“There are many people who do not know what some of the colored women did during the Civil War.” -Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, by Susie King Taylor
According to the Library of Congress, Susie King Taylor (born Susan Baker) was an American nurse and teacher in the Civil War. She was born into slavery on August 6, 1848, at the Grest Plantation in Liberty County, Georgia. By age seven, Susie was allowed to move to Savannah, Georgia to live with her grandmother Dolly, a Free Woman of Color. Most of her childhood was spent with two of her eight siblings and with her Grandmother Dolly, who encouraged her to learn to read and write.
At this time, Georgia had severe restrictions on education for freed and enslaved African Americans. Clandestine schooling was the only way an African American child could get an education in the Antebellum South. Susie’s grandmother arranged for her and her brother, being the eldest, to attend two secret schools taught by Mrs. Woodhouse, a free African American woman living on Bay Lane between Habersham and Price streets, about a half-mile from her grandmother Dolly’s house.
By the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, Taylor was an educated young woman, so accomplished that she had surpassed the level of knowledge of her teachers in Georgia.
“On April 1, 1962, about the time the Union Soldiers were firing on Fort Pulaski, I was sent out into the country to my mother. I remember what a roar and din the guns made. They jarred the earth for miles. Two days after the taking of Fort Pulaski, my uncle took his family of seven and myself to St. Catherine Island. We landed under the protection of the Union fleet and remained there two weeks, when about thirty of us were taken aboard the ‘Gunboat P’ to be transferred to St. Simon’s Island and at last to my unbounded joy, I saw the ‘Yankees.’”
Susie King Taylor’s accomplishments range from joining the Union Army to participating in military expeditions and camp life, nursing the soldiers, teaching them and the women and children in the camps, later running her own private day and night schools, and becoming an author with the publication of her book Reminiscences of My Lifein Camp with the 33rd United States Colored Troops. We, the Susie King Taylor Center for Jubilee, are honored to submit this Savannah Treasure to the City of Savannah for review, and we invite the Mayor and Council to rename Calhoun Square to “Taylor Square” in commemoration and honor of Susie King Taylor.