Lest we forget
We in the United States have all heard the haunting song, "Taps." It's the song that gives us that lump in our throats and usually tears in our eyes.
But, do you know the story behind the song? If not, I think you will be interested to find out about its humble beginnings. Reportedly, 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 moans of a soldier who lay severely 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 and suddenly 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, the boy 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 only partially granted. The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. But 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 the dead youth's uniform. This wish was granted.
The haunting melody, we now know as "Taps", used at military funerals, was born. The words are:
is done...Gone the sun...
light...Dims the sight...
and praise...For our days...
I, too, have felt the chills while listening to "Taps" but I have never seen all the words to the song until now. I didn't even know there was more than one verse. I also never knew the story behind the song and I didn't know if you had either so I thought I'd pass it along. I now have an even deeper respect for the song than I did before.
D. Marvin - Friend --
Note: It has been reported (Snopes.com) that this story is not true, but isn't it a nice story?
Having served in the Indian Army, the bugler's call of the Last Post arouses nostalgia in addition to the emotions associated with the ceremony I may be witnessing. Here is some more on similar customs in some countries that may be of interest:
The "Last Post" call originally signaled that the camp was secure for the night. In also signaled the wounded or separated still out at the close of a day of battle to find safety and rest.
The use of last post in Remembrance Day ceremonies originated around 17th century when British troops stationed in the Netherlands drew on a Dutch custom called taptoe to signal that beer taps had to be shut as the day had ended. For ceremonial use the Last Post is often followed by Rouse, or the longer Reveille.
During the 19th century, the "Last Post" was incorporated as a final farewell into military funerals in the various countries of the British Empire and for use in public ceremonials commemorating the war dead.
"Der gute Kamerad" ("The good Comrade") is a traditional lament of the German Armed Forces after the deployment of Badener troops against the Tyrolean Rebellion. In 1825, Friedrich Silcher set it to music based on the tune of a Swiss folk song.
The "Last Post" was used by British forces in North America in colonial times, replaced by different "Taps" by the United States Army, first used in 1862 and officially recognized in 1874. Per US Army Regulations, Taps, signals that unauthorized lights are to be extinguished and is the last call of the day. This is played at military funerals and memorials by a single bugler.
The French played La Sonnerie aux Morts at a ceremony for rekindling of the eternal flame at the Arc de Triomphe on the 14 July 1931.
"Il Silenzio" is a memorial piece commissioned by the Dutch and first played in 1965 on the 20th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.
Part of the song is also used in all the Italian barracks, to signal the end of the day.
The Spanish Armed Forces adopted "La Muerte No Es El Final" (Death Is Not The End), composed by the Spanish priest Cesáreo Gabaráin Azurmendi (1936–1991), after the death of a young organist in his church as a hymn to pay tribute to those who died in military service.
Essentially a tradition of European origin - accounts of Sikh battles in the time of Guru Gobind Singh mention of taking care of the dead and wounded as the battle ground was emptied after the fighting was over.
May We Forever Remember All Those Who Dared
John Williams' Summon The Heroes
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