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Origins of taps

During the Civil War, in July 1862 when the Army of the Potomac was in camp, Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfieldsummoned Pvt. Oliver Wilcox Norton, his brigadebugler, to his tent. Butterfield, who disliked thecolorless "extinguish lights" call then in use,whistled a new tune and asked the bugler to sound itfor him. After repeated trials and changing the timeof some notes which were scribbled on the back of anenvelope, the call was finally arranged to suit Gen.Butterfield and used for the first time that night.Pvt. Norton, who on several occasions, had soundednumerous new calls composed by his commander, recalledhis experience of the origin of "Taps" years later: "One day in July 1862 when the Army of the Potomac wasin camp at Harrison's Landing on the James River,Virginia, resting and recruiting from its losses inthe seven days of battle before Richmond, Gen.Butterfield summoned the writer to his tent, andwhistling some new tune, asked the bugler to sound itfor him. This was done, not quite to his satisfactionat first, but after repeated trials, changing the timeof some of the notes, which were scribbled on the backof an envelope, the call was finally arranged to suitthe general. "He then ordered that it should be substituted in hisbrigade for the regulation "Taps" (extinguish lights)which was printed in the Tactics and used by the whole army. This was done for the first time thatnight. The next day buglers from nearby brigades cameover to the camp of Butterfield's brigade to ask themeaning of this new call. They liked it, and copyingthe music, returned to their camps, but it was notuntil some time later, when generals of other commandshad heard its melodious notes, that orders wereissued, or permission given, to substitute itthroughout the Army of the Potomac for thetime-honored call which came down from West Point. In the western armies the regulation call was in useuntil the autumn of 1863. At that time the XI and XIICorps were detached ...

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