President Zachary Taylor
by Matthew Brady
Served as President: 1849-1850
Vice President: Millard Fillmore
Age at inauguration: 64
Born: November 24, 1784 in Orange County, Virginia
Died: July 9, 1850 in Washington D.C. while in office. He got sick after eating cherries and milk at a July 4 celebration. He was the second president to die in office
Married: Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor
Children: Anne, Sarah, Mary, Richard
Nickname: Old Rough-and-Ready
What is Zachary Taylor most known for?
Zachary Taylor is most famous for his long military career and his victories in the Mexican-American War. Prior to being president, Taylor had never been elected to public office.
by Joseph Henry Bush
Zachary was born in Virginia, but his parents moved to Kentucky when he was still a baby. He grew up in the frontier country of Kentucky living most of his childhood in a log cabin. His father was a farmer. Eventually his father became a very successful farmer owning over 10,000 acres of land near Louisville, Kentucky.
Growing up on the frontier, Zachary had little formal education. Unlike many U.S. presidents he never attended college or practiced law. In 1808, Taylor joined the army where he would spend the next 40 years of his life.
Before He Became President
Taylor joined the army as a lieutenant and quickly rose in the ranks. His first great success was when the commander of Fort Knox fled. Taylor quickly took command and restored order to the fort.
Taylor continued to have military success. In the War of 1812 he defended Fort Harrison from an attack by the famous Indian chief Tecumseh. He also fought in the Black Hawk War and the Second Seminole War in Florida. After many years he rose to the rank of brigadier general.
Taylor commanded the U.S forces in several battles during the Mexican-American War which was fought largely over the annexation of Texas by the United States. His success in the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Buena Vista made him a war hero. People began to compare him to George Washington and Andrew Jackson.
Zachary Taylor's Presidency
Despite having little to do with politics throughout his military career, Taylor ran for president in the 1848 elections. He was nominated by the Whig party. Southerners voted for Taylor because he was a fellow slave owner. Northerners voted for him because he was a war hero.
Despite being a slave owner himself, Taylor was fiercely convinced that the Union should stay together and that the Southern states should not be allowed to secede. He said he would use the U.S. Army to keep the southern states from seceding, if necessary. Taylor also thought that slavery should not be allowed in the new states in the west. Many Southerners were surprised and angry at Taylor's stances on slavery and the country began to move towards civil war.
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How did he die?
Zachary Taylor had one of the strangest deaths of any United States President. While at an Independence Day celebration he ate a snack of buttermilk and cherries. The snack was contaminated and Taylor died a few days later of cholera.
Fun Facts About Zachary Taylor
- President James Madison was Taylor's second cousin.
- He was a descendent of William Brewster, a leader of the Pilgrims who first landed on Plymouth Rock and sailed to America on the Mayflower.
- His daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, was married briefly to Jefferson Davis before she died. Davis went on to become president of the Confederacy.
- Taylor was known for his homespun ways while an officer. He was often disheveled, wore a straw hat, and sometimes wore farm clothes under his officer's jacket.
- He is said to have earned his nickname Old Rough-and-Ready from his clothing, "rough", and his preparedness to fight, "ready".
- There are theories that he was actually assassinated and that the snack he ate was purposely poisoned.
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