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Petersburg Medals of Honor: “Well Done, Taylor”




Private, Co. E, 7th R. I. Inf.
Born at Pascoag, R. I., Feb. 6, 1847

On the morning of August 18, 1864, at the Weldon Railroad, Private Joseph Taylor, of Company E, Seventh Rhode Island Infantry, was detached from his company on detail as mounted orderly at brigade [1/2/IX/AotP]  headquarters and ordered to escort Adjutant-General Peleg E. Peckham through some near-by timber.

“The day was very hot and the country had been fairly flooded by rains,” Private Taylor narrates. “We were riding quite rapidly and when we reached the woods I found them so dense and so filled with underbrush that it was with great difficulty I followed the general. Every now and then the limbs and branches of the brush pushed aside by my leader would spring back, striking my horse in the face so that I could not make it keep its gait. Thus, not being able to keep up with the general, I undertook to skirt the edge of the wood. In a short while I lost sight of him, but, believing that I would soon see him again, continued on, as I thought I could hear his horse going.

“Suddenly, to my entire surprise, I ran against a Confederate picket post of three infantrymen, who appeared to be as greatly surprised as myself. Immediately drawing my revolver, I commanded them to surrender and get out to the rear as quickly as possible, as a cavalry charge was to be made right over the ground where we were standing.

“I did not know whether there was any cavalry within ten miles, but the thought came to me and I simply said it.



“The three men had stacked arms, which I ordered them to carry, when I felt a sharp pain, caused by a fourth Confederate, whom I had overlooked, lunging his bayonet through my right arm. I at once emptied a chamber of my revolver into his left breast and he dropped. Knowing that my shot would give an alarm, I ordered my three prisoners forward, and, revolver in hand, at their rear, I rode rapidly toward our line.

“As I reached headquarters with my captives, [Brigade commander Brigadier] General [John I.] Curtin asked with much surprise where I captured these men. ‘Up in the brush, general,’ I answered. ‘Where is General Peckham?’ asked the general, and I replied: ‘I don’t know, general; I lost him in the brush.’

“Just then Doctor Blackwood, of our staff, came up and asked: ‘What’s the matter with your arm, Joe ?’ ‘Nothing, except it feels a little warm.’ Then I saw that the blood of the bayonet wound had run to my hand and over my revolver, which I was still holding. Just then General Peckham rode up to us and, being questioned by General Curtin as to where I had captured the rebels, he said: ‘I do not know— while riding through the brush with Taylor following me, as I supposed, I suddenly missed him. Two or three minutes later I heard a shot to my left and rear, and, thinking that by getting too far out of the woods Taylor had been hurt, I immediately returned to see about the matter.’

“General [John I.] Curtin ordered the prisoners disarmed and said to me: ‘Well done Taylor, you will get a Medal of Honor for this.'”


Read about even more Medal of Honor winners at the Siege of Petersburg:


  1. Beyer, Walter F. and Keydel, Oscar F. Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor…, Volume 1 (The Perrien – Keydel  Company: 1901), pp. 399-400
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