Yardley Taylor grew apple trees, delivered county mail, wrote anti-slavery essays, and in 1853 surveyed a map of Loudoun County. His map featured roads, local farms, towns, rivers and creeks, mountain ranges, and many other points of interest. It is ironic that this pacifist Quaker’s map became an important guide to both Confederate and Union armies – not familiar with Southern geography – marching across Loudoun county when Civil War broke out in 1861.
Cornell University’s “Making of America” website has scanned and put online many documents, including Civil War documents from the National Archives. “Making of America” includes 19th century War Department transcripts known as War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Anyone who follows this link will be drawn into the Civil War as it was experienced by Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, their respective war staff, and their field officers. The memos of Official Records tell of war from a saddle-and-boots perspective; men live and die in events that unfold on the page. The OR memos copied below can be read further on the Cornell site here.
Put aside any idea that the war was fought solely by high minded individuals who didn’t care one jot for career advancement, political gossip, or petty, back-stabbing grievances. Along with accounts of battles, the Official Records have vanity and grievance by the wagon load.
Loudoun County, Virginia was a gateway to the Civil War and important for its proximity to Washington. The memos copied here begin with a Union command after the battle of Antietam, having left Maryland and crossed back into Virginia. George McClellan, Union Commander of the Army of the Potomac, reports to President Lincoln. Union Brigadier General Pleasonton reports to Maj. General Marcy, McClellan’s Chief of Staff, and on it goes from there. Brig. General Pleasonton writes to Marcy of having found “an excellent map of Loudoun County, by Yardley Taylor.” What would Yardley Taylor have thought if he had known – perhaps he did know – that his map was a helpful tool in the theater of war?
Some mention of Quakers, the Taylor map, Loudoun County, and other relevant commentary has been highlighted in yellow, for easier notice. Much of the initial activity in the memos takes place within walking distance of Goose Creek meetinghouse: Purcellville, Philomont, Union, (now “Unison”) Snicker’s Gap, (now “Bluemont”) Waterford, and so on. The memos fly back and forth, giving insight into the confusion, tedium, and then sudden horror of war. Occasionally the last sentence of a page was dropped during scanning; the full page can be seen on the Cornell site linked above.
Yardley Taylor’s map, full of potential short cuts and quick routes, couldn’t get Major General George McClellan moving fast enough for President Abraham Lincoln. On November 5th, the very date of these last memos, Lincoln dismissed his slow marching, battle shy Commander of the Union Army, George McClellan.