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06291 - Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor

06291 - Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor

“Action, prompt, vigorous action, is required. While we are deliberating the enemy is marching. King James lost three kingdoms for a mass. We may lose three States without a battle.” - C.S. Gen. Richard Taylor, Red River Campaign

Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor was the only son of the national hero of the Mexican–American War, General and President Zachary “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor. His late sister, Sarah, was C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis’s first wife. Taylor, a wealthy Louisiana planter, may not have attended West Point but he did attend Harvard and Yale.

Taylor gained practical experience serving with both Gen. Richard Ewell and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, Va. On their first meeting, Jackson noted that Taylor didn’t seem to have any stragglers. "You must teach my people; they straggle badly”, requested Jackson. Later that evening Jackson questioned Taylor about his marching strategies. Both men were impressed with Taylor’s knowledge of military history, strategy and tactics. It was Jackson who recommended his promotion to Major General.

Aware that reading tales of battle was not the same as actual experience, Taylor “early adopted two customs, and adhered to them throughout the war. The first was to examine at every halt the adjacent roads and paths, their direction and condition; distances of nearest towns and cross-roads; the country, its capacity to furnish supplies, as well as general topography, etc., all of which was embodied in a rude sketch, with notes to impress it on memory. The second was to imagine while on the march an enemy before me to be attacked, or to be received in my position, and make the necessary dispositions for either contingency. My imaginary maneuvers were sad blunders, but I corrected them by experience drawn from actual battles, and can safely affirm that such slight success as I had in command was due to these customs.”

Taylor’s self-imposed homework included refraining from “the most villainous habit” of cussing while giving orders. While fighting to regain Winchester, Va., “and, forgetting Jackson's presence, [Taylor] ripped out, ‘What the h—are you dodging for? If there is any more of it, you will be halted under this fire for an hour.’ The sharp tones of a familiar voice produced the desired effect, and the men looked as if they had swallowed ramrods; but I shall never forget the reproachful surprise expressed in Jackson's face. He placed his hand on my shoulder, said in a gentle voice, ‘I am afraid you are a wicked fellow,’ turned, and rode back to the pike”.