The original version was purely
instrumental, but there have been several later lyrics
added. The first, written by Horace Lorenzo Trim, is shown
Fading light dims the sight And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright From afar drawing nigh, Falls the night.
Day is done, gone the sun From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies All is well, safely rest; God is nigh.
Then goodnight, peaceful night; Till the light of the dawn shineth bright. God is near, do not fear, Friend, goodnight.
The other popular
version, penned and harmonized by famed composer
Love, sweet dreams! Lo, the beams of the light Fairy moon kissed the
streams, Love, Goodnight! Ah so soon! Peaceful dreams!
Another set of
lyrics, used in a recording made by John Wayne about the
Fading light Falling night Trumpet call, as the sun, sinks in fright Sleep in peace, comrades dear, God is near.
Many Scouting Groups around the
world sing the second verse of Taps ("Day is Done..")
at the close of a camp or campfire. It is often referred to
as Vespers meaning evening prayer.
Union Army Brigadier
GeneralDaniel Butterfield summoned Pvt. Oliver Wilcox
Norton, his brigade bugler, to his tent. Butterfield, who disliked the colorless
"extinguish lights" call then in use, whistled a new tune and asked the bugler
to sound it for him. After repeated trials and changing the time of some notes
which were scribbled on the back of an envelope, the call was finally arranged
to suit Gen. Butterfield and used for the first time that night. Pvt. Norton,
who on several occasions, had sounded numerous new calls composed by his
commander, recalled his experience of the origin of "Taps" years later:
"One day in July 1862 when
the Army of the Potomac was in camp at Harrison's Landing on the James River,
Virginia, resting and recruiting from its losses in the seven days of battle
before Richmond, Gen. Butterfield summoned the writer to his tent, and whistling
some new tune, asked the bugler to sound it for him. This was done, not quite to
his satisfaction at first, but after repeated trials, changing the time of some
of the notes, which were scribbled on the back of an envelope, the call was
finally arranged to suit the general.
"He then ordered that it
should be substituted in his brigade for the regulation "Taps" (extinguish
lights) which was printed in the Tactics and used by the whole army. This was
done for the first time that night. The next day buglers from nearby brigades
came over to the camp of Butterfield's brigade to ask the meaning of this new
call. They liked it, and copying the music, returned to their camps, but it was
not until some time later, when generals of other commands had heard its
melodious notes, that orders were issued, or permission given, to substitute it
throughout the Army of the Potomac for the time-honored call which came down
from West Point.
Oliver Willcox Norton and
General Butterfield at
Harrison's Landing, July 1862
In the western armies the
regulation call was in use until the autumn of 1863. At that time the XI and XII
Corps were detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent under command of Gen.
Hooker to reinforce the Union Army at Chattanooga, Tenn. Through its use in
these corps it became known in the western armies and was adopted by them. From
that time, it became and remains to this day the official call for "Taps." It is
printed in the present Tactics and is used throughout the U.S. Army, the
National Guard, and all organizations of veteran soldiers.
Gen. Butterfield, in
composing this call and directing that it be used for "Taps" in his brigade,
could not have foreseen its popularity and the use for another purpose into
which it would grow. Today, whenever a man is buried with military honors
anywhere in the United States, the ceremony is concluded by firing three volleys
of musketry over the grave, and sounding with the trumpet or bugle "Put out the
lights. Go to sleep"...There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate
in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of
rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased
to vibrate in the air."
This first sounding of Taps at a
military funeral is commemorated in a stained glass window at The
Chapel of the
Centurion (The Old Post Chapel) at Fort
Monroe, Virginia. The window, made by R. Geissler of New York and based on a
painting by Sidney King, was dedicated in 1958 and shows a bugler and a flag
at half staff. In that picture a drummer boy stands beside the bugler. The
grandson of that drummer boy purchased Berkeley Plantation where Harrisons
Landing is located. The site where Taps was born is also commemorated. In
this case, by a monument located on the grounds of Berkeley Plantation. This
monument to Taps was erected by the Virginia American Legion and dedicated
on July 4, 1969. The site is also rich in history, for the Harrisons of
Berkeley Plantation included Benjamin Harrison and William Henry Harrison,
both presidents of the United States as well as Benjamin Harrison (father
and Great grandfather of future presidents), a signer of the Declaration of