The Spirit of Aggieland
Some may boast of prowess bold
Of the school they think so grand
But there’s a spirit can ne’er be told
It’s the Spirit of Aggieland.
The Spirit of Aggieland. From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.
Remembering Fallen Aggies
Perhaps nowhere is the Spirit of Aggieland demonstrated as poignantly, or as beautifully, as in Silver Taps.
One of Texas A&M University’s most honored and solemn traditions, Silver Taps is held on the first Tuesday of the month, when necessary, to honor any graduate or undergraduate student who has passed away while enrolled at Texas A&M.
The tradition began in 1898, when the first Silver Taps was held to honor Lawrence Sullivan Ross, the former Governor of the Great State of Texas and President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, or Texas AMC (now Texas A&M University).
On the morning of Silver Taps, a small card is placed at the base of the flagpole in the university’s Academic Plaza, bearing the deceased student’s name, class, major, and birthdate.
At 10:15 p.m., all lights on campus are extinguished as hymns begin to chime from Albritton Tower. Students gather in silence in front of the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross in Academic Plaza.
At 10:30 pm, those who have gathered to pay tribute to their fallen fellow Aggie begin to hear the click of boots in the distance as the Ross Volunteers, a special unit of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, march into the plaza and fire a 21-gun salute.
Buglers stationed on the top of the Academic Building then play a special rendition of Taps, known as “Silver Taps”, a haunting melody composed by Colonel Richard J. Dunn.
The song is played three times: once to the north, once to the south, and once to the west. It is never played to the east, because the sun will never again rise on that fallen Aggie.
I have witnessed the Silver Taps ceremony, many years ago. My pulse quickens and goosebumps envelop my body as I remember the experience, even after all these years. It is truly an amazing thing …
- to behold a crowd of college students quietly and solemnly assemble;
- to hear the click of boots in the distance, moving closer with every step;
- to watch the Ross Volunteers march in with such dignity and respect;
- to hear the muffled voices as commands are given for the 21-gun salute;
- to be startled by the sharp crack of the rifles splitting the night air with their explosive tribute to the fallen;
- to hear invisible buglers play the haunting refrains of Silver Taps in the dark of the night;
- and then to watch that same crowd of college students quietly and reverently disperse.
It is one of the many things that make me proud to be an Aggie. It is humanity at its finest.
It’s the Spirit of Aggieland.
NOTE: According to the official web site of Texas A&M University’s Division of Student Affairs, the arrangement for Silver Taps “is not formally written; it is passed from bugler to bugler.”
- Aggie Band Fall 2007 – 4, by Stuart Seeger (Flickr), Creative Commons License.
- Silver Taps 11, by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M (Flickr), Creative Commons License.
- Silver Taps 19, by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M (Flickr), Creative Commons License.
- Silver Taps 16, by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M (Flickr), Creative Commons License.
- The Association of Former Students, Poems and Songs, “The Spirit of Aggieland”
- Wikipedia: “Spirit of Aggieland”
- Aggie Traditions: Silver Taps
- Texas A&M Division of Student Affairs: Silver Taps
- Wikipedia: “Traditions of Texas A&M University”
- Wikipedia: “Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets: Ross Volunteers”