Taps was first performed at Civil War burial ceremonies in 1862, but its origin and authorship of the music and its lyrics remain unverified. The tune might have been written and found in the pocket of a dead Confederate soldier by his father, a Union Army infantry officer, who asked that it be played at his son’s funeral. Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield is the more likely source of the current tune, first played by his bugler, Norton. Union artillery Captain John C. Tidball ordered it first played at a soldier’s burial, a safer alternative to the three volley tribute, which would have given away the unit’s hidden position to the Confederates. A lesser-known legend for its naming is that Lieutenant William Waid paid saloon-keepers to shut off the taps to the kegs when the song was played in a neighboring army camp. The lyrics might have been composed by Horace Lorenzo Trim, but that’s also unverified. Suffice it to say the solemn tune and its lyrics pay tribute to all fallen American soldiers, past and present.
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls 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.
Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.
While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.