The History of Taps and Understanding Earned Veteran Benefits

“Taps” consists of 24 notes that are sounded on a bugle at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies and memorial services for veterans.  It was not written in its current form but came from revisions to a call named “Tattoo” that was written before the Civil War.  You can see it played here and you will hear some of the notes we know as Taps in its current form today.

In 1862 the first steps were taken that resulted in “Taps.”  Every evening a call named “Extinguish Lights” was played to signal the end of day and that troops should extinguish all lights and report to barracks.  Major General Daniel Adams Butterfield felt the call was not the way he felt they should signal the day’s end.  He enlisted the help Oliver Willcox Norton, his brigade bugler to make a new arrangement.  The newly revised call was named “Taps” and was first played to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia following the Seven Days’ battles during the Peninsular Campaign.

Butterfield and Norton did not compose “Taps.” Although it is generally believed that they composed the bugle call, in fact they merely revised an earlier bugle call. The earliest version of the call, known as “Tattoo,” had gone out of use by the Civil War. Butterfield knew this early version from his days before the war as a colonel in the 12th New York Militia. Like “Extinguish Lights” it was used as a signal at the end of the day. Butterfield and Norton took the last 5 and a half measures of the “Tattoo” and arranged them into the 24 notes we know today. The first use of “Taps” at a funeral was during the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia. Captain John C. Tidball of Battery A, 2nd Artillery ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Because the enemy was close, he worried that the traditional three volleys would renew fighting.

The new call soon spread to other units of the Union Army.  The earliest official reference to the mandatory use of “Taps” at military funeral ceremonies is found in the U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations for 1891.

Our funeral home will help your family request military funeral honors and ensure the following benefits are made available.

Folding and presentation of the flag

A folding and presentation of the flag ceremony is provided to your family at no cost. Qualified veterans receiving military honors are entitled to a minimum of 2 members of the Armed Forces as their honor guard detail.

Military funeral honors eligibility

Military funeral honors are available to honorably discharged members of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. The veteran will have a form DD214 that indicated this status.

If your loved one is qualified for funeral honors, we can arrange for a funeral service with military honors. We recommend pre-planning for veterans to allow for the extra time it takes for coordination of honors.

Additional earned benefits

Both honorably discharged veterans and their spouses are entitled to burial in a national cemetery and the Veterans Administration will provide a headstone, marker or medallion without cost.  Though there is no cost to the veteran family for the headstone or marker, having them placed in a private cemetery may incur the standard costs of that cemetery.

If you have questions about your earned benefits and how to arrange military honors including “Taps,” please contact us today.