Brian Stanley: Whatever its origin, ‘Taps’ a moving tribute
May 24, 2012 9:38PM
Officer Eric Zettergren, with the Joliet Police Department, plays Taps during a Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony at the Will County Law Enforcement Memorial Thursday, May 10, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:41AM
Columnists don’t get a lot of requests.
I regularly hear “You know ... you should write a column about X” and “You know what you can do with that column you wrote on X,” but I categorize those as suggestions.
But to have someone write to ask “Could you please write a column about this? I would like to read your take on it” is pretty rare.
But late last year, a gentleman from Minooka did just that and enclosed information about the story behind “Taps.”
The entertainer is happy to take a request, but to get the most audience impact, I figured I’d save the hymn to the fallen soldier for Memorial Day weekend.
Though Brian, the former Boy Scout bugled “Day is done. Gone the sun” at camp, I didn’t know the song’s origin. So I read about a Civil War battle in Virginia where a Union captain heard the moans of a wounded soldier in the night and decided to crawl out between the lines and get him. When the captain brought the injured man back to the lantern light, he discovered not only was he a Confederate soldier, but his own dying son.
While the former music student’s enemy status denied him a full band at his burial, the young man’s father was held in such respect they allowed him to have a single musician play a dirge. The captain chose a bugler and asked him to play the melody he’d found written on a piece of paper in the dead youth’s uniform.
The song was Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Or you can imagine it was a different tune and stay as true to reality as this tale is.
See what a fan gets for asking to hear my take on a story they like? I get to pay them back by saying they’re giving credence to an urban legend spread through email.
It’s slightly hypocritical to justify using the Internet to show something on it is inaccurate, but many of the many that say the Taps legend is just a legend cite their sources and references.
Historians believe Taps was adapted from an earlier bugle call to signal “lights out” by Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield in 1862. It became associated with funerals that same year when Capt. John C. Tidball wanted to honor one of his fallen men, but decided firing three volleys over the grave would either restart the battle too soon or give away their position when it did.
Taps doesn’t need a legend made up about its origins. Hearing it played for those who are gone should be enough to affect you emotionally.
On the other hand, there’s no penalty for spreading a harmless story about Taps over the Internet, challenging its accuracy in the press or still believing it if you want to.
After all, it’s a free country.
Thanks to those it’s played for.