History of Funeral Traditions
Counter
Draping the Casket with the National Flag
"TAPS"
Firing Three Rifle Volleys over the Grave
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This custom began during the Napoleonic
Wars (1796-1815). The dead carried from
the field of battle on a caisson were
covered with a flag.
Flag Draped Casket
(photo: courtesy of Blacksphere.net)
This practice originated in the old
custom of halting the fighting to remove
the dead from the battlefield. Once each
army had cleared its dead, it would fire
three volleys to indicate that the dead
had been cared for and that they were
ready to go back to the fight.
.
"Taps" is a call, composed by General
Daniel Butterfield, while in camp at
Harrison's Landing, Virginia, in 1862,
"the Seven Days Battle".

Butterfield wrote the call to replace the
earlier "Tattoo" (lights out), which he
thought too formal. The call soon
became known as "Taps"because it was often tapped out on a drum in the
absence of a bugler. Before the year was out, sounding Taps became the
practice in both Northern and Southern camps. The call was officially adopted
by the U.S. Army in 1874.

Colonel James A. Moss, in his Officer's Manual first published in 1911, gives
this account of the initial use of Taps at a military funeral.

"During the Peninsular Campaign in 1862, a soldier of Tidball's Battery A of the
2nd Artillery was buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced
position concealed in the woods. It was unsafe to fire the customary three
volleys over the grave, on account of the proximity of the enemy, and it
occurred to Capt. Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be the most
appropriate ceremony that could be substituted. The custom, thus originated,
was taken up throughout the Army of the Potomac and finally confirmed by
orders."
.
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