There is a myth about the origin of Taps that is circulating about the Internet. You can find it anywhere online…(I’m not going to repeat the myth, but feel free to CLICK HERE)
However the true story is that in July 1862, after the Seven Days battles at Harrison’s Landing (near Richmond), Virginia, the wounded Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, General Daniel Butterfield reworked, with his bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton, another bugle call, “Scott Tattoo,” to create Taps. He thought that the regular call for Lights Out was too formal. Taps was adopted throughout the Army of the Potomac and finally confirmed by orders. Soon other Union units began using Taps, and even a few Confederate units began using it as well. After the war, Taps became an official bugle call. Col. James A. Moss, in his Officer’s Manual first published in 1911, gives an account of the initial use of Taps at a military funeral:
“During the Peninsular 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 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 appropriate ceremony that could be substituted.”
More about the true history of Taps can be found at: 24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions and at Military District of Washington Fact Sheet: Origins of “Taps”.
Words to Taps (Note: there are no “official” words to Taps below are the most popular.)
Day is done, gone the sun, From the hills, from the lake, From the skies. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Go to sleep, peaceful sleep, May the soldier or sailor, 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.