"Taps," the 24-note bugle call used by American military forces since the Civil War, has been designated by Congress as the "National Song of Remembrance." Above, a Marine honor guard plays taps during ceremonies for Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Anthony Denier on Dec. 11 at the Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Saratoga, N.Y. Denier, 26, died Dec. 2 after he was hit by enemy fire while fighting in Afghanistan's Helmand province. (John Carl D'Annibale / The Albany Times Union via)
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"Taps," the haunting 24-note bugle call used by American military forces since the Civil War, has been designated by Congress as the "National Song of Remembrance."
However, lawmakers stopped short of putting into law directions about how people should conduct themselves when the tune is being played.
The final version of the 2013 Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress on Dec. 21 and on its way to the White House for President Obama's signature, includes a "sense of Congress" resolution stating that "Taps" should be the official national song. There was never any doubt this designation would be made because both the House and Senate versions of the defense policy bill included similar statements about the designation.
However, House and Senate negotiators decided not to include a House-passed provision on rules of conduct while "Taps" is being played at a funeral or memorial service.
The provision was left out of the final bill because of disagreement about whether a federal law is warranted, especially regarding how civilians and military personnel not in uniform should conduct themselves when the song is played, according to aides who were part of the discussion.
The House proposal was very specific. It said those not in uniform should stand at attention with their right hands over their hearts. Men not in uniform wearing a hat should remove the hat with their right hand and hold it over their heart, while standing at attention. Those in uniform should stand at attention and render a military salute at the first note of "Taps" and hold the salute until the last note has finished.
The origins of "Taps" is not known, but a resolution passed by the House says it was created in 1862 by a Union general, Daniel Butterfield, and a bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, as a signal to mark the end of military activities for the day. It is similar to a melody played by British troops at funerals.
The 150th anniversary of the U.S. military's use of the song was marked in June with rededication of the Taps Monument at Berkley Plantation, Va., where Butterfield and Norton were stationed in 1862.