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Minnesota National Guard
American Flag Draped on Casket

The blue field of the flag is placed at the head of the casket, over the left shoulder of the deceased.
The custom began in the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when a flag was used to cover the dead as they were taken from the battlefield on a caisson.

The position of the blue field is reversed to indicate mourning with the blue field on the right as the flag faces the coffin. It may be said that the flag is embracing the deceased who in life has served the flag. Today, the American Flag that covered the casket symbolizes the deceased service in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
Cassion and Riderless Horse

Six horses are used to pull the caisson, although all six are saddled, the three on the left side have riders, while the three on the right do not. This custom evolved from the days when horse-drawn caissons were the primary means of moving artillery ammunition and cannon, and the riderless horses carried provisions.
The single riderless horse that followed the casisson with boots reversed in the stirrups is called the "Caparisoned Horse" in reference to its ornamental coverings, which have detailed protocol all to themselves.

By tradition in military funeral honors, a Caparisoned Horse follows the casket of an Army or Marine Corps officer who was a colonel or above, or the casket of a president, by virture of having been the nation's military Commander in Chief. The custom is believed to date back to the time of Genghis Khan, when a horse was sacrificed to serve the fallen warrior in the next worled. The Caparisoned Horse later came to symbolize a warrior who would ride no more. Abraham Lincoln, who was killed in 1865, was the first U.S. president to be honored with a Caparisoned Horse at his funeral.

Firing Three Rifle Volleys Over the Grave

Graveside military honors include the firing of three volleys each by seven Service members. This commonly is confused with an entirely seperate honor, the 21-gun salute. But the member of individual gun firings in both honors evolved the same way. The three volleys came from an old battlefield custom. The two warring sides would cease hostilities to clear their dead from the battlefield, and the firing of three volleys meant that the dead had been properly cared for and the side was ready to resume battle.

Playing of Taps

Excerpt below from an article by Master Sergeant Jari A. Villanueva, USAF

"Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to render emotion than Taps. Up to the Civil War, the traditional call at day's end was a tune, borrowed from the French, called Lights Out. In July of 1862, in the aftermath of the bloody Seven Days battles, hard on the loss of 600 men and wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought "Lights Out" was too formal and he wished to honor his men. Oliver Wilcox Norton, the bugler, tells the story, '... showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, (he) asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night and was heard far beyond the limits of our brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring brigades, asking me for copies of the music which I gladly furnished. The call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac.'

This more emotive and powerful Taps was soon adopted throughout the military. In 1874, it was officially recognized by the U.S. Army. It became standard at military funeral ceremonies in 1891. There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call.