Who was William Taylor?

Unfortunately we know very little about William Taylor, the recipient of these 36 letters written during the Civil War. Indeed, we know more about the soldiers who wrote to him by the contents of their letters. These pre-war acquaintances all joined separate New York units whose members were drawn, in part, from Staten Island. The three soldiers included Daniel Donahue of the 145th N.Y. Infantry (later merged with the 107th N.Y. Infantry), Phillip J. Miller of the 156th N.Y. Infantry, and William Henry Turner of the 6th N.Y. Independent Battery. Their letters to William Taylor are published here under the links at the top of this page. Donahue and Miller survived the war; Turner did not.

We know that William Taylor was born about 1835 on Staten Island, probably the son of Abraham and Mary Taylor of Westfield. We know that he married Emeline Egbert (1833-1906) on 28 November 1860, just after the election of President Lincoln. Emeline was the daughter of Cornelius and Catharine (Lake) Egbert of New Dorp, Staten Island. They were married at the Moravian Church. [Note: The Records of the United Brethren Congregation, Staten Island, state that the couple were married at the home of Cornelius Egbert in the presence of friends.]  We also know that the couple lived in Greenridge, Staten Island, and raised a family of four children. In the last years of her life Emeline resided in Mariners Harbor with her son Cornelius. She died at her home on March 28, 1906, and was buried in the Egbert family plot in New Dorp’s Moravian Cemetery.

The children of William and Emeline Taylor were Josephine (1862), Mary (1864), Cornelius (1866), and Lucy (1874).

I believe that William’s father was a farmer on Staten Island but William became a brick mason like his friend, Daniel Donahue. At some point prior to the war, William may have also worked in the wheelwright and/or carriage construction business in nearby Rahway, New Jersey where he formed the acquaintance with Phillip Miller. During the war, I believe that William became involved in the stage business which may have included the delivery of cargo and mail as well as transporting passengers.


1850 Census: Westfield, Richmond, New York. William Taylor (16); Abraham Taylor (65) and Mary (59). Farmer.

1860 Census: Westfield, Richmond, New York. William Taylor (25) Head of Household, Brick Mason. Housekeeper, Maria Paine (21).

Marshland is a Post Office in Westfield, Richmond County (southwest quadrant of Staten Island). Staten Island Sound contained a large firebrick manufactory. Marshland or Marshfield, Same as Fresh Kills or Green Ridge. Kleine Kill (old name for Marshland or Green Ridge) meaning the Little River.

August 1863 Draft:

William Taylor listed as a recruit from Richmond County, 1 February 1864.

This is NOT a record of who served. This was a month following the draft riots. Morris quotes an unnamed “writer of the time” as mentioning “the obnoxious clause in the conscription act, which promised exemption to all drafter men who should pay three hundred dollars.”

Morris further states that “This draft, so far as gaining men for the service was concerned, amounted to very little. A majority took advantage of the three hundred dollar clause. The five hundred and ninety-four men, called for in the quota, were accounted for as follows: Seventy-four were aliens; ten furnished substitutes; ninety-four were exempt for physical disability; one hundred and three were exempt for other causes; one hundred and sixty-two commuted, and one hundred and fifty failed to report.”

Included William Taylor, Westfield

The 1880 Census (Staten Island, Richmond, New York) gives his occupation as “Stage Prometer (?)”

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Spared & Shared 19

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Recollections of Army Life

by Charles A. Frey

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Letters from the 23rd Illinois Infantry, the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry, the 64th New York Infantry, and the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Cornelius Van Houten

1st New Jersey Light Artillery

Letters of Charley Howe

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Sgt. Major Fayette Lacey

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"These few lines"

the pocket memorandum of Alexander C. Taggart

The Civil War Letters of Will Dunn

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Henry McGrath Cannon

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Civil War Letters of Frederick Warren Holmes

Co. H, 77th Illinois Volunteers