as researched by CW4 Josef A. Orosz, Jr., Bandmaster, U.S. Army Retired

A report on this most famous Civil War bugle call

honoring the last one hundred sixty-one years, 1862-2023

You can watch and hear a video history and performance of Taps on You Tube @


The year 2023 marks the 161st anniversary of Taps.

Dedicated to the memory of MG Daniel Butterfield and his Bugler 'Private' O.W. Norton (MAJ)

LTC Chester E. Whiting, U.S. Army Field Band, my first Commanding Officer

And the deceased members of all military bands

Dear Josef,

"Congratulations on the great job you have done in creating this website on the history of "Taps". This is probably the most informative, concise and historically accurate body of information on the most poignant of all bugle calls. After a lifetime in music, many years as a trumpet player who has played "Taps" numerous times, 24 years as an Army musician, I found your research to be a fascinating re-introduction to a bugle call which too many have taken for granted in the past."

MAJ Samuel J. Fricano, Retired CDR, U.S. Army Field Band


Click below to hear Taps.

Taps MP3 (1.4 mb) Echo version

 There are many variations of verses for Taps, but not one official version.

I heard a moving rendition of this verse sung at a fellow veteran's funeral:

"Sleep in peace,

Soldier boy

'til the bugle - calls you with - the dawn.

Sleep and rest, God is nigh,

Soldier boy."

Here are three more verses:

Verse 1

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the hills, From the lake, From the skies,

All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Verse 2

Go to sleep, Peaceful sleep, May you rest, From now on, In God’s keep,

On the land, Or the deep, Safe in sleep.

Verse 3

Love, good night, Must thou go, When the day, And the night, Need thee so?

All is well, Speedeth all, To thy rest.


Words by CW4 Josef A. Orosz, Jr.

OH MY DEAR! – Oh my dear!

NOW YOU’RE GONE! – Now you’re gone!



IN GOD’S ARMS! – In God’s arms!


FOR YOU NOW! – For you now!

WE LOVE YOU! -  We love you!


While stationed at Fort Polk, LA during the '60's, I activated the 56th Army Band of the Korean War vintage. It was one of my responsibilities to train young recruits in the Band to play Taps at the funerals in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas for our fallen comrades in arms from the Vietnam Conflict. Armed with the correct interpretation of the music, a verse or two memorized, and a very brief history, off they went on their own to perform with the honor guard. Many buglers received commendations for their excellent renditions. What you will read in the following pages is a result of that 30-plus-year-old quest of enlarging on that very brief history and a section on the correct interpretation of this most famous Civil War call.

TAPS with Echo

We all know in the military band field that the echo we so often hear being played associated with Taps is not at the present time printed in the Field Manual 1-08. Nor to the best of my knowledge are there plans to print it in the future.

Those two facts being acknowledged in this report, I hereby submit that those requesting military bands to perform this famous bugle call with two buglers be advised that current military guidelines require only one bugler to play this time-honored call.

Therefore, request for the two active duty buglers for one ceremony could in all sincerity be downsized to one active duty bugler without any loss of dignity to the ceremony.

Doing things "by the book" has proven time and time again to be the simplest and most effective means of accomplishing the task at hand.


Major General Daniel Butterfield

(photo taken when he was a Colonel)


The purpose of this report is to:

1) state the circumstances that were present on the evening of Wednesday, the 2nd of July, 1862 at Harrison Landing on the Berkeley Plantation in present Charles City, Virginia, when Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield ordered his bugler Private Oliver W. Norton to play "Taps,"

2) show how to correct the common errors that are made in the playing of Taps by the untrained musician and in Hollywood films, TV series, veterans clubs, and high school and college bands throughout the States,

3) offer assistance to all interested in playing Taps correctly whether the bugler be professional or an amateur, by making available, free of charge, this report with music and a cassette tape of the official U.S. Army version of Taps (with Echo).


To be "historically accurate," I'll start this section off with:

A) a brief outline of the history at the Berkely Plantation,

B) a short bio of MG Butterfield, and

C) "bring you up to speed" with what I believe happened at Harrison Landing up to and on that historical evening of Wednesday, July 2nd, 1862.


This is a typical uniform of a Civil War bugler.


"Origin of Taps"at Harrison Landing, Berkeley Plantation, Rt 5, Charles City, VA

A) On December 4, 1619 early settlers from England came up the James River and ashore at Berkeley Plantation, 1621 to 1622. This plantation was the home of two presidents in the Harrison family, our ninth president - William Henry Harrison, and his grandson, our 23rd president - Benjamin Harrison. The original mansion of 1726 still stands and can be toured through to this day. In 1862, President Lincoln visited Berkely and reviewed General McClellan's Civil War Union Army of 140,000 soldiers.

B) The following is a brief highlighting of Daniel Butterfield's military career. Born October 31, 1831 at Utica, NY; he held the position of superintendent of the American Express Co. in New York City when he was called to active duty. He enlisted as a Private in the New York State Militia; promoted to the ranks of Lieutenant, Captain, Major , and Lieutenant Colonel in the 71st Regiment NYSJ; First Sergeant "Clay Guards," Washington, D.C. April 16, 1861; Colonel 12th Regiment, NYSM; Lieutenant Colonel 12th Infantry, U.S. Army May 14, 1861; Brigadier General U.A. Volunteers, September 7, 1861 (age 29); Major General, November 29, 1862.

He appeared in numerous Campaigns and Engagements and was wounded at Gaines's Mill June, 1862, for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Gallantry, and again later at Gettysburg while serving as the Chief of Staff of the Army of the Potomac.

After the Civil War, MG Butterfield became involved with shipping, banking, real estate, national politics, and railroading. One of his ventures was building a railroad in Guatemala. The Russians sought his advice on building the Trans-Siberian Railroad. As a consultant for the U.S. Government, he studied the European Postal Systems.

C) The following is a brief explanation of the circumstances regarding the military actions leading up to July 2nd, 1862: The Union 'Army of the Potomac' had conducted the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia. This particular Campaign was an all-out attempt to crush the Confederates by taking the capital city of the Confederacy - Richmond. The effort had gone badly. Not only had GA McClellan failed to take Richmond, but the Campaign was enormously costly to both sides - 16,000 Union casualties and 20,000 Confederate casualties. Nearly 11,000 men on both sides were killed in just one frightful week of the Seven Days' Campaign.

BG Butterfield commanded the Third Brigade, which was mauled by the Confederates at the Battle of Gaines' Mill. More than 600 men were killed or wounded on that one day.

Though heavily outnumbered, BG Butterfield's men not only repulsed the Confederate troops, but they also covered the withdrawal of GA McClellan's Army to Harrison Landing, on the banks of the James River at Berkeley, southeast of Richmond.

On July 2nd, 1862, trying to heal their wounds and waiting for replacements, the Third Brigade rested at their bivouacked positions at Harrison Landing. Amidst the heat, humidity, rain showers, mud, insects, dysentery and illness throughout his camp, BG Butterfield was overwhelmed with sadness. Never before had his heart been filled with such heavy melancholy over the loss of his men. Many old friends were now gone. Scores of young men committed to his command had died. He himself had received a serious wound.

At this point, we have to understand where MG Butterfield is coming from regarding his knowledge of the bugle calls in his camps.

Although, by his own admission, he could not read or write music, BG Butterfield was firmly convinced that each commander under him should have his own personal bugle call to enhance his quick and efficient communication on the battle field. This was demonstrated on numerous occasions, even division-sized forces moving at night - such as his retreat from the Second Battle of Bull Run, "without loss of a straggler." His own call - Dan, Dan, Dan, Butterfield, Butterfield - which he composed, was sometimes sung by his men as - Damn, Damn, Damn, Butterfield Butterfield - when in difficult situations.

This next part explains the first appearance in the Union Army of the bugle call we now call Taps, as verified by BG Butterfield himself in response to an inquiry by the Century Magazine in 1898, which in turn was asking for verification on behalf of a letter they had received from a Major Norton as to the origin of Taps.

In his reply, Mg Butter field, writing from "Cragside," Cold Spring, NY, his home, an ear shot from West Point, under the date of August 31, 1898 wrote:

"I recall, in dim memory the substantial truth of the statement made by Norton, of the 83rd PA, about bugle calls. The facts are that at that time I could well sound calls on the bugle as a necessary part of the military knowledge and instruction for an officer commanding a regiment or brigade. I had acquired this as a regimental commander. I had also composed a call for my brigade, (Ed's note - he is referring to his call 'Dan, Dan, Dan, Butterfield, Butterfield') to precede any calls, indicating that such were calls, or orders, for my brigade only. This was of very great use and effect on the march and in battle. It enabled me to cause my whole command, at times, in march, covering over a mile on the road, to all halt instantly, and lie down, and all arise and start at the same moment; to forward in line of battle, simultaneously, in action and in charge.

"The call of Taps did not seem to be as smooth, melodious and musical as it should be, and I called in someone (Private Norton) who could write music, and practiced a change in the call of Taps until I had it to suit my ear, and then, got it to my taste without being able to write music or knowing the technical name of the note, but simply by ear."


Private Norton plays Taps for BG Butterfield

Infantry Tactics or Rules for the Exercise and Maneuvers of the United States Infantry by MG Scott, U.S. Army

New York George Dearborn Publisher 1835 UD 160.S44 1835, Rare Book Section

U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle, PA 17013-5008

This is how he did it! By slowing down the bugle call and out of 23 notes in the melody changing the pitch of only the first note, and three others just rhythmically - VOILA! - you're listening to the last 6 1/4 measures of the original 1835 version of Tattoo from Major General Scott's Manual of 'Infantry Tactics.' (See music above.) To me that leaves no doubt in my mind that BG Butterfield knew this call from his prior military experience and "borrowed" it to fit the new occasion. Private Norton, having just arrived in the Army, had no knowledge of this 1835 manual, as it had been replaced by the time he came in to service.

Private Norton, now a Major Norton in 1898 writing to the Century Magazine stated that "During the early part of the Civil War, I was the bugler at the Headquarters of Butterfield's Brigade, Morell's Division, Fitz-John Porter's Corps, Army of the Potomac. Up to July 2nd, 1862, the Infantry call for Taps was set down in Casey's Tactics. One day, soon after the seven days' battles on the Peninsular, when the Army of the Potomac was lying in camp at Harrison Landing, BG Butterfield , then commanding our Brigade, sent for me and showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me." (Ed's note - I believe these pencil marks were a series of long and short dashes that were indicative of the last 6 1/4 measures of the old Tattoo bugle call that was in the BG's mind - see music above - that was not being used at the time. This call was originally played faster.)

"After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter, in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night, and was heard far beyond the limits of the Brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring brigades, asking for copies of the music, which I gladly furnished." The call spread like a weed in summer from that time on. Just in passing, it is interesting to me to note that back on May 1st, 1861 the Secretary of War authorized a book entitled U.S. Infantry Tactics for the Instruction, Exercise and Maneuvers of the United States Infantry, in which are listed 48 bugle calls for the Chief Bugler and Drum Major. On the night of July 2nd, BG Butterfield added the 50th call to be memorized by his Brigade bugler.

(Ed's note: Before the Laws of Copyright protected composers from others taking their songs it was common practice to use various melodies for other occasions. Take for example our National Anthem: the original music, changed to fit the words of Francis Scott Key's poem at Baltimore, MD was the drinking song of the Anacreonic Society, an all exclusive men's club in London, titled "To Anacreon in Heaven," a toasting song to the Wine God - Bacchus.)

BG Butterfield never took credit for the actual composition or act of composing this now world famous bugle call until 1898 when questioned by the Century Magazine. And at that point he just verified Major Newton's statement of the account of that night in July, 1862. Now it is fitting that as 100 years have passed since 1898, we honor both "Private Norton, bugler" and BG Butterfield, a soldier obeying orders of his Commanding Officer, for their history- making meeting at Harrison Landing.

BG Butterfield had a stroke n July of 1901 and several days later died (age 69) on July 17, 1901. His remains rest at the West Point Cemetery. The sixteen ornate columns on his monument record the thirty-eight battles and skirmishes in which he participated. (See photo below.)


Monument to Major General Daniel Butterfield

October 31, 1831 - July 17, 1901

Section XV, West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY


The most common errors that are made in the buglers playing of Taps can be corrected by -

1) Playing the notes exactly as written

2) Observing the dynamic markings for expression

3) Breathing properly where indicated




If you CAN read music:


       1 – Play the notes exactly as written.

       2 – Observe the dynamic markings for correct expression.

       3 – Breathe where indicated.


If you CANNOT read music:


       1 – Notes in black with flags on them are to be shorter. The more flags – the shorter the note.

       2 – Notes with holes in them are to be held longer.

       3 – Breath at the end of every curved line.

       4 – Start playing (pp) softly, build up to the highest (f) note, then play softly (pp) again.                                                                


Playing time:


            ONE MINUTE. If you are playing this call in less than one minute (60 seconds) you are playing it too fast. Slow it down.


Quietly – louder – quietly  Words to Memorize: Breathe after every line, not before.


(start softly)                              Oh my dear! (breath)

(gradually a little louder)          Now you’re gone! (breath)

(played with even notes)           We miss you, rest in peace, in God’s arms! (breath)

(“pray” is the loudest you play, then get softer)           We will pray for your now (breath)

(gradually fade away)               We love you! (breath)


Go here for a narration by CW4 Orosz on the history of TAPS



To receive, free of charge, copies of my booklet, a CD, or both:

Requests can be made in either of the following ways:

Telephone        1-814-356-3356

Or in writing to TAPS

                                    374 Teaberry Rd

                                    Bedford, PA  1522-6036

Credit in preparation for this report is hereby given to:

John Slonaker & Agnes Miller - USAMHI, Carlisle, PA

COL Jack H. Grogan, Jr., U.S. Army Retired - Ret. CDR, U.S. Army Field Band, Ft. Meade, MD

Visitors Staff, Harrison Landing, Berkeley Plantation, Charles City, VA

P/S Printing and Copy Service, Bedford, PA

Commercial Video Services, Cumberland, MD

MSG Carol J. Kramer, U.S. Army Retired (U.S. Army Field Band) - webmaster

Letter to Band Directors & Music Teachers


Click Josef's mailbox to send comments or request free Taps booklet & CD.

Web page updated May 5, 2023

Carol J. Kramer, webmaster