William B. Taliaferro

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William B. Taliaferro
William B. Taliaferro, circa 1865.jpg
General William B. Taliaferro
Birth nameWilliam Booth Taliaferro
Born(1822-12-28)December 28, 1822
Gloucester County, Virginia
DiedFebruary 27, 1898(1898-02-27) (aged 75)
Gloucester County, Virginia
Ware Church Cemetery, Gloucester County
Allegiance United States of America
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch United States Army
 Confederate States Army
 United States Army
Years of service1846-48 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
RankUnion army maj rank insignia.jpg Major (USA)
Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General (Virginia Militia)
Confederate States of America General-collar.svg Brigadier General (CSA)
Unit9th U.S. Infantry Regiment
11th U.S. Infantry Regiment
Commands heldDistrict 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/warsMexican–American War
American Civil War
RelationsJames A. Seddon (uncle)
Other workJudge, State Politician, Egualitarian, Southern Abolitionist, States' Rights Advocate
William Booth Taliaferro

William Booth Taliaferro (/ˈtɒlɪvər/ TOL-iv-ər; December 28, 1822 – February 27, 1898), was a United States Army officer, a lawyer, legislator, Confederate general in the American Civil War, and Grand Master of Masons in Virginia.

Early and family life and education[edit]

William Booth Taliaferro was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, to an Anglo-Italian family, the Taliaferros, who had settled in Virginia in the early 17th century from London.[1] He was the son of Frances Amanda Todd (Booth) and Warner Throckmorton Taliaferro,[2][3] and 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.

Soldier, planter and politician[edit]

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 operated plantations using enslaved labor.[4][5] He also entered public life, winning election as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He also became a prominent backer of James Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1856. Taliaferro 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. He, with the sheriff, was in charge of Brown's execution.[6]

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 was sent to take command at Norfolk, Virginia. Later he 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.

He served with Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson through the Valley Campaign and the Seven Days Battles. After Brig. Gen. Charles Winder was killed at Cedar Mountain, Taliaferro took over command of the Stonewall Division. He led it for the next three weeks, but at Brawner's Farm on August 28, 1862, he was badly wounded. Taliaferro spent the next few months recuperating and resumed division command just before the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, where he did not see any significant action.

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.

In early 1865, Taliaferro's men came across an abandoned plantation in western Virginia while retreating from Antebellum, Maryland. The African workers had been shackled and abandoned. Taliaferro ordered his men to release the enslaved and escort them to the Ohio border.[citation needed]

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 was elected Grand Master of Masons in Virginia in 1874. 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.[7] Taliaferro was also the namesake of a residence hall at William and Mary.[8] William and Mary has renamed it after Hulon L. Willis Sr. M.Ed. ’56, a World War II veteran and the first African American student enrolled at the institution.[9]

Family tree[edit]

Alexander Galt Taliaferro

Bartholomew Taliaferro (1530 Venice, Italy – September 1601, London, England; bur. 22 September 1601[10]) married Joane Lane (1562 – 1612)[11] on 1 January 1583 at St. Michael's Cornhill in London, England.[12] Their son Francis Taliaferro (born c.1589, London, England) was the father of Robert "the Immigrant" Talliaferro (1626-1671),[13] a common ancestor of cousins Brig. Gen. William Booth Taliaferro (1822-1898) and Maj. Gen. Dabney Herndon Maury (1822-1900).

Alexander Galt Taliaferro of Culpeper, Virginia, a brother of Gen. William B. Taliaferro, was the colonel of the 13th and then 23rd Virginia Infantry.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Find-a-Grave: Robert "the Immigrant" Taliaferro. Accessed 4 February 2022.
  2. ^ Gloucester County, by Sara E. Lewis
  3. ^ Find-a-Grave: Warner Throckmorton Taliaferro. Accessed 4 February 2022.
  4. ^ He owned 41 enslaved people in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Slave Schedule for Gloucester County Virginia, p. 12 of 66
  5. ^ He owned 45 enslaved people in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Slave Schedule for Gloucester County Virginia, pp. 39-40 of 66
  6. ^ "Dispatches frommCharlestown say". Richmond Dispatch. Richmond, Virginia. 2 Dec 1859. p. 1 – via newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "William Booth Taliaferro Papers". Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  8. ^ "William & Mary - Taliaferro Hall". Wm.edu. Retrieved 2016-07-02.
  9. ^ "W&M campus structures named for trailblazing alumni". College of William & Mary. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  10. ^ Bartlemew Tallisone in the London, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812. Ancestry.com paid subscription site. Accessed 4 February 2022.
  11. ^ Find-a-Grave: Joane Taliaferro. Accessed 4 February 2022.
  12. ^ Barthilmewe Tahaferra in the England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973. Ancestry.com paid subscription site. Accessed 4 February 2022.
  13. ^ Find-a-Grave: Robert "the Immigrant" Taliaferro. Accessed 4 February 2022.


External links[edit]