Zachary TaylorThis article is about the twelfth President of the United States. For the U.S. Representative from Tennessee, see Zachary Taylor (Tennessee). For the Power Rangers character, see Zack Taylor. Zachary Taylor
12th President of the United StatesIn office
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850Vice President Millard FillmorePreceded by James K. PolkSucceeded by Millard FillmoreBorn November 24, 1784(1784-11-24)
Barboursville, VirginiaDied July 9, 1850(aged 65)
Washington, D.C.Nationality American Political party WhigSpouse Margaret Smith TaylorOccupation Soldier(General) Religion EpiscopalSignature Military service Nickname(s) Old Rough and Ready Allegiance United States of AmericaService/branch United States ArmyYears of service 1808-1848 Rank Major GeneralBattles/wars War of 1812
Black Hawk War
Second Seminole War
*Battle of Monterrey
*Battle of Buena Vista
Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was an American military leader and the twelfth President of the United States. Known as "Old Rough and Ready," Taylor had a 40-year military career in the U.S. Army, serving in the War of 1812, Black Hawk War, and Second Seminole War before achieving fame leading U.S. troops to victory at several critical battles of the Mexican-American War. A Southern slaveholder who opposed the spread of slavery to the territories, he was uninterested in politics but was recruited by the Whig Party as their nominee in the 1848 presidential election. In the election, Taylor defeated the Democratic nominee, Lewis Cass, and became the second U.S. president never to hold any prior office (George Washington had been the first). Taylor was also the last southerner to be elected president until Woodrow Wilson. (Andrew Johnson became president through succession).
- 1 Early life
- 2 Military career
- 3 Election of 1848
- 4 Presidency
- 5 Surviving family
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
He was the third of nine children of Colonel Richard Lee Taylor and Sarah Strother. James Madison was a second cousin and Robert E. Lee was a third cousin once removed (through Colonel Richard Lee the Immigrant). In his infancy, Taylor's family moved to Jefferson County, Virginia, now Jefferson County (Louisville Metro) in Kentucky, where Taylor grew up on a plantation called "Springfield", now called the Zachary Taylor House. He was known as "Little Zack" and was educated by private tutors. He was a descendant of King Edward I of England, as well as Mayflower passengers Isaac Allerton and William Brewster.
- Ann Mackall Taylor (April 9, 1811 - December 2, 1875)
- Sarah Knox "Knoxie" Taylor (March 6, 1814 - September 15, 1835)
- Octavia Pannill Taylor (August 16, 1816 - July 8, 1820)
- Mary Smith Taylor (July 27, 1819 - October 22, 1820)
- Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Taylor (April 20, 1824 - July 25, 1909)
- Richard "Dick" Taylor (January 27, 1826 - April 12, 1879), Confederate States Army General
Military careerThis section does not citeany references or sources. (January 2008)
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On May 3, 1808, Taylor joined the U.S. Army, receiving a commission as a first lieutenant of the Seventh Infantry Regiment. He was ordered west into Indiana Territory, taking command at the Battle of Fort Harrison; he was promoted to captain in November 1810.
During the War of 1812, Taylor became known as a talented military commander. Assigned to command Fort Harrison on the Wabash River, at the northern edge of present-day Terre Haute, Indiana, he successfully commandeered a small force of soldiers and civilians to stave off a British-inspired attack by about 500 Native Americans between September 4 and September 15. The Battle of Fort Harrison, as it became known, has been referred to as the "first American land victory of the War of 1812." Taylor received a brevet promotion to major on October 31, 1812. Taylor was promoted to lieutenant colonel on April 20, 1819, and colonel on April 5, 1832.
Taylor served in the Black Hawk War (May-August 1832) and the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). During the Seminole War, Taylor fought at the Battle of Lake Okeechobee and received a brevet promotion to brigadier general in January 1838. It was here he gained his nickname "Old Rough and Ready" for his rumpled clothes and wide-brimmed straw hat. On May 15, 1838, Taylor was promoted commanding general of all U.S. forces in Florida.
James K. Polk sent the Army of Occupation under Taylor's command to the Rio Grande in 1846. After Mexico sent a cavalry unit and attacked Taylor's troops (and additionally killed 16 American soldiers), Polk urged Congress to declare the Mexican-American War. In that conflict Taylor won additional important victories at Monterrey and Buena Vista and became a national hero.
Polk kept Taylor in Northern Mexico, disturbed by his informal habits of command and his affiliation with the Whig Party. He sent an expedition under General Winfield Scott to capture Mexico City. Taylor, incensed, thought that "the battle of Buena Vista opened the road to the city of Mexico and the halls of Montezuma, that others might revel in them."
Election of 1848
- Main article: U.S. presidential election, 1848
Taylor received the Whig nomination for President in 1848. Millard Fillmore of Cayuga County, New York was chosen for the Vice Presidential nominee. Like many other army officers, Taylor was nonpolitical and had never voted. His homespun ways and his status as a war hero were political assets. Taylor defeated Lewis Cass, the Democratic candidate, and Martin Van Buren, the Free Soil candidate.
To the astonishment of Whigs, Taylor ignored their platform, as historian Michael Holt explains:
Taylor was equally indifferent to programs Whigs had long considered vital. Publicly, he was artfully ambiguous, refusing to answer queries about his views on banking, the tariff, and internal improvements. Privately, he was more forthright. The idea of a national bank "is dead, and will not be revived in my time." In the future the tariff "will be increased only for revenue"; in other words, Whig hopes of restoring the protective tariff of 1842 were vain. There would never again be surplus federal funds from public land sales to distribute to the states, and internal improvements "will go on in spite of presidential vetoes." In a few words, that is, Taylor pronounced an epitaph for the entire Whig economic program.
PoliciesPresident Taylor and his Cabinet
From left to right: William B. Preston, Thomas Ewing, John M. Clayton, Zachary Taylor, William M. Meredith, George W. Crawford, Jacob Collamer and Reverdy Johnson, (1849).
Although Taylor had subscribed to Whig principles of legislative leadership, he was not inclined to be a puppet of Whig leaders in Congress. He ran his administration in the same rule-of-thumb fashion with which he had fought Native Americans.
Under Taylor's administration, the United States Department of the Interior was organized, although the legislation authorizing the Department had been approved on President Polk's last day in office. He appointed former Treasury Secretary Thomas Ewing the first Secretary of the Interior.
The Compromise of 1850
The slavery issue dominated Taylor's short term. Although he owned slaves, he took a moderate stance on the territorial expansion of slavery, angering fellow Southerners. He told them that if necessary to enforce the laws, he personally would lead the Army. Persons "taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang ... with less reluctance than he had hanged deserters and spies in Mexico." He never wavered. Henry Clay then proposed a complex Compromise of 1850. Taylor died as it was being debated. (The Clay version failed but another version did pass under the new president, Millard Fillmore.)
Administration and CabinetPortrait of Zachary Taylor The Taylor Cabinet OFFICE NAME TERM PresidentZachary Taylor 1849 – 1850 Vice PresidentMillard Fillmore1849 – 1850 Secretary of StateJohn M. Clayton1849 – 1850 Secretary of TreasuryWilliam M. Meredith1849 – 1850 Secretary of WarGeorge W. Crawford1849 – 1850 Attorney GeneralReverdy Johnson1849 – 1850 Postmaster GeneralJacob Collamer1849 – 1850 Secretary of the NavyWilliam B. Preston1849 – 1850 Secretary of the InteriorThomas Ewing, Sr.1849 – 1850
The cause of Zachary Taylor's death is not well understood. On July 4, 1850, Taylor consumed a snack of milk and cherries at an Independence Day celebration. Upon his sudden death, five days later on July 9th, the cause was listed as gastroenteritis.
Due to suspicions of assassination, Taylor's remains were exhumed; and a Kentucky medical examiner submitted hair and tissue samples to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where neutron activation analysis revealed traces of arsenic at levels several hundred times less than necessary for poisoning to have occurred. 
Despite these findings, assassination theories have not been entirely put to rest. Michael Parenti devoted a chapter in his controversial 1999 book History as Mystery to what he called "The Strange Death of Zachary Taylor". In it he speculated that Taylor was assassinated and that his autopsy was botched.Taylor postage stamp
There is some strong evidence that Taylor died from complications of heat stroke. On July 4, 1850, the weather in Washington was hot and rather humid. Taylor was there to preside over ceremonies at the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument. Taylor was sporting a thick coat, vest, high-collared shirt, and a top hat. Shortly after arriving, Taylor complained that he was very thirsty. He went to the reception table and downed a large amount of water directly from a pitcher.
Since the water was sitting in the sun, the idea of cholera is a possibility. But Taylor exhibited classic symptoms of heat stroke, particularly red, flushed skin on the face. Records also indicate that Taylor was having trouble walking and exhibiting slurred speech. At no time while outside did anyone loosen or remove Taylor's clothing. Only after returning to the White House was some of his clothing loosened.
At this point his clothing was removed, but internal organs had already been damaged. In fact, his doctors were mystified as to the cause of multiple organ failure. Medical sciences had not addressed heat stroke and the internal damage caused by it. According to author Charles Panati, Taylor actually awoke briefly and said: "I should not be surprised if this were to result in my death." He took a few sips of iced milk, again adding to the possibility of cholera. He lapsed again into unconsciousness and died on July 9, 1850.
- Taylor's son Richard became a Confederate Lieutenant General, while his daughter Sarah Knox Taylor (1814–1835) had married future President of the Confederate States Jefferson Davis three months before her death of malaria.
- Taylor's brother, Joseph Pannill Taylor, was a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the Civil War. (Joseph P. Taylor's son Joseph Hancock Taylor was a US Colonel in the Civil War and was also a son-in-law of Union General Montgomery C. Meigs).
- Taylor's niece Emily Ellison Taylor was the wife of Confederate General Lafayette McLaws.
- Ann Taylor's son John Taylor Wood, a U.S. Navy officer, defected to the Confederate side and later fled to Canada during the Civil War; his great-grandson Zachary Taylor Wood was Acting RCMP Commssioner, great-great-grandson Stuart Taylor Wood was Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and great-great-great-grandsons (Cst. Herschel Wood and Supt.(Ret) John Taylor Wood served in the RCMP.
- ^ *Taylor's term of service was scheduled to begin on March 4, 1849, but as this day fell on a Sunday, Taylor refused to be sworn in until the following day. Vice President Millard Fillmore was also not sworn in on that day. Most scholars believe that according to the U.S. Constitution, Taylor's term began on March 4, regardless of whether he had taken the oath or not.
- ^ Holt 1999 p 272
- ^ "Biography of Zachary Taylor" from The White House
- ^ "President Zachary Taylor and the Laboratory: Presidential Visit from the Grave" from Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- ^ "Parenti", "Michael" (September 1999). "History as Mystery". "City Light Books", 304. ISBN 9780872863576.
- Bauer, Jack K. Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest. Louisiana State University Press: 1993. ISBN 0-8071-1851-6
- Hamilton, Holman. Zachary Taylor: Soldier of the Republic (1941) vol 1
- Hamilton, Holman. Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House (1951) vol 2
- Michael F. Holt; The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. (1999)
- Smith, Elbert B. The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. University Press of Kansas: 1988. ISBN 0-7006-0362-X.
- List of United States Presidents who died in office
External linksWikisource has original works written by or about: Zachary Taylor Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Zachary Taylor Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Zachary Taylor
- Extensive essay on Zachary Taylor and shorter essays on each member of his cabinet and First Lady from the Miller Center of Public Affairs
- White House Biography
- Biography by Appleton's and Stanley L. Klos
- Zachary Taylor State of the Union Address
- Zachary Taylor letters from 1846-1848
- Medical and Health history of Zachary Taylor
- Photo of grave of President Zachary Taylor, with GPS coordinates
- General Taylor's letters : letter of Gen. Taylor to Gen Gaines; Secretary Marcy's reprimand of Gen. Taylor; and Gen. Taylor's reply; with the fable alluded to annexed
James K. PolkPresident of the United States
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850 Succeeded by
Millard FillmoreParty political offices Preceded by
Henry ClayWhig Party presidential nominee
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Michigan Territory (Wisconsin): Bad Axe River • Fort Blue Mounds • Fort Crawford • Fort Defiance • Fort Hamilton • Fort Jackson • Fort Koshkonong • Fort Union • Gratiot's Grove • Hamilton's Diggings • Pecatonica River • Sinsinawa Mound • Wisconsin Heights Battlefield • Wisconsin River •
Minor engagements • Battle of Stillman's Run • Buffalo Grove ambush • Plum River raid • Indian Creek massacre • St. Vrain massacre • Attacks at Fort Blue Mounds • Spafford Farm massacre • Battle of Horseshoe Bend • Battle of Waddams Grove • Battle of Kellogg's Grove • Attack at Ament's Cabin • Battle of Apple River Fort • Sinsinawa Mound raid • Battle of Wisconsin Heights • Battle of Bad AxeOther topics
PersondataNAME Taylor, Zachary ALTERNATIVE NAMES
SHORT DESCRIPTION President of the USA, 1849-50 DATE OF BIRTH November
24, 1784PLACE OF BIRTH Barboursville, VirginiaDATE OF DEATH July 9, 1850PLACE OF DEATH
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