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.


"Taps" is a bugle call played at dusk, during flag ceremonies, and at military funerals by the United States Armed Forces. The official military version is played by a single bugle or trumpet, although other versions of the tune may be played in other contexts. The tune is also sometimes known as "Butterfield's Lullaby", or by the first line of the lyric, "Day Is Done".

The tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the "Scott Tattoo", which was used in the U.S. from 1835 until 1860, and was arranged in its present form by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, an American Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient who commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac while at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, in July 1862 to replace a previous French bugle call used to signal "lights out". Butterfield's bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton, of East Springfield, Pennsylvania, was the first to sound the new call. Within months "Taps" was used by both Union and Confederate forces. It was officially recognized by the United States Army in 1874.

"Taps" concludes many military funerals conducted with honors at Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere in the United States. The tune is also sounded at many memorial services in Arlington's Memorial Amphitheater and at grave sites throughout the cemetery. It is also regularly played at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France, to commemorate the sacrifice made, at & around that site, by United States servicemen in WWII, during the allied effort to liberate Europe from the Nazis.

Captain John Francis Tidball, West Point Class of 1848, started the custom of playing "Taps" at military funerals. In early July 1862 at Harrison's Landing, a corporal of Tidball's Battery A, 2nd U.S. Artillery, died. He was, Tidball recalled later, "a most excellent man". Tidball wished to bury him with full military honors, but, for military reasons, he was refused permission to fire 7 rifles three times (21-shot salute) over the grave. Tidball later wrote, "The thought suggested itself to me to sound taps instead, which I did. The idea was taken up by others, until in a short time it was adopted by the entire army and is now looked upon as the most appropriate and touching part of a military funeral." As Tidball proudly proclaimed, "Battery A has the honor of having introduced this custom into the service, and it is worthy of historical note."

It became a standard component to U.S. military funerals in 1891.

"Taps" is sounded during each of the military wreath ceremonies conducted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every year, including the ones held on Memorial Day. The ceremonies are viewed by many people, including veterans, school groups, and foreign officials. "Taps" also is sounded nightly in military installations at non-deployed locations to indicate that it is "lights out", and often by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides to mark the end of an evening event such as a campfire.



Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2019 occurs on Monday, May 27. 

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.


​Early Observances of Memorial Day

The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.

By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Decoration Day

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.

History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Citation Information

Article Title - Memorial Day

Author - History.com Editors

Website Name - HISTORY

URL - https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

TAPS