William Booth Taliaferro
Born December 28, 1822, into the Tidewater aristocracy in Gloucester County, Virginia, William Booth Taliaferro (pronounced
"Toliver") was educated at Harvard college and William and Mary, being graduated the latter institution in 1841. His activity was directed to a military channel by the Mexican war, and he fought as a captain in the Eleventh and as a major in the Ninth U.S. Infantry.
Returning home, he took an interest in state politics. From 1850 to 1853, Taliaferro represented Gloucester County in the Virginia
House of Delegates and was one of the Democratic presidential electors
for James Buchanan in 1856, but continued to be prominent in military affairs and commanded the state militia at Harpers Ferry in the aftermath of John Brown's raid.
Taliaferro assumed command as major general of Virginia's state militia following secession and took command at Norfolk on April 18, 1861, and became colonel of the 23rd Virginia Infantry after the state officially became part of the Confederacy. He was assigned to the post and troops at Gloucester Point, opposite Yorktown. Subsequently he marched with the Twenty-third Virginia regiment to reinforce General Garnett in West Virginia. During the retreat from Laurel Hill, Colonel Taliaferro was in command of the rear guard which gallantly contested the enemy's pursuit at Carrick's ford, just before Garnett was killed. At the battle on Greenbrier River, October 3d, he commanded a brigade, consisting of his own regiment, the Twenty-fifth and Forty- fourth Virginia regiments, and contributed largely to the victory by his cool and gallant conduct. Taliaferro was a strict disciplinarian and his manner alienated many of his men, one of whom physically assaulted him.
He joined Jackson in the Valley early in December, 1861; Taliaferro rankled Jackson by appealing to his political friends in Richmond to support W.W. Loring's protest over Jackson's tactics and winter quarters. Jackson resigned, reconsidered, and protested Taliaferro's promotion to brigadier general in March 1862, but he still had confidence in the military abilities of his mutinous subordinate. With a brigade composed of the Tenth, Twenty-Third, and Thirty-seventh Virginia, Taliaferro took a prominent part in the defeat of the Federals at McDowell, where he was in immediate command on the field after Edward Johnson was wounded, and participated in the victories , at Cross Keys and Port Republic.
Continuing in command of Jackson's Third brigade, Taliaferro fought at Cedar Mountain, August 9th, and after the death of General Winder was given charge of Jackson's division. In this command he continued during' the subsequent operations about Manassas, participated in the maneuvers around Pope's army, and on August 28th, when Jackson determined to strike the enemy as he moved along the Warrenton pike, he immediately ordered Taliaferro to take his division and attack. In the fierce fight which followed, sustained on the Confederate side by Taliaferro and Ewell, both those commanders were seriously wounded. He was able to return to the field in time to participate in the battle of Fredericksburg, where he rendered efficient service in repelling the Federal force which secured temporary lodgment in the Confederate lines.
His subsequent military career was in the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, to which he was assigned in March, 1863, as commander of the district of Savannah. During the famous assault on Battery Wagner, July, 1863, he had charge of the defenses and troops on Morris Island, and next month he took command of a division on James Island (he received high commendation from his commanding officer for his expertly executed repelling of a numerically superior Union attack on Fort Wagner). February 20, 1864, he was given temporary command of all troops in the district of East Florida, which embraced the forces that day engaged at Olustee. Returning March 5th to James island, in May he was assigned to the Seventh district of South Carolina, and the entire State was put under his military charge in December of that year. When Sherman's army reached Savannah, he exercised command to the north of that city, with the forces of Jenkins, Harrison and Chestnut, at Coosawhatchie and Pocotaligo, guarding the route of escape for Hardee. In the latter part of December he was given command of a division made up of Elliott's, Rhett's and Anderson's brigades, with which he participated in the subsequent movements, being promoted on January 1, 1865, to the rank of major-general.
After the surrender of Johnston's army, General Taliaferro returned to Gloucester, Va., where he completed his long career of honor and usefulness. He served ten years in the State legislature, and rendered good service in the cause of education as a member of the board of visitors of the Virginia Military Institute, William and Mary College and other State institutions. He served as county judge for the 1890s. William B. Taliaferro was grand-master of Masons in Virginia in 1876-77 and a prominent citizen and a popular speaker. He died at his home in Gloucester county, February 27, 1898.