Veterans Benefits

The History of "Taps"

During the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in Virginia , the Confederate Army was on the other side of a narrow strip of land.

During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moan of a soldier who lay mortally wounded on the field.  Not knowing whether the man was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life to bring the stricken man back for medical attention.  Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward the Union encampment.  When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered that the wounded soldier was actually a Confederate, but that he was now dead.

The Captain lit a lantern.  Suddenly he caught his breath and went numb with shock.  In the dim light of the lantern, he saw the face of the fallen soldier.  It was the face of his own young son.

The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out.  Without telling his father, he had enlisted in the Confederate Army.

The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his status as an enemy combatant.  His request was partially granted.

The Captain had asked for a group of Army band members to play a funeral dirge for his son, but since the boy was a Confederate, that request was denied.  However, out of respect for the father, permission was given for a single musician to play at the burial.

The Captain chose a bugler.  He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found scribbled on a piece of paper in the pocket of his dead son's uniform.

The wish was granted.  The music scrawled upon the scrap of paper in the young boy's uniform was the haunting melody we now know as "Taps" that is used at all military funerals.

The words that accompany the simple, dignified, and timeless tune are these:

Day is done.  Gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.  All is well.  Safely rest. God is nigh.

Burial at Arlington National Cemetery

Burial space at Arlington National Cemetery is restricted to those who were honorably discharged from the Armed Forces and:

  • died on active duty;
  • served 20 years or more on active duty or active reserve duty which qualified them for retirement pay either upon retirement or at age 60 and those retired for a disability;
  • honorably discharged with 30 percent or more disability before October 1, 1949;
  • Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star or Purple Heart recipients;
  • the spouse, unmarried child (under 21; under 23 if student) or an unmarried adult child of any of the above
  • under certain conditions, a veteran who is the parent, brother, sister or child of an eligible person already interred. Interment must be in the same grave as the primary eligible.

Arlington has a columbarium for the cremated remains of any honorably discharged veteran, their spouse and/or dependent children. For more information, call the  202.695.3250 or visit

Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery

On May 30, 1986, Governor Thomas H. Kean dedicated New Jersey's first state-operated veterans' cemetery as "a lasting memorial to those men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our country's honor and freedom." On January 3, 1989, the cemetery was named for the principal guiding force behind its development U.S. Army Brigadier General William C. Doyle.

The facility was funded jointly by the state and federal governments and is managed by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. It is open to eligible New Jersey Veterans; residents who are members of the Armed Forces or reserve units on active duty at the time of death; certain dependents and certain merchant marines and civilians who have been awarded veteran's status. Rules and eligibility requirements were established within the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Washington, D.C.

The cemetery is located in Arneytown, North Hanover Township, Burlington County on Province line Road, which intersects Route 664 to the north of the cemetery and Routes 537 and 528 to the south. It's central location, 15 miles southeast of Trenton, makes it easily accessible from the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and Interstates 195 and 295.The cemetery is a contemporary memorial type with all grave markers flush with ground level. It covers 225 acres and was designed to accommodate 154,000 veterans and their family members.

Where to find more information on Veterans Benefits

Veterans Administration Burials and Memorials
NJSFDA Veterans Resources
NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs