The University of Wisconsin Press
Letters Home to Sarah
The Civil War Letters of Guy C. Taylor,
Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers
Guy C. Taylor
Edited by Kevin Alderson and Patsy Alderson
Introduction by Kathryn Shively Meier
A moving collection of newly discovered letters that captures the range of emotions and experiences of the American Civil War
Forgotten for more than a century in an old cardboard box, these are the letters of Guy Carlton Taylor, a farmer who served in the thirty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War. From March 23, 1864 to July 14, 1865, Taylor wrote 165 letters home to his wife Sarah and their son Charley.
From the initial mustering and training of his regiment at Camp Randall in Wisconsin, through the siege of Petersburg in Virginia, General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and the postwar Grand Review of the Armies parade in Washington, D.C., Taylor conveys in vivid detail his own experiences and emotions and shows himself a keen observer of all that is passing around him. While at war, he contracts measles, pneumonia, and malaria, and he writes about the hospitals, treatments, and sanitary conditions that he and his comrades endured during the war. Amidst the descriptions of soldiering, Taylor’s letters to Sarah are threaded with the concerns of a young married couple separated by war but still coping together with childrearing and financial matters. The letters show, too, Taylor’s transformation from a lonely and somewhat disgruntled infantryman to a thoughtful commentator on the greater ideals of the war.
This remarkable trove of letters, which had been left in the attic of Taylor’s former home in Cashton, Wisconsin, was discovered by local historian Kevin Alderson at a household auction. Recognizing them for the treasure they are, Alderson bought the letters and, aided by his wife Patsy, painstakingly transcribed the letters and researched Taylor’s story in Wisconsin and at historical sites of the Civil War. The Aldersons’ introduction and notes are augmented by a foreword by Civil War historian Kathryn Shively Meier, and the book includes photographs, maps, and illustrations related to Guy Taylor’s life and letters.
Kevin and Patsy Alderson live in rural LaFarge, Wisconsin, within fifteen miles of the Taylors’ former farmstead. Kevin taught American history for thirty-three years and Patsy is an artist. They are co-authors of the book Barns Without Corners: Round Barns of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Together they operate Kickapoo Valley Heritage–Art and Tours and the 1890 Ottervale General Store.
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LC: 2012015329 E
358 pp. 6 x 9
34 b/w photos, 4 maps
Cloth $26.95 t
"MAY 7, 1864, CAMP RANDALL, MADISON, WISCONSIN—My dear wife, I thought you would like to know how I are a getting along. I am a getting along first rate. . . . Our cook is sick and I have taken his place and Henry Vroman is helpen and we have a good time of it. The boys get eggs and want ous to cook them and we take anough to pay ous for our truble of cooking them, we have got our guns, and the report is now that we are to leave next tuesday for somewheir but we do not know wheir but the cars are at the depot awaiteng for ous. Some think that we are agoing to be sent to Minasota but I do not know and dont care much onely to get out of Camp Randel. We may not see one another again for a long time, but after the time has pased to look back it will look short. You must not get downharted but hope for the best."
—excerpt from Letters Home to Sarah
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Updated January 13, 2013© 2013 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System