William Taylor Correspondence Background Sheet

for use with Primary Source Activity - William Taylor Correspondence

Sergeant William Taylor (born 1828) of North Liberty, Pennsylvania enlisted in the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1862 during the American Civil War. During the course of his service from September 1862 to October 1864, Taylor often wrote letters home to his wife Jane. In these letters, Taylor describes his experiences as a soldier of the Union army as he traveled across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, and Mississippi. Taylor includes descriptions of the Battle of Fredericksburg, the shelling of Vicksburg, the fighting, retreat, and siege outside Knoxville, the siege of Petersburg, and the Petersburg mine explosion and assault.
In the 166 letters that Taylor wrote home to his wife, a detailed and unique perspective on the Civil War emerges. Taylor often talks of the clothing, shelter, and food he had available to himself during the war. He also speaks of hardship and the affects that marching, fighting, and fatigue had upon him. Taylor is also witness to injury and death, describing the wounded he encounters during his service. Interactions between Taylor and soldiers, civilians, prisoners, and others also present telling social and cultural characteristics of 1860s America. As you read and examine Taylor’s letters think upon how historians can use documents like these to reveal the political, economic, social, and cultural states of the time period that Taylor and other soldiers like him experienced. How do Taylor’s letters fit within the context of the Civil War and how do they expose larger themes in the nation’s history?