1864 Dalton issue flag of the 31st Tennessee Infantry
Stephen P. Taylor was born in 1837 Gibson County, Tennessee. He was the son of John D. and Mary (Pybass) Taylor. John D. was born in North Carolina circa 1807, he migrated first to Rutherford County, Tennessee and then to Gibson County, Tennesse with at least two brothers. The family owned a farm in district 12; the Tuckersville area of Gibson County. There were five children in John and Mary’s family, all appear to have helped on the farm as the family owned no slaves.
At the outbreak of the Civil War a local Militia Captain; James B. Robinson started recruiting men in the area to enlist into the Confederate Army. At one point he held a large picnic near Browning Springs in hopes of drawing recruits. Stephen Taylor enlisted as a private in this local company known as “Sons of the South” at Trenton, Tennessee on September 27, 1861. Stephen’s company was organized, along with nine other companies into the 31st Tennessee Infantry at Camp Trenton. The regiment reached the field on November 29, 1861 at Columbus, Kentucky, joining General Polk’s army for the purpose of defending the Mississippi River from invasion. They would be moved several times along the Mississippi River in early 1862; New Madrid, Missouri; Island No. 10 and Ft. Pillow. They would miss the battle of Shiloh on April 6th and 7th because of their duty at Ft. Pillow, Tennessee. During this time the regiment was reported as being “well armed with Enfield Rifles.”
After the Confederate defeat at Shiloh the regiment was moved to Corinth, Mississippi with the main body of the Confederate Army. Here they would face off with the Union Army for several weeks, Stephen and his comrade’s would be involved in several small skirmishes here.
During late April and early May there were several desertions within the regiment. One of the deserters had been the company wagoner, the job of the wagoner was to drive a wagon with the company mess equipment. Stephen would get the job, thanks in part to his relative; 1st Sergeant William W. Taylor of Company E. The new duty meant Stephen would draw extra pay, although the duty was not as easy as it sounds. It took a person who could care for and handle a team of horses. There were many hazards being in an army’s wagon train, bushwhackers, Union Cavalry raids, and moving in a long slow wagon column on bad roads.
The regiment was placed in General Alexander P. Stewart’s brigade; later led by General Otto F. Strahl of the 4th Tennessee Infantry. In later years after the war, the men would say with pride that they were in Strahl’s Brigade.
The first large battle for the regiment was at Perryville, Kentucky. The 31st Tennessee lost 100 men killed and wounded, but had shown their grit to the other veteran regiments in the brigade. The 31st would fight at Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Chickamauga, Georgia; Missionary Ridge (Chattanooga) during 1862 and 1863. After the loss of Chattanooga the army spent the winter in Dalton, Georgia. Here the army was refitted and reorganized for the upcoming spring campaign. In early May 1864 the Union Army started the Atlanta Campaign, the regiment was under fire for 100 days. They were heavily engaged at Resaca, Georgia and Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia.
By July of 1864 the Confederate Army was bottled up around the city of Atlanta. The battle of Peach Tree Creek was fought on July 20 outside of Atlanta; which ended in Confederate defeat. The Confederate Army under General John Bell Hood was going to try and push the Union Army back on July 22. Strahl’s Brigade would be in the thick of this fight. Every man was needed, including Stephen. It appears he was placed back on line with his regiment. The July 22nd battle would be known as the Battle of Atlanta. Strahl’s Brigade would attack the Union Army’s defencive line at a place Union soldier’s call Bald Hill. The attack started well, but Strahl’s line was soon broken. There were many Confederate prisoners taken, one of them was Stephen Taylor.
Stephen, along with many other prisoners,was sent to Louisville, Kentucky and then shipped to Camp Chase, Ohio. He would stay at Camp Chase until Feb. 12, 1865. He was then moved to the P.O.W. Camp at Point Lookout, Maryland. By March 1st, 1865 he had been paroled. By the time Stephen reached Tennessee the war had ended.
Stephen returned to Gibson County after the war and started farming again. He was married in Gibson County to Miss Nancy L. White, the couple had no children. Sometime after 1880 Stephen and Nancy moved to Huntington,Carroll County, Tennessee. In 1905 Stephen applied for a Confederate pension, which was granted to him. He gave the following written statement:
” I was a Confederate soldier, Company E, 31st Tennessee Infantry that enlisted (in) the service September 1861 and served through the war. I left Richmond Virginia March 1st 1865; having parole furlow for 90 days and the war closed before the furlow expired. These facts could be readily proven, but my comrades are all dead or there where abouts unknown. I am 69 years old, penny less and totally unable to do manual labor, have no estate what ever and no one legally bound for my support. I make this application only for the due necessity to which I am reduced -my post office address is Huntington, Carroll County, Tennessee.”
Stephen P. Taylor January 2, 1906
Another Confederate veteran gave a written statement to the Tennessee Pension Board on behalf of Stephen:
“I am well acquainted with Stephen P. Taylor, was with him at Richmond, Virginia March 1865. We left there on the 12th day of March, 1865 after being exchanged and went with him to Jackson, Tennessee where we parted way about March 22, 1865 when I went home to Carroll County, Tennessee. We were both paroled. I was a member of (the) 1st Kentucky Regiment; Jackson Regiment. Stephen P. Taylor belonged to (the) 31st Tennessee Regiment; Cheatham’s Command. I am well acquainted with said Taylor now and know he is in needy circumstances and a worthy old Confederate Veteran and fully entitled to state pension. I have no interest in his claim for state pension except that justice be done.”
J.T. Smith; August 5th, 1905
Stephen is assumed to have died in Carroll County, Tennessee, date unknown. There are no death records for him and no cemetery record exists for Stephen or his wife.
Written by Scott Busenbark