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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