He was the descendant of Edward III of England.
His father sent Taylor away during the war because of his rheumatoid arthritis. He agreed to manage the family cotton plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi, and, in 1850, he persuaded his father (now President Taylor by virtue of his election in 1848) to purchase Fashion, a large sugar plantation in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana.
On February 10 1851, Richard Taylor married Louise Marie Myrthe Bringier (d. 1875), a native of Louisiana, daughter of a wealthy French creole matriarch Aglae Bringier, who would soon help them out financially after the freeze of 1856. Taylor and Marie Bringier would go on to have five children, two sons and three daughters; Richard, Zachary, Louise, Elizbeth, and Myrthe. His two sons, Richard and Zachary, both died during the war after contracting scarlet fever, the loss of which hurt the elder Richard Taylor deeply.
After Zachary Taylor's untimely death in July 1850, Taylor inherited Fashion. Steadily he increased its area, improved its sugar works (at considerable expense), and expanded its labor force to nearly 200 slaves, making him one of the richest men in Louisiana. But the freeze of 1856 ruined his crop, forcing him into heavy debt with a large mortgage on the plantation.
On October 21 1861, Taylor was promoted to brigadier general and commanded a Louisiana brigade under Richard S. Ewell in the Shenandoah Valley campaign and during the Seven Days. Taylor was promoted over three more senior regimental commanders, and those commanders immediately thought that favoritism was involved because of Taylor's relationship with Jefferson Davis. Instead, Davis cited Taylor's leadership capabilities and the promise he showed, and that he was recommended for the promotion by General Jackson himself. During the Valley Campaign, Jackson used Taylor's brigade as an elite strike force that set a crippling marching pace and dealt swift flanking attacks. At the Battle of Front Royal on May 23, again at the First Battle of Winchester on May 25, and finally at the climactic Battle of Port Republic on June 9, he led the Louisianans in timely assaults against strong enemy positions.
His brigade consisted of various Louisiana regiments as well as Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheats "Louisiana Tiger" battalion. The assortment was an undisciplined lot that was known for its hard-fighting on the battlefield, but also for its hard-living outside of the battlefield. Taylor instilled discipline into the Tigers and although Major Wheat did not agree with how he did so, he nonetheless respected Taylor.
Taylor was promoted to the rank of major general on July 28 1862, the youngest major general in the Confederacy at the time, and after a brief assignment as a recruiting officer in Louisiana, he was given command of the tiny District of West Louisiana. He was sent to Louisiana after Governor Thomas O. Moore had insistently requested a capable and dedicated officer to assemble the state's defenses and to help counter Federal forays into the state. Another reason for sending Taylor to Louisiana was attacks of rheumatoid arthritis which would leave him crippled for days at a time. During the Seven Days, Taylor was so incapacitated that he was unable to leave his camp and command his brigade.
Before Taylor returned to Louisiana, Federal forces in the area had their way with much of southern Louisiana. During the spring of 1862, Union forces came upon Taylor's plantation, called Fashion, and plundered it.
A Vermont soldier wrote down all that transpired:
Taylor enjoyed the appointment, and the fact that he was to return to Louisiana, but found the district almost completely devoid of troops and supplies. However, he did the best with these limited resources by securing two capable subordinates, veteran infantry commander (Jean Jacques Alexandre) Alfred Mouton, and veteran cavalry commander Thomas Green. These two commanders would prove crucial to Taylor's upcoming campaigns in the state.
During 1863, Taylor directed an effective series of clashes with Union forces over control of lower Louisiana, most notably at Battle of Fort Bisland and the Battle of Irish Bend. These clashes were fought against Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks for control of the Bayou Teche region in southern Louisiana and his ultimate objective of Siege of Port Hudson. After Banks had successfully pushed Taylor's Army of Western Louisiana aside, he continued on his way to Port Hudson via Alexandria, Louisiana. After these battles, Taylor formulated a plan for recaptured Bayou Teche, along with the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and also halt the Siege of Port Hudson.
After the battles, Taylor marched his army, minus Walker's division, down to the Bayou Teche region. From there Taylor captured Brashear City (Morgan City, Louisiana), which yielded tremendous amounts of supplies, materiel, and new weapons for his army. He then moved within the outskirts of New Orleans, which was only being held by a few green recruits under Brig. Gen. William H. Emory. While Taylor was encamped on the outskirts and preparing for his attack against the city it was then that he received word that Port Hudson had fallen. He then withdrew his forces all the way back up Bayou Teche to avoid the risk of being captured.
Most of Taylor's contemporaries, subordinates, and fellow generals make mention many times of his military prowess. Nathan Bedford Forrest commented that "He's the biggest man in the lot. If we'd had more like him, we would have licked the Yankees long ago." "Dick Taylor was a born soldier", asserted a close friend. "Probably no civilian of his time was more deeply versed in the annals of war." Stonewall Jackson and Richard S. Ewell frequently commented on their conversations with Taylor. Ewell stated that he came away from his conversations with Taylor more knowledgeable and impressed with the amount of information Taylor possessed.
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