LEE'S ADJUTANT by R. Lockwood Tower


The Wartime Letters of Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, 1862-1865
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 An interesting collection of letters by a personal confidant of Robert E. Lee's that will appeal principally to Civil War buffs. Historian Tower does the same service for Col. Walter Herron Taylor that he did for Brigadier Gen. Arthur Middleton Manigault in A Carolinian Goes to War (not reviewed), rescuing him from obscurity. Taylor, born in 1838 to a prominent family in Norfolk, Va., was educated at the Norfolk Military Academy and briefly at the prestigious Virginia Military Institute. Leaving VMI after only a year, he took up a career in banking, which was interrupted by the onset of the Civil War. Having served in the volunteer militia, Taylor maneuvered a commission in the Confederate forces and soon found himself on the staff of General Lee. As his adjutant, he came to be on intimate terms with the revered general. He was privy to many of Lee's innermost thoughts and often shared the same blanket with him on bivouac. Lee also permitted him to sign documents in his name and used him to carry his most important orders to his subalterns. Following the war, Taylor resumed banking and played a significant role in the development of Virginia's railroads. He wrote two volumes about his wartime experiences, including a biography of his old commander. Tower assembles over 100 letters by Taylor. Most of them are to his beloved fiancÇe, Elizabeth ``Betty'' Saunders, whom he married, after Lee gave him special leave, in the desperate, waning days of the Confederacy. The letters reflect the young man's horror of war, his fervent belief in the Confederate cause, and his worship of the man he served. The details cross the line into the hagiographic as the vaunted Lee can do no wrong in the eyes the young officer. One senses from the volume that Tower shares Taylor's esteem for Lee, and it proves that indeed one can be a hero to one's valet after all.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-57003-021-9
Page count: 350pp
Publisher: Univ. of South Carolina
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995