Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day and "Taps"

"Taps," that haunting, sad and all-too-familiar tune, was composed by Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, a Civil War general who commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac. According to Wikipedia, he wrote the tune in 1862 while at Harrison's Landing, Virginia.

There are several myths about the history of "Taps," but Oliver Norton, the bugler who first performed the tune, credited Gen. Butterfield. There is also the story of how it came to be used at military funerals.

According to an officer's manual initially published in 1911, Army Col. James A Moss reported the following:

"During the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, a soldier of (Union artillery captain John C.)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 Capt. Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be the most apprpriate ceremony that could be substituted."

This was the first recorded instance of the song being used for a military funeral.

During the playing of "Taps," individuals in uniform salute - others place their right hand over their heart.

There are no official lyrics because the original was purely instrumental, but below is the most common version.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.

Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,
Friend, Goodnight.

An additional verse:

Thanks and praise, for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky.
As we go, this we know,
God is nigh.

As we gather with our families for this holiday weekend, may we never forget those who made our freedom and our way of life possible.


Hooda Thunkit said...

"As we gather with our families for this holiday weekend, may we never forget those who made our freedom and our way of life possible."


Do said...


Today's observation/celebration downtown was extraordinary. Even though attendance from our vantage point seemed slight, those that were there seemed to have a healthy respect for the occasion and the reason.

I heard small children talking about all the soldiers and what the job of the armed forces was. They seemed well versed - or just well taught. It was refreshing, to say the least.

Lisa Renee said...

Video Memorial

A friend sent me this, I think you might appreciate it Maggie.

Maggie Thurber said...

do - the Toledo parade and memorial ceremony was very nice - as always. My husband's grandfather's name is on the memorial, so we come down every year.

Lisa - great video. Thanks!

Kurt said...

Thanks for the post. I always appreciate a great historical perspective.

Kate said...

Nice post - very nice. The parade was nice - attendance seemed spotty to me. Heavy here and light there. But nice to see a good turnout. Course that's Toledo :-)

Kate said...

I went to dinner with my darling neighbor George. He's an 81 year old train nut so we went down South st to a very busy section of track. It's off South st. not sure how to say exactly where - but a train nut would know.

The train that went by had an engine that light George up. Behind it? Car after car after car carrying armored Humvees. Complete with gun turret looking shield things on the top.

There were just hundreds. A white truck pulled up and George went to talk to the guy- he works for the railroad. He said there's been several like that. These are 'hot' trains that everybody clears the tracks for. They don't stop.

That must be thousands of Humvees. I looked at the little windows when they went by - above the riveted armor paneled doors and I thought about the boys and girls that will be sitting in them soon. So young - and in enough danger that Uncle Sam sees the need to pay to have armor around them.

I don't think the war is going to be over any time soon - or else why would they be moving this much new equipment?

Just after Memorail Day - this has been a very sobering evening.

Kate said...

Oh - and I had a disposable camera in my purse from Tommy's bday party last night. So I was able to get pictures. I'll get them developed tomorrow.

Anyway to post one here?

Maggie Thurber said...

Katie - I could try to post a picture...still getting the hang of this blogging thing. Go ahead and email me and I'll try...

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