James Mortimer Taylor was born on May 22, 1838 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of James Hough (born 1811 in Ontario, Canada, died 1873 in Michigan) and Harriet Brewer (born 1811 in New York, died 1854 in Michigan).
James married New York native Harriet on November 11, 1832, in Wilson, Niagara County, New York. and came to Michigan sometime before 1834, and by 1840 had settled in Oakland County. At some point after 1843 James moved his family again, and by 1850 had settled in Eagle Township, Clinton County. After Harriet died in May of 1854, James remarried to Chloe Stansell that July and the family settled in Allendale, Ottawa County. James was serving as a Justice of the Peace in Ottawa County by the early 1860s.
James Mortimer stood 5’11” with blue eyes, brown hair and was 23 years old and probably living in Allendale when he enlisted in Company I on May 13, 1861, along with his younger brothers Chauncey and Martin. Another older brother, John A., would join them in 1862. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.) By late April of 1863 he was sharing a tent with his two brothers John and Martin.
During the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863, when General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was wounded, James and several other men of the 3rd Michigan became separated from the regiment. In 1888, Taylor wrote to the editor of the National Tribune, the newspaper for the Grand Army of the Republic,
I notice quite a number of articles in The National Tribune of late concerning the death of Stonewall Jackson. I was present at the time Stonewall Jackson was killed. I was a member of Co. I, 3d Mich., of the Third Division (the Red Diamond), Third Corps. Our corps that day had been thrown out nearly five miles in the advance of the main army, following, as we then supposed, Lee’s retreating army; but, as we soon learned, it was one of Jackson’s ruses to draw us out while he made his flank attack upon Gen. [O.O.] Howard’s (Eleventh) Corps. In the afternoon we fell back nearly three and a half miles to within about one and a half miles of our main army, where we found ourselves cut off, with Early’s and Jackson’s troops between us and our army. We formed in line for battle in a large cleared field, where our brigade lay in two lines about 12 feet apart. While we were in line there some person on horseback dashed by us, jumping the rear line about 30 feet to my right, passed between the two lines -- about 60 feet apart, jumped the front line and dashed into the woods to the front and left of where I lay, he coming from the direction of [confederate Gen. Jubal] Early’s command and going toward Jackson’s.
From the description I had of Gen. Jackson I always believed that it was he.
Shortly afterwards, about 11 o’clock, [Gen. David] Birney’s whole division moved forward to that famous night charge, [Gen. Hobart] Ward’s brigade leading, ours following, and Graham’s following us, with orders to make as little noise as possible until we came upon the enemy; then make all the noise possible, both with our guns and throats, which we did to the best of our ability. In this charge we got separated, part swinging to the right and part toward the left. I was near the center, and after the first heavy firing had abated I found myself between two fires. While taking my bearings, the firing having ceased, and studying in which direction to go, I heard a shot, followed by a light volley but a short distance away, and immediately heard the Johnnies saying “the ____ Yanks have killed Jackson,” when I lit out in the opposite direction, and finally came out where we started from.
Capt [Thomas] Tait [sic] and eight others got together from my regiment that night. We got an early breakfast, while the Captain said he would look for the regiment. We swallowed our grub in a hurry, in anticipation of hot work as soon as daylight came; and before sunrise the rebs were peppering it to us form three sides, when, you bet, we did some tall running just about that time. It has always been a mystery to me how we ever escaped form there. I can look back now, and as I imagine I see those long strides and lying coat-tails, I think we must have outrun their infernal lead, to which I attribute our miraculous escape.
We came out at the Chancellor House, after which we found our regiment at the point or curve of our line, about a half mile to the right of the Chancellor House, where we made another charge, led by Maj. [Moses] Houghton in his short-sleeves, a revolver in each hand, and we took in about 500 prisoners in short order. We remained at this point until the close of that battle.
This Spring , I took a trip down through Arkansas. Six miles south of Clinton I took dinner with an old Johnny by the name of Samuel Shannon, of Co. I, 19th Ga., and two other ex-Confederate soldiers who served in Lee’s Army of Virginia. Mr. Shannon was present when Jackson was shot. He held Gen. Jackson’s horse as Jackson mounted and started to the front where he received the shot, as claimed by Comrade Sweet, shot by Rankin, followed by a light volley. Mr. Shannon is positive he was not shot by their men, but by our men; which, with my own knowledge, forever settles with me the manner of Gen. Jackson’s death. Mr. Shannon also says that Jackson passed from Early’s command through our corps that night to his command, which I fully believe.
James was absent sick in the hospital from June of 1863 until he was transferred to the Veterans’ Reserve Corps September 30, 1863, and was possibly stationed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He apparently served in Company B, 9th Veterans Reserve Corps (VRC).
He married Henrietta Clum in September of 1863, possibly while he was posted with the VRC in Pennsylvania.
James was eventually discharged from the army and returned to Allendale where for some years he farmed on the northeast corner of 84th Avenue and Buchanan Street. He was probably still living in Allendale in 1870 when he applied for and received a pension (no. 131252).
In late 1876 or early 1877 James and his brother Martin moved to Kansas to join another brother, John A., and by 1880 James was farming in Ness County, Kansas and living with his wife. James remained in Kansas from 1877 until about 1887 when he moved to Arkansas with John A. where they lived until 1902 (in 1900 James was living in Springdale, Arkansas).
Both James and John A. then moved to the Oakland, California area (Martin returned to Ottawa County) and by 1911 James was residing at 626 59th Street in Oakland, California. On October 8, 1919 James was admitted as a widower (his nearest relative was C. H. Taylor in Oakland) to the National Military Home in Sawtelle, California. He was discharged at his own request on November 1, 1919. In 1920 he was lodging with the Krijczk family in Alameda, California.
James was a member of the 3rd Michigan Infantry Association.
James died on September 11, 1923, in Oakland, and was reportedly buried in the Soldiers’ Home in Oakland.