Zachary Taylor served as the 12th president of the United States and was in the office from March 1849 to July 1850; his tenure was cut short by his untimely death. He was a successful military leader and his contribution as a military leader was immense. He served in the United States Army for forty years and rose to the rank of major general.He led the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War and the Second Seminole War as a military leader. He headed the American troops to victory in the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican–American War. He fought the Presidential election as a Whig party candidate in 1848 and went on to win it by defeating his opponent Lewis Cass. He was the last Whig to win the presidential election and hold slaves under him. He faced criticism for his moderate approach on the issue of slavery. He also urged the settlers of New-Mexico and California to form statehood and thereby set the stage for the Compromise of 1850. But, before making any progress on the status of slavery, he died just sixteen months into his term.
- Zachary Taylor was born in a well-to-do prominent family of planters on 24 November 1784 in Orange County Virginia. His father's name was Richard Taylor and his mother's name was Sarah Strother Taylor. He had seven siblings; four brothers and three sisters.His father actively participated in the American Revolution movement by serving as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S Army. His father had served under George Washington during the American Revolution and he was a direct descendant of the Elder William Brewster, the Pilgrim colonist leader and spiritual elder of the Plymouth Colony.Unlike most kids, Zachary Taylor didn’t attend school and was instead coached by a teacher. The boy was apparently quick at grasping lessons but had a terrible handwriting.Zachary Taylor was passionate about the military services since a young age and in May 1808, he joined the army. For the next couple of years, he spent a lot of time at New Orleans and Terre aux Boeffs.Career
- Zachary Taylor earned the designation of a Captain in 1810 and there were fewer work responsibilities at that time. This gave him enough time to invest his earnings on properties, such as the plush ‘Cypress Grove Plantation’, as well as a plantation in Louisville for a whopping $95000, at that time.He proved his mettle in the infamous ‘War of 1812’ during which the American army locked horns with the British forces. Taylor and his troops were given the responsibility of defending ‘Fort Harrison’ during this time. He succeeded in keeping the British forces at bay, which earned him a lot of accolades from all quarters.He later went on to successfully defend ‘Fort Johnson’, situated near the Mississippi river too as well as ‘Fort Howard’. The gruesome battle with the British ended in 1815, but Taylor resigned from the military the same year. However, a year later, he made a great comeback, this time as a Major.In 1819, Zachary Taylor promoted as lieutenant colonel and also had the opportunity of dining with the President James Monroe.During the period 1821 to 1824, he was given several responsibilities, such as going to Natchitoches, Louisiana, with his troops for a military operation.In 1832, he campaigned under General Henry Atkinson in the ‘Black Hawk War’. The war resulted in the end of Indian resistance to U.S. expansion in the area.In 1837, during the the Second Seminole War, he defeated the Seminole Indians in the Christmas Day Battle of Lake Okeechobee; the battle was among the largest U.S.–Indian battles of the nineteenth century. For his able leadership, he was promoted to the rank of promoted to brigadier general.In the Mexican–American War, which was fought between the United States of America and the United Mexican States from 1846 to 1848, in the wake of the 1845 US annexation of Texas, which Mexico considered part of its territory, Taylor played a pivotal role in the American victory and was accorded the status of a national hero.In the 1848, U.S presidential election, Taylor was elected as the Whig Party candidate. He won the election by defeating his Democrat opponent Lewis Cass as well as former American president Martin Van Buren.He assumed the office of the President of the U.S on 4 March 1849. His presidency was marked by the tensions that threatened to divide the Union. Debate over the slave status of the large territories claimed in the war led to threats of secession from Southerners.Although, Taylor himself was a being a Southerner and a slaveholder, he did not push for the expansion of slavery. He urged settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage and draft constitutions for statehood, which the stage for the Compromise of 1850.Personal Life & Legacy
- Zachary Taylor tied the knot with Margaret Mackall Smith, who went on to be the first lady of the United States after the former was crowned the President. Margaret, also fondly known as ‘Peggy’, was the beloved child of a war veteran named Walter Smith. The wedding took place way back in 1810.The couple eventually became parents to six children, namely Sarah Knox Taylor, Octavia, Margaret, Mary Elizabeth and Richard Scott. Of these, Margaret and Octavia died at a young age.His daughter Sarah was seeing a soldier named Jefferson Davis, when she was 17. The news of his girl’s courtship didn’t go down too well with Taylor, since the latter thought it was difficult to be the wife of a soldier, since the man would be deployed to war zones.Sarah tied the knot in 1835, even though Taylor denied the relationship initially. Unfortunately, Sarah passed away just 3 months after the wedding after getting infected with Malaria. The young Sarah had visited Davis’ sister and it was during this trip that she contracted the disease.Zachary Taylor died on 9 July 1850, just 16 months into his presidency. The cause of death is believed to be over consumption of raw fruit and iced milk, while participating in an event in Washington.The U.S postal service issued a stamp in his memory in 1875.A statue of Zachary’s was erected by the ‘Commonwealth of Kentucky’, back in 1883 as a mark of tribute to the legendary leader.Several counties across The United States have been named after Taylor in the view of his contribution towards the nation.Trivia
- In the infamous ‘Seminole War’, he had used bloodhounds to keep the Indians at bay. This move of Taylor’s received a lot of criticism.
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Crown Prince of the Whiskerinos: Zachary Taylor Wilcox and the Days of '49 Celebration, Sacramento, 1922
by Carolyn Mirich
From Log Cabins to the White House...A History of the Taylor Family [President Zachary Taylor]
by Mary Taylor Brewer
Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents Series: The 12th President, 1849-1850
by John S. D. Eisenhower