This column is sort of a continuation of last week’s article. It would have been a little more appropriate then, but, it’s still good information.
We have all been to military funerals and at almost all of them we hear “Taps” being played, along with the 21-gun salute. To me it’s always very awe inspiring and brings tears to my eyes, just as the “Star Spangled Banner” does the same thing. I guess it’s something that comes with age, as when my generation was in school, we sang and learned the words to “America the Beautiful”, “God Bless America” and the rest of the songs praising our country. They’re not sung so much anymore and I miss them. If any of you have gone to summer camp of any kind, chances are, taps were played at the end of the day, and you may or may not have learned to sing the words to the song.
Why Taps is Played At Funerals, I never knew. Do you? If any of you have ever been to a military funeral* in which taps was played; this brings out a new meaning of it. Here is something every American should know. We 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. But, do you know the story behind the song? If not, I think you will be interested to find out about its humble beginnings. Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Elli 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 Elli 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. The haunting melody, we now know as ‘Taps’ used at military funerals was born.
The words, as I found them in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia are as follows.
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Failing lights, 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.
Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise they have made.
While the light fades from sight
And the stars gleaming rays send
To thy hand we our souls, Lord, commend.
Taps is a bugle call – a signal, not a song. As such, there is no associated lyric. Many bugle calls had words associated with them as a mnemonic device but these are not lyrics.Horace Lorenzo Trim, wrote a set of words intended to accompany the music.
I now have an even deeper respect for the song than I did before.
Remember Those Lost and Harmed While Serving Their Country. Also Remember Those Who Have Served And Returned; and for those presently serving in the Armed Forces.* Taps is not played at all military funerals, but it is only played at military funerals.