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    Union Soldier Charles L. Taylor, Company K, 16th Connecticut Infantry Letter Archive. An extensive archive of approximately 90 war dated letters by Charles L. Taylor to friends and family members, along with a box of family letters, both war dated and post war, and two albumens, a portrait of a child, and a family bible. Taylor's letter average four pages in length and are written on bifolia with pages measuring 5" x 8".

    Charles L. Taylor was teaching school in Bristol, Connecticut, when the Civil War broke out and continued in that pursuit during the first year of the conflict. He enlisted at the age of 24 as a Sergeant, and was mustered into Company K, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on August 24, 1862. Just days after he was mustered into Company K, he married his sweetheart, Harriet Tuttle, on August 26. Taylor served as a sergeant and then a private with the 16th Connecticut Infantry, before becoming a clerk at Division Headquarters in New Bern, North Carolina. As a clerk, he saw much of the planning of battles and exchange of information, something many regular soldiers would not be privy to.

    Just weeks after it was mustered, the 16th Connecticut participated in the Battle of Antietam on September 16-17, 1862 and suffered heavy losses, with more than 200 men captured. Taylor was one of the lucky ones who escaped unscathed, and wrote about his experience at the battle in a six-page letter (in part): "Near Sharpsburg, Maryland, Sept. 28th 1862... The battle we shall not soon forget. The Rebels commenced shelling our division where we lay the night previous on that morn and we were exposed to shells and shots very much of the day and to musketry in a cornfield the latter part of the day. The latter was very destructive, about as warns as is often experienced I expect. It was a sight when we lay on a hill after our first move in the morn to see the artillery and musketry. Our company lost our beside Capt Marross, our Aldritch from Forest Hills, and had five wounded. We did not suffer so bad as many of the companies in our regiment. Our Capt being killed is a great loss to us. All he said after being shot was 'my wife'. I was on the left of the company and I think not so exposed as some, though the shells struck all around me thick enough. Situated as I was I became separated from most of our company, leaving the field when I saw they were all leaving. Found the Regiment that eve, unharmed in the least myself...We the 16th particularly have undergone a good deal to help put down this rebellion...It is indeed sad for the widows Wilcox and Wes to have their sons die here, band enough for any one to have their friends die here but particularly for poor widows to lose their sons..." Lightly toned with some weakness at mail folds; with original transmittal cover.

    In April 1863 Taylor was demoted to private. In a four-page letter, he describes his discontent with his training, feeling that the lack of proper instruction led to his unpreparedness in the field, and thus causing the demotion. "In Camp. 16th C.V. Suffolk, Va. Apr 4th. 1863... A thing not unexpected happened to me yesterday, as I had heard it was going to, though not any reason. On dress parade last eve, after reading an order for reducing some sergeants and corporals to the ranks (cause disturbance when drunk) another was read reducing the following to non commissioned officers of Co. K to rank on recommendation of the company commanders (the usual form) viz. Sgts Chas. L. Taylor...So you see I am a high private reduced, of course not on account of getting drunk or criminally neglecting duty. I know of no reason in the eyes of those moving in this matter other than that I have not shown suitable adaptation to military performances. I have felt under a disadvantage in our company with such opposition as there has been. We have rec'd no instruction except drilling when not marching or the weather permitted, not having been in a camp of instruction. When called on to act being so seldom, not habitual, the proper orders or manner of giving them did not occur to me at once in some instances, and the most of it being made by a noisy portion of our company. In fact I haven't taken to military so readily as some, I suppose, I have sometimes almost wished I was a private..." Lightly toned, darker at mail folds.

    Taylor was transferred to Division Headquarters in August 1863, and it was during his time there that he experienced two of the more unsavory events that occurred during the war: the trial and execution of Dr. Wright, and the retaliatory acts between General Wild and General Pickett.

    Dr. Wright was a prominent doctor in Norfolk who was tried and hanged after he shot a Federal lieutenant who was drilling black soldiers. Both President Lincoln and Confederate President Davis were drawn into the conflict as people advocated for Wright's release. Ultimately he was found guilty and Taylor wrote about the matter in a four-page letter: "Head Quarters U.S. Forces. Portsmouth. Va. October 25th 1863... the secessionists said the Yankees would not dare hang him, but the Yankees had too many soldiers and two cannons loaded and men standing by ready to load again, the secessionists shed tears considerable, but everything passed quietly. It may be a good lesson to them of our power to enforce justice..." Lightly toned, foxing; with original transmittal cover.

    The second event resulted from Union General Wild capturing and hanging a "guerilla" prisoner named Daniel Bright. The details of the capture and lawful execution of the prisoner are still debated, but in retaliation the Confederates hung a Union prisoner, Samuel Jordan. Taylor was present at Headquarters when the news came in, and even attended the funeral for the Union soldier. He described the events in a four-page letter, in part: "Head Quarters U.S. Forces. Nr. Portsmouth. January 17 '64...The other day the citizens beyond Deep Creek, in Pasquotank County North Carolina, found a man suspended, with the following notice pinned to his back: NOTICE - Here hangs Private Samuel Jones [sic] of Company B, Fifth Ohio regiment, by order of Maj.-Gen. Pickett, in retaliation for Private Daniel Bright, of Company L Sixty-second Georgia regiment, (Col. Griffin's,) hung Dec, 18.1863, by order of Brig.-Gen. Wild.

    We have the statement of some 14 of the citizens in that neighborhood of the finding him, and the Notice pinned on his back in the office. They knew nothing of it until they found him, the rebels crossed the Chowan River hung him, and recrossed the River. The citizens put in a box and buried him, a company of cavalry went and took up the body and it was brought and buried in the cavalry burying ground today. There was an ugly pair of handcuffs on his wrist. I went to the burial. Chaplain Whittaker said he was taken from Libby Prison Richmond and to the spot where he was hung. He wanted the soldiers standing around the grave to avenge the death of the man. It is a hard case, and has been reported to Gen. Butler. The man Genl. Wild hung was hung for being caught a guerilla, the one they hung was not for being a guerilla, but a prisoner entitled to the treatment of a soldier taken in lawful warfare...
    " Lightly toned, with original transmittal cover.

    In mid-April 1864 Taylor, who was still working as a clerk for Division Headquarters, was ordered to rejoin his regiment in Plymouth, North Carolina. Fortunately for him, he was still in transit when the garrison was taken by the Confederates after a siege. The garrison surrendered and Taylor's regiment were taken prisoners and sent to Andersonville. Taylor had a lucky escape, and despite missing his regiment and disliking his present situation, he was well aware that he was better off than they: "Head Quarters, Sub Dist. of New Berne... N. C. May 15, 1864... If our armies can only keep on successful, and I judge we have now a good start, as probably the rebels have done their best, the prospect for the result of this season's campaigns are favorable for our side. The sooner the rebels are whipped so that the war may end, the better it will suit me, as the best I can do with the present mode of life, it is necessary for me to follow, is to put up with it, as enjoy it, at all heartily I cannot. Yet I am much better off than many and most soldiers, my being detailed as a clerk, besides having me many a weary march, nights of guard and picket duty, to say nothing of exposure to bullets, has saved my being in the hands of the 'Johnny Rebs' a prisoner with my regiment, and at the same time preparing me, by keeping my hand in for business, when the war is over, should that be and find me clerking is here in the Army." Letter is lightly toned; with original transmittal cover.

    Taylor remained in New Berne until the end of the war. He writes about the surrender of Lee's Army of the Potomac and the fall of Richmond, but it was the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln that disturbed him the most. In a four-page letter home, he writes: "Kinston. N.C. April 23d 1865... All very satisfactory in connection with the success of our army, everywhere, Mobile taken. Still this has not stirred my feeling so much as the assassination of President Lincoln. I had as soon Richmond &c. was not taken for a while to come, then that he should have been killed, I know of no man in the country we could have spared with so great a loss to us. President Johnson I think probably will equal to what is expected of him, not withstanding, he was 'tight' when being inaugurated as vice president. He may attend to the affairs of the country, full and effectively, and be equal to the emergency, by the aid of the advice of those who advised Lincoln. It seems from last accounts - (N.Y. paper of the 14th) that Secretary Seward is in a fair way for recovery. I am sure there is reason to look at the matter so, and it is better than, to say he is going to be a drunkard and our country is going to ruin, when we are not sure of this, as we may not be of the other side, though I am pretty sure of the latter. I think our country is all right and going on prosperously." Lightly toned with usual mail folds.

    The archive also includes over 80 letters to and from Mrs. Samuel Taylor to her son; over 20 letters from Louise Taylor to her brother Charles L. Taylor; almost 100 varied post war letters; a framed oval portrait of daughter Hattie Taylor, 12.75" x 14.75", two framed oval albumens of Louisa and Samuel Taylor, 11.25" x 13.5"; and a family bible. The family bible was published in 1859 by Jesper Harding & Son of Philadelphia. The bible has leatherbound boards with ornate gilt embossment, gilt fore edges, and a metal clasp. Its pages include family records of births, deaths, marriages, as well as newspaper clippings.

    This is an extraordinary archive of letters and family artifacts that provide a glimpse of the life of a Union soldier and clerk. Not only are there personal records of Taylor's experience as a soldier, but his employment as a clerk offers a behind the scenes look at the war. His family bible and additional letters and documents share a history of the Taylor family as well.

    Condition: Taylor's letters are housed in a large binder with protective sleeves, while the additional letters are stored in a wooden box. Overall condition of the letters range from very good to near fine. Family bible is in good condition, with only the interior pages being lightly toned with foxing. Albumens and portrait are toned with some signs of wear.



    More Information:

    Charles Lyman Taylor (1837-1909), a school teacher from Bristol, Connecticut, served as a sergeant and then as a clerk in Company K, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.  He joined the 16th Regiment and was mustered in on August 24, 1862 in Hartford, Connecticut, and was mustered out on June 24, 1865 in Newbern, North Carolina. On August 26, two days after he was mustered in, Taylor married Harriet Tuttle (1840-1899).

     

    The 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was organized in Hartford, Connecticut, under Colonel Francis Beach on August 24, 1862.  Soon thereafter the regiment moved to Washington, D.C. and was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division of the 9th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Within weeks the 16th Connecticut participated in the Battle of Antietam, which took place on September 16-17, and lost 43 men, 163 wounded, and 204 captured or missing.  The regiment was subsequently involved in the Battle of Fredericksburg at the end of 1862.  After spending 1863 in Virginia, the regiment moved to North Carolina in 1864, where it was stationed at Newbern and Plymouth. Plymouth was under siege by Confederate forces from April 17-20, which resulted in the surrender of the town and the capture of many in the regiment.  The regiment was mustered out at Newbern on June 24, 1865.



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    19th Thursday
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