WHEN "TAPS" SIGNALED PEACE FOR THE WORLD

Hartley Edwards didn't have to blow his own horn to win a unique place in world history.  At 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, he raised a $6.25 GI issue bugle to his lips at Tour, France, and blew "Taps" as the official signal that World War I had ended.

In an army that had thousands of buglers, why was this particular rendition by Edwards historic?  Because he was the personal bugler of General of the Armies John J. (Blackjack) Pershing.  And Pershing himself issued the order to Edwards to use his bugle to tell the world that the armistice had been signed in a railway car in the Compiegne Forest in France.

Nevertheless Edwards almost missed his chance to be a footnote to history. When a sergeant told him to blow "Taps" at eleven o'clock in the morning, he demurred, pointing out that this call was played only at funerals or for "lights out."  "It's an order from General Pershing," he was told.

So Edwards, standing by an old box car, lifted his Conn bugle to his lips and followed the order.  He did not learn until later that his "Taps" was Pershing's way of announcing that the lights had gone on again all over the world.

Edwards, the eldest of thirteen children born to a Ellis County farm family, got to be the nation's most famous bugler by accident. He had played a tuba in the Italy, Texas, high school band.  So, when he joined the army and was sent to Camp Cody, New Mexico, this talent was duly noted by his company commander.  He needed a bugler, and Edwards got the job.

He had never tooted one before, but he learned quickly and well.  So well that when he arrived in France and General Pershing called for a personal bugle corps, Edwards was one of thirty-five who got the assignment.  Soon he was the lead musician and, as such, was known as the personal bugler of the commander-in-chief.

After his discharge from the army on October 1, 1919, Edwards moved to Denison, married Irene Graham and became an oiler for the Katy Railroad.  He did not give up his bugle, however.

He was named the official bugler for the World War I Veterans.  He marched in parades and often played for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and other organizations of former service personnel.  Twice he blew "Taps" at Arlington Cemetery in Washington when Presidents Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy laid wreaths on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On July 14, 1919, as the American Expeditionary Forces were heading home, Edwards stood under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and blew "Taps" for thousands of cheering French gathered to celebrate the victory.  As the ceremonies ended, the great general, Ferdinand Foch, turned to Pershing and said he hoped that the men could come back to France one day.

In 1956, Edwards did.  He was invited by President Charles de Gaulle to sound "Taps" once again under the famous victory arch.  More than 50,000 cheered as the last notes faded away.

On November 14, 1978 - sixty years and three days after he signaled the end of the war - Edwards died.  Eight years before, he had given his old bugle to the Smithsonian in Washington, where it is displayed today.  He was not without an instrument, however.  The Conn Music Co. made an exact replica of Edwards' original horn, had it plated with gold and presented it to him.  Each morning until illness forced him into a nursing home, he roused his neighbors in Denison by tooting "Reveille," the traditional wake-up call of the military.

Article from Katy's Baby

by Jack Maquire

 

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