The Blood of Young James Taylor
South Carolinian James Hunt Taylor’s great-grandfather fought heroically for independence in the Revolution; his grandfather served as the first mayor of Columbia, governor, and United States congressman. Taylor’s father was a noted physician in Columbia, and the importance of duty to his State and country was instilled in him at an early age. This he carried with him as he joined in the defense of his home and country.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Blood of Young James Taylor
“Among the bravest Confederate soldiers were the colorbearers. As they stepped forward into battle, those young men and boys were bound by duty and honor to keep the Confederate and regimental flags flying at all costs. Virtually defenseless as they marched into the face of death, they proved to be inviting, and often easy, targets for enemy marksmen.
No position in the Confederate army was more revered and honored than the color sergeant. Consequently, despite the extreme dangers, soldiers willingly dropped their weapons to carry forward a flag after it had fallen in battle.
[Soon after the war began, a fifteen-year-old Taylor was with] the First South Carolina Volunteers [who] departed the Palmetto State under the command of Colonel (later General) Maxey Gregg. On their journey to Virginia, the soldiers carried with them a freshly made South Carolina flag. Today, that banner, preserved by the State of South Carolina, bears the damage of shot and shell and the blood of young James Taylor.
Following several months of fighting on the Virginia battlefields, Colonel Gregg entrusted the proud banner to Taylor’s hands . . . “as a reward for meritorious conduct as a soldier.” Taylor proudly and confidently carried the blue and white banner into battle after battle. His captain, Dan Miller, described the teenager as “bold, free and dashing.”
At Cold Harbor [in late June 1862] . . . the South Carolinians were greeted by heavy artillery fire. Taylor was soon hit . . . [and] ignoring his loss of blood and terrible pain, he continued to hurry forward, waving the flag to encourage the regiment to follow. Then he suffered a second wound . . . [and knocked] down by the blast, Taylor mustered enough energy to keep the flag flying from his prone position.
Upon seeing the color sergeant fall, Shubrick Hayne dropped his weapon and took the South Carolina flag . . . Taylor managed to stand up and stagger behind Hayne, who took but a few steps before he was mortally wounded. As the flag dropped from Hayne’s hands, Taylor took hold of it and attempted to inspire the men as he stumbled in the direction of heavy enemy fire.
For a third time he was wounded, a projectile smashing into his chest. The flag fell from his grasp, and he collapsed upon it, blood streaming from his body.
Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel H. Hamilton bent down to attend to his dying warrior. All James Hunt Taylor could manage to say was, “I can’t carry it any further, Colonel.”
(Let Us Die Like Brave Men: Behind the Dying Words of Confederate Warriors; Daniel W. Barefoot, John F. Blair Publishers, 2005, excerpt, pp. 37-39)