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The Story Behind Taps

Every soldier remembers the 24 haunting notes of Taps from their first night of boot camp but few understand where the tradition came from or know what the words to the music are, or what it symbolizes

lt 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 moan of a soldier who lay mortally 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 moaning 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.

Suddenly, he caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his only son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, he 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 partially granted by General Daniel Sickles. The captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for the son at the funeral. That request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate.

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 his dead son's uniform. This wish was granted. His father added the following words to the music as a tribute to his fallen son.

This music is the haunting melody we now know as "Taps" that is used at all military funerals, wreath-laying, memorial services and played as a Tattoo each evening at all military facilities as a call which closes the soldier's day.

Memorial Day 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.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor, our God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
Neath the sky, As we go,
This we know, God is nigh.

-- Robert Ellicombe, Capt., U.S. Union Army, Taps, 1862

Remember Those Who Gave Their All
So That We Could Be A Free Nation

In paradisum deducant te Angeli:
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam
Jerusalem. Chorus Angelorum te
suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam
paupere aeternam habeas requiem.
Requiem aeternam done eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace. Amen.

- Benjamin Britten 1913-1976
War Requiem, Opus 66

Advanced TSCM Signals Detection and Analysis
TSCM - Sweeping the Spectrum for Eavesdropping Devices

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