Cadets treated to live Taps performance and history of the song
Eau Claire, Wis. – Civil Air Patrol cadets had a special treat this year at the recent Wisconsin Wing Encampment when Senior Master Sergeant Les Hart played the trumpet for reveille, Taps and sound retreat at Volk Field, Camp Douglas, Wis.
Attending the Great Lakes Region Chaplain Corps Staff College, Hart decided that using a recording of the music simply would not provide the right atmosphere of respect during the daily formations. There is something about hearing the bugle play the song live that lends to added respect to the ceremony.
A member of the Keystone Country Squadron 1504 in Altoona, Pa, Hart became a member of CAP 11 years ago. He enjoys serving as a Character Development Instructor, Drug Demand Reduction Officer and the Director of Color Guard Operations. His favorite hobby however is playing the trumpet for military funerals.
He became interested in playing the trumpet for military ceremonies in 1982 when he was at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the base honor guard for three years while on extended active duty.
A member of the Air Force Reserve for 21 years, of which over 9 years were of active duty, Hart retired from the Virginia Air National Guard in 1994. By this time he had performed Taps at more than 200 funeral details, dating back to 1982.
Since joining the all-volunteer Blair County, Pa. Honor Guard in 2011, Hart has performed Taps for close to 100 funerals in a civilian capacity. For the past two years, he has enjoyed sharing the story of the origin of Taps at the Pennsylvania Wing encampment.
The origin of Taps dates back to July 2, 1862. The Seven Day Campaign had just ended for the control of the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Va. With the Union forces under the command of General McClelland, they had retreated to the Berkeley Plantation in what is now Charles City, Va. to prepare for another battle with the Confederate Army at Malverne Hill and Harrison Landing.
On that July night, Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, sat at his encampment headquarters at Harrison Landing humming what was the last 6 1/4th measures of music written in 1835 called #8 Tattoo; a bugle call. He was not happy with another form of Taps used at military funerals so he called for Private Oliver Wilcox Norton, bugler with the 83rd Pennsylvania.
Norton was a trained musician and Butterfield had an ear for music. Butterfield took a piece of paper and wrote dashes varying in length, which Norton could decode as musical notes. Changing the pitch and rhythm of the notes, they finally came up with the final 24 notes that make up the haunting melody of Taps.
Since Taps made history in 1862, it has been played at every American military funeral. The 24 notes are played slowly and solemnly for 60 seconds, causing the listener to reflect on the sacrifice of one who gave so much for their country.
In 2012, Retired U.S. Army Bandmaster CW4 Josef A. Orosz, Jr. researched the origin of Tap and wrote The History of TAPS 150th Anniversary, 1862 – 2012.