|August 31, 1999|
A Story of a Melody Familiar to Scouting
This article was sent to me by a fellow Scouter who believed our visitors would find it
interesting. It is reprinted here with the permission of the folks at Weekend
Encounter. The author is
It all began in 1862
during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing
in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow
strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moan of a
soldier who lay mortally wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a
Union or Confederate soldier, the captain decided to risk his life and bring
the stricken man back for medical attention.
Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the captain
reached the stricken
soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment. When the captain finally reached his own lines, he
discovered it was actually a
Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead.
The captain lit a lantern. Suddenly he caught his breath
and went numb with
shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South
when the war broke out. Without telling his father, he enlisted in the
The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked
permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite
his enemy status. His request was partially granted. The captain had asked
if he could have
a group of Army
band members play a funeral dirge for the son at the funeral. That request was turned down since the soldier was a
Out of respect for the
father, they did say they could give him one musician. 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 the dead
youth's uniform. This wish was granted. This music was the haunting melody we now know as
"Taps" used at military funerals.
Read about the History and Origin of Taps at Chris
Ahrendt's excellent History web site.
Civil War Soldier
from a drawing by Thomas Nast