The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging



Military History Society
Military Miscellany

THE LAST POST

Author unknown - received by e-mail in 2010

If any of you have ever been to a military funeral in which The Last Post was played; this brings out a new meaning of it. Here is something everyone should know. Until I read this, I didn't know, but I checked it out and it's true: We have all heard the haunting song, 'The Last Post.' It's the song that gives us the lump in our throats and usually tears in our eyes.

But, do you know the story behind the song?  If not, I think you will be interested to find out about its humble beginnings.

Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the American 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 the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field.  Not knowing if it was a  Union  or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and 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 his encampment.

When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock.  In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son.

The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out.  Without telling his father, the boy 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 enemy status. His request was only partially granted. The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral.

The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate.  But, out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him only one musician.

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

This wish was granted.  The haunting melody, we now know as 'The Last Post' used at military funerals was born.

The words are:

I too have felt the chills while listening to 'The Last Post' but I have never seen all the words to the song until now.  I didn't even know there was more than one verse .  I also never knew the story behind the song and I didn't know if you had either so I thought I'd pass it along.  I now have an even deeper respect for the song than I did before. Remember Those Lost and Harmed While Serving Their Country.


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