Richard Taylor

1826 - 1879

The son of a famous father always has a reputation to live up to, and Richard Taylor, only son of Zachary Taylor, measured up well to the nobility of a distinguished father.  Richard Taylor was born near Louisville, Kentucky on the family farm on January 27, 1826.  His boyhood was spent in frontier camps with his father.  He was tutored at Edinburgh and in France.  He attended Harvard, and in 1845 graduated from Yale.

At age twenty, Richard served as his father's secretary while on duty at Matamoras, Mexico, but an attack of rheumatism forced him to seek relief at Hot Springs, Arkansas, and in Virginia.  After managing his father's cotton plantation near Natchez, he established a sugar plantation in St. Charles Parish.  While developing the property, he collected a magnificent library; on omnivorous reader, he concentrated on military history.

Taylor was a delegate to the controversial Democratic conventions of 1860 and strove to prevent the party's disruption.  As a member of the Louisiana Senate, he reported the bill to call a state convention, was elected a delegate, and voted for secession.  As chairman of the committee on military and naval affairs he urged immediate preparation for war, and with the beginning of the war it was only natural that he join the Confederate forces.  His father had been a soldier; his three sisters all married army men, one being the wife of Jefferson Davis.

Elected colonel of the Ninth Louisiana Infantry at the warís outset, he and his regiment reached Virginia too late for the First Battle of Manassas. Rumor had it that in the fall of 1861 he was offered the post of quartermaster general of the Confederate army. If so, he declined it, but from time to time throughout the war he continued to be the beneficiary of Davisís favoritism. In October he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of a Louisiana brigade that became part of Richard S. Ewellís division. Taylor served with distinction in the Shenandoah Valley campaign during the spring of 1862 but was kept out of the Seven Days Battle by rheumatoid arthritis Recovering within a few weeks, he was promoted to major general and was assigned to command of the District of Western' Louisiana in August 1862. 

Although dreaming of retaking New Orleans, he generally found himself falling back before Federal forays such as Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banksís April 1863 Bayou Teche expedition. At the urging of Trans Mississippi commander E. Kirby Smith, who was himself under pressure from Richmond, Taylor moved against Ulysses S. Grantís supply lines on the west bank of the Mississippi opposite Vicksburg. The attempt was a failure and Grantís campaign culminated in the capture of that key Confederate stronghold. Taylor was forced to fall back before Bank's Red River expedition in the spring of 1864 but defeated Banks at the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, south of Shreveport, or April 8, 1864. Outnumbered twelve thousand to nine thousand in troops engaged, Taylor inflicted double his own casualties and captured twenty cannons and two hundred supply wagons. 

Although defeated the next day at Pleasant Hill and ordered by Smith to fall back temporarily or Shreveport, he had succeeded in forcing the withdrawal o: Bank's ill-fated expedition. Rewarded with a promotion to lieutenant general, Taylor was nevertheless bitter toward Smith, blaming him for Bank's escape. He thus welcomed orders to take his troop! across the Mississippi for service in the East. Finding the river too heavily patrolled by the U.S. Navy, he had to remain in the Trans-Mississippi until August 22, 1864 when he was ordered to go east personally to take command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Louisiana. On January 23, 1865, Taylor was named as successor to John Bell Hood as commander of the remnants of the Army of Tennessee. As such, Taylorís prime role was shipping his units off to the Carolinas to oppose William Tecumseh Sherman. On May 4, 1865, he surrendered to Gen Canby at Citronelle, Al.

Taylor's estate had been confiscated during the war, two of his five children died of scarlet fever during the war as well.  After the war, Taylor divided his time between New Orleans and New York.  He visited Washington frequently in an effort to secure the release of imprisoned Confederates.  In 1873, he sailed for Europe where he was cordially received.  In later years he served as trustee of the Peabody Educational Fund for the promotion of education in the South.  He died of dropsy in the home of a friend in New York on April 12, 1879.  Shortly before his death, he published his reminiscences of the war, Destruction and Reconstruction, considered one of the best memoirs of the war. He is buried in Metaire Cemetery in Louisiana.