Sing –[Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes from the hills from the skies, All is well safely rest, God is nigh, God is nigh]
Every Girl Guide or Boy Scout may recognize those lyrics and melody as the “Butterfield’s Lullaby” or “Day Is Done.” It is a Lullaby sung at sunset, just before lights-out, marking the end of another day of fun and festivities. But everyone, who has ever served in any of the armed services of America, will recognize that melody as Taps. It is played while old glory is folded as we listen silently to that haunting sound, played by a single bugler. Twenty-four solemn notes completed in 59 seconds to signal – day is done – for some- or – the end of a lifetime of service to flag and country for the preservation of our freedom.
I know those notes very well as I have had to play them many times for brothers in arms. Brothers I never met, Brothers I never knew. However, each time, those notes brought a lump to the throats of some and a tear to the eyes of many. Some may ask why is Taps is so important. It is important because it serves as a reminder that by honoring and remembering the contributions of our Veterans; those brave men and women who have served us in the past, we are preserving our future and the promise of life, liberty, and justice for all.
The origins of TAPS date back to 1862 when Union Captain Robert Elli and his men were at Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of a narrow strip of land. The battle raged all day and into the night. During the night, Captain Elli heard the moans of a severely wounded soldier on the battlefield. Not knowing if that soldier was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his own life to bring the wounded soldier back to his encampment for medical attention.
The Captain crawled through gunfire on his stomach to reach the stricken soldier. By the time Captain Elli reached his own lines, it was only then he discovered the soldier was a Confederate, but his efforts were in vain as the soldier had expired. The Captain lit a lantern and went numb with shock when the dim light caught the face of the soldier. It was his own son.
Elli had lost contact with his who had gone to the south to study music and, unknown to his dad, had enlisted in the Confederate Army without telling his father. The following morning, heartbroken, the Captain asked his superiors’ permission to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status – that request was denied. He then asked if the Army band members would be permitted to play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. That request was also denied since his son was a Confederated, but out of respect for his father, he was granted a single musician’s services. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he found on a piece of paper in the pocket of his son’s uniform. That wish was granted, and the haunting melody we know today as TAPS used at military funerals was born.
There are three verses to this melody, which serves those who serve in the shadows of death, protecting our lives and our liberty. We can honor their lives and memory by remembering these words and lifting our voices whenever we sing these lyrics: Day is done. – Gone the sun – From the lakes – From the hills – From the sky – All is well – Safely rest- God is nigh – God is nigh.
Fading light- Dims the sight – And a star – Gems the sky. Gleaming – bright – From afar – drawing nigh – fall the night. Thanks and praise – For our days – Neath the sun – Neath the stars, Neath the sky – As we go –
This we know – God is nigh.