Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Last Post....

The Story :May be its true,    ....maybe folklore …

Some of you may have heard the haunting song, 'The Last Post.' It's the song that gives us the lump in our throats and usually tears in our memory of all those young soldiers who never came back....

But, do you know the story behind the song? 
If not, I think you will be interested to find out about its humble beginnings.

Of all military bugle calls none is so easily recognised or more apt to render you   poignantly emotional ….as ‘The Last Post’. 

Originally it was significant to signal…‘lights out’ for troopers ….But , since 1885 all military funerals bid  farewell to a fallen comrade….  By playing The Last Post…..this very haunting  musical composition.

This bugle call has been passed down through the centuries in many countries of the world as an accompaniment to the impressive last rites of a soldier’s farewell - the closing bars wail out their sad valediction to the departing warrior.

If any of you have ever been to a military funeral in which The Last Post was played; this will bring out a new meaning of it.

The bugle calls… Last Post is inextricably part of the end of day traditions which include Beating the Retreat and Tattoo.

Retreat is an older custom dating back to the 16th Century  consisting of prolonged drum beating at sunset to warn the night guard to mount their horses and begin the duty of the night sentinel… also was a reminder that the gates of the town walls were about to close. 

This custom was also part of the rituals at end of day battle procedure when guns fired a salute and a hymn played in honour of those who had fallen in battle during the day……. At this time of evening the troopers would march the colours …

Today this latter activity is replaced by the lowering of the National Flag.

Americans have an even more haunting tune, ‘Taps,’….a rendition of The Last Post” played at all their military funerals, wreath layings and memorial services as a tribute to their fallen.  Both tunes give us a lump in our throats and sometimes tears in our eyes. 

The story behind the bugle call…is both interesting and clouded in controversy……This may be a myth…however it makes a very moving tale to tell….

So they say… all began in 1862 during the American Civil War. Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in Virginia.  and the Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the quiet of the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field…..  Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the suffering wounded soldier back for medical attention.

Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the wounded soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.
When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier he had pulled back…. but sadly the soldier was dead.
The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. 
In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier…… and was stunned to see that he was his own son. 

His son was a mere boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out…..  Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army.
The next morning the heartbroken father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status.
 His request was only partially granted. …
Capt  Ellicombe had requested if he could have a group of Army band members to play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. 
This request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. 

Out of respect for the father, however, they did approve his having one musician only. Capt Ellicombe chose a bugler and asked him to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform.  This request was granted.
The haunting melody we now know as “Taps” and is used in all military funerals was born.

Even as a moving story, it accurate with respect to time of composition and place of origin of the bugle call, but perhaps it cannot be authenticated without doubt as search of the Union muster rolls finds no record of a Captain Ellicombe whatsoever. May be its true….maybe folklore …

 It’s a pity, because it made a great story …..
The official record is again set in July 1862 following the Seven Days Battles at Harrison’s Landing, the wounded commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac, the then Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, collaborated with his bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton, to re-work another bugle called the “Scott Tattoo” to create “Taps”.  

This is a beautiful piece of music, which can get deep in your soul.....

The words are:………………

Day is done.
Gone the sun.
From the lakes
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

I too have felt the chills while listening to 'The Last Post' but I  have never seen all the words to the song until now.  I didn't even  know there was more than one verse . 

I also never knew the story behind the song and I didn't know if you had either so I thought I’d pass it along.
  • I now have an even deeper respect for the song than I did before.
  • Remember those who were lost and  wounded  while serving their country.
  • Also remember those who have served and returned; and for those presently serving in the armed forces.
A fallen soldier

Memorial to the fallen soldier

1 comment:

  1. Daar Ji: Although I carry deep respects and love to any Service Soldier and or all who laid thier Lives and fought a valiant battle till thier laqst breath while Serving to protect the Nation's call to Service BUT my personal view is
    to see this world free from Arms and Armies and I also enVision all Borders to merge in one United Race living in perfect love and Harmony and armies converted to Loving Dev Corps with changed service roles.

    in present system it is a Global Exploitation of Human Resources when wars are not fought to defend borders and country but are fought to push the Agenda of Hidden vested interests.Since 1987 I have sent thousands of Appeals to most world Leaders to support UN Convention on Comprehensive and Unconditional Nuclear Disarmament since wars can be fought with non nuclear weapons and it is such a shame and a sad commentary that most of our Soldiers aren't even told what a modern nuclear missile can do. While a soldier lays his life at borders defending his post others who he may not know, decide to push a button to kill millions of his own countrymen his relatives, friends and lovedones and to turn entire town and his big city to ashes.. ! So, who the soldier defend..?

    loveful Regards

    Ashok Sharma
    Founder Member / President
    WPND: India
    World Peace & Nuclear disarmament