Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Correspondents

May 25, 2012

History of ‘Taps’ and other fun facts

CENTERVILLE — Another month is slowly coming to a close. It will not be long until we are officially into summer.

This week’s recipe sounds like it would be great anytime but especially at a summer get together, for this holiday weekend.

 

BLT Pasta Salad

Ingredients

1 (16 ounce) package medium seashell pasta

1 pound sliced bacon

1 1/2 cups light ranch-style salad dressing

1 small onion, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

 

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook until tender, about eight minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

In a large bowl, stir together the ranch dressing, onion and tomatoes. Mix in the cooled pasta. The pasta will absorb some of the dressing, so don't worry if it seems like too much. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Crumble bacon over the top just before serving.

Some people may think that Memorial Day weekend is just the unofficial beginning of the summer season and a time to have a cookout in the back yard. However, Memorial Day was originally established to honor the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the American Civil War and died while serving in the military.    Family and friends go to cemeteries all over the nation and decorate the graves of their loved ones. That is why some people used to call it Decoration Day because the graves would be decorated with pretty spring flowers.

The purpose of Memorial Day today is to not only honor soldiers who died during the Civil War but all military people who died while serving their country over the years. On the graves of the deceased military personnel, there is usually a special metal marker designating what war they served in. Veteran groups throughout the country go through their local cemeteries and place small American flags in these markers to honor their fallen comrades.

In national cemeteries, military personnel also place flags on the graves at each tombstone. If you have ever seen a national cemetery where the stones are lined up perfectly in all directions, with flags flying, it is quite a sight.

Originally, the traditional Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 each year. Then, in 1968, the United States Congress passed the Monday Holiday Act, which moved a lot of traditional holidays from their original date to occur on the closest Monday. That way government employees could have a three day weekend. Because of that, now the date that Memorial Day occurs, varies because of changing it to the closest Monday.      

The solemn holiday has also developed into a time when family and friends also remember their family members who have passed away and they also take flowers and place them on their graves.   

It used to be that peony bushes would always be in bloom around the time of Memorial Day years ago, people would plant those kinds of bushes next to a tombstone so it would be in bloom each year at the gravesite or they would just cut some from their own back yard and place them in a container filled with water and put them on the graves as a remembrance.

Another thing that has become associated with Memorial Day is the playing of “Taps.” Traditionally, Taps is played on a bugle during funerals of a military person. Many towns have parades to acknowledge the special day. During these ceremonies that are held each year, local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legions participate in these events to honor the brave men that served their country with memorial services.

The haunting sound of Taps echoing into the stillness during one of these types of ceremonies was originally composed  at Berkeley Plantation, also known as Harrison’s Landing, along the north shore of the James River in Virginia during the Civil War.

The brick, Georgian style plantation home, known as Berkeley, was built in 1726 by Benjamin Harrison IV. It is thought to be the oldest three story brick mansion in the state of Virginia. The bricks used to build this famous home were made and fired right there on the grounds.

It was the ancestral home of the Harrison family. It was Benjamin Harrison V who signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia and was the governor of Virginia. He was also the father of William Henry Harrison, who was born at Berkeley. He became the governor of the Indiana Territory and also the ninth president of the United States with the campaign slogan of Tippecanoe and Tyler too. William Henry Harrison’s grandson Benjamin Harrison, also became president of the United States.

It was on the grounds of this famous location that many firsts occurred. In 1619, 38 English settlers celebrated the first official Thanksgiving on Dec. 4, 1619 on what was then known as Berkeley Hundred, which was about 8,000 acres of land. This Thanksgiving was required in the group’s Charter they were given from the King of England that required they observe a religious day of Thanksgiving upon their arrival in the new land. This occurred about 20 miles upstream from the historic first settlement of Jamestown, in the Colony of Virginia that was begun in 1607. In 1621, the first bourbon whiskey was distilled by an Episcopal priest on this same land. It was in 1622 that nine of those early settlers were killed during an Indian raid at Berkeley Hundred.

During the Civil War, the Union troops occupied Berkeley Plantation. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln visited the Union Army commander, Gen. George B. McClellan, during the Peninsula Campaign two different times there

Originally, a song would be played by a bugler to signal lights out to extinguish all lights in camp for the night. Gen. Daniel Butterfield thought this song which had been adopted from an old French song was too formal.

 The general decided to come up with his own song for the occasion. He used the notes from part of the bugle call known as Tattoo, which was played to end the day to alert the troops for evening roll call and added a few notes of his own. He then summoned  his bugler, Oliver W. Norton, and showed him the notes to the melody that had been written on the back of an envelope and asked him to play it. Upon hearing it for the first time, the general made a few mores changes and asked the bugler to play it again. This occurred in July of 1862 at Berkeley Plantation.

After the savage fighting that occurred during the Seven Days Battle of the Peninsula Campaign, Gen. Daniel Butterfield had his bugler, Oliver W. Norton, play this song for the first time to honor the troops at the end of the day. The sound of the haunting melody filled the summer night air and traveled out into the darkness.

Soon buglers from other brigades came to bugler Norton and wanted a copy of the music to the song, and they too began to play it for the men. Eventually, even Southern Confederate buglers adopted and played the song for their troops.

It was also first played at that time, during the burial of a soldier who was killed in the course of the Virginia Peninsula Campaign. He was Capt. John C. Tidball of Battery A, 2nd Artillery, who lost his life in action, manning his cannon.

In lieu of the three volleys of gun fire, to be fired in his honor, the new bugle song was played over his grave. They did not want the volleys fired from their rifles, to make the Confederate soldiers think they were renewing the battle at that time.  

 It was thought the name for the song of Taps for the bugle call, came from the origin of the Dutch word Tattoo, which were played by three taps on a drum to also signal lights out to extinguish the lights at the end of the day, when a bugle was not used. Thus, the three Taps.

The song soon made its way through the Army of the Potomac and was used unofficially throughout the troops in place of the official bugle call to end the day.

By 1891, it appeared in the official United States Army Infantry Drill Regulations as the mandatory bugle call, known as Taps, to be played at all military funerals. So, that melody that was composed to honor the troops at Berkeley Plantation became the official bugle call for the U.S. Army to end the day and to be played at all military funeral ceremonies.            

Because of the devastation of the Civil War, the Harrison family were unable to maintain ownership of their beloved plantation home. It then, passed through several owners and began to deteriorate.

By 1907 the famed Berkeley Plantation was purchased by a Scotsman named John Jamieson. As a young child, Jamieson had been a drummer boy in the Union Army during the Civil War. Upon seeing his father enlist in the Union Army in 1861 in St. Johnsbury, Vt., young Willie as he was called, wanted to enlist also. The officer in charge allowed Willie to join on Dec. 11, 1861. He enlisted in Company D, of the 3rd Vermont Volunteer Infantry, as a drummer boy.

He first saw action with the troops at the battle of Lee’s Mills in Virginia in 1862. Eventually, he was involved in the Seven Days Battle of the Virginia Peninsula Campaign and performed his duties well.  When the Union Army began to retreat during that battle, a lot of soldiers threw away most of their equipment to make their load lighter to carry but Willie did not throw away his drum.  

 Because of that, when the troops moved to Berkeley Plantation to camp,  he was the only drummer boy to still have his drum, so be was able to play during the division parade there.

His commanding officer noted his actions with the troops during the campaign in his battle report. When President Lincoln was eventually shown that report, he nominated Willie to receive the Medal of Honor. So, on Sept. 16, 1863  for his bravery during the Seven Days battle of the Peninsula Campaign, Willie was presented with the Medal of Honor and was only the seventh person to be given that distinction at the time. He was only 12 years old. Willie still is the youngest soldier ever to receive that award.

In 1927, John “Willie” Jamieson died and his son Malcolm inherited the estate from his late father. Malcolm and his wife Grace, then began the task of restoring the manor home and its grounds.      

I have been to this famous mansion and have also seen the large, pretty formal gardens, the boxwood hedges and large magnolia trees that grace the grounds. There are descending levels of land that were constructed with steps and a walkway that lead down, away from the house, to what used to be called Harrison’s Landing along the James River. This is where ocean going sailing ships would be docked and loaded with cotton, tobacco  and other goods that were shipped for trade with England.

The home is graceful with its dentil moldings, gabriel roof and 12 pane double sashed wooden window frames. The roof is adorned with two, tall brick chimneys rising into the air. The interior of the famous home is full of antique furniture that is of the period of the early colonial days of the home.

So, when John “Willie: Jamieson came back and purchased the famous Berkeley Plantation in the early 1900’s, he was coming back to a place he knew well, where he served gallantly and had been at that famous location there, during part of the Civil War.  

In a more modern twist, they claim that the stars of the famous television show Pawn Stars on what is known as the History Channel, are descended from the Harrison Family of Berkeley Plantation. That would be Richard Henry Harrison that they call the “Old Man” his son Rick Harrison and his grandson Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison

They also say today that because of the shortage of bugler players in the military, the U.S. Army sometimes issues a C.D. with Taps recorded on it, to be played at a fallen soldier’s funeral.

Another version of Taps is played by two bugle or trumpet players and is known as Echo Taps. I have been places and heard this done at memorial services. A bugler stands nearby and begins to play Taps.  Then, in the far distance, another bugler player begins to play Taps slightly behind the first player. The unique sound that is created, is like an echo and is very effective and moving.

As you enjoy your hamburger and hot dogs at a picnic or family gathering this Memorial Day weekend, just remember that the purpose for the holiday is to honor those who have gone before us.

This week I have a few reminders for everyone. This is the last call, if you would like to purchase a brick for the pedestal for the Methodist Church Bell in the park. The orders will be received until the last day of May on Thursday, May 31. After that they will no longer be available. If you are still interested, you may still call Mary Ann Hurley at (641) 658-2691 or Jean Leach at (641) 658-2623 to quickly get your order in.

Also, if you want to write a letter to the troops to thank them for their service in honor of Flag Day on June 14, you need to do it immediately. This event is sponsored by the Exline Royal Neighbors of America, Chapter 3000.  

 You may include on your card, your name, address and e-mail address if you choose to do so. Place the cards in an envelope but do not seal them, since they will go through a security check. Do not include anything but the card. To participate you may contact Hurley.  

Do not forget that tomorrow is the Exline School Alumni & Community Reunion on Saturday, May 26, of Memorial Day weekend, at the Exline Community Center. You may pay the fee of  $10 at the door, when you get there. If you have any questions call (641) 658-2691.

This event is sponsored by the Exline Recreation Committee. You may come early if you would like to visit. The meal will be served at 12 noon.

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