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Letters Home to Sarah

The Civil War Letters of Guy C. Taylor, Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers

Guy C. Taylor; Edited by Kevin L. Alderson and Patsy Alderson; Introduction by Kathryn Shively Meier

Publication Year: 2012

Forgotten for more than a century in an old cardboard box, these are the letters of Guy Carlton Taylor, a farmer who served in the Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War. From March 23, 1864, to July 14, 1865, Taylor wrote 165 letters home to his wife Sarah and their son Charley.
    From the initial mustering and training of his regiment at Camp Randall in Wisconsin, through the siege of Petersburg in Virginia, General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and the postwar Grand Review of the Armies parade in Washington, D.C., Taylor conveys in vivid detail his own experiences and emotions and shows himself a keen observer of all that is passing around him. While at war, he contracts measles, pneumonia, and malaria, and he writes about the hospitals, treatments, and sanitary conditions that he and his comrades endured during the war. Amidst the descriptions of soldiering, Taylor’s letters to Sarah are threaded with the concerns of a young married couple separated by war but still coping together with childrearing and financial matters. The letters show, too, Taylor’s transformation from a lonely and somewhat disgruntled infantryman to a thoughtful commentator on the greater ideals of the war.
    This remarkable trove of letters, which had been left in the attic of Taylor’s former home in Cashton, Wisconsin, was discovered by local historian Kevin Alderson at a household auction. Recognizing them for the treasure they are, Alderson bought the letters and, aided by his wife Patsy, painstakingly transcribed the letters and researched Taylor’s story in Wisconsin and at historical sites of the Civil War. The Aldersons’ preface and notes are augmented by an introduction by Civil War historian Kathryn Shively Meier, and the book includes photographs, maps, and illustrations related to Guy Taylor’s life and letters.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. 8-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. 10-11

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pp. xi-xv

Going once . . . going twice . . . gone!! Sold to bidder number 80. The date was Saturday, April 29, 1995.
My wife Patsy and I were attending a household auction in Cashton, Wisconsin. Auctions had become one of our favorite pastimes, and we ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

Thank you to Kathryn Shively Meier for contributing her outstanding introduction. Also, thanks to our highly skilled copyeditor, Barbara Lund, Lake - shore Editing Services.
We would especially like to thank Park Rangers Tracy Chernault, Elizabeth Dinger, and Emmanuel Dabney from the Petersburg, Virginia, National ...

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Editors’ Note

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pp. xix-xix

In preparing Guy Taylor’s letters for publication, we considered correcting his spelling errors. In the end we decided to leave most of his spelling in its original form. Our advice to the reader is “when in doubt, sound it out.” We did, ...

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pp. xxi-xxx

Guy C. Taylor was a typical Civil War soldier in some respects. A farmer and a Christian, he was nearly twenty-four when he joined the ranks of the Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Infantry as a private. He wrote often to his wife,Sarah, in Bristol, Wisconsin, r,...

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pp. 3-6

Guy Carlton Taylor was born April 7, 1840, in the town of Ripton, Addi-son County, Vermont. His parents were George and Axchsa (Russel)Taylor. In 1855 the Taylor family, consisting of seven members, moved ...

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1. In Training: March 25 to May 16, 1864

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pp. 7-18

In March of 1864, Guy Taylor, along with his fellow recruits, reported to Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin. There they were formed into the Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Taylor was assigned to Company F. The unit was,...

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2. Hospitalization: May 17 to June 23, 1864

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pp. 19-51

On May 18, the Thirty-Sixth marched to Spotslyvania and joined the Army of the Potomac. They were assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division, Second Army Corps. Their corps commander, General Win-field Scott Hancock, was regarded as one of the...

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3. In the Ranks: June 26 to July 25, 1864

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pp. 52-73

From June 26 to July 25, 1864, Guy Taylor served in the regular army ranks in or near the front lines of Petersburg. His first impression upon reaching the front was how decimated his regiment and company had become during his hospitalization. As he...

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4. In Transition: July 28 to October 6, 1864

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pp. 74-126

The combination of measles, heatstroke, and “a breach in a vary purticaly plaice” caused Taylor to be partially incapacitated. On August 8,1864, he also developed intermittent fever (a symptom of malaria) and two days later was sent to the division hospital ...

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5. Detailed to the Doctor: October 10 to November 27, 1864

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pp. 127-158

In his letter to Sarah written October 10, 1864, Taylor stated, “I now know what my work is[,] I am agoine to take care of the docters horses.” The doctor of whom Taylor was speaking was Elijah A. Woodward of Sun Prairie,Wisconsin. On April 1, 1864, Dr. Woodward ...

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6. Winter Quarters: December 1, 1864, to March 23, 1865

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pp. 159-235

In his December 1, 1864, letter to Sarah, Guy Taylor informed her that they had “got orders to build winter quarters.” He then went on to share details about their shelter’s location and construction. In various letters, ...

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7. Lee’s Retreat: March 27 to May 14, 1865

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pp. 235-260

In this segment of letters, Taylor captured the emotions of the Union soldiers as they anticipated the last great offensive of the war. He also described their reactions as they dealt with the possibility of losing their ...

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8. Homeward Bound: May 16 to July 9, 1865

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pp. 261-287

After returning to camp near Washington, D.C., Guy Taylor focused ongoing home. He watched regiment after regiment receive their dis-charge papers as he waited for his turn to come. Before any regiment left,however, there was one last Grand Review ...

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pp. 289-292

In Taylor’s final service letter of July 9, 1865, he wrote, “Well Sis I rather think that this is the last time that I shell write to you, for we expect to be in Madison the last of this week.”
What a joyous reunion it must have been for the young family. Throughout ...

Appendix A: Roster of the Officers of the Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Regiment

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pp. 293-296

Appendix B: Roster of Company F of the Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Regiment

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pp. 297-301

Appendix C: Guy Taylor’s December 1, 1864, Letter

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pp. 303-312

Appendix D: Guy Taylor’s December 1, 1864, Letter Rewritten in Sarah’s Hand

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pp. 313-318


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pp. 319-320


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pp. 321-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780299291235
E-ISBN-10: 0299291235
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299291204
Print-ISBN-10: 0299291200

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 42 b/w photos, 4 maps
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 828618005
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Letters Home to Sarah

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Subject Headings

  • Taylor, Guy C., b. 1840 -- Correspondence.
  • Soldiers -- Wisconsin -- Correspondence.
  • United States. Army. Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, 36th (1864-1865).
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
  • Wisconsin -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories
  • Wisconsin -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories.
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