HistoryZachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor’s Childhood and Career

The war hero of the Mexican-American War and the 12th president of the United States, Zachary Taylor, was born on November 24, 1784, in Virginia in their grandfather’s farm called the Hare Forest Farm with his parents and seven siblings, he was raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He was from a prosperous farmer family of English ancestry.

Portrait of Zachary Taylor

His father, Richard Taylor was a former lieutenant colonel in the American Revolution who owned 10,000 acres of land for farming in Kentucky; meanwhile, his mother, Mary Strother, took care of him and his siblings.

Growing up in the frontier, his mother homeschooled him to read and write because the education system was developing during his formative years. He learned to ride a horse, shoot, and hunt, which became useful in his military career.

In 1806, he enlisted in the military and eventually commissioned as the first lieutenant of the Seventh Infantry Regiment of Kentucky in 1808.

In 1809, Zachary Taylor spent time in tumbledown camps of New Orleans territories. During the time of James Wilkinson, the troops suffered disease and lack of supplies. Zachary was given an extended leave for him to recover.

In November 1810, he was promoted as the captain. He attended his finances, which limited his military duties.

Zachary Taylor married Margaret Mackall Smith in June 1810.

Margaret came from a prominent family of Maryland planters. They had six children: Anna Mackall, Sarah Knox, Mary Elizabeth, Richard Scott, and Octaviana Pannell, who died at a young age.

He eventually began to purchase bank stock in Louisville and acquired a plantation and buy slaves.

He was called to take charge of the Indiana Territory in 1811 and assumed control of Fort Knox. Governor William Henry Harrison commended Zachary Taylor for his ability to restore order in the unit. He testified in Washington D.C. Court Marshall for James Wilkinson’s inability to take part in the Battle of Tippecanoe in November 1811 against the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh.

Zachary Taylor defended Fort Harrison in Indiana Territory from Tecumseh’s troops. He received brevet and wide praise after his first land victory and was promoted as Major. He also aided and joined General Samuel Hopkins into the Illinois Territory and were forced to retreat during the Battle of Wild Cat Creek.

He moved his growing family to Fort Knox as violence started to die down.

He then took charge of the 430-man expedition after Brigadier General Benjamin Howard fell sick. He led the victory against Indian forces in the Battle of Credit Island in 1814. Zachary Taylor resigned from the army when the war ended in 1815. He reentered after a year and commissioned as a major.

He commanded Fort Howard in Green Bay, Michigan settlement. He then returned to Louisville with his family. In 1819, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was invited to dine with President James Monroe and General Andrew Jackson.

Zachary Taylor established Fort Jesup in 1822. In November of the same year, he transferred to Baton Rouge, where he stayed until 1824 to concentrate on recruiting duties.

In 1828, he was called back to action to command Fort Snelling in Minnesota. In April 1832, he was promoted as Colonel of the 1st infantry Regiment as the Black Hawk War began.

During this time, he was still an overprotective father over his children. He strongly opposes his daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor’s courtship with Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, who became the President of the Confederate States of America. Despite his disapproval, the couple was married in June 1835, when she was 21. She contracted malaria and died three months later.

In 1837, Zachary Taylor replaced Brigadier General Thomas Jesup to command all the troops in Florida. He held the position for two years and earned the nickname “Old Rough and Ready.”

He was granted a long vacation where he spent his time with his family and toured the nation. Zachary Taylor began his interest in politics.

As the anticipation of Texas’s annexation began after their independence in 1836, Zachary Taylor was ordered to defend the territory against Mexico’s attempt to reclaim it. As President James K. Polk failed the negotiation with Mexico, Zachary Taylor’s troops advanced to the Rio Grande in March 1846.

Captain Seth B. Thornton’s men were attacked by Mexican forces, which resulted in James K. Polk to address the Congress and declare war against Mexico.

Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna intent to destroy Zachary Taylor’s troops; however, he learned about the surprise attack; that is why, despite being outnumbered, he designed a strong defensive position. The Mexicans were outmatched and began to retreat.

Zachary Taylor was hailed as a war hero because of the victories he had. He received a hero’s welcome in New Orleans and Baton Rouge in December 1847, which set the stage for his journey to the White House.

Eyed to become the next Whig presidential candidate, Zachary Taylor disapproved of the abolishment of the Second Bank of the United States and the impracticality of expanding slavery to the newly acquired western territories. He also believed that secessions are not the answer to resolve national problems.

As a war hero, many supported him to run for the presidency; however, he announced that he would not accept any presidential nomination. Senator John J. Crittenden and other legislators persuaded him to declare himself a Whig. William H. Seward and Abraham Lincoln were eager to support a war hero.

During the 1848 Whig National Convention, Zachary Taylor won against his contenders and was nominated as the presidential ticket with his running mate, Millard Fillmore.

Zachary Taylor was inaugurated on March 5, 1849. His term was perplexed with controversies over slavery in the newly acquired Mexican territories. The revelation of financial improprieties in three of his cabinet members also arises.

He died before he resolved these issues. Zachary Taylor’s sudden death shocked the nation as he suffered cholera. He was given slivers of ice, but his body rejects the fluid. He died on July 9, 1850. Many claimed that he was poisoned; however, his body was exhumed in 1991 for investigation and disproved the speculation.

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