John H. Taggart, 12th Pennsylvania Reserves



The Veteran Editor’s Pen Has Finished Its Work After An Illness of About a Week He Closes His Eventful Career, Surrounded By His Family.

John Henry Taggart
This engraving is found on the letterhead of paper that was purchased by men in the regiment to write home with during the war.

Colonel John Henry Taggart, the senior editor and one of the proprietors of Taggarts’ Times, died yesterday, at 5:40 P.M., at his summer residence, at Grubb’s Landing, on the Delaware River where he had been ill for about a week. Colonel Taggart had been in good health until Friday, the 27th of May, when he was taken ill with a cold which resulted last Thursday night in an attack of double pleura-pneumonia, and this was the direct cause of his death.

There were present at his bedside at the time of his death Doctors Thomas Hunter and Thomas H. Andrews, both of Philadelphia, the latter having been sent for as a consulting physician. There were also present the Rev. C. A. Hayden, of the Ascension Protestant

Episcopal Church, of Claymont, Del.; Mrs. John H. Taggart, and Mr. William M. Taggart, Mrs. J.W. Clark, Mrs. Albert F. Weihenmayer, the son and daughters of the deceased, and Mrs. Elizabeth S. Bladen, of the editorial staff of Taggarts’ Times. Colonel Taggart’s eldest son, his business partner and editorial associate, Mr. Harry L. Taggart, is absent on a visit to the far West, with his wife and son, where they started about a month ago.

It will be impossible for them to reach home in time for the funeral. It has not been definitely decided when the latter will take place, but it will probably be on Tuesday or Wednesday, his son, Mr. William M. Taggart, having charge of all the arrangements. The undertaker will be Mr. J. Lewis Good. The funeral will take place from Colonel Taggart’s late city residence, No. 1320 South Broad Street, and he will be interred with full military honors.

John Henry Taggart
via, source contributor, Louise Atlee Weihenmayer.

Colonel Taggart was a member of several military bodies and civil societies, among them being Pennsylvania Reserve Post, No. 191, G. A. R.; Star of Bethlehem Lodge, No. 190 L. O. O. F., and the Philadelphia Typographical Society. He was also an honorary member for many years of Typographical Union, No. 2.

At the god-given age of three full score years and more – and yet taken when mental power was strongest – Colonel John Henry Taggart, is dead. He passed away yesterday afternoon at his summer home, amid the flowers he loved so well, and in sight of the river that runs to the sea, his life was carried to the endless ocean, Eternity!

In the passing away of Colonel Taggart, Journalism loses a leader, his employees a sympathetic friend, the city an honored citizen, and his family a beloved husband and father.

It is a sad task to record this intelligence in his own paper – a paper he created and pushed on a conspicuous position in modern journalistic enterprise. Sad, indeed, it is to write of one who was with us but yesterday. Sad, indeed, to note the death of him whose kindly disposition, tender regard for fellow-workers, and strict integrity of high purpose pervaded all the departments of this paper like genial sunshine. From press room to composing room, from publication office to editorial sanctum, Colonel Taggart was a loving father to all.

Below is told in detail the remarkable and honorable incidents of his notable and busy career. His tree of life bore its full measure of fruit. From boyhood to manhood, and from manhood to old age, his life was that of the creator and the worker.

As citizen, soldier and journalist – in everything he did, in everything he was called upon to perform – Colonel Taggart met the requirement of every task imposed upon him. He was a true patriot. He loved his country. He risked his life to defend its flag. Rare personal bravery was his amid the carnage of battle. In the dark days of the rebellion his services to the Union were manifold and important.

As a citizen Colonel Taggart was identified with all that was liberal and progressive in the movements of municipal affairs. All meritorious public improvements had in him a sincere advocate. He was public spirited in the fullest sense of that term, and his services and pen were ever ready to battle in the cause of Philadelphia’s progress.

In later days he was perhaps better known as the chief editor of this paper; a post he filled with rare ability, singular force and with an originality of utterance and absolute honesty of purpose that made him loved, and feared alike; and yet those who feared him respected him, for all saw that his pen was ever guided by Truth. He had powers of utterance that were peculiarly his own. In the writing of strong, virile, forcible and incisive English he probably had no equal in the daily or Sunday papers. His style was his alone; he never hesitated to call a spade a spade, and when wrongs were to be righted, corruption stifled and jobbery denounced, the Colonel’s words were alive with the spark of fire and the sharpness of the sword. He wrote like soldiers storm an enemy’s barrier! And yet he was logical and analytical in all he wrote; he was the military commander who achieved success by following out carefully prepared plans – plans that called for the storming of the barrier.

But his writings were not all in the mood of the aggressive fighter; there were moments in which he produced tenderly voiced compositions – text which was freighted with true pathos.

This vein of sentiment and pathetic description was especially assertive in his recent oration over the grave of General McCall.

That pen of his in its time has routed the jobber, put to flight the corrupt politician, imprisoned the dishonest, halted the attacks of conspirators, and hauled down the piratical flag of grasping corporations!

It has defended the homes of Philadelphia, its school system, its institutions, its working people, its industries, and all that called for the aid of a defender.

And he is dead! Taken when his resources of endeavor and effort had not yet been exhausted; taken when his ability and force had yet shown no sign of deterioration! But it is God’s will.

Colonel Taggart had been engaged to deliver the oration at the services held on Memorial Day (last Monday), by Pennsylvania Reserve Post No. 191, G.A.R., at the grave of the organizer and first commander of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, General George A. McCall in Christ Church Burying Ground. Colonel Taggart had writen the speech, but owing to his illness, could not attend the services. This was his last paragraph:

And now, adieu, McCall, our gallant leader. In the course of Nature we must follow your lead once more, and none will fear the dark river that our General has crossed. May we be as faithful to the end as you were, and in our last sleep be rocked by the music of the breeze. Kind Nature, take us gently to your breast and loving hearts remember us.


Colonel John H. Taggart, the senior proprietor of Taggarts’ Times, was born at Georgetown, Kent County, Md., on the 22nd of January, 1821, and at the time of his death was in his 72nd year. When he was 5 years old his father died, and shortly afterward his mother, with her two children, a boy and girl, removed to Philadelphia. To his mother, who was an educated, refined lady, and who had taught school in Maryland, he was much indebted for the rudiments of his education. But aside from this his university was the printing office, which he entered at a very early age, when many boys were scarcely out of the nursery, and here he gained a knowledge of the history and politics of the time and the general progress of civilization. Another important factor in the practical education which stood him such good service in later years, was the Apprentices’ Library, of Philadelphia, which, as a lad, he liberally patronized.

At that time the leading paper of the city was the old National Gazette, published by William Fry-better known among old-time printers as Billy Fry, one of the best printers of his day. Here when but 10 years old young Taggart first entered a printing office, and in time became a first-class compositor, remaining until Mr. Fry relinquished business, when he became employed as a compositor on the Public Ledger, and afterward entered the job office connected with that establishment where he was considered one of the most expert workmen in this difficult branch of the business.

In 1842 the young printer joined the militia, then, with the firemen, a popular feature of Philadelphia local life, and two years later, in 1844, during the memorable Roman Catholic riots, when Shiffler, the idol of the native Americans, was killed and several Catholic churches burned to the ground, the hero of this sketch did good service in aiding to put down the uprising and was commissioned lieutenant by Governor Shunk.

In 1849, just at the close of the Mexican war, military ardor ran high, and Lieutenant Taggart, taking advantage of the spirit of the times, began, in partnership with Lambert W. Holland, the publication of the Pennsylvania Volunteer. The venture did not prove prosperous and after a six months’ trial subscription list was merged to that of the City Item.

In 1858, when 37 years of age, Colonel Taggart left the printer’s case for the journalist’s desk, begining first by reporting for the Sunday Mercury, and soon afterward broadened his field by including the Ledger. A year later he became a reporter on the Press, where he continued until early in 1860, when he purchased the interest of James P. Magill in the Sunday Mercury. He had as his partner George W. Jones, and the firm name was Jone’s & Taggart.

It was while publishing the Sunday Mercury, in 1861, that the War of the Rebellion begun.

For the proceeding ten years Colonel Taggart had been a prominent member of the volunteer corps of Washington Blues, in which he had secured a good military training. Considering the public interest paramount to his business and family ties, at the very first call for troops he raised a company called the Wayne Guards, at the northwest corner of Sixth and Chestnut streets and at the Girard House. He took his company to Harrisburg, and when the Twelfth Regiment of Pennsylvania Reserves (forty-first of the line) was organized, he was elected Colonel.

In this capacity he served with the highest credit throughout the Peninsula campaign of 1861-62 and took part in the battles of Dranesville, Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, New Market Cross Roads and Malvern Hill. He was warmly engaged at Dranesville, where he says, in his report: “The conduct of the men under fire, nearly all of them for the first time, was most commendable. There was no flinching and the line was preserved un-broken.”

At Beaver Dam Creek one of his companies was placed in Ellerson’s Mills, where it did excellent service, of which Roger A. Pryor said: “Ellerson’s Mill was defended with desperate obstinacy.” The fatality in the battle of the following day at Gaines’ Mill was very great, as also at Charles City Cross Roads. Finally, at Malvern Hill, the Union retreat and rebel pursuit and attack was stayed by one of the most sanguinary struggles of the campaign. The Union army played the part of a lion at bay, and the death and destruction which it dealt from artillery, supported by determined infantry, was indeed frightful.

Of the battle of Mechanicsville, June 26th, 1862, in which Colonel Taggart figured he then wrote in his report dated July 5th, 1862: “On the next morning, July 27th, having orders to fall back, I ordered the rifle pits to be cleared, and the men to form on the road in the rear. The firing had commenced in the morning, and was kept up with spirit on both sides which made the task of getting the men out of the rifle pits a difficult and dangerous one.

In fact many of the men seemed so determined to stay that they either did not hear the order to fall back, or would not do so, and a number (perhaps twenty) were left behind, and were either killed, wounded or taken prisoners. Captain Gustin’s company at the Mill, being detached from the regiment was in a perilous position and in danger of being cut off.

They maintained their position for nearly an hour single handed after my regiment had left and large bodies of the enemy’s troops had crossed the creek and attempted to surround them. Captain Gustin finally succeeded in withdrawing his company with only three men wounded. Captain Gustin’s conduct on this occasions was worthy of all praise. Captain Mathewson succeeded in withdrawing his company at an early hour of the day. I regret to report that nearly all the men left their knapsacks, and many their haversacks behind them, not having time to secure them before leaving. We moved slowly towards Gaines’ Creek where we halted and took up a new position, in compliance with orders from General McCall. I desire to mention particularly the good conduct of the officers and men on the occasions. Major Baldy was active and energetic in cheering on the men, and gallantly exposing himself while it lasted. Captain Daniels, Mathewson, Gustin, Horn, Schelling, Oliver, Baker, Bolar and Eyster were constantly with their men, encouraging them by their exhibitions of coolness and bravery.

Although Colonel Taggart was repeatedly asked to be a candidate for high public positions, he cast aside all overtures in this direction. In 1888, however, he was tendered (unanimously) the honor of Presidential Elector on the Republican ticket. He accepted, and at the State election was complimented by receiving the highest vote accorded by any Pennsylvania Elector. Colonel Taggart’s city residence was in the Twenty-sixth ward, and the citizens of that portion of the city on several occasions desired him to represent them in Council. But he could never be induced to accept the Convention’s nomination.

Colonel Taggart had served in the Army fifteen months, when his business interests at home became much embarrassed. The Sunday Mercury had, in his absence, been converted by his partner, Mr. Jones, into a bitter opponent of the war, and, as Colonel Taggart’s sympathies were all with the Union, a dissolution of partnership or a sale was inevitable, and Mossers.

Jones and Taggart finally disposed of the paper. Colonel Taggart then returned to the army as war correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 1863, when the Government adopted the policy of organizing colored troops, a board of examiners was organized whose duty it was to examine applicants for commissions as officers of those troops. Of those who applied forty-seven per cent were rejected for incompetency. At that time the prejudice of educated officers against colored troops was so great that but few of them applied for the positions. There then existed in Philadelphia a Supervising Committee for recruiting colored regiments which was supported by voluntary contributions, amounting in the aggregate to over $50,000. The chairman of the board was Thomas Webster, its secretary Cadwalader Biddle, its treasurer S.T. Mercer. The committee opened a free school for military tactics, the purpose of which was to give to all who desired commands in colored regiments such instruction as would enable them to pass an examination before the Government Board of Examiners.

The committee selected Colonel John H. Taggart for the responsible position of chief preceptor of said school, in which position he rendered important service. He was an excellent military tactician and instructor and, his fitness for the position of chief preceptor is pointedly evidenced by the fact-taken from official reports-that while forty-seven percent, of the general applicants to command colored troops was found unfit for the service, only about four percent of those recommended from the school over which he presided was rejected by the examining board of the United States army officers at Washington. Upwards of five hundred students from his school were commissioned as officers of colored troops.

After this free school was closed for want of funds, Colonel Taggart opened a private school for officers, which he continued until the fall of Richmond closed the war. Subsequently he went to Washington and was correspondent of several papers. While there he was appoitned (November 1, 1865) Collector of Internal Revenue for the First district of Pennsylvania by President Johnson, succeeding J. Barclay Harding, deceased. This appointment was made mainly as a recognition of his services in fitting candidates to command the colored troops. But when the President made his famous “swing around the circle” those services ceased to be a recommendation to him, and Colonel Taggart sharing the fate of many others was removed. HIs duties as Collector were faithfully discharged.

After his removal he again resumed his position as a Washington correspondent, and remained in that city until the autumn of 1869, when he returned to Philadelphia and purchased the Sunday Morning Times, which, in partnership with his son, Harry L. Taggart, they, about six years ago, changed it to Taggarts’ Times, to distinguish it from other publications.

Headquarters Typographica Union,
No. 2, No. 124 North Ninth Street.
Philadelphia, June 4, 1892.

At a meeting of representatives from the different chapels of Philadelphia Typographical Union, No. 2, held on Saturday Evening, June 4, 1892, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted:

Whereas, We have learned with deep regret of the sudden demise of our esteemed fellow-craftsman and employer, Colonel John H. Taggart, of Taggarts’ Times, who was one of the first signers of the constition of Typographical Union, No. 2, and who has always been in the front ranks of Unionism;

Whereas, He has always been ready and willing to do all in his power, both as a private member of this Union, and afterwards as a private member of this Union, and afterwards as a proprietor, to enhance its general interest and to benefit its members individually when the occasion presented itself for so doing; thereforeResolved, That we mourn his loss as few can outside the circle of his immediate relatives, and that his memory will be green in our hearts until we also pass to that bourne whence no traveler returns.

Resolved, That in token of our affliction, by reason of his death, our charter be dropped in mourning for thirty days.

Resolved, That we tender to his bereaved family the tenderest expression of our sympathy and condolence at this trying hour, and assure them that it is indeed no more form of empty words.

Resolved, That a copy of these preambles and resolutions be furnished each of the city papers and the Union Printer for publication, and that they be spread in full upon the records of this Union.

J. Franklin Cline,
Wm. P. Heck,
W. T. Morris

City Letter Carrier at USPS | | Website | + posts

Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.