Saturday, November 13, 2010

More on Syrupy Remembrance Day Kitsch

Here's a reason why I was glad to read Christie Blatchford as stated in the previous post. By the end of this week, I had received my share of maudlin and bad emails. Here's one that a co-worker sent me, supposedly about the origin of Taps or, as we Canadians and Brits know it, The Last Post.

The email claimed that the creation of Taps dates to 1862, when a Union army captain named Ellicombe heard a dying soldier crying out at night. Not knowing if the soldier was Union or Conederate, he crawled out "through the gunfire", and pulled the man back to safety. Ellicombe then lit a lantern and discovered (horror!) that the (now dead) soldier was his own son, in a Confederate uniform (gasp! sob!). Why was his son in a Confederate uniform, you ask? I'll tell you! Because he was in the south studying music before the war, and for some reason joined to fight for Dixie. Ellicombe asked if his son could be buried with full military honours, even though he was a Reb, and was told he could only have a bugler. Guess what? They found some music in the dead boy's pocket that he'd actually written, and the bugler played it, and guess what? That music was Taps! "This music was the haunting melody we know as Taps that is used at all military funerals". (Need a kleenex yet?)

Maybe you've gotten that email yourself. Setting aside the fact that it strains all credulity well past the breaking point, it's factually wrong, and has been since the story first started circulating in the 1930s! Since I know a little bit about the American Civil War, I knew that Taps was written for Union General Dan Butterfield because he didn't like the bugle call for "Extinguish Lights". The story is fully debunked on Snopes , and, since some people in my experience think that Snopes is just some mean guy's opinion and isn't true, the authoritative story of Taps can also be found on the Arlington National Cemetery and West Point websites.

Dan Butterfield

My point being, it does no honour to the memory of sacrifices past and present to circulate this sort of historical rubbish. Before you hit forward, take a moment to look into the accuracy of what you may be sending.

By the way, I complimented my coworker on sending me a lovely story, and offered my regrets that it was not true. I also sent him the Arlington, Snopes and West Point links and suggested he look at them. In my experience, correcting people on forwarded emails is never helpful and just makes you look like a prick, but I think Christie Blatchford would agree with me that it's the right thing to do.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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