Unique Diary of Private Isaac L. Taylor of the 1st Minnesota

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Tom Elmore

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Private Isaac Lyman Taylor of Company E, 1st Minnesota, left behind an exceptional diary of the march to Gettysburg, with the following extracts containing some singular observations. The diary resides at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia at the Ellis Library, University of Missouri.

June 14 … I get Richardson of Co. K 1st Minn. to transport my Botany and Geology [book?] in a baggage wagon so as to lighten my knapsack …

June 15 … It has been very warm and many cases of “sun-stroke” occur. I don’t recollect of ever seeing as many “sun-struck” and “fagged out” on a march. ...

June 16 … Ambulances crowded with the fruits of yesterday’s march. Arrive at Dumfries at 7 a.m. where we take breakfast and remain about three hours. The following is part of an inscription upon an old broken tomb-stone at this place erected to the memory of – Blackburn, who was born in 1731 and died in 1752. “This sad catastrophe. His death was attended by many others who were whirled out of a pleasure boat into Potowmack [Potomac] River near the mouth of Quantico Creek and perished in the merciless waves.” Upon the tomb-stone of Wm. Dunlap, son of Alexander Dunlap is the following: “Dyed [sic] Dec. the 21st 1737.” Dumfries can boast of eight or ten old houses and a couple of small earth works. … The loss of our Regt. yesterday from the effects of the heat is reported at 180 men.

June 18 … I send my Botany and Geology to G.? C. Cogswell, Washington, D.C.

June 19 We witness the dress parade of the 111th N.Y. They are rigged up in fancy style with dress coats and white gloves. Four ladies visit our camps to see the “sojers” cook supper.

June 20 … Centreville is a little cluster of dilapidated houses on the crest of a long ridge, either side of which is protected by small forts connected by rifle pits. Bull Run at our point of crossing is about 30 ft. wide. … This a.m. a crowd of the 2d corps boys “rally” on the sutler of the 9th Mass. Battery at Centreville. Two or three cos. of infantry and a section of artillery is ordered out to “quash” the affair. The boys charge on one piece and drag it down the hill and then disperse.

June 21 … Haymarket was once a small town but it now almost a “pile without inhabitants.” It was burned by our forces in Nov. last. … We hear that the Rebel cavalry captured one co. (34 men) of 8th Pa. cavalry near Haymarket since we passed through that place. …

June 22 … This p.m. I reconnoiter about [Thoroughfare] Gap and find two old grist mills, a few dwelling houses. Broad Run, highly inclined strata, tortuous [lumina?], joints, cleavage planes, igneous rocks, bold “crags and peaks” and much magnificent scenery.

June 23 … While at [Gainesville] a portion of Stahl’s cavalry div. arrive from the direction of New Baltimore. 1st Brig. (Copeland’s) 5th 6th and 7th Mich. 2nd Brig. 1st Mich., 2d and 18th Pa. In the 18th Pa. I observe several colored troops fully armed and equipped.

June 25 … At 12 [noon] we approach Haymarket. Some cavalry appear on a bluff south of us and while the boys are earnestly arguing the question, “Are they our boys?,” a white puff of smoke and the unearthly search of a shell closes the debate and a unanimous decision is rendered in the [negative]. Shells fly about pretty briskly for a short time … Col. Colvill’s horse shot from under him. Several of our division wounded and one of the 19th Me. killed by our own artillery and buried by the roadside. …

June 26 … At 7:45 a.m. we halt at Mount Hope Church and rest about thirty minutes. Here I talk with Isaac Wortman a man of eighty years of age who was born and raised in Loudoun Co. Va. and is an old soldier of 1812. He was drafted and served eight months in the vicinity of Norfolk. … There are two pontoon bridges across the [Potomac] river [at Edward’s Ferry], one above, and the other below Goose Creek. Upper bridge is 1360 ft. long and has 64 pontoons. Lower bridge 68 pontoons. At 10 p.m. we cross the lower bridge …

June 28 … The intelligence that “Fighting Joe” has been superseded by Gen. Meade falls on us “like a wet blanket.” …

June 29 … Col. Colvill is placed under arrest for allowing his troops to cross a creek on a log instead of fording. …

July 2 Aroused at 3 a.m. and ordered to pack up and at 4 a.m. move towards the battlefield where we arrive at 5:40 a.m. … Skirmishing commences about eight a.m. … At 3:15 p.m. our artillery opens on the left. At 3:40 p.m. our infantry advance across plain. Rebel battery opens at 4 p.m.

July 4 The owner of this diary was killed by a shell about sunset July 2nd 1863. His face was toward the enemy. He was buried 350 paces w. of the road which passed [north] and south by the houses of Jacob Hummelbaugh and John Fisher (colored) and about equal distance from each and a mile south of Gettysburg Pa. The following is inscribed on a board at his head, “I. L. Taylor 1st Minn. vols.” He was buried at 10 a.m. of July 3d 1863 by his bro. Sergt. P. H. Taylor Co. C, 1st Minn. Vols.”
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Isaac Lyman Taylor was struck on the top of the head by shell fragments which took off the back of his head and traveled down his body nearly cutting him in half. His brother, Patrick Henry Taylor, who assisted Col. Colvill from the field, stated that his brother “did not know what hit him.” Patrick retrieved his pocket watch, wrapped him in a tent half, and buried him with two of his friends. As he laid his brother in the grave, a tearful Patrick remarked, “Well, Isaac, all I can give you is a soldier’s grave.” Born in Massachusetts on January 23, 1837, Isaac was one of six Taylor brothers who fought for the Union. After Patrick left his teaching job in Minnesota to enlist, Isaac moved to Minnesota from Illinois to take over his job, if only briefly. Isaac enlisted August 21, 1861 at Fort Snelling, near Minneapolis. [Union Casualties at Gettysburg by Travis W. Busey and John W. Busey, 1:316]
 

Belfoured

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Private Isaac Lyman Taylor of Company E, 1st Minnesota, left behind an exceptional diary of the march to Gettysburg, with the following extracts containing some singular observations. The diary resides at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia at the Ellis Library, University of Missouri.

June 14 … I get Richardson of Co. K 1st Minn. to transport my Botany and Geology [book?] in a baggage wagon so as to lighten my knapsack …

June 15 … It has been very warm and many cases of “sun-stroke” occur. I don’t recollect of ever seeing as many “sun-struck” and “fagged out” on a march. ...

June 16 … Ambulances crowded with the fruits of yesterday’s march. Arrive at Dumfries at 7 a.m. where we take breakfast and remain about three hours. The following is part of an inscription upon an old broken tomb-stone at this place erected to the memory of – Blackburn, who was born in 1731 and died in 1752. “This sad catastrophe. His death was attended by many others who were whirled out of a pleasure boat into Potowmack [Potomac] River near the mouth of Quantico Creek and perished in the merciless waves.” Upon the tomb-stone of Wm. Dunlap, son of Alexander Dunlap is the following: “Dyed [sic] Dec. the 21st 1737.” Dumfries can boast of eight or ten old houses and a couple of small earth works. … The loss of our Regt. yesterday from the effects of the heat is reported at 180 men.

June 18 … I send my Botany and Geology to G.? C. Cogswell, Washington, D.C.

June 19 We witness the dress parade of the 111th N.Y. They are rigged up in fancy style with dress coats and white gloves. Four ladies visit our camps to see the “sojers” cook supper.

June 20 … Centreville is a little cluster of dilapidated houses on the crest of a long ridge, either side of which is protected by small forts connected by rifle pits. Bull Run at our point of crossing is about 30 ft. wide. … This a.m. a crowd of the 2d corps boys “rally” on the sutler of the 9th Mass. Battery at Centreville. Two or three cos. of infantry and a section of artillery is ordered out to “quash” the affair. The boys charge on one piece and drag it down the hill and then disperse.

June 21 … Haymarket was once a small town but it now almost a “pile without inhabitants.” It was burned by our forces in Nov. last. … We hear that the Rebel cavalry captured one co. (34 men) of 8th Pa. cavalry near Haymarket since we passed through that place. …

June 22 … This p.m. I reconnoiter about [Thoroughfare] Gap and find two old grist mills, a few dwelling houses. Broad Run, highly inclined strata, tortuous [lumina?], joints, cleavage planes, igneous rocks, bold “crags and peaks” and much magnificent scenery.

June 23 … While at [Gainesville] a portion of Stahl’s cavalry div. arrive from the direction of New Baltimore. 1st Brig. (Copeland’s) 5th 6th and 7th Mich. 2nd Brig. 1st Mich., 2d and 18th Pa. In the 18th Pa. I observe several colored troops fully armed and equipped.

June 25 … At 12 [noon] we approach Haymarket. Some cavalry appear on a bluff south of us and while the boys are earnestly arguing the question, “Are they our boys?,” a white puff of smoke and the unearthly search of a shell closes the debate and a unanimous decision is rendered in the [negative]. Shells fly about pretty briskly for a short time … Col. Colvill’s horse shot from under him. Several of our division wounded and one of the 19th Me. killed by our own artillery and buried by the roadside. …

June 26 … At 7:45 a.m. we halt at Mount Hope Church and rest about thirty minutes. Here I talk with Isaac Wortman a man of eighty years of age who was born and raised in Loudoun Co. Va. and is an old soldier of 1812. He was drafted and served eight months in the vicinity of Norfolk. … There are two pontoon bridges across the [Potomac] river [at Edward’s Ferry], one above, and the other below Goose Creek. Upper bridge is 1360 ft. long and has 64 pontoons. Lower bridge 68 pontoons. At 10 p.m. we cross the lower bridge …

June 28 … The intelligence that “Fighting Joe” has been superseded by Gen. Meade falls on us “like a wet blanket.” …

June 29 … Col. Colvill is placed under arrest for allowing his troops to cross a creek on a log instead of fording. …

July 2 Aroused at 3 a.m. and ordered to pack up and at 4 a.m. move towards the battlefield where we arrive at 5:40 a.m. … Skirmishing commences about eight a.m. … At 3:15 p.m. our artillery opens on the left. At 3:40 p.m. our infantry advance across plain. Rebel battery opens at 4 p.m.

July 4 The owner of this diary was killed by a shell about sunset July 2nd 1863. His face was toward the enemy. He was buried 350 paces w. of the road which passed [north] and south by the houses of Jacob Hummelbaugh and John Fisher (colored) and about equal distance from each and a mile south of Gettysburg Pa. The following is inscribed on a board at his head, “I. L. Taylor 1st Minn. vols.” He was buried at 10 a.m. of July 3d 1863 by his bro. Sergt. P. H. Taylor Co. C, 1st Minn. Vols.”
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Isaac Lyman Taylor was struck on the top of the head by shell fragments which took off the back of his head and traveled down his body nearly cutting him in half. His brother, Patrick Henry Taylor, who assisted Col. Colvill from the field, stated that his brother “did not know what hit him.” Patrick retrieved his pocket watch, wrapped him in a tent half, and buried him with two of his friends. As he laid his brother in the grave, a tearful Patrick remarked, “Well, Isaac, all I can give you is a soldier’s grave.” Born in Massachusetts on January 23, 1837, Isaac was one of six Taylor brothers who fought for the Union. After Patrick left his teaching job in Minnesota to enlist, Isaac moved to Minnesota from Illinois to take over his job, if only briefly. Isaac enlisted August 21, 1861 at Fort Snelling, near Minneapolis. [Union Casualties at Gettysburg by Travis W. Busey and John W. Busey, 1:316]
This is terrific. The geology references to strata, joints, planes, and igneous rocks are unusual in Civil War sources. They also indicate an advanced knowledge of the subject for that era. Is there any more information regarding what he did before the War, including the "teaching job" which he took over?
 
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