The History of Taps

History, Traditions
on May 23, 2004
David Mudd

America’s most famous bugle call, Taps, was arranged in July 1862 by Union Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield, who thought the military’s “end of day” music was too formal, so he wrote a revised melody with assistance from bugler Oliver Willcox Norton.

“Everything was announced by a bugle in the Civil War,” says Master Sgt. Jari Villaneuva, 48, with the United States Air Force Band.

At the time, the military used some 50 different calls during maneuvers from sunup to sundown, but none became as well known as Taps. Today, the bugle call is sounded at military funerals, wreath-layings, and memorial services, but its 24 haunting notes are not heard as often as they once were.

“Taps is one of those traditions that is slowly disappearing and it’s sad,” says Villaneuva of Catonsville, Md. (pop. 39,820), a Taps historian who for 17 years sounded the call at Arlington National Cemetery.

Found in: History, Traditions