William B. Taliaferro

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William Booth Taliaferro
William B. Taliaferro.jpg
General William B. Taliaferro
Born (1822-12-28)December 28, 1822
Gloucester County, Virginia
Died February 27, 1898(1898-02-27) (aged 75)
Gloucester County, Virginia
Buried Ware Church Cemetery, Gloucester County
Allegiance  United States of America
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1846-48 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
Rank Union army maj rank insignia.jpg Major (USA)
Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General (Virginia Militia)
Confederate States of America General.png Brigadier General (CSA)
Unit 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment
11th U.S. Infantry Regiment
Commands held District of South Carolina
District of Eastern Florida
District of Savannah
Jackson's Division—II Corps
Taliaferro's Brigade—Jackson's Division
23rd Virginia Infantry
Battles/wars Mexican-American War
American Civil War
Relations James A. Seddon (uncle)
Other work Judge, State Politician

William Booth Taliaferro (December 28, 1822 – February 27, 1898), was a United States Army officer, a lawyer, legislator and Confederate general in the American Civil War.

Early life[edit]

William Booth Taliaferro (pronunciation Anglicized to "tah'-liver") was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, to a prominent family of English-Italian origin who settled in Virginia in the 17th century. He was the nephew of James A. Seddon, who would become Secretary of War for the Confederate States of America under Jefferson Davis. Taliaferro attended Harvard University and The College of William and Mary, graduating from the latter in 1841.

Taliaferro joined the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War, fighting in both the 11th and 9th U.S. Infantry regiments. After the war, Taliaferro entered public life, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and as a prominent backer of James Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1856. He also continued his military service as commander of a division of the Virginia state militia; he commanded at Harpers Ferry following the raid of that town's arsenal by John Brown.

Civil War[edit]

Taliaferro became commander of Virginia's state militia following Virginia's secession action on April 17, 1861; indeed, in what might be Virginia's 1st act of aggression of the war, on April 18, 1861, Virginia State Militia Major General Taliaferro is sent to take command at Norfolk, Virginia. Later he later took command of the 23rd Virginia Infantry as a colonel. He fought several engagements in 1861 and by the end of the year had ascended to brigade command, where he led Confederate forces at the Battle of Greenbrier River, in what is now West Virginia.

Taliaferro's Brigade came under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's command at the end of 1861. He remained with Jackson for some months, rising to division command in 1862. Taliaferro was seriously injured at the Battle of Second Bull Run (Second Manassas), but returned to the field in the time for the Battle of Fredericksburg, his last battle under Jackson.

Taliaferro was a strict and aloof commander who alienated many of his troops. There is at least one known circumstance when one of his troops actually assaulted him, though Taliaferro was unscathed. Taliaferro chafed under the command of General Jackson, complaining to his political colleagues in Virginia about Jackson's tactics and treatment of the men. Jackson later protested Taliaferro's promotion to brigadier general, while Taliaferro was still under Jackson's command; however, Jackson respected Taliaferro's leadership and military ability and did not continue to stand in his way. Jackson later would select Taliaferro for temporary divisional command in specific engagements.

After Fredericksburg, Taliaferro was given command of the District of Savannah. In this capacity he led troops at the Battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, a battle which is depicted in the movie Glory. Taliaferro was commended for his service in that battle.

In 1864, Taliaferro was given command of all forces in the Eastern district of Florida, which made him the overall commander at the Battle of Olustee that February. He subsequently returned to South Carolina, where he was made commander of all forces in that state. Taliaferro was still in command when Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman entered the state from Savannah. Taliaferro returned to Virginia when the Army of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida surrendered later that year.

Postbellum career[edit]

After the war, Taliaferro lived in Gloucester County. He served again in the state legislature and as a judge and sat on the board of the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Military Institute. He died at his home, "Dunham Massie", aged 75, and is buried in Ware Church Cemetery, Gloucester County, Virginia. His collected papers are located at the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary.[1] Taliaferro is also the namesake of a residence hall at William and Mary.[2]

Family tree[edit]

Bartholomew Taliaferro (1530 Venice, Italy - September 1601, London, England) married Joane Lane, January 1, 1583, at St. Michael's, Cornhill, London, England. The couple are the common ancestors of cousins Brig. Gen. William Booth Taliaferro and Maj. Gen Dabney Herndon Maury (May 21, 1822 – January 11, 1900).

Both generals are descendants of Francis Taliaferro, b. c.1589, London, England.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "William Booth Taliaferro Papers". Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  2. ^ by. "William & Mary - Taliaferro Hall". Wm.edu. Retrieved 2016-07-02. 


External links[edit]