Document detailing the actual history of Pennsylvania Military College's Connection to the Song "Taps" and the explanation that one version of the song's lyrics was written by J. Berg Esenwein.
TAPS lyrics as written by J. Berg Esenwein, professor at PMC from 1900 to 1903; letters concerning TAPS; article about Taps published in the Delaware National Guard (Magazine); "Cadet Songs" by Rukard Hurd; etc. Rukard Hurd was a member of the Board of Trustees, 1895 to 1922; Rukard Hurd Papers from the Minnesota Historical Society, including a letter about Taps and photograph of Rukard Hurd.
History / Biographical
Updated History of Pennsylvania Military College’s Connection to the Song Taps. Written October 14, 2014
Although no official words to Taps exist, several versions of lyrics have been composed over the years. The following is the set of words often attributed to Pennsylvania Military College:
Fading light dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright,
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.
Dear one, rest! In the west
Sable night lulls the day on her breast,
Now away, to thy rest.
Love, sweet dreams! Lo the beams
Of the light fairy moon kiss the streams;
Ah, too soon! Peaceful dreams!
Just who at Pennsylvania Military College wrote the above words has been a source of confusion for many years. They have been attributed in various places to two different people, Rukard Hurd, a PMC graduate of 1878, and J. Berg Esenwein, a professor of English Language and Literature at PMC from 1900 to 1903.
We have a copy of a letter written by PMC President Charles Hyatt in 1896 to Rukard Hurd that reads:
My Dear Major Hurd,
We are delighted with “Taps”. Many thanks for this last contribution. The cadets have been practicing it and probably it will be sung by the corps at the public exercises Friday evening next …Yes, send on the plates; they will remain in our hands…
Very sincerely yours, C.E. Hyatt
Clearly Rukard Hurd had something to do with a version of Taps sung at Pennsylvania Military College in 1896. We know he did write several songs for the PMC Cadets, and for those was both the composer and lyricist. But we have no evidence that he wrote the above words.
We do have good evidence that from two sources J. Berg Esenwein wrote the words. A letter written by Frank Hyatt in 1930 indicates that Esenwein dedicated the music to Pennsylvania Military College (see below).
In addition, in the 1901 Pennsylvania Military College yearbook (see page below), the only name on sheet music for a song Cadet Good-Night, which has the above words and is written to the tune of Taps, is a PMC professor of English Language and Literature named J. Berg Esenwein. The sheet music says the song was copyrighted in 1901 by Esenwein. Eisenwein went on to take credit for being the Lyricist for the above words for many years after he left PMC in 1903.
See the link below to access the National Jukebox from the Library of Congress where you can listen to a 1918 recording of Taps that attributes the lyrics to J. Berg Esenwein.