Taps at the Tower runs daily until June 26
Dating back to the Civil War, Taps is the haunting and distinctive melody played at US military funerals and as a call for “lights-out” to soldiers at night.
Taps’ real name is “Extinguish Lights” and it was created by Union General Daniel Butterfield in July of 1862. He felt the call should sound more ‘melodious,’ so he re-worked his standard “lights-out” bugle call into the version we now know as Taps. Later that month, in 1862, the melody played at the funeral of a Union soldier killed in action. Captain John Tidball, who ordered the playing, was afraid that firing the traditional 21-gun salute could be confused by the Confederate army as an attack. His substitution of music for gunfire became the norm for military funerals, with Taps still played today to display military honors to the fallen.
The Monday following Father’s Day has become the annual start to the National WWI Museum and Memorial’s annual Taps at the Tower program. For one week—each evening at sunset—a local color guard presents the flag while a bugler plays Taps. Additionally, a wreath is laid at the base of the tower to honor those who died in WWI a century ago. This marks the eighth year the museum has hosted this event set against the backdrop of a downtown sunset.
Currently, large parts of the memorial’s upper deck are closed for construction, but people can arrive early to picnic in the grass, listen to live music, and then gather to honor those who served in the first “war to end all wars.”