Lee’s Famous Staff Officer Walter Taylor Jr.

Walter Herron Taylor Jr. who was named after his father Walter Sr. was born on June 13th, 1838. He was one of several children of a very prominent Virginia family. Walter Taylor attended the Norfolk Military Academy. He then entered the V.M.I. in 1854 at the age of 16. However, he would depart from the V.M.I. following his fathers’ death a year later.

Did you know this 1/4th Plate Melainotype of Walter H. Taylor sold for $44,812.50 in December of 2006.

After his fathers’ death, Walter started his business career until it was interrupted by the onset of the Civil War. Prior to his enlistment in the Confederate Army, he served in Company F, of the Norfolk Volunteer Militia where in 1860; he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. This organization would become Company G of the 6th Virginia Infantry. He joined the Confederate Army on the day Virginia announced her secession in 1861. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed as a staff officer serving with General Robert E. Lee, whom he was very fond of. Lee had been a big influence in young Walter Taylor’s life.

After the Civil War had ended, a series of photographs were taken at General Lee’s home in Richmond on April 16, 1865 by Mathew Brady’s firm. As General Lee wore his uniform for the last time, his staff stood by his side forever associating Walter Taylor with General Lee. The photograph was simply called General Lee and his Staff. When General Lee passed away on October 12, 1870, among those who attended his funeral was Colonel Walter Taylor. Taylor had now said his last good bye to a man he had come to love and respect.

During the years following the Civil War, Walter Taylor and his wife had four sons and four daughters and his family came first in every aspect of his life. His sons were Walter Taylor III, Richard C. Taylor, J. Saunders Taylor and Robert E. Lee Taylor. His daughters were Bland, Thomlin, Steele, and Elizabeth Taylor. He devoted his life to God and family. He lived the life of a Virginia gentleman and businessman, serving as Senator in the Virginia General Assembly, and attorney for the Norfolk and Western Railway and the Virginian Railway. He engaged in the hardware business for a few years with his partner Andrew S. Martin and the business eventually operated as the W.H. Taylor and Company. In 1870, the V.M.I. announced that Walter Taylor was honorary graduate of his class.

Walter Taylor was interested in the banking business and his interest had grown considerably and in 1877, he became president of the Marine Bank, a post he held with distinction until his death. He later wrote about his experiences in the Confederate Army as a member of General Lee’s Staff that is simply called “Four Years with General Lee” and another called “General Lee 1861-1865”. This book covered every campaign that General Lee was engaged in from Cheat Summit Fort, in West Virginia to the surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. He wrote numerous articles about the Civil War. He even kept in contact with many Confederate officers and answered questions when they too were writing about their experiences.

Lt. Colonel Taylor Returns to Pennsylvania
The backyard of the Cascade Inn. Photo courtesy, Cascade Inn.

By the late 1870’s, Cascade, Monterey, Blue Ridge Summit and PenMar became a resort of the beautiful mansions and hotels. PenMar became a beautiful park that had a breath taking view of the Cumberland Valley which Waynesboro, Ringgold, and Greencastle can be seen in the background. The area became home to many high society families that lived in Washington, Baltimore and Norfolk, Virginia during the summer months of July and August and used the area as a vacation resort because of the cooler temperatures and the mountain breeze that flowed through the air instead of the humid living conditions of the big city. The area was popular until the Depression of 1929. Several of these mansions can still be seen today.

In 1890, Walter Taylor returned to the Monterey area, where the Union Cavalry under General Kilpatrick attacked a portion of General Ewell’s wagon train. The same area where Walter Taylor himself rode with his beloved general after the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. The Taylor Summerhouse at Cascade in Washington County, Maryland once entertained the retired Colonel and his family. Mr. Taylor would recall his Civil War days by telling guest and family about what the area was like when they came through.

Folklore has it that he came back to the area because he had fell in love with Monterey after observing the scenery during the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg. However, one of Walter Taylor’s daughters was treated at the Victor Cullen Center for various breathing disorders. This maybe why Taylor had a summer residents at Cascade. Victor Cullen is located just outside of Sabillasville and was once called the Hilltop State Hospital. After being built in 1907, Victor Cullen was the first state funded tuberculosis sanatorium in Maryland and later would become a state hospital until 1965 when the Department of Juvenile Services took it over.

The Taylor Summer House located on Taylor Avenue (Eyler Avenue today) was still occupied by the Taylor family until the 1950’s when it was sold. Following the year after the purchase of a summer home, Walter Taylor’s son Walter Taylor III, a V.M.I. Cadet served as captain and coach of the first football team in 1891 in the Virginia Military Institute and was honored as the Founder of V.M.I. Football adding another sport for cadets to participate in. The V.M.I. was among the first schools to have a football program in the south. Before football, the V.M.I. Baseball had started a year following the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox.

Lt. Colonel Walter Taylor died on March 1, 1916 from cancer and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery at Norfolk, Virginia. All four of his sons and three of his son-in-laws were the pallbearers. Four months later his wife Bettie died. A year later his older brother died after leading a successful life as a Railroad Official and a teacher. Following the death of their parents, five of Taylor siblings continued to live in and around Blue Ridge Summit during the summer months. Lt. Colonel Taylor’s two sons Walter Taylor III of Norfolk, Virginia (who may locals recall him as Walter Jr.) and Robert E. Lee Taylor of Baltimore, Maryland, and three of his daughters Bland Taylor, Steele Taylor and Thomlin Taylor. The Taylor families were very prominent citizens in the area and were respected by all who knew them.

Walter Taylor’s daughter, Bland owned her parents’ former summer home. Two other houses also occupied the property in which Walter Taylor III, lived in one and his sister Steele lived in the other. During the 1930’s, Bland’s summer home caught on fire and she had it rebuilt on the same foundation where it stands today, the exact way she remembered it. She moved in with her brother next door, while construction took place. Bland never married.

Walter Taylor, III, Football uniform. V.M.I. Archives.

Walter Taylor III became close friends with Blue Ridge Summit resident Doctor Harvey Bridgers who had moved there to practice medicine in 1916. Doctor Bridgers was the family doctor that the Taylor’s saw when they lived in the area during the summertime. His office was located about a block away from the Taylor property across from the Blue Ridge Summit Library.

One day, they took a ride along the Old Waynesboro and Emmitsburg Turnpike. Walter III showed Doctor Bridgers, a series of rocks. He told Dr. Bridgers that one day his father Colonel Taylor took him here and showed him the same rocks. Walter III then recalled, the story that during the retreat from Gettysburg his father and General Lee had a small repast early during the day as the weary soldiers marched by. The large four rocks were perfectly flattened and resembled a table. He soon dubbed the term “Lee’s Rocks”.

Walter Taylor’s other son, Robert E. Lee Taylor bought a home located on Chairmian Lane that he lived in during the summer. During the late 1940’s Robert E. Lee Taylor was a member of the Monterey Country Club, where he socialized with other patrons who were also members. The Monterey Country Club is one of the oldest Country Clubs in the country. One story that is about Robert E. Lee Taylor that is told to me is the fact that he owned a coup. He always drove up and over the mountain in second gear.

Steele Taylor, Walter Taylor’s other daughter also lived on the Taylor property. Her house was located to the left of the rebuilt home that belonged to her sister Bland. Steele had funded a church for the African-American servants for those who traveled with the higher-class families and it was located on Church Street near the railroad tracks. Every year the colored church held small concerts or musicals to raise money that would go back into the their church.

Today, many Mountaintop residents are unaware that General Lee’s most valued Staff Officer made his summer residence in the Blue Ridge Summit area. Many who knew them respected the Taylor family. After the 1950’s, the Taylor roots seem to have faded with time. Many of the summer homes that the Taylor family once called home are still there. Many who came in contact with Taylor’s children never knew that their father was a famous man known for his connection with Robert E. Lee. The present day Taylor house still stands to this day and is now called the Cascade Inn.

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Touring the Morning Phase of the Battle of Fox’s Gap

The morning phase of the Fox’s Gap Battlefield is in private ownership. I ask that any who is interested in touring this area of the battlefield contact me in order to give you this tour.

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The Loop Road and the near the position of the 5th Virginia Cavalry. 

During the morning hours of September 14th, as Garland’s Brigade of North Carolina Infantry made it’s way past the Daniel Wise cabin, situated on Ridge Road (Parts of Lambs Knoll Road follows the original Ridge Road), they were unaware that two guns of Stuart’s Horse Artillery and the 5th Virginia Cavalry were posted in this area. The photo shows where Loop Road came out onto Ridge Road, and where the cavalry was positioned. Rosser’s 5th Virginia Cavalry and Pelham’s two guns were driven back by the 11th Ohio Infantry, who was in support of the 23rd Ohio Infantry.

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Where contact is made.

This field shows where the 5th North Carolina Infantry was positioned. The trees in the center of the photograph was where they deployed. Upon seeing the 23rd Ohio emerge from the hillside (far tower), the 5th North Carolina marched across the fields and was driven back.

This is field where the 5th North Carolina came in contact with the 23rd Ohio. The 23rd Ohio came under heavy fire where their Lt. Colonel, future President Rutherford B. Hayes was wounded. Organizing his regiment, he was taken off the field. The 23rd Ohio Infantry pushed the 5th North Carolina back when the 12th North Carolina to their left was ordered to their support. The 5th North Carolina as well as those from the 12th North Carolina retreated westward off of South Mountain.

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Bondurant’s Field, looking at the position of the Jeff Davis Artillery

 

This is the field where Captain James Bondurant’s Alabama Battery was positioned. Behind them along the stonewalls of the tree line was where the 12th North Carolina was positioned. The artillerists watched from this field as the 5th North Carolina marched into a fire storm.

After the Jeff Davis Alabama Artillery pulled out, the field to their left was occupied by the 23rd North Carolina. The photograph above shows from their position where the 12th Ohio Infantry made their attack. The 23rd held it’s ground until bayonets were used and the 23rd Ohio Infantry attacked their right flank.

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The Stonewalls, very close to the North Carolina Monument. 

The 20th North Carolina took to the stonewalls pictured in this photograph. The 30th Ohio, under the command of Colonel Hugh Ewing heard firing to their left and soon the domino effect occurred when a tide of Confederate soldiers appeared to their front.

The 36th Ohio from Colonel George Crook’s 2nd Brigade arrived on the field in support of the Union troops already in place. They broke off in order to support the 12th Ohio, moving in the direction of the 20th North Carolina. The 20th North Carolina resisted until the 36th Ohio got on both of their flanks. The firing was at close range and soon bayonets were once again being used.

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Crome’s Field. Notice Middletown in the distance. 

In this field in the far corner, Crome’s two guns got into position to shell the Confederate lines. As soon as they got into position the cannoneers were being picked off by Confederate bullets from the 20th North Carolina. As soon as the third round of canister was fired, Lieutenant Crome was the only person left standing. Lt. Crome himself was wounded in the breast and his guns fell silent.

A section of the 1st Kentucky Artillery consisting of two 20 pound Parrot Rifles were put in place at the southeast corner of Wise’s Southfield. The 36th Ohio supported by the 28th Ohio halted near the wood line that once dotted the landscape.

The 13th North Carolina charged the Federal line pushing them back, and it was at this time that two North Carolina regiments from General George B. Anderson’s Brigade arrived on the field. They hunkered down in the sunken road to meet the Federal onslaught. By then the morning phase for Fox’s Gap began to die down as men were exhausted and getting low on ammunition.

Overview of the Battle for Fox’s Gap Morning Phase

This is just a narrative of the morning phase of the Battle of South Mountain at Fox’s Gap. I will be posting more about the Battles of South Mountain throughout the fall and winter months.

During the night of September 13th, General JEB Stuart had sent Colonel Tom Rosser’s 5th Virginia Cavalry and two pieces of artillery from Major John Pelham’s 1st Stuart’s Horse Artillery to Fox’s Gap. At approximately 8:00 am in the morning on September 14th, as General Samuel Garland’s Brigade made their down the Woods Road to Fox’s Gap they were unaware of Stuart’s Cavalry occupying the extreme Southern end of Fox’s Gap. The Confederate soldiers soon began to occupy the stonewalls along Ridge Road. Pelham and Rosser connected with the 5th North Carolina under the command of Colonel Duncan McRae. Next to the 5th North Carolina was the 12th North Carolina under the command of Captain Snow. Next to them was the 23rd North Carolina under the command of Colonel D. H. Christie.

The Kanawha Division under the command of Brigadier General Jacob Cox was encamped near Middletown, Maryland when reveille was sounded. At 6:00 am in the morning, the Kanawha Division arose and began to march. Colonel Eliakim Scammon’s 1st Brigade was the first to march with Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes’ 23rd Ohio Infantry in the advance. Striking the old Sharpsburg Road and veering left on an old mountain road known as Loop Road, Scammon’s Brigade began to climb the rocky hillside. Marching was rough as they marched through the very thick, dense mountain vegetation.

Hayes’ was dismounted when the 23rd Ohio came to the clearing of an open field, his men could see a long line of Confederate soldiers from North Carolina under the command of General Samuel Garland. To the extreme right tucked away in the corner, were the 5th Virginia Cavalry and a section of two guns that belonged to Major John Pelham’s Horse Artillery. At about 10:00 am, as Hayes and his 23rd Ohio appeared in the open field, they were fired upon by Pelham’s two guns as well as the rifles of the 5th North Carolina. Pelham was only able to fire two shots before he limbered up and fell back to the west of South Mountain after the arrival of the 11th Ohio Infantry. After a few volleys from the Confederate guns, Hayes as well as many other members of the 23rd Ohio were hit.

Desperately trying to reorganize his line and advance them again, the wounded Hayes was pulled off the field while the battle ensued. While Scammon’s Brigade occupied the left, Crook’s Brigade began to engage on the right. The 11th Ohio from Colonel George Crook’s 2nd Brigade came to the support of the 23rd Ohio. After forcing Pelham and the 5th Virginia from their positions, the 11th Ohio was ordered to charge across the open field just as the 5th North Carolina was beginning to break. Rifles were used as clubs and bayonets were used freely as the Union soldiers thrust their weapons behind the stonewall. The 12th North Carolina was ordered to support the 5th North Carolina, but with the lack of officers, once the Federal volleys began some men broke rank and ran. Others flocked to the flanks of the 5th North Carolina who were ordered to form their line on the original position. Once Rosser’s men fell back, the 5th North Carolina also fell back and reformed their lines at the base of South Mountain.

Bondurant’s Battery fired several shots at the advancing Union soldiers before falling back to another position. Captain James Bondurant ordered each gun to fire one round. As soon as the first gun fired, it was ordered limber up and fall back while the second gun fired. This was repeated until all four guns were off of the field and redeployed at their second position.

In the midst of this fight, the 12th Ohio Infantry under the command of Colonel Carr White formed their battle line. As they proceeded up the hill, several companies were ordered to fall to their knees and crawl very slowly up the rocky hill where the 23rd North Carolina was positioned. The Ohioans were within sixty yards of the Confederate battle line. They could hear the orders being given when suddenly a private yelled “Let’s charge!” The 23rd North Carolina had to form their line in the midst of confusion, and continued to move into the open field without hesitation. By the time the 23rd North Carolina stopped to form their line as ordered, the whole line of the Ohioans stood up, and as quickly as they stood their officers ordered them back down just as the 23rd North Carolina fired upon them. The officer’s then yelled forward, pushing up the hill as quickly as they could.

After the Confederate right flank began to break, the 23rd Ohio continued its charge supporting the 12th Ohio. Bayonets were used freely and this battle was only one of a few where this type of hand to hand combat was actually used. The 23rd North Carolina broke and began taking cover in the woods. The 12th Ohio Infantry, still on their heels soon became entangled in the thick mountain vegetation and their own battle lines broke formation.

As the fight ensued, two additional regiments from Garland’s Brigade deployed along the stonewalls of Fox’s Gap along Ridge Road. The 20th North Carolina Regiment under the command of Colonel Alfred Iverson took position next to the 23rd North Carolina. The 30th Ohio under the command of Colonel Hugh Ewing heard firing to their left and soon the domino effect occurred when a tide of Confederate soldiers appeared to their front.

The 36th Ohio from Colonel George Crook’s 2nd Brigade arrived on the field in support of the Union troops already in place. They broke off in order to support the 12th Ohio, moving in the direction of the 20th North Carolina. The 20th North Carolina resisted until the 36th Ohio got on both flanks. The firing was at close range and soon bayonets were once again being used. By then Bondurant’s Battery limbered back up and moved to Wise’s Northfield.

During the time that the fighting was raging against the 20th North Carolina, Lieutenant Crome was ordered to take two cannon up the hill. Crome found it very steep and difficult, and ordered his artillery detachment to manually pull and push the cannon up the hill. As soon as they got into position the cannoneers were being picked off by Confederate bullets from the 20th North Carolina. As soon as the third round of canister was fired, Lieutenant Crome was the only person left standing. As the 12th Ohio was pushing forward, a corporal helped Lt. Crome load the fourth round of canister into the tube. The corporal pulled the lanyard and was instantly killed by a bullet from the 20th North Carolina. Lt. Crome himself was wounded in the breast and his guns fell silent.

When the 13th North Carolina under the command of Lt. Colonel Thomas Ruffin arrived, General Garland was there to greet them. Garland directed them on where their position should be. Lt. Colonel Ruffin told General Garland that he should be in the rear of his brigade and Garland stated that he wanted to be with his men. During this exchange, a bullet hit Garland and he fell mortally wounded. The 13th North Carolina charged the Federal line pushing them back, about that time the arrival of General George B. Anderson’s Brigade came onto the field. They hunkered down in the sunken road to meet the Federal onslaught. By then the morning phase for Fox’s Gap began to die down as men were exhausted and getting low on ammunition.

A section of the 1st Kentucy Artillery consisting of two 20 pound Parrot Rifles were put in place at the southeast corner of Wise’s Southfield. The 36th Ohio supported by the 28th Ohio halted near the wood line. The 11th Ohio, 23rd Ohio, the 12th Ohio and the 36th Ohio all occupied the stonewalls that once gave protection to Garland’s Brigade.