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> Taps


Words by John Mitchum
EVER since the "Seven Day Battle" of the Civil War, "Taps" has been a part of the American way of life. The word alone became a standard and it still lingers very much on the American scene.

In my picture-making, I've done a lot of shows where the Cavalry would bed down for the night in a desert outpost. Even in a movie the sound of that lone bugle would send a shiver through me. It's funny what just a few notes can do. I've listened to some pretty complicated music in my day and some of it certainly left its impressions on me, but that simple uncomplicated strain called "Taps" tells a story that's too big for one lifetime.

How many of our heroes have gone to their final rest to its call? Heralded men whose names were household words and the unheralded, known only to God.

When you spin that tune our for over a century of time a lot of history rides on those notes. The Union's Colonel Dan Butterfield had to be a genius, for he sat down in the heat of battle, scribbled the notes down on paper and handed them to his bugler. The rest is history. Some men work for months on end putting down thousands of notes on reams of paper and unfortunately end up in obscurity. Colonel Butterfield, wanting simply to express his compassion and love for his men, captured that feeling forever with just a few notes. It seems to me that when those notes ring out, it is a melody for all Americans.

God bless you, Dan.


It was July in Virginia.
The scent of the dogwood and the laurel lay heavy on the land,
While the burgeoning fruit of the peach and the apple
Marked the full sway of summer.

For seven fateful days, the trees, the flowers...
Yes, the very ground itself...
Had shuddered under the roar of cannon...
The bark of howitzers...and the crackling of a legion of rifles.

Now, all was silent.
The sledgehammer blows of Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson
Had mauled the Army of the Potomac...
And yet that army was not destroyed.
Seven thousand men had fallen in that dreadful week...and the savagery of the conflict
Was grimly evident in the river of wounded...that wound through the green hills.

Now, a new sound drifted in the soft evening sky.
For Colonel Dan Butterfield, a courageous and able soldier,
Was also a man of music.
To honor his fallen comrades, he had composed a simple and heartrending melody.
On July second, in the year 1862,
Its strains floated over the graves that scarred the dark Virginia earth.

It has been more than a hundred years since that sound was born...
but these notes have never died away.
Every night of the year, throughout the world, fighting men of America,
From the North and the south, the East and the West,
Close their eyes in sleep to its call.
And in each of their hearts...there glows a fierce surge of pride.

"Fading light...falling night...
Trumpet calls as the sun sinks in flight.
Sleep in peace, comrades dear...
God is near."