Madison County Historical Society

 A Story of the Origin of the Song "Taps"


The story of the origin of the song "Taps", used in military funerals, has a sad and heartbreaking beginning.  The Union army, commanded by General Daniel Butterfield, were camped for the evening near Harrison's Landing in Virginia.  The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land.  There had been a hard fought battle that day and both armies were exhausted and tired.  However, an uneasiness rippled through the Union ranks and most could not rest not sleep.

During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field of battle.  Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to go get the stricken man and bring him back for medical attention.  Braving gunfire from the Confederate side, Captain Ellicombe crawled on his stomach and began pulling the soldier toward his encampment.

When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered that the soldier was indeed Confederate and that he 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, he enlisted in the Confederate Army.

The Captain, sad and heartbroken, asked permission of his superiors to give his son full military burial services, despite his enemy status.  His request was only partially granted.  Out of respect for the Captain, his superiors gave him permission to use only one musician of his choice.  He 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.  Thus, the haunting melody, we know as "Taps", used in military funerals, was born.

 Words to TAPS

 Day is done.

Gone the sun.

From the lakes.

From the hills.

From the sky.

All is well.

Safely rest.

God is nigh.

Fading light.

Dims the sight.

And a star.

Gems of the sky.

Gleaming bright.

From afar.

Drawing nigh.

Falls the night.

Thanks and praise.

For our days.

Neath the stars.

Neath the sky.

As we go.

This we know.

God is nigh.


 Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765)683-0052|