Within the last ten days, I’ve attended two funerals where military honors were given. Being retired military, I find the playing of TAPS to be extremely meaningful and comforting.
The playing of TAPS also brings back memories of one of the first sermons I ever delivered. My message was titled “God Is Near” and was based on a story that was making the rounds on the internet…a story about the origin of TAPS. It told how one night in 1862, near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia, Union Army Capt Robert Ellicombe heard the moans of a severely wounded soldier; not caring which side he was from, Capt Ellicombe risked his life to help the soldier. Upon return to his encampment and in better light, he discovered the injured soldier, a Confederate, didn’t make it; he had died. Upon closer look, he discovered an even more shocking thing…the dead soldier was his son, who had been studying music in the South upon the start of the Civil War. The next morning, he asked his commanding officer for permission to bury his son with military honors. His request was partially granted; he could only have one musician. Capt Ellicombe chose the bugler and he asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he found written on a piece of paper in his son’s pocket. The notes were the TAPS signal. Following the story’s end, were the song verses for TAPS. Yes…verses! There is more than one!
I share this story from my old sermon for three reasons:
1. The good news was that before I gave my sermon, I did some further research on the story…mainly to try and learn who wrote the verses to TAPS. However, I learned THE STORY TOLD ABOVE IS NOT TRUE. TAPS did originate in 1862…in Virginia, but not by Capt Ellicombe, but by Medal of Honor recipient Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, who whistled the notes to his bugler to play, because he wanted something more meaningful and ceremonial to signal day’s end.
2. There are no official verses to TAPS…TAPS is a signal, not a song. But we find these verses comforting, especially knowing that “God is nigh”.
“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 the sky. Gleaming bright…
From afar…drawing nigh…Falls the night”
“Thanks and praise…for our days…neath the sun…neath the stars…neath the sky…
As we go…this we know…God is nigh”
(There are other verses)
3. God isn’t playing us TAPS, but He is signaling to us all the time that He is near; we just have to keep looking and listening for God’s musical notes as we work to grow our faith, minister to others, and serve “In His Name” as King’s Daughters and Sons.
Cathy Duncan, NY