now know as 'Taps' used at military funerals was born.

The words are:

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 nigh.

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

Now if you are feeling the chills I did you will understand that as a history buff I wanted to read more about this truly amazing song. So I started to do some research on line and found a wealth of information but the most disappointing was that this story was not true.

The Birth Of TAPS


TAPS is a 24 note melody that has very deep meanings to many people. Besides be played at military funerals and ceremonies it is played at 2200 hours on United States Military Installations around the world to signal the end of the day or lights out and this is where the origin of taps begins…


During the 1800’s bugle calls were used by military officers to communicate with the soldiers in their command. There was bugle “calls” to signal different events, the common one we still hear is Reveille to signal the start of the day.


Before TAPS there was a French bugle call that was used to do this known as “TATTOO” used by most services around the world…


During the Civil War General Daniel Butterfield decided it would be easier for his troops if he had his own special bugle call to signify the next bugle call was for them. General Butterfield came up with a very short call which his troops quickly recognized… The troops under Butterfield eventually put words to it which were Damn Damn Damn Butterfield Butterfield….


General Butterfield felt that “Tattoo” sounded to formal for lights out, but only knowing what sounded pleasing to his ear was unable to “write” a new bugle call to signify the end of the soldiers day.


One day at Harrison Landing in VA after the  7 day battle  of the Peninsula, General Butterfield summoned the brigade bugler, Private Oliver Wilcox. Not changing the tempo but by lengthening  and shorting the 24 notes of “Tattoo” Butterfield’s Lullaby was born…


It quickly spread to other units in the American Army of the time and replaced the bugle call known as “Tattoo”.


The name TAPS was official adopted by the Army in 1891


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    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

      Very interesting! The last funeral I went to was for two boys that were killed on a motorcycle. One was not even a teenager yet. They played Taps at the funeral. Needless to say I bawled like a runny faucet.