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Taps at Gettysburg

“There is no record that Taps was played at the dedication of this cemetery on the 19th of November, 1863. Taps itself was only a year-and-a-half old, and hadn’t yet become the musical sign of farewell and honor to the nation’s military dead. It was, in fact, still only a bugle call to tell the living that it was time to turn in for the night.

Instead, the real music of farewell and honor would come in words, from a tall, homely-looking man in a black frock coat who described a nation which had been born in liberty and dedicated, not to a race or to a religion or to a monarchy, but to a proposition, that all men are created equal. Many people in that day sneered at the idea that a nation of equals could ever be more than a nation of the boring, the self-interested, the timid. But the battle had shown that those buried here in defense of that proposition were anything but self-interested or timid. They might not have been knights out of some classical epic, but they did not need to be in order to ascend the heights of glory and honor.

On this height, they who struggled here had written a new kind of epic, the epic of commoners rather than kings. Taps, tonight, is our response to that tall man and to those men whom he would shortly go to join. Taps is our promise to him and to them that we have not forgotten his words, nor forgotten their deeds, and in the bugle‚Äôs salute, we offer our own full measure of devotion.”

-Dr. Allen Carl Guelzo

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