The Info List - Taps

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"TAPS" is a bugle call played at dusk, during flag ceremonies, and at military funerals by the United States armed forces
United States armed forces
. The official military version is played by a single bugle or trumpet , although other versions of the tune may be played in other contexts (e.g., the U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Marine Corps
Ceremonial Music site has recordings of two bugle and one band version ). It is also performed often at Boy Scout
Boy Scout
, Girl Scout , and Girl Guide meetings and camps. The tune is also sometimes known as "BUTTERFIELD\'S LULLABY", or by the first line of the lyric, "DAY IS DONE". The duration may vary to some extent; the typical recording below is 59 seconds long.


* 1 Etymology * 2 History * 3 Melody and lyrics * 4 Legends

* 5 Non-military variants

* 5.1 Echo Taps
and Silver Taps
* 5.2 Scouting

* 6 See also * 7 References * 8 External links


"Taps" is derived from the same source as "Tattoo ".

"Taps" originates from the Dutch taptoe , meaning "close the (beer) taps (and send the troops back to camp)". An alternative explanation, however, is that it carried over from a term already in use before the American Civil War. Three single, slow drum beats were struck after the sounding of the Tattoo or "Extinguish Lights". This signal was known as the "Drum Taps", "The Taps", or simply as "Taps" in soldier's slang.


Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Daniel Butterfield
Daniel Butterfield

The tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the "Scott Tattoo ", which was used in the U.S. from 1835 until 1860, and was arranged in its present form by the Union Army
Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield
Daniel Butterfield
, an American Civil War
American Civil War
general and Medal of Honor recipient who commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army
Corps of the Army
of the Potomac while at Harrison\'s Landing, Virginia , in July 1862 to replace a previous French bugle call used to signal "lights out". Butterfield's bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton , of East Springfield, Pennsylvania , was the first to sound the new call. Within months "Taps" was used by both Union and Confederate forces . It was officially recognized by the United States Army
in 1874.

"Taps" concludes many military funerals conducted with honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
and elsewhere in the United States. The tune is also sounded at many memorial services in Arlington's Memorial Amphitheater and at grave sites throughout the cemetery .

Captain John Francis Tidball , West Point Class of 1848, started the custom of playing "Taps" at military funerals. In early July 1862 at Harrison's Landing, a corporal of Tidball's Battery A, 2nd U. S.. Artillery , died. He was, Tidball recalled later, "a most excellent man". Tidball wished to bury him with full military honors, but, for military reasons, he was refused permission to fire three guns over the grave. Tidball later wrote, "The thought suggested itself to me to sound taps instead, which I did. The idea was taken up by others, until in a short time it was adopted by the entire army and is now looked upon as the most appropriate and touching part of a military funeral." As Tidball proudly proclaimed, "Battery A has the honor of having introduced this custom into the service, and it is worthy of historical note."

It became a standard component to U.S. military funerals in 1891.

"Taps" is sounded during each of the military wreath ceremonies conducted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
every year, including the ones held on Memorial Day
Memorial Day
. The ceremonies are viewed by many people, including veterans, school groups, and foreign officials. "Taps" also is sounded nightly in military installations at non-deployed locations to indicate that it is "lights out", and often by Boy Scouts , Girl Scouts and Girl Guides to mark the end of an evening event such as a campfire.


The melody of "Taps" is composed entirely from the written notes of the C major triad (i.e., C, E, and G, with the G used in the lower and higher octaves). This is because the bugle, for which it is written, can play only the notes in the harmonic series of the instrument's fundamental tone ; a B-flat bugle thus plays the notes B-flat, D, and F. "Taps" uses the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth partials. Taps
in C

There is one original set of lyrics meant to accompany the music, written by Horace Lorenzo Trim :

Day is done, gone the sun, From the lake, 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.

Sun has set, shadows come, Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds Always true to the promise that they made.

While the light fades from sight, And the stars gleaming rays softly send, To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

Several later lyrical adaptations have been created.


There are several legends concerning the origin of "Taps". The most widely circulated one states that a Union Army
infantry officer, whose name often is given as Captain Robert Ellicombe, first ordered "Taps" performed at the funeral of his son, a Confederate soldier killed during the Peninsula Campaign
Peninsula Campaign
. This apocryphal story claims that Ellicombe found the tune in the pocket of his son's clothing and performed it to honor his memory, but there is no record of any man named Robert Ellicombe holding a commission as captain in the Army
of the Potomac during the Peninsula Campaign.

That Daniel Butterfield
Daniel Butterfield
composed "Taps" has been sworn to by numerous reputable witnesses including his bugler Norton, who first performed the tune. While scholars continue to debate whether or not the tune was original or based on an earlier melody, few researchers doubt that Butterfield is responsible for the current tune.

Another, perhaps more historically verifiable, account of "Taps" first being used in the context of a military funeral involves John C. Tidball , a Union artillery captain who during a break in fighting ordered the tune sounded for a deceased soldier in lieu of the more traditional—and much less discreet—three volley tribute. Army
Col. James A. Moss, in an Officer's Manual initially published in 1911, reports the following:

During the Peninsula Campaign
Peninsula 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 not safe 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 appropriate ceremony that could be substituted.

While not necessarily addressing the origin of the "Taps", this does represent the first recorded instance of "Taps" being sounded as part of a military funeral. Until then, while the tune had meant that the soldiers' day of work was finished, it had little to none of the connotation or overtone of death, with which it so often is associated today.

Another lesser-known legend is that of Lieutenant William Waid paying saloon-keepers to shut off the taps to the kegs when the song was played in a neighboring army camp. Lt. Waid's name has not been found in Union or Confederate records.


Although primarily used within the military, several local or special variations of the tune are performed, primarily by organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America
or American military schools. It is also played all over the world in remembrance of the dead.


Echo Taps
or Silver Taps
is a tradition in which "Taps" is played at American military schools—such as Norwich University , Texas A&M University , New Mexico Military Institute , The Citadel , and Virginia Tech —when a member or former member of a school's corps of cadets is killed in action . Echo Taps
ceremonies involve some arrangement of "Taps" for two buglers, playing antiphonally to represent both the cadet's branch of service and their college. Silver Taps
ceremonies may use such an arrangement, or some other version for two or more instruments.

At Norwich University, the ceremony is held on the Upper Parade Ground, where the Corps of Cadets forms up silently at 2145 (9:45 p.m.) for tattoo, and then stands in silence until 2200 (10:00 p.m.) when "Echo Taps" is sounded, at which time unit commanders tacitly will give the commands of attention and present arms. The regimental bugler stands either near the flagpole in front of Jackman Hall or on Jackman's balcony and plays the main tune of "Taps". The echoing bugler will stand on the steps of Dewey Hall facing the Parade Ground and echo each series of notes. Following the sounding of "Taps", the Corps of Cadets dismisses in silence.

At Texas A&M, Echo Taps
is held on the Corps of Cadets Quad at 10:30p.m. For the ceremony, the Corps falls out and both students and cadets gather to form around the Quad. A bugler is posted at the megaphone on the south end and another is at the arches on the north end. Cadets salute and the bugler on the south end plays the first three notes of Silver Taps
, the bugler on the north end echoes, the bugler on the south end plays the next three notes and is echoed for the rest of the song. Cadets and students then return to their dorms.

By far, one of Texas A&M's most honored traditions is Silver Taps. Silver Taps
is the student body's final tribute paid to an Aggie who, at the time of their death, was enrolled in undergraduate or graduate studies. This final tribute is held the first Tuesday of the month when a student has died the previous month. The first Silver Taps
was held in 1898 and honored Lawrence Sullivan Ross, the former governor of Texas and president of A&M College. Silver Taps
is currently held in the Academic Plaza. On the day of Silver Taps, a small card with the deceased student's name, class, major, and date of birth is placed as a notice at the base of the academic flagpole, in addition to the memorial located behind the flagpole. The A">


* Military of the United States portal * Music portal

* Keith Clark , U.S. Army
bugler who played "Taps" at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy * "Ich hatt\' einen Kameraden " ("I had a comrade"), the German and Austrian equivalent for military funerals * "Il Silenzio " ("Silence"), the Dutch equivalent (with Italian lyrics) * " La muerte no es el final " ("Death is not the end"), the Spanish equivalent * ""La sonnerie aux morts ", the French Armed Forces
French Armed Forces
equivalent * " Last Post ", Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
* " Reveille ", the bugle call sounded at sunrise


* ^ "Ceremonial music. Links to two bugle versions and a band version of \'Taps\'". U.S. Marines.

* ^ E.g.:

* Villanueva, Jari A. "24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions". west-point.org]. (see notes about the author contained therein). * "Taps" (PDF). U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs (The Story of Taps).

* ^ "Taps". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 26 August 2014. * ^ Villanueva, Jari. "Why the Name "Taps"?". tapsbugler.com. Retrieved 26 August 2014. * ^ Booth, Russell H. (December 1977). "Butterfield and 'Taps'". Civil War Times. pp. 35–39. * ^ "Detailed History of Taps". West-point.org. 1969-07-04. Retrieved 2011-03-23. * ^ Pennsylvania in the Civil War * ^ 'The 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War' p. 8 * ^ A B Villanueva, USAF Master Sergeant Jari A. "History of Taps". Military Funeral Honors Web Page. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 4 March 2011. * ^ Military Funeral Honors – Burial and Memorial Benefits * ^ John C. Tidball, "Second U.S. Artillery", November 21, 1890, Papers re Second U.S. Artillery, M 727, entry 64, Records of the Office of the Adjutant General, RG, NA, 14–15. See also Tidball, Eugene C., No Disgrace to my Country: The Life of John C. Tidball, Kent, Kent State University Press, 2002, pp. 250–251. * ^ "Tapping the Admiral". Retrieved 2011-03-23. * ^ "The Story of \'Taps\' – Netlore Archive". Urbanlegends.about.com. 1999-03-26. Retrieved 2011-03-23. * ^ "The Origin of "Taps"?". BreakTheChain.org. 2003-04-18. Retrieved 2011-03-23. * ^ "The story behind the military song "taps"-Fiction!". Truthorfiction.com. Retrieved 2011-03-23. * ^ "Taps" from Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratories