Playing of Taps

Taps is the customary bugle call played at military funerals. The law requires taps to be played by a bugler, if available, but very few buglers are in the military these days, so it’s usually played by electronic means. During the playing of taps, the honor guard presents a final salute to the deceased veteran.

"Taps" is an American call, composed by the Union Army's Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield while in camp at Harrison's Landing, Va., in 1862. Butterfield wrote the call to replace the earlier "Tattoo" (lights out), which he thought too formal. The call soon became known as "Taps," because it was often tapped out on a drum in the absence of a bugler. Before the year was out, sounding Taps became the practice in Northern and Southern camps. The call was officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 1874. Col. James A. Moss, in his Officer's Manual first published in 1911, gives this account of the initial use of Taps at a military funeral: "During the Peninsular Campaign in 1862, a soldier of Tidball's Battery A of the 2nd Artillery was buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced position concealed in the woods. It was unsafe to fire the customary three volleys over the grave, on account of the proximity of the enemy, and it occurred to Capt. Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be the most appropriate ceremony that could be substituted. The custom, thus originated, was taken up throughout the Army of the Potomac and finally confirmed by orders."

Information gathered from the manual Drill and Ceremonies, July 03, HQ DA, FM 3-21.5