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

26 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

    Reply
    1. Helen Macqueen

      The institution I work for (The National Museum of Health and Medicine) has a collection of autopsy records from Camp Zachary Taylor, and this individual is among the records. If you would like more information please send a formal request to me at Helen.a.Macqueen.ctr@mail.mil, and I would be happy to help you.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    1. Helen Macqueen

      The institution I work for (The National Museum of Health and Medicine) has a collection of autopsy records from Camp Zachary Taylor, and this individual is among the records. If you would like more information please send a formal request to me at Helen.a.Macqueen.ctr@mail.mil, and I would be happy to help you

      Reply
  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.?

    Reply
    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: http://camptaylorhistorical.org/. 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.

      Reply
  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…

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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?
      Thanks,
      Jennie

      Reply
  6. Charlie Yegen

    My Grandfather, Peter Yegen Jr., b 7-11-1896 d 3-15-1989, was at Camp Zachary Taylor. We have a photo of the 11th Tr Battery taken 9-13-1918 which includes Grandad. I heard, from my uncle, that he was a part of a unit entrusted with returning the remains of deceased soldiers to their homes. Uncle referred to this as the Rough Box detail.
    I can only imagine he was working with the remains of influenza victims. He was not deployed overseas.
    I am wondering if there are records of his arrival and departure dates at Camp Zachary Taylor and, perhaps any information on his duties while at camp.
    Thanks very much for any information or direction you might be able to provide.
    Charlie Yegen

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Dear Mr. Yegan,
      Thanks for your comment! We do not have actual military records from Camp Taylor, as they would likely be held by the National Archives. I was able to find Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File (from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) online, and I see that he enlisted 14 Sep 1918 and was released 10 Dec 1918, but that was all I could find online. I’m sorry I couldn’t provide you with more information!
      Jennie

      Reply
  7. Jerry Hubbs

    My grandfather Christopher A Luckert, a 37 year old druggist was drafted to Camp Taylor in August of 1918.
    Not sure how long he served, but he told me of the many soldiers who died there of influenza, and so many horses also that were stacked up and burned

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Jerry,
      Thanks for the information! I had not heard about the horses being afflicted with influenza. How horrific that time must have been.

      Reply
  8. Sarah K

    If anyone who lives in Kentucky is searching for military records, I managed to get them for my great-grandfather who trained here by just having his full name and SS number. My mom and I went through the funeral home he was buried by to send the request to Frankfort because they had his records still (which meant we had his SS). If this is a possible route for anyone else to take, it worked for me!
    His name was Bernard C. Mattingly, and he actually made it beyond his graduation at Camp Zachary Taylor which occurred only ten days before the war ended! He was held in service from May 1918 until October 1919 after being drafted and apparently never talked about the war. He just… wouldn’t, even though he likely never saw any fighting at all. Maybe he was traumatized by the influenza outbreak since, even though he survived it, he must’ve seen some bad conditions around him.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Thanks so much for sharing this useful information, and your family’s story, with us, Sarah!

      Reply
  9. Ken Morgan

    I have a framed photo (37″ wide x 9-1/2″ high) taken at Camp Zachary Taylor during WWI. The men are positioned to
    spell out the camps name. My grandfather, Otho Morgan, a native of Crittenden county is in the picture. I would like to donate the picture, if you can use it.

    Reply
  10. Danny Smith

    I have a certificate hanging on my wall from where my grandfather graduated Chaplain Candidate school. Camp Zachary Taylor, KY Nov 6, 1918.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Danny,
      I didn’t know that there was a Chaplain Candidate school at CZT – great info to have! Thank you for sharing,
      Jennie

      Reply
  11. MaryE

    I have a Roster of the 12th Observation Battery F.A.C.O.T.S. from November, 1918. After listing the men and their hometowns it has a list headed “Men Transferred ‘Over the Valley’ November 15, 1918.” Any idea what this means?

    Reply
  12. Richard R

    I am looking to find some information on how to obtain a picture of the unit that my father was in. A member of family has one that appears to be in really bad condition. He said that it had “42nd. Tr. Battery F.A.C.O.T.S. LT. M.R. Stone Comdg.-Nov 4th. 1918 Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville. KY” on it and how to find any of his other service records. Thanking you in advance.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Richard,
      I have searched through our photo database here at The Filson and don’t see any images of the 42nd FACOTS. If you can share your father’s name with me, I can look up his service record in a set of Kentucky WWI Service record books that we hold here at The Filson – assuming he was from Kentucky! If you have not already done so, you might also want to check out this book on the FACOTS- https://books.google.com/books?id=AQ1FVPh3b9QC&lpg=PA220&ots=xWo6TQj_g_&dq=42%20FACOTS&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false.
      Best,
      Jennie

      Reply
  13. Patricia Dawson

    My husband’s father Thomas Edward Dawson is pictured in a yard long photo of Camp Zachary Taylor dated March 28, 1917. He was sent to France and shot three times and left for dead in a turnip field. Do you have any information about him?

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Patricia,
      Thanks for your comment. Can you tell me the city and county in Kentucky where your father was living in 1917? I will be able to find out more information in our collection if he is from Kentucky. If he is not, I am afraid that we do not have any records to help you.
      Best wishes,
      Jennie

      Reply
  14. Sharron Hilbrecht

    My grandfather’s best friend, Philip J. O’Connor, died of the flu at Camp Taylor. I have copies of two letters Phil wrote to my grandpa on Aug. 31 and Sept 2, 1918, and two that my grandpa wrote to him (returned “deceased”) from Oct. 7 and 8, 1918. Phil died on Oct. 9. They both lived in NYC, and ironically, my grandfather ended up moving to Louisville 5 years later because of his work in the tobacco business.

    Phil was in the 5th Observation Battery, F.A.C.O.T.S. In one of his letters, he wrote that there were some distinguished people serving at the camp (not in his battery) including Stuyvesant Fish, the son of the president of the Illinois Central Railroad and a member of NYC high society, and Ambassador James Gerard’s son. Phil said they got exactly the same treatment as he did.

    When my grandfather learned Phil was sick with the flu, he reached out to his contact in the tobacco business, Mr. Luckett, for news. Unfortunately, Phil died from pneumonia caused by the flu. I would love to know more about him.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Dear Ms. Hilbrecht, That is a really interesting story! I’m afraid The Filson does not have records at The Filson on individuals stationed at Camp Zachary Taylor that were not born in Kentucky, outside of a few whose correspondence we have. There is a book that you might find useful about the FACOTS training. It is available on Google Books here: https://books.google.com/books/about/F_A_C_O_T_S.html?id=JTpD7ct3ydQC. You may also be able to find out more information on Mr. O’Connor’s family through census records or in City Directories for New York City. Best of luck!
      Jennie

      Reply

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