James T. S. Taylor Reports the Civil War (Part 2)

Arrival at Key West
William B. Kurtz

James T. S. Taylor Reports the Civil War (Part 2): Arrival at Key West     

In his second letter to the Anglo-African newspaper, Commissary Sergeant James T. S. Taylor described the 2nd USCT’s sudden move from Ship Island to Key West, Florida. This brief letter describes the regiment’s experience of being “the first regiment of colored troops that ever paraded [Key West’s] streets” and looks forward to the day when James and his comrades would first meet their enemy on the field of battle.




March 16, 1864. }

            MR. EDITOR: Our Regiment, which was recently at Ship Island, has changed its position to Key West, which is eight hundred miles distant. We find this a very pleasant place, indeed, for soldiers.

            We were reviewed once, while in Mississippi, by Gen. Banks’s staff, and shortly after orders came to prepare for an immediate departure, which, I assure you, met the approbation of every officer and soldier in our regiment.

            On the 19th of February the battalion was all on board the transport, Charles Thomas, from Philadelphia, and on the 20th we were in the Gulph of Mexico, where we could observe nothing but sky and water, and, running South, had a calm sea and a very pleasant time.

            On the 22d, Col. S. Fellows, of New Hampshire, landed us safely at Key West.

            Being the first regiment of colored troops that ever paraded its streets, you may imagine, even at your distance, what a galling thing it must have been to the secesh of the town. They looked at us with as much wonder as though it was the first sight they ever beheld, and the last one they ever expected to see in this world.

            The regiment is now divided into two battalions, the First being in Fort Taylor, a formidable work of three hundred guns, and which commands the Gulf Stream, and the Second remains at U.S. Barracks, which is a half mile South of the town.

            We cannot say much, as yet, for the fighting qualities of the 2d Regiment; but, feeling confident in the drilling given us, and the discipline taught us by our pains-taking Colonel, we believe we will not disgrace him, ourselves, or our country’s flag in the day of battle.

            The health of the regiment is good.

Com. Segt., JAMES T. S. TAYLOR

SOURCE: Printed in The Anglo-African, April 9, 1864.