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Archive for the ‘American Civil War’ Category

Whoa! I sure can tell by my blog stats that I haven’t been blogging for a while! I’ll give a brief explanation for my absence in a bit. But, hey, first things first! Let’s start with revisiting a couple of my past entries like the one I called A Confederate Soldier.

William Buckner Taylor was described as a young man of “light complexion, light hair and gray eyes, his height was 5′ 5 1/2 inches.” When he enlisted at “Pinner’s Point, Norfolk County, … VA on February 19, 1862[,]” he was just 18 years old and listed his occupation as a laborer.

Mr. Taylor was first captured on “July 3rd, 1863 at Gettysburg and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland[.]” On February 18th, 1865, he was exchanged but then recaptured “on April 1, 1865 at Five Forks, and released on June 20, 1865 from Hart’s Island, New York.”

Where Mr. Taylor lived and worked, met his wife and raised his family between 1865 and 1900, I cannot say at this time. However, in the 1900 census, Mr. Taylor is listed as a stone mason and widower, “age 59, birth is listed as Feb 14, 1841[.]” This means that he should have been 21 years old instead of 18 years old at the time of his enlistment and that the date on his headstone is incorrect too. But, if you’ve ever tried researching your own family history, you would know that these discrepancies are quite common.

Living in his household in Topsfield, MA, according to the 1900 census, were his children,

“Mary B Taylor, age 15, birth April 28, 1885, born in MA
Lilian B Taylor, age 13, birth November 20, 1887, born in MA
William O. Taylor, age 6, birth March 27, 1894, born in MA”

And, by the 1910 census, William Buckner Taylor was listed “as a boarder in the home of Norman McLeod [in Topsfield], his age is listed as 69.”

Mr. Taylor passed away in 1911 and while he is buried in Topsfield, MA, “[t]here is a memorial marker to him located in Oak Grove Cemetery, Portsmouth, Va.”

Oh yes! About that grave marker … this “is a military headstone, provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. They will provide a headstone when one is not present for a veteran of the Civil War, both Confederate and Union, … [although] who requested it, I can’t tell you, … [i]t could be that a Son’s of Union Veteran’s could have requested it.”

—Cynthia Buck-Thompson [Personal email, June 8 and 9, 2008]

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Cynthia Buck-Thompson is a Civil War Living Historian as well as “the family genealogist.” Her husband reenacts with the 9th Virginia, Company B as well as Artillery for the Maryland Park Service.

I’d like to thank Cindy for all the work she did to answer my questions, every bit of the information listed here has been provided by Cindy.

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Another entry that I’d like to revisit is the one that I called Spring Greens, especially, the part in which I mentioned the rhododendrons at Bradley Palmer State Park. They weren’t in bloom back in April and, thus, I was unable to post any photographs on my blog. So, I wrote “I promise not to let you down. I will keep track of their progress and take many photos to post when the time is right.”

Well, I did keep track. The “buds” seemed to be many, the only “flaw” I expected was the fact that some heavy pruning had been done among the lower branches. Still, new growth was appearing and I fully expected that the shear number of blossoms would be enough to “detract” from the pruning.

Unfortunately, by mid-June, when the parks’ rhododendrons should have been in all their glory, … well, … much to my surprise, not to mention my disappointment, there were barely a handful of blossoms! Oh, there were plenty of buds that had opened up, but few of those buds had any blossoms to show. I just couldn’t believe my eyes!

Perhaps, even stranger still, was the fact that, back in April, I had taken a couple of cuttings from the rhododendrons. (Now, before you all come down on me for taking cuttings of plants in a state park, please remember that these rhododendrons are hardly “wild.” Bradley Palmer State Park was once the estate of its namesake, “a noted attorney of the early 1900s who represented Sinclair Oil in the Teapot Dome Scandal and President Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference after the First World War.” These rhododendrons were purposely placed to “line old carriage roads.” Besides, remember that the rhododendrons had already been heavily pruned! Apparently, though, their caretakers forgot to fertilize them. [Bradley Palmer State Park])

When I got the cuttings back home, I placed them in a vase then placed the vase in my bay window. But, for weeks, nothing happened. The cuttings didn’t die but the buds didn’t swell either. Then, about the beginning to the middle of June, suddenly the buds just shot up and opened up and I had rhododendron blossoms in my bay window!

Is that not weird or what? Did I have a premonition of sorts? I mean, really, the only other explanation that I can give you is that I did fertilize the cuttings, albeit with an indoor plant food, but still!

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Okay, now about that brief explanation for my absence from blogging these past few weeks.

You see, I am fast approaching a very special anniversary. On August 27, 2008, I will become a five-year breast cancer survivor and, while I am just thrilled to pieces to be reaching this milestone, as I reflect on how far I’ve come in these past five years, I’ve also become acutely aware that I have not taken as good care of myself as I had promised I would do once I was finished with therapy. Oh, don’t get me wrong now, I haven’t fallen to pieces altogether! But, once in a while, we all need to step back and take a good look at where we’ve been and where we want to take our lives next. Fact is, this was just the perfect time for me to do that!

So, what more can I say? I’ve had my break from blogging, I’ve made some new plans, including some new ideas for this blog, and, … well, … I’m back! I sincerely hope you’ll all forgive me for my absence and, I certainly hope to see you all return too.

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Quite some time ago, I recall reading, probably in Yankee magazine, that nearly every cemetery in New England, … then again, maybe that was in the Northeast, … has at least one Confederate soldier buried there. And, if memory serves me, I believe that most of these men had been prisoners of war but then at war’s end, they decided to settle in the area rather than return to their respective home states.

Now, every Memorial Day, when small representations our nations flag are placed alongside the headstones of those men and women who served in the military, an additional Confederate flag is placed alongside the headstone of Topsfield’s lone Confederate soldier!

The grave of William Buckner Taylor
Pine Grove Cemetery, Topsfield, Massachusetts

So, … why is that? In fact, why is his headstone specially marked with his Confederate service, that is, Company I, 9th Virginia Infantry?

Is this a “military” style headstone? Did he specifically request that his Confederate service be noted?

Well, I can tell you one thing, my curiosity has been aroused for several years now … it is just this year that I finally decided to do something about it. However, I’m not interested solely in William Buckner Taylor’s Confederate service. I’d like to know a little bit about the man! I mean, why did he choose to stay in this area? Did he leave family in Virginia or had they perished during the war? Did he have a family here and where are they buried? What kind of work did he do? What other kinds of interests did he have? And on and on …

Unfortunately, these questions cannot be answered quickly. Definitely not quickly enough for a blog entry. However, using the little bit of information from William Taylor’s headstone as well as a two hour “Google” search, here’s what I’ve got so far.

First, the obvious … William Buckner Taylor was born in 1844 which means that he would have been 17 years old when the Civil War began and 21 years of age when it ended. Taylor died in 1911 which means he would have been about 67 years of age.

I’m afraid that the biggest challenge thus far comes from the fact that the name of William Taylor (and even William Buckner Taylor) from Virginia, even those born in 1844, is VERY common! (But that fact can also make the search all the more fun!)

And now for some “background” information … there was a 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment and a 9th Virginia Infantry Battalion. If Taylor served in the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Company I was at one time known as the “Craney Island Light Artillery” and he may then have seen “action” in places like the Second Manassas, Harper’s Ferry, Fredericksburg, and even Cemetery Hill in the battle of Gettysburg.

Sadly, Virginia saw the most battles during the Civil War … 123 to be exact (Civil War Battle Summaries by State). One can only speculate then that there wouldn’t have been much left of that beautiful countryside to return to, not to mention an economy in shambles. Certainly, some very compelling reasons not to return to one’s native state. In addition, like any war in any part of the world, human casualties are not limited to those in uniform. Many civilians perish as well from injury, hunger and disease. Was this the fate of William Buckner Taylor’s family?

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I must admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of American Civil War history. However, I have always loved biographies and/or personal histories, especially of those “invisible” individuals (aka, “non” celebrities or “the rest of us”). And, being able to place a person in a specific time period has alway given that “moment” in history greater significance or “substance” if you will. Well, at least, it does for me.

So, while this may be a limited beginning, I am pleased with the results thus far. Trust me, however, this is just the start!

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Note: For an update to this entry, please visit Past Entries Revisited

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