By: Lt Colonel Tony Traficante, US Army, Ret.
“And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.” ⁓Joseph Rodman Drake
Listen! On Memorial Day, you shall hear the haunting sounds of “Taps,” as they echo over the memorials of our fallen heroes. Without a doubt, this beautiful but mournful refrain will trigger a lump in your throat, as a flood of tears freely flow from your eyes.
Looking over these hallowed grounds, you will see a lonely bugler standing proudly while sounding honors to the fallen military, protectors of our nation. Not all are heroes, but all were brave men and women, proudly serving our country.
It is a beautiful, musical score, melancholy yet serene. Its echo remains in the heart long after the music ends. Taps began in 1862 during the Civil War. It originated from tragic contingencies.
Union Army Captain, Robert Ellicombe, and his men lay along damp, cold trenches near Harrison’s Landing, Virginia.
Facing them, across a narrow strip of land was a Confederate Army unit. It was nighttime; the battlefield lay silent.
As on every night, Captain Ellicombe cautiously patrolled the surrounding areas of the battlefield. At a point, he heard the anguished moans of a wounded soldier. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain crawled in search. He discovered a young, seriously wounded musketeer.
Unable to provide medical aid at the site, Ellicombe, avoiding possible eyes of an enemy sentry, dragged the wounded soldier to his encampment. After arriving at the medical tent, the Captain was told the young Confederate soldier died.
Wnting to bear witness, the Captain approached the dead soldier in the dim light of a lantern. When he gazed upon the face of the fallen warrior, he was shocked. “This is my son!”
The father knew his son was studying music in the South when the war broke out, but he did not know his son had enlisted in the Confederate Army.
Devastated, Ellicombe went to his superiors to request permission for a military burial and Army band members for his son’s funeral. But because the he was a Confederate soldier, they denied him permission except for a single musician.
Unhappy by the decision, the Captain nevertheless chose a bugler to play at his son’s burial. He asked the bugler to play special musical notes found on a piece of crumpled paper in his son’s uniform pocket.
And, it was this series of amazing notes that became the basis of the chilling, heart-rending, military funereal music known as ‘Taps.’
“Gone the sun, From the lakes, From the hills, From the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh …. till the light of the dawn, Shineth bright; God is near. Do not fear, Friend, goodnight.”