Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognizable or more stirring and able to render emotion than Taps. Up until the Civil War, the traditional call at day's end was a tune borrowed from the French called Lights Out. Then, in the aftermath of the bloody Seven Days battles in July of 1862 and hard on the heels of losing 600 men and being wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought Lights Out was too formal, and he wanted to honor his men with something different. Taps were born.
Tap was soon adopted throughout the military. The U.S. Army officially recognized it in 1874, and it became standard at military funeral ceremonies in 1891. There is something singularly beautiful, mournful, 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.