"Bugle Calls at Fort Larned, Kansas 1868"

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The bugle was first used as a signal instrument in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. By the end of the Civil War the artillery, cavalry, and infantry were sounding bugle calls. In 1867, bugle calls were standardized for all branches of the Army.

The enlisted soldiers life was regulated by bugle calls: the daily routine included breakfast, dinner, and supper calls; fatigue call, drill call, stable and water calls, sick call, and taps. On Sundays, the church call was added to the daily schedule.

5:50 AM - Assembly of Trumpeters for Reveille
The first signal for the soldiers to rise and shine. This call was historically sounded between 4:45 AM - and 6:00 AM - depending on the season.

6:00 AM - Reveille
Upon the last note of this call, the flag was raised, the morning gun fired and the men all had to assemble for morning roll call.

6:15 AM - Stable Call
Soldiers in the cavalry would report to the stables to feed and groom their mounts.

6:30 AM - Breakfast Call
Breakfast usually consisted of bread and beef, perhaps potatoes or rice and plenty of hot, black coffee.

7:00 AM - Sick Call
Soldiers who were ill were to report to the hospital for examination by the surgeon. Those who were truly sick would be admitted to the hospital or given a dose of "quinine and pills." Those caught faking illness to escape work would get a dose of army discipline.

7:30 AM - Fatigue Call
Those soldiers appointed to a work party would report to their assignments. Typical work details included cleanup of the post grounds, firewood cutting and hauling water.

8:50 AM - Guard Mounting, Assembly of Trumpeters
First call for "Guard Mount", or the changing of the 24-hour guard detail.

8:55 AM - Guard Mounting, Assembly of Guard Detail
Men assigned to guard duty assemble in front of their respective barracks.

9:00 AM - Guard Mounting, Adjutant's Call
The guard details were marched to the guardhouse where the Guard Mount ceremony took place.

9:15 AM - Water Call
Horses received their watering.

9:55 AM - Drill, First Call
Preparatory call for soldiers assigned to morning drill.

10:00 AM - Drill, Assembly
Soldiers would practice the Manual of Arms, bayonet drills and marching. New recruits would be taught more basic skills.

11:00 AM - Recall from Drill
Morning drill was to cease.

11:30 AM - Recall from Fatigue.
Morning work parties were to cease at the sound of this call.

12:00 Noon. Dinner Call
Dinner was the main meal of the day usually consisting of beef, potatoes, limited vegetables, soup, plus coffee and bread. Beans were the most common vegetable ration and since potatoes often spoiled, they were dried into a brown, lumpy power. During the summer the soldiers planted company gardens for fresh vegetables.

1:00 PM - Fatigue Call
Afternoon work parties.

1:30 PM - First Sergeant;s Call
Company First Sergeant;s were to report to the post headquarters with their "Morning Reports" on the number of their men sick in the hospital, on guard duty, on drill or fatigue, or on special assignment.

2:00 PM - Mounted Drill, Boots and Saddles
This signal alerted cavalrymen to put on their riding boots and saddle their horses.

2:30 PM - Dismounted Drill
Cavalrymen are to practice all movements on foot before attempting them on horseback. This drill also allows cavalry men to prepare for battle on foot.

3:30 PM - Recall from Drill
Afternoon drill was to cease.

4:30 PM - Water and Stable Call
Horses received their afternoon watering and cavalrymen repeated the morning care of their horses.

5:00 PM - Recall from Fatigue
Afternoon work parties were to cease at the sound of this call.

5:15 PM - Assembly of Trumpeters for Retreat
Preparatory call for Retreat Parade.

5:30 PM - Assembly
The entire garrison would turn out for the Retreat ceremony. The actual lowering of the flag and playing of Retreat would occur at sunset.

5:45 PM - Adjutant's Call
The Captains march the companies (musicians playing) to the regimental parade grounds, where they take positions in the order of battle. After reporting to the senior officer present, the Retreat ceremony would commence.

6:00 PM - Retreat
The flag-lowering ceremony.

8:55 PM - Assembly of Trumpeters for Tattoo

9:00 PM - Tattoo
"Tattoo" was the signal for the men to prepare for bed and to secure the post.

9:05 PM - Assembly
Bed check, the last roll call of the day.

9:15 PM - Taps
By the final note of "Taps" all lights were to be extinguished, all men bedded down in their bunks, and all loud talking was to cease.

The Origin of Taps

The melody that gave the present day "Taps" was made during the Civil War by Union General Danial Adams Butterfield, in command of a brigade camped at Harrison Landing, Virginia, near Richmond. Up to that time, the U.S. Army infantry call to end the day was the french final call "L'Extinction des feux". General Butterfield decided the "lights out" music was too formal to signal the end of the day. One day in July 1862, he recalled the "Tatoo" music and hummed a version of it to an aide who wrote the melody down. Butterfield asked the brigade bugler, Oliver W. Norton, to play the notes, and after listening, he lengthened and shortened them while keeping the original melody.

Thereafter, General Butterfield ordered Norton to play this new call at the end of each day instead of the regular call. The music was heard and appreciated by the other brigades, who asked for copies and adopted it for own use. It was even adopted by the Confederates.

The melody was made the official Army bugle call after the war, but was not given the name "Taps" until 1874.

The first time "Taps" was played at a military funeral may have been in Virginia, soon after Butterfield composed it. Union Captain John Tidball, head of an artillery battery, ordered it played for the burial of a connoneer killed in action. Not wanting to reveal the position of the battery, Tidball substituted "Taps" for the three rifle vollys fired over the grave.

Source "U.S. Army Military District of Columbia Fact Sheet"

While there are no official words to the bugle call "Taps", the commonly used lyrics are:

Fading light dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar drawing nigh -- Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Then good night, peaceful night,
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright;
God is near, do not fear -- Friend, good night.

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, unless as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. Other references to computer manufacturers or products use trademarks owned by their respective manufacturers. The technical information contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 02 Sep '09