The story behind "Taps"
It 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 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 own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when
the war broke out. Without telling his father, he enlisted in the
The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of
his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy
His request was partially granted. 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. This music was the haunting melody we now know
as "Taps" that is used at all military funerals.
In case you are interested, these are the words to "TAPS":
Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lakes,
All is well.
God is nigh.