Susie King Taylor – Teacher, Civil War Nurse
August 6, 1848 – 1912
Born to two enslaved parents working on the Grest Family Farm in Liberty, Georgia, Susie King Taylor was indentured from her very first breath. At the age of seven, Susie was freed by their owner, Mr. Grest, along with her grandmother and one of her brothers. As their legal guardian, Susie’s grandmother took them to Savannah, Georgia where she secured educations for them both. It was a difficult and dangerous business for anyone to instruct freed African-American children. They were fortunate, however, to find teachers in two African-American women and later, two Caucasian people who taught the children in secret.
The Civil War broke out when Susie was just fourteen years old. In 1862, General Robert E. Lee evacuated the then Confederate occupied St. Simons Island, located on the S.E. Georgia Coast between Savannah and Jacksonville. The island, once lush, had been cleared almost in entirety for the production of cotton. When war broke out, many of the owners and their slaves fled to the mainland. In their wake, Union forces took hold of St. Simons. It was during this time that many of the freed slaves, including Susie and her family, sought refuge on the island. Soon after her arrival, the Union Army learned of Susie’s education, promising her books and supplies if she would start a school there. True to their promise and she to hers, Susie began the first school for freed African-American slaves. During the day, she taught the children and in the evenings, the adults.
During her time on the island, she met and married her first husband, Edward King, an African-American Union officer. Over the course of the next three years, she traveled with him, in the 33rd Regiment of United State Colored Troops, working as a teacher and nurse for its soldiers.
A year after the war ended, she and her husband returned to Savannah where they established a school for freed children. Later that year, her husband would die just prior to their son’s birth. As a newly single mother with a young child to support, Susie relocated with her then, three-year-old son, to Boston where she found work as a domestic in the home of a wealthy Bostonian family. There she met her second husband, Russell Taylor. The two remained in Boston for the rest of their lives. It is believed that the couple had multiple children together. In1902, just ten years before her death, Mrs. Taylor wrote and published Reminiscences of My Life in Camp. She passed away in 1912, outliving both husbands and a son.