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

42 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
  15. Trey Mecom

    Researching an in-laws grandparent named Luther Davis, born Jan, 1, 1896 in Tolu, Crittenden County KY. I found him on a list from the Crittenden County, KY draft board ordered to report to Camp Zachary Taylor on June 23, 1918. He died in Jan. 1970 in Fayetteville, TN. I was wondering if there was a record of him, if he was there during the influenza outbreak. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Dear Mr. Mecom,
      Thanks for your question! We do not hold records on who was at Camp Taylor, but do have an interesting collection of compiled WWI service records of men from Kentucky. I’m afraid the records I have found here are somewhat contradictory. Luther Davis is not listed with the other men in the service from Crittenden County in WWI (which was copied from official statements of service in Frankfort, KY), but he is listed in the registrants inducted into the service by the local board of Crittenden County, Kentucky. His address is given as Rosiclare, Illinois, and lists as being inducted June 23, 1918. I also saw his draft card on Ancestry.com, which is dated June 5, 1917, and shows him as living in Tolu, Kentucky. I’m wondering if between his draft card registration and his actually being drafted he moved to Illinois, and that caused some of the record confusion? I’d suggest that your next route of research may be for his actual government military record, which should be held by the National Archives in St. Louis – see: https://www.archives.gov/research/order/order-vets-records.html#nprc
      Best of luck with your research!
      Jennie Cole

      Reply
      1. Trey Mecom

        Thank you so much. Your quick response is appreciated and beyond the call of duty.

        Reply
        1. Jennie Cole

          You are very welcome! Happy to provide what little information I could!
          jc

          Reply
  16. Rebecca Walsh

    My grandfather was a army surveyor at Camp Taylor. He surveyed the new fort to replace Zachery Taylor, Fort Knox. He met my grandmother in a store in a place called Stithton Ky. It was where the new base was being built. When the old base was closed they gave the army men a chance to buy some of the land. My Grandfather, Cris Gastinger bought about a city block I was told.
    He took one of the buildings already there and divided it into two houses. One that he and my grandmother lived in and the other half for his mother in law. He also donated some land to the church that his children and grandchildren were raised in. Those buildings still stand as far as I know. Grandmas house was at 1539 Lincoln Avenue. The church was Camp Taylor Wesleyan Church two houses down from her house. The church closed a few years ago. My grandfather died on February 14, 1937. I never knew him and neither did my mother. She was almost a year old when he died. Many if my mother’s siblings are gone but my oldest Aunt still living is now in her 90’s. I’ve always wanted to find any pictures of grandpa from the camp or his army days.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Rebecca,
      Thank you so much for sharing your family’s Camp Zachary Taylor story! I took a look at the address on Google maps, and it appears that the two buildings and the church are all still standing. I hope to go by and photograph them for my work on Camp Taylor. I’m not sure what sort of buildings they would have been at the camp, far too small to be barracks, but perhaps someone at the Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society would know? All of the Filson’s photographs of Camp Taylor have been scanned and are available online at: http://filson.pastperfectonline.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search_criteria=%22Camp+Zachary+Taylor%22&searchButton=Search. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at research@filsonhistorical.org. You may also want to reach out the the Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society – camptaylorhistorical.org.
      Best wishes,
      Jennie

      Reply
  17. John D. Burke

    I was inducted into the U. S. Navy in April 1967. I thought we were told that we were being processed in some of the old hospital buildings of Ft. Zachary Taylor. Am I mistaken?

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Mr. Burke,
      I have heard the same from others regarding Navy induction. The hospital buildings at Camp Zachary Taylor would have been south of today’s Watterson Expressway, between Preston Highway and Poplar Level Road. I am not sure when they were demolished. One man I spoke with thought that perhaps he was inducted in the Motor Transport Building, which was still standing on Trevillian Way across from the Louisville Zoo until earlier this year.
      Best wishes,
      Jennie

      Reply
  18. Ed Cannon

    My grandfather, Alva Thomas Kirk (Ohio County, Ky) was stationed at Camp.Taylor. Not sure of the year. He got influenza and was released from the Army. He recovered and lived a full life. He talked about him being quarantined in what he described as a cave.
    Would you have any record of him at Camp Taylor and the cave?

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Ed, I’m afraid we don’t have any actual records of soldiers’ activities at Camp Taylor unless we happen to have letters from the soldiers themselves. We do have an interesting collection of compiled WWI service records of men from Kentucky. I found your grandfather; he was inducted at Ohio County on July 25, 1918, and was part of Headquarters Company 36 Field Artillery through November 17, 1918, and then Battery F, 34th Field Artillery through his discharge on January 31, 1919. There is no note about any injuries or illness, and he did not serve overseas. I have not heard anything about quarantines in a cave; you might check with the Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society (http://camptaylorhistorical.org/). I’d also suggest that you might check his actual government military record, which should be held by the National Archives in St. Louis – see: https://www.archives.gov/research/order/order-vets-records.html#nprc
      Best of luck with your research!

      Reply
  19. Heather Dingley

    My grandfather was inducted on August 26, 1918 at Camp Taylor. I don’t know what training he had or if he was in any pictures. We just discovered him as my mother spent her entire life unaware of her family. The family was broken up and scattered. His name was William Stanton Miller, born 16 Sep 1892. Born in Ky. Ssn 406106648. He was released 16 Dec 1918. Is there any way to find more information? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Heather, please pardon the delay in response! I checked the compiled WWI service records of men from Kentucky, and could not find a record for a William Stanton Miller; I also checked “Stanton Miller” as I saw him referred to that way on a quick Ancestry.com search. There were other “William Millers” in the book, but unfortunately there are not dates of birth for most, so it is hard to know if he was one of them without knowing where he was living. I would suggestion that you might check his actual government military record, which should be held by the National Archives in St. Louis – see: https://www.archives.gov/research/order/order-vets-records.html#nprc. Good luck with your continued research!

      Reply
  20. Lynita S Langley-Ware

    I am the director of the Faulkner county Museum in conway, Arkansas. In our collection we have a little orange card for a William Little, of the 46 TR BTRY FACOTS dated Nov. 9, 1918. He is listed as a candidate. It is the card that certifies that William Little has been properly instructed and examined in Military Courtesy, Military Dress, Military Bearing. Is there any way I can find out more about Candidate Little? Did he graduate? Did he go overseas?, Did he perish in the Influenza epidemic? Any information you could direct my way would be most gratefully appreciated. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Jamie Evans

      Hi Lynita! Thanks for reaching out. Please email us at research@filsonhistorical.org. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

      Reply
  21. Heather Dingley

    Everyone else was respectfully responded to…except me. I am struggling putting the pieces together of my family- a family I never knew. Its exhausting and emotionally overwhelming. When I found this thread I was so hopeful. So imagine my despair when I checked back in, today, to find my inquiry was ignored. I’ll keep looking elsewhere.

    Reply
    1. Jamie Evans

      Hi Heather, Thank you for reaching out! We apologize for the delay in responding to you. Please feel free to email us at research@filsonhistorical.org with your inquiry. Thank you for contacting us and we look forward to helping you out.

      Reply

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