Camp Zachary Taylor

In the stacks at the Filson Historical Society lay panoramic photos of an old US Army training site that once was a major part of Louisville.  Camp Zachary Taylor, named for Louisville resident and American President Zachary Taylor, was a World War I training camp built in 1917, the largest of 16 such camps that dotted the United States to prepare the United States’ young men for the Great War.  The camp was built in only 90 days and contained 2,000+ buildings that housed 40,000+ troops.  The first troops arrived at Camp Zachary Taylor in September of 1917.  Sadly, in 1918, an influenza outbreak at the camp killed 824 soldiers and put 13,000 in the hospital.  Approximately 125,000 troops were trained at the camp before it was closed in 1920 after the end of World War I.  The camp was auctioned off as 1,500 different parcels of land in 1921 and became the Camp Taylor area of Louisville.  Many of these parcels were bought by the soldiers returning to the area after completing their term of service.

A view of Camp Zachary Taylor [FHS Photograph Collection, WWI-55]

A view of Camp Zachary Taylor [FHS Photograph Collection, WWI-55]

One famous author came through Camp Zachary Taylor before it was closed, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald was at the camp from April 1918 to May 1918 and took some inspiration for his novel The Great Gatsby from Louisville.  His character Daisy is from Louisville and the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville is the site of a wedding between two of the characters.

Filson Historical

7 comments on “Camp Zachary Taylor

  1. Danny Wells

    While touring the Hill Country of Texas during the Bluebonnet season, I came upon a tomb stone of a young man, Oscar Olinger Nov. 28 , 1894–Nov. 10. 1918 28th Training Battery Camp Zachary Taylor Kentucky.
    Sadly, he must have been one of the 824 who died during the Influenza outbreak

  2. Ken Maguire

    Danny, that’s very interesting. The 28th Training Battery was part of the Field Artillery Central Officers Training School that was organized at Camp Taylor in the fall of 1918. Oscar Olinger is not listed in the graduate roster, so he most likely attending the school, but was not part of the graduating class, which took place on October 16, 1918. It is possible that he could have been succumbed to the flu. The flu peaked in the month of October 1918 and was nearly over by the end of November.

  3. Elli M

    My great great uncle died at Camp Taylor October 1818 during the epidemic. I’d like to find out more. Can you recommend any books, websites, etc.?

    1. Jana Meyer

      Hi Elli, thanks for commenting. There is actually a Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, and you can find lots of great information about Camp Taylor on their website: Also, here are a few suggestions of books and pamphlets to read:
      1. Camp Zachary Taylor souvenir, Louisville, Kentucky.
      by Dunn, Maurice, ed.
      Louisville, Ky. : Lambertson Service Bureau, [1918?]
      Description: 80 p. chiefly illus. 18 x 26 cm.
      2. John P. Meyer, “History and Neighborhood Analysis of Camp Taylor”, M.A. Thesis, University of Louisville, 1981.
      3. Ledford H. Day, “Camp Taylor 20 Years After,” Courier-Journal Magazine, June 20, 1937.

  4. Derek Smith

    I live in Canada, and recently purchased a long group photo of the 159 Depot brigade. ,45th co. 12th bn. Such young faces amassed in 8 descending rows…

  5. Carol Swearingin

    I have a yard long picture of camp Zachary Taylor I think my husband’s grandfather Harvey Swearingin must have been there. I am hunting for a list of the soldiers there in 1919.

    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Carol,
      I took a look at the military records on Ancestry Library, and found a Harvey M. Swearingin from Hamburg, Illinois, who was a private during World War I. His life dates were 1/9/1896-11/5/1951. Was this your husband’s grandfather?


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