Tue, 2 Jul 1996 09:27:41 -0400
Last Friday, Larry Jones requested a post on the origin of Taps. Her=
my understanding of the story.
Taps was devised during the Civil War. In 1862, the Union Army of th=
Potomac, under Major General George McClellan, was transported to th=
Virginia Peninsula to launch a campaign against the Confederate capi=
at Richmond. The Army met stiff resistance at the outskirts of=20
Richmond. After a series of battles, McClellan, a cautious general=
nature, and misinformed as to the strength of the Confederate army=
confronting him, elected to =93change bases=94 - a carefully worded =
for retreat - to a site to the south, on the bank of the James River=
During this retreat, the Army of the Potomac was forced to stand and=
fight the pursuing Confederate army at Malvern Hill. The Confederat=
army, rather unwisely, charged the Union line and was defeated. The=
battle of Malvern Hill was fought on June 28 - July 1, 1862.
On July 2 (134 years ago today), in a miserable rain, the Army of the=
Potomac completed its depressing and embarrassing retreat to Harriso=
Landing on the James River. The retreat was a grim disillusionment =
the North, which had expected a short war. For the Army of the Poto=
it was its darkest and saddest hour.
Encamped at Harrison=92s Landing that summer was Brigadier General Da=
Butterfield. He was the commander of the 3rd brigade of the 1st=
division of the Army of the Potomac's 5th corps. A fairly=20
undistinguished officer otherwise, General Butterfield had an ear fo=
music. Previously, he had observed that his brigade=92s bugle call =
confusion in camp, because it could not be distinguished from that o=
other brigades. So he devised a unique bugle call for the 3rd briga=
Now, in camp along the James, he noted that the regulation evening bu=
call for lights out was neither musical nor inspirational, nor=20
tranquilizing. He devised a alternative tune for his bugler, which,=
after a couple of attempts, became Taps. The tune became popular, a=
soon the entire Army of the Potomac was using the call in place of t=
regulation call for lights out.
Eventually, Taps was adopted by all Union armies, and became official=
army regulation. Taps remains regulation to this day.
The story of Taps is particularly appropriate for July 2, given that=
today is the anniversary of the Army of the Potomac=92s long retreat=
the Harrison=92s Landing camp.
Den Leader Coach
and Den Leader
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