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Bugler playing Taps

Taps lyrics and the History of Taps

A musical rendition of Taps by CW4 Josef A. Orosz, Jr., Bandmaster, U.S. Army Retired can be found on his website and on YouTube.

Taps Lyrics:
Day is done,
gone the sun,
from the lakes
from the hills
from the sky,
all is well,
safely, rest,
God is near.

Fading light,
Dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky
Gleaming bright,
From afar,
Drawing, near,
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 near.

The History of TAPS:

The word “taps” is an alteration of the obsolete word “taptoo,” derived from the Dutch “taptoe.” Taptoe was the command — “Tap toe!” — to shut (“toe to”) the “tap” of a keg.

The 24-note bugle call known as “TAPS” came from the last  six measures of Tattoo in Major General Scott’s 1835 version of his Manual of “Infantry Tactics”. This Tattoo call notified soldiers to cease an evening’s drinking and return to their barracks or garrisons. It was sounded one hour before the bugle call that brought the military day to an end by ordering the extinguishing of fires and lights. The six measures of the “TAPS” call are with the exception of a change in the beginning and at the end exactly as written in Tattoo.

The revision that gave us present-day “TAPS” was prepared on 2 July 1962 during America ‘s Civil War by Brigadier General Daniel Adams Butterfield (who was later promoted in Nov 1862 to Major General), heading the Third Brigade camped at Harrison Landing, Va., near Richmond. Up to that time, the U.S. Army’s infantry call to end the day was the Tattoo call from the 1835 Manual of Major General Scott’s “Infantry Tactics.” In light of the amount of casualties that he lost during the day’s battle  Brig Gen. Butterfield decided the “lights out” music was too formal to signal the day’s end. On 2 July 1862, BG Butterfield and brigade bugler, Pvt Oliver W. Norton, worked together to create “TAPS” which would be used to signal day’s end from that day forward.

He ordered Norton to play this new call as a prayer at the end of each day thereafter, instead of the regulation call. The call was heard that night for the first time and appreciated by other brigade Commanders, who in the morning sent their buglers for copies and then adopted this bugle call. It was even adopted by Confederate buglers. This music was made the official Army bugle call after the war, but not given the name “TAPS” until 1874.

The first time “TAPS” was played at a military funeral may also have been in Virginia soon after BG Butterfield prepared it. Union Capt. John Tidball, head of an artillery battery, ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Not wanting to reveal the battery’s position in the woods to the enemy nearby, CPT Tidball substituted “TAPS” for the traditional three rifle volleys fired over the grave. “TAPS” was played at the funeral of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson 10 months after it was first performed. By 1891 US Army infantry regulations required “TAPS” to be played at all military funeral ceremonies.

At the present time”TAPS” is now played by the military at all burial and memorial services and is still used to signal “lights out” at day’s end.

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