Zachary Taylor Biography

(12th President of the United States (1849-50))

Birthday: November 24, 1784 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Barboursville, Virginia, United States

Zachary Taylor served as the 12th president of the United States and was in 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 to 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.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 65


Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Smith

father: Richard Taylor

mother: Sarah Dabney (Strother) Taylor

siblings: Joseph Pannell Taylor

children: Ann Mackall, Margaret Smith, Mary Elizabeth Bliss, Octavia Pannell, Richard Taylor, Sarah Knox Taylor

Born Country: United States

Presidents American Men

political ideology: Whig

Died on: July 9, 1850

place of death: Washington, D.C., United States

U.S. State: Virginia

Cause of Death: Stomach Ailment

Ancestry: British American

  • 1

    What was Zachary Taylor's military career like?

    Zachary Taylor had a successful military career, rising through the ranks to become a Major General in the United States Army. He is best known for his leadership during the Mexican-American War.

  • 2

    What political party did Zachary Taylor belong to?

    Zachary Taylor was a member of the Whig Party. He was elected as the 12th President of the United States in 1848, representing the Whigs.

  • 3

    Did Zachary Taylor support the Compromise of 1850?

    Zachary Taylor opposed the Compromise of 1850, which was a series of legislative measures aimed at addressing the issue of slavery in the newly acquired territories from the Mexican-American War.

  • 4

    What was Zachary Taylor's stance on the issue of slavery?

    Zachary Taylor was a slave owner himself, but he took a moderate stance on the issue of slavery. He believed that the decision to allow or prohibit slavery in the territories should be left to the residents of those territories.

  • 5

    How did Zachary Taylor's sudden death impact the nation?

    Zachary Taylor's sudden death in 1850, just 16 months into his presidency, led to political instability and uncertainty. His death raised questions about his successor and the future direction of the country.

Childhood & Early Life

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 terrible handwriting.

Zachary Taylor was passionate about military service from a young age and in May 1808, he joined the army. For the next couple of years, he spent a lot of time in New Orleans and Terre aux Boeufs.

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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 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 was promoted to lieutenant colonel and also had the opportunity to dine with 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 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 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.

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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. The 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 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 was 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 overconsumption 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 view of his contribution to the nation.

Facts About Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States, was known for his simple and unpretentious lifestyle. He preferred to wear plain clothes and was often seen in his military uniform even when serving as president.

Taylor was nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready" due to his rugged appearance and no-nonsense approach to leadership. He was admired for his straightforward and honest demeanor.

Despite his military background, Taylor was not a career politician and had never held elected office before becoming president. He was seen as a refreshing change from the typical politicians of his time.

Taylor's favorite horse, Old Whitey, was a beloved companion during his military career and presidency. He was often seen riding Old Whitey on the White House grounds, adding a touch of charm to his presidential image.

See the events in life of Zachary Taylor in Chronological Order

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