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
Title: George William Taylor papers Creator: Taylor family Inclusive dates: 1823-1862 Extent: 103 items Abstract:
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: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
1963, 1965. M-1264, M-1362.
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
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.
California--Description and travel.
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.