1864: Jesse S. Taylor to John C. Breckinridge

This unusual letter was written by Jesse S. Taylor (1820-1888), a lawyer from Brandenburg, Meade county, Kentucky. Jesse was the oldest son of John Hayden Taylor (1798-1846) and Hannah Shacklett of Meade county, Kentucky. He was married to Sophia Harlan (b. 1831) and had four young daughters at the time the Civil War erupted in 1861. By 1880, Taylor was living in Morganfield, Union county, Kentucky, where he died in 1888.

Other Taylor siblings included Jacob Taylor (b. 1825) who served as a surgeon for the Confederacy; Ben Taylor (b. 1829)—a private in Co. F, 1st KY Cav.; Daniel B. Taylor (b. 1839)—Capt. of Co. F, 1st KY Cav.; and Mahlon Taylor (b. 1842)—a sergeant in Co. F, 1st KY Cav.

Taylor wrote the letter to Major Gen. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky seeking “some little appointment” in the CSA government as a reward for his steadfast support to the Confederate cause that had resulted in the sacrifice of his home, business and family.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]


Fairburn, Campbell county, Georgia
June 30, 1864

General Breckinridge
Dear Sir,

I hope the circumstances under which I write will be sufficient apology for my troubling you at this particular time. I only regret that I had not made a similar application two years ago to the one I will make in this. But relying on my own efforts, I thought I would be able to raise men sufficient to have enabled me to have acquired some little in the field, but was disappointed in this from the fact that the section of of Kentucky that I lived in (I lived in Meade county) was from the first under Yankee rule. Notwithstanding, I have made several efforts to effect my purpose. I aided in the summer of 1862 in raising a good company [Co. F] of men which one of my brothers [Capt. Daniel B. Taylor] has command of and which has been ever since doing good service in the 1st Kentucky Cavalry. I then procured authority to raise a regiment of cavalry [and] would have succeeded could General Bragg have remained in the state some little longer. While there my section of the state was entirely cut off from the army. His presence in the state relieved no portion of southwestern Kentucky. I came out with our army but hearing of the Union Home Guards firing on my wife and children and driving them from their home, I returned into southern Kentucky in the winter of 1862-3 so soon as spring opened went again into my section of the state to again try to organize men, but by this time there was such a reign of terror I saw no chance to effect my object.


Gen. Jeremiah Tilford Boyle

Their Home Guard, headed by Judge Stuart, hearing of my return sent immediately to Louisville, got themselves reinforced, and gave me many chances to show my generalship. They drove the woods, searched houses &c. for weeks. I lay in the woods some four months, not eating or sleeping in a house, succeeding one dozen times [avoiding capture]. At one time they surrounded me [and] fired on me, but I charged the weakest point in their line and made my escape. General [Jeremiah Tilford] Boyle had given it out in speeches that he regarded me the most dangerous man left in the state and he had ordered me shot on sight. I thought I would take advantage of his alarm and prepare a treaty so I wrote to him if he would, under his own hand, write me that he would give me a pass through his lines, I would report to him. He immediately complied with my request. I went to Louisville, got my papers, and left for the South in the 1st day of August last.

The truth is I have been doing all in my power from the beginning for our cause. I have sacrificed a good comfortable home and business and I might say my family—one that I love as much as ever man loved a wife and children. In all, I have aided in sending out three companies but at different times. I have four brothers in the service. Myself and family have all served the cause as best we could without regard to interest and now would it be too much for me to ask the favor of you to aid me in procuring some little appointment which I leave for you to select. You might procure me an appointment in the subsistence department under the late act. My health has not been good for twelve months but can do anything within my qualifications that I can have some little control of my location.

I do not know that you have much knowledge of me. I do not think it amiss for me to state that I am the only man in my county that ever made a speech for the South. Indeed, I might say I had the battle to fight in 1856 for several counties around me when many that are good and prominent southern men at this time were against us and we made about as heavy gains in my section as in any portion of Kentucky. I—believing the crisis was near at hand—done all in my power since 1856 to build up and sustain southern sentiment. I now wish my friends to place me in some position so that if fortune should enable us again to enter Kentucky, that I may still be able to have and use some influence there.

For reference, I will refer you to General [Joseph Horace] Lewis, Col. [Martin Hardin] Cofer, Major [Richard] Hawes, Honorable George W. Triplett. I will state that Boyle proposed in his letter to me to take my family and go to any state I might select but that I should not remain in Kentucky. He treated me very kindly. I hold his letter at this time. Counting those who have fallen in battle, I have some forty or fifty blood relations in the Army of the South. The mails are so irregular, I hardly know where to request you to direct your reply to this. I will say, however, direct to me care of Captain Daniel B. Taylor’s Company F, 1st Kentucky Cavalry, Wheeler’s Corps.

Hoping to hear from you as soon as convenient, I am—General—with regard, your friend—Jesse S. Taylor



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