Military Memorials: Taps

“Taps” is an American bugle call composed by Union General Daniel Butterfield, while in camp at Harrison’s Landing in 1862.  Butterfield wrote the piece to replace the earlier “Scott Tattoo” to signal lights out.  The call was soon known as “Taps” because it was often tapped out on a drum in the absence of a bugler.  Because it was often unsafe to fire the customary three volleys over the grave on account of the proximity of the enemy, the sounding of “Taps” was decided as the most appropriate ceremony that could be substituted. Before the year was out, sounding “Taps” became the practice in both the Northern and Southern Army camps.  “Taps” was officially adopted by the United States Army in 1874.

“Taps” concludes many military funerals.  The musical piece is also sounded at many memorial services and at gravesites.  When Taps is sounded at a funeral, it is customary for serving members of the military or veterans to salute and for civilians to place the right hand over the heart.

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