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Special to The Vail TrailThe 24-note melancholy bugle call known as "taps" is thought to be a revision of a French bugle signal, called "tattoo," that notified soldiers to cease an evening's drinking and return to their garrisons. It was sounded an hour before the final bugle call to end the day by extinguishing fires and lights. The last five measures of the tattoo resemble taps.
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The 24-note melancholy bugle call known as “taps” is thought to be a revision of a French bugle signal, called “tattoo,” that notified soldiers to cease an evening’s drinking and return to their garrisons. It was sounded an hour before the final bugle call to end the day by extinguishing fires and lights. The last five measures of the tattoo resemble taps.

The word “taps” is an alteration of the obsolete word “taptoo,” derived from the Dutch “taptoe.” Taptoe was the command ” “Tap toe!” ” to shut (“toe to”) the “tap” of a keg.

Our present-day version of taps was created during America’s Civil War by Union Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield, heading a brigade camped at Harrison Landing, Va., near Richmond. Up to that time, the U.S. Army’s infantry call to end the day was the French final call, “L’Extinction des feux.” Gen. Butterfield decided the “lights out” music was too formal to signal the day’s end. One day in July 1862, he recalled the tattoo music and hummed a version of it to an aide, who wrote it down in music. Butterfield then asked the brigade bugler, Oliver W. Norton, to play the notes and, after listening, lengthened and shortened them while keeping the original melody.

He ordered Norton to play this new call at the end of each day thereafter, instead of the regulation call. The music was heard and appreciated by other brigades, who asked for copies and adopted this bugle call. It was even adopted by Confederate buglers.

This music was made the official Army bugle call after the war, but not given the name “taps” until 1874.

The first time taps was played at a military funeral may also have been in Virginia soon after Butterfield composed it. Union Capt. John Tidball, head of an artillery battery, ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Not wanting to reveal the battery’s position in the woods to the enemy nearby, Tidball substituted taps for the traditional three rifle volleys fired over the grave. Taps was played at the funeral of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson 10 months after it was composed. Army infantry regulations by 1891 required taps to be played at military funeral ceremonies.

Taps now is played by the military at burial and memorial services, to accompany the lowering of the flag and to signal the “lights out” command at day’s end.

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, one year after of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. The day has evolved into also honoring living military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation. A national ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

-23.6 million ” The number of military veterans in the United States in 2007.

-1.8 million ” The number of female veterans in 2007.

-7.9 million ” Number of Vietnam-era veterans in 2007. Thirty-three percent of all living veterans served during this time (1964-1975). In addition, 2.9 million served in World War II (1941-1945); 3 million in the Korean War (1950-1953); 5 million served during Gulf War (from Aug. 2, 1990, to present); and 6.1 million in peacetime.

-358,000 ” In 2007, the number of living veterans who served during both the Vietnam and Gulf War eras.

Other living veterans in 2007 who served during two or more wars:

-315,000 served during both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

-69,000 served during three periods: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

-263,000 served during World War II and the Korean War.

-7.4 million ” Number of veterans who voted in the 2004 presidential election. Seventy-four percent veterans cast a ballot, compared with 63 percent of non-veterans.


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