Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Scott Tattoo

The 1835 Tattoo or Scott Tattoo is the bugle signal that predates the call of Taps. It is important in the evolution of Taps in the US military in that it is where the original music of what was to become our modern Taps originated.

General Winfield Scott (June 13, 1786 – May 29, 1866) 

The Scott or 1835 Tattoo was published in a US military manual written by Major General Winfield Scott (June 13, 1786 – May 29, 1866) , first published in 1835. (Infantry-Tactics: Rules for the exercise and Manoeuvres of the United States Infantry NY 1835) The term “Scott Tattoo” was coined by Russell H. Booth in his 1977 magazine article “Butterfield and Taps” which first set forth the discovery of this earlier form of the original Taps melody. In military manuals of the 19th century there were multiple versions of bugle calls named “Tattoo,” so the term “Scott Tattoo” was needed to identify the particular version of Tattoo from which “Taps” arose. It is speculated that the “Scott Tattoo” itself may have come from earlier calls or earlier publications but this is yet to be discovered.

You can read the article “Butterfield and Taps” by clicking HERE

Here are the bugle calls from the 1835 Infantry-Tactics: Rules for the exercise and Manoeuvres of the United States Infantry by Winfield Scott

Bugles served as the command, control and communications systems of the day. Those calls were were not only necessary for telling the time of duties in camp but also guided the actions of troops in battle. The Tattoo was a general bugle call used to notify soldiers to assemble for the final roll call of the day.

Tattoo may have originated during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) or during the wars of King William III during the 1690s.  The word tattoo in this usage is derived from the Dutch taptoe. Tap or faucet and toe meaning to cut off. When it was time to cease drinking for the evening and return to the post, the Provost or Officer of the Day, accompanied by a sergeant and drummer, would go through the town beating out the signal.  Innkeepers were required to “Doe den tap toe”or “turn off the taps” lest they be closed down.  Another theory is that tattoo came from the seventeenth century German Army’s Zapfenstreich, meaning the time for the striking of the tap or bung into the barrel (or keg) of beer.  At 9:00 p.m. when the call was sounded, all bungs (stoppers, or Zapfen) had to be replaced in their barrels.  The provost would hammer the bungs in and then draw a chalk line across them to make sure they were not tampered with.  If there were any signs of tampering, the innkeeper would be fined.  As far as military regulations went, there was a prescribed roll call to be taken “Taptoe time” to ensure that all the troops had returned to their billets.

There is a thought that the word Tattoo became Taps. This is uncertain, but here are two possibilities.  Tattoo was also called Tap-toe and as is true with slang terms in the military, it was shortened to Taps.  The other and more likely explanation is that the name Taps was borrowed from a drummer’s beat.  The beating of Tattoo by the drum corps would be followed by the Drummer of the Guard beating three distinct drum taps at four count intervals for the military evolution “To Extinguish Lights.”  This is known as “The Taps” or “Drum Taps.”  Thus the drum beat “To Extinguish Lights”came to be called Taps by the common soldiers.  As the bugle call came to replace the drum beat it assumed its name. The latter is the best derivation of the word Taps as it applies to the bugle call.

Read more about the history of the bugle call Taps by clicking HERE

Today, although the call Tattoo (which is a modern version) is sounded at military bases, the term is used to describe ceremonies used as a venue for military bands and drill teams to perform before large audiences. Eventually this developed into a large-scale performance of military music by massed bands.  The most famous of these Tattoos is the one in Edinburgh, Scotland, every August.  Since 1950, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been an annual event held over the period of the International Festival on the Castle Esplanade.  It is now attended by some 200,000 people each year from all parts of the world.  Every year the program includes the music of the massed Pipes and Drums of the Scottish Regiments together with that of the Massed Military Bands.  The participation of foreign units does much to contribute to its international flavor, and some one-third of all spectators come from overseas  These Tattoo performances are popular in Europe and showcase the talents of various military, civilian, and para-military musical groups and the precision of military drill teams.

What is interesting about the Scott Tattoo is that it includes the note e which is not possible to produce on a bugle. It is a note that is found in the trumpet calls of the time but that presents a few issues.
1. This was written in Infantry manuals that use clairons (the large belled French bugles) not Cavalry manuals which utilize (natural) trumpets that are capable of playing that mystery note. It’s the only trumpet signal in an otherwise collection of bugle calls.
2. If it were a trumpet call it would put the range of this call on the high side (especially if performed on a natural Cavalry trumpet in D or Eb.
3. All the bugle calls in the 1835 manual are derived from French Infantry manuals. This marked the move away from British derived bugle signals which the US Infantry had employed since the end of beginning of the 19th century. However, the French had no call for Tattoo so this call was inserted.

More information on the evolution of Taps can be found at

More information about how Taps was born can be found at

Here is what The Civil War To Extinguish Lights (Taps) sounds like:

More information on the evolution of Taps can be found at


As the Civil War began, the Infantry adopted a new Tattoo call.  The Scott Tattoo appears in early Civil Infantry manuals but was generally replaced by the new call. This new Tattoo (I refer to this call as the 1855 or Hardee, named for William J. Hardee who authored the manual) in 6/8 time is more lyrical than the Scott Tattoo, and has as part of its call the distinct notes that are common to all Tattoo calls today.  At the end of the call, you can hear the notes sing out “Tat-too…Tat-too.” This call was also printed in other Infantry manuals of the time most notably the one written by Silas Casey.
Like the Scott Tattoo there seems to be be no origination of this call. No derivation from earlier calls or earlier publications yet to be discovered.

The 1855 or Hardee Tattoo


In 1867, Major General Emory Upton printed his Infantry Tactics, published by D. Appleton. Upton copied the bulk of his Infantry Tactics from Silas Casey, who had copied it from the French. This also included the bugle, fife, and drum signals.  These bugle calls were the same as those heard during the Civil War and would remain unchanged for the next eight years. The 1855 Tattoo would be retained.

Upton asked Major Truman Seymour of the Fifth U.S. Artillery to revise the calls into one concise system that would be used by all branches of the service, thus providing uniformity. Exceptions were the specific calls peculiar to the cavalry and artillery.  The revised 1874 edition of Upton’s Infantry Tactics manual contains the hard work done to the bugle signals (new calls, and consolidation of the branches into one system) by Major Seymour.  Seymour threw out most of the French Infantry calls (which had been copied from the French 1832 Infantry Manual, note for note) and added new calls.

Most of the calls that survived the revision came from the 1841 Cavalry manuals (Assembly, Mess Call, Officers Call, and Retreat are a few examples).  Among the new calls that can be attributed to Seymour is the 1874 Tattoo.  That version combined the French “To Extinguish Lights” (although the sixth measure of the call is different from the original) with the British setting of the watch found in the 1799 Hyde manual.  The other calls added by Seymour include Adjutant’s Call (derived from the Civil War fife tune of the same name), To Arms, General’s March, Flourishes and To The Color.  The biggest change, however, was in the naming of these as trumpet calls, not bugle calls.  The 1874 Tattoo is still used today.

It should be noted that the 1874 or Modern Tattoo was originally written as a three part call. Reveille and Retreat also were originally written as trios as these were formation calls that required the presence of all field musicians. It is performed today as a solo bugle call.

The 1874 or Modern Tattoo

More information on the evolution of Taps can be found at

Use the PayPal link for a donation

We also have a Patreon Page set up for your support
of what TAPS BUGLER does

#TapsBugler #ScottTattoo #1835Tattoo #Taps

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By :