Tradition tells of a chime that changed the world on July 8, 1776, when the Liberty Bell rang out from the tower of Independence Hall summoning the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon. Eighty-plus years later, the Liberty Bell gained iconic importance when abolitionists in their efforts to put an end to slavery throughout America adopted it as a symbol. Did you know that on the side of the bell is inscribed a quote from Leviticus 25:10, “…proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof…” in the KJV. The NLT is just as good, “…proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live there.” This nation was founded on the idea of liberty. That, as Americans, to live our lives as free people was a right given to us by God.
From the beginning, there have always been some willing to defend this idea. For many, it cost them their lives. Memorial Day is a day to remember their sacrifice with prayer and song. One song that evokes this sacrifice, perhaps more than any other, came to be during the war that cost over 600,000 American lives.The Civil War.
In July 1862, after the Seven Days battles at Harrison’s Landing (near Richmond), Virginia, the wounded Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, General Daniel Butterfield, and his bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton, reworked a bugle call, known as “Scott Tattoo,” into a new song. Gen. Butterfield thought that the regular call for Lights Out was too formal. This new tune was adopted throughout the Army of the Potomac and finally confirmed by orders. Soon other Union units began using the new tune. Even a few Confederate units began using it as well. After the war, the tune became an official bugle call. Col. James A. Moss, in his Officer’s Manual gives an account of the first time the song was used 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 [this new bugle call] would be the most appropriate ceremony that could be substituted.”
And so, they played it. We know it as “Taps.” Jesus said in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Taps has come to be a tradition to honor those who have given the ultimate price in the service of this country.
We know not every war or military action has been popular with American citizens. However, the men and women who fight the battles and often never come home, do not have a hand in those decisions. For them, it is simple. Their country called them, and they answered. Please remember the sacrifice of all those who fought and died, and who served and died this Memorial Day. They did not die for their own cause. They died for ours – freedom.
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