James Earl Taylor was born on December 12, 1839, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His widowed mother moved her family to Indiana when he was young. Taylor graduated from the University of Notre Dame at age sixteen. At eighteen, he painted a panorama of the Revolutionary War, which was exhibited throughout the western states, what we now call the Midwest. Taylor returned to the city of his birth, but in 1860, he relocated to New York City to study art. When the Civil War came, he enlisted in the 10th New York Volunteers of National Zouaves, one of the units known for its colorful and exotic uniforms. Taylor served two years and rose to the rank of sergeant. Rather than reenlist, he was persuaded to apply for a position as a special artist, what we would call a combat artist. Thus James E. Taylor went to work for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Assigned to Philip Sheridan's army, Taylor took part in the Shenandoah Valley campaign, then campaigns in eastern Virginia and the Carolinas, finally to arrive on horseback in the Confederate capital of Richmond at the close of the war. Afterwards, Taylor drew pictures of the American South and West, where he earned the title "The Indian Artist." He continued with Leslie's until 1883, thereafter working as a freelance artist. Taylor also created illustrations for Frank Leslie's Boys' and Girls' Weekly for children. James E. Taylor died on June 22, 1901, in New York City.
James E. Taylor was the subject of an article in American Heritage in 1980 (“War Correspondent: 1864" by Oliver Jensen, American Heritage, Vol. 31, No. 5 [August–September 1980]: 48–64.) His book, With Sheridan Up the Shenandoah Valley in 1864: Leaves from a Special Artist's Sketch Book and Diary, was not published until 1989, and then only in rare edition. Taylor also illustrated Colonel Richard Irving Dodge's memoir Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years’ Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West (1882).
|A drawing by James E. Taylor of the Florence Prison Stockade, a Confederate prison camp located near Florence, South Carolina. Note the date--1897--indicating that the artist recreated this scene more than thirty years after the fact.|
|"Heroic Death of Walter Kennedy," drawn by Taylor (1874), an image from his own scrapbooks, held by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.|
Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley