Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
George William Taylor Papers, 1823-1862

Finding aid created by
Caitlin Marineau, July 2010

Summary Information
Title: George William Taylor papers
Creator: Taylor family
Inclusive dates: 1823-1862
Extent: 103 items
The George William Taylor papers contain correspondence, documents, photographs, and a journal related to the life of Civil War general George W. Taylor. The collection mainly consists of letters Taylor wrote during his periods in military service and travels abroad.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1963, 1965. M-1264, M-1362.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

George William Taylor Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is arranged in four series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Journal
  • Series III: Photographs
  • Series IV: Printed and Miscellaneous

The items are arranged chronologically within each series.


General William Taylor was born November 22, 1808, to Archibald Taylor and Nancy Bray in Hunterdon county, New Jersey. His father was a prosperous local businessman in the mercantile trade. Before joining the U.S. Navy in 1827, Taylor graduated from the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy (now Norwich University) in Connecticut, run by Captain Alden Partridge. After joining the Navy, Taylor toured the Mediterranean aboard the U.S.S. Fairfield from 1828 to 1831, after which he resigned from the Navy and worked for the family business. In 1847, Taylor was commissioned in the U.S. Army and served under General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War as a lieutenant and later a captain. After the close of the war, Taylor spent three years in Corte Madera, California, during the Gold Rush, where he attempted both mining and various business pursuits. In 1851 Taylor returned to New Jersey where he became involved in local politics. Taylor organized the 3rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry in 1861 and was appointed colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general of the 1st New Jersey Brigade in May of 1862 to replace General Philip Kearney. Taylor was mortally wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run, and died August 31, 1862.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The George William Taylor papers contain 103 items, ranging in date from 1823 to 1862. The collection includes 92 letters, 1 diary, 4 legal documents, 2 photographs, several sheets of obituary clippings, and some miscellaneous items.

Taylor wrote most of the letters to his family during his periods abroad. The first major section of letters contains letters he wrote home to his parents and family during his time in the Navy while sailing the Mediterranean from 1828 to 1831 on the U.S.S. Fairfield . In these letters, Taylor gave descriptions of naval life, as well as observations of the ports he visited around the Mediterranean, including Gibraltar, Smyrna, Minorca, Venice (July 23, 1829: ". . . that most supurb city so appropriately stiled the 'Ocean Queen' at once spread out before us and free to feast our eyes on her unequaled singularity of beauty."), Palermo, and Marseilles (January 10, 1831: "The French are indeed a very warlike people you see it everywhere, every body is a soldier and there is no doubt that the military science is more generally diffused in France than in any other country.").

The next section of letters contains correspondence written during his time in the army in the Mexican War, from 1847 to 1848, and over the course of his trip to California during the Gold Rush, from 1849 to 1851. Though he saw little action during the Mexican War, his letters give some rich descriptions of a traveler’s view of the country (in particular, see July 21, 1847). Taylor’s California letters detail life in a California mining town, as well as his struggles to make money. After a fire destroyed part of San Francisco, Taylor wrote, "Confidence is destroyed and many will gather together what little they can and go home tired of the struggle . . . Thank God I owe nobody here I have never compromised my honour or self respect and if I carry home nothing it will be with some satisfaction to come out of the ordeal of Ca. untarnished" (May 5, 1851). A large portion of the letters during this period are from Taylor to his wife Mary, who remained in New Jersey during his travels. The collection also contains occasional responses from her, in which she gave news from home and expressed her loneliness over Taylor’s absence.

In the final section are several documents and letters from 1862, during Taylor’s brief time in the Union Army before his death. Several letters are addressed to Taylor from Union General Philip Kearny (1815-1862). Included are Taylor’s will (March 2, 1862) and an October 1862 letter of condolence, addressed to his daughter Mary.

Also in the collection are a 144-page journal from Taylor’s time in the Mediterranean, in which he wrote daily observations about his travels and life in the Navy; two photos of Taylor in Civil War uniform; and a collection of obituary clippings.

Subject Terms

    • Armed Forces--Officers.
    • California--Description and travel.
    • California--Gold discoveries.
    • Kearny, Philip, 1815-1862.
    • Mediterranean Region--Description and travel.
    • Mexican War, 1846-1848.
    • Mexico--Description and travel.
    • New Jersey--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Panama--Description and travel.
    • United States. Army.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Portraits.
    • United States. Navy.
    • Sailors.
    • Cox, Lewis L.
    • Dummer, Samuel Russell.
    • Kearny, Philip, 1815-1862.
    • Taylor, George William, 1808-1862.
    • Taylor, Lewis H.
    • Taylor, Mary K.
    • Taylor, Robert, 1803-1823.
    • Yard, Edward M.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    • Diaries.
    • Legal Documents.
    • Obituaries.
    • Photographs.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence [series]
    Folder   1  
     1823 July 17-1828 December 14
    Folder   2  
     1829 January 1-1829 July 23
    Folder   3  
     1829 September 23-1830 July 15
    Folder   4  
     1830 August 11-1831 January 10
    Folder   5  
     1831 May 5-1847 May 10
    Folder   6  
     1847 May 11-1847 July 12
    Folder   7  
     1847 July 13-1847 August 8
    Folder   8  
     1847 August 16-1847 September 20
    Folder   9  
     1847 October 21-1848 January 4
    Folder   10  
     1848 January 25-1848 May 5
    Folder   11  
     1848 June 15-[1849 February 6]
    Folder   12  
     1849 February 13-1849 March 8
    Folder   13  
     1849 March 17-1849 April 25
    Folder   14  
     1849 May 3-1849 June 9
    Folder   15  
     1849 July 18-1849 November 18
    Folder   16  
     1850 January 11-[1850 March 30]
    Folder   17  
     1850 May 8-1850 June 26
    Folder   18  
     1850 July 9-1850 November 14
    Folder   19  
     1850 November 15-1851 January 13
    Folder   20  
     1851 January 15-1851 May 5
    Folder   21  
     1851 July 5-1851 October 9
    Folder   22  
     1862 March 2-1862 May 4
    Folder   23  
     1862 May 4-1862 July 25
    Folder   24  
     1862 October 19-1929 January 25 and  undated
    Box   1  
    Journal [series]
    Folder   25  
     1829 July 21-1831 May 9
    Box   1  
    Photographs [series]
    Folder   26  
    Box   1  
    Printed and Miscellaneous [series]
    Folder   27  
     1865 April 19-undated