Zachary Taylor | Biography, Presidency, Facts & Death

Zachary Taylor Summary

Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States of America. He took part in the Seminole Revolution through Florida (1835–42), the Black Hawk Wars (1832), and the War of 1812, acquiring the moniker “Old Rough-and-Ready” for his callous disregard for suffering. He had been sent to Texas in preparation for a conflict over Mexico, and at the engagements of Palo Alto as well as Resaca de la Palma, he drove the Mexican intruders out (1846). He took Monterrey following the official start of the Mexican War and gave the Mexican troops an eight-week ceasefire. 

James K. Polk, the president, was upset and provided Winfield Scott with the leadership of Taylor’s finest men to participate in the Veracruz attack. Taylor headed south against a sizable Mexican army in the Battle of Buena Vista, defying commands to stay in Monterrey (1847).

He rose to fame as a hero in his country and was chosen as the Whig presidential candidate (1848). He won the election by defeating Lewis Cass. His brief administration was highlighted by a scandal surrounding officials of his government after a dispute over the additional territory led to the Compromise of 1850. After barely 16 months on the job, he passed away, most likely from cholera, and Millard Fillmore took his place.

Facts About Zachary Taylor

BornBarboursville, Virginia, on November 24, 1784, in the U.S.
DiedWashington, United States, around July 9, 1850, at age 65
WifeMargaret Smith (m. 1810)
ParentsRichard Taylor and Sarah Dabney

Zachary Taylor Early Life and Military Duty

Zachary Tyler was born in Barboursville, Virginia, on November 24, 1784, in the U.S. He was the third of Taylor’s nine kids when his parents, Richard Taylor and Mary Strother, moved from Virginia to Kentucky. Taylor, who grew up on the border of Kentucky, joined the military around 1806. He was appointed the first officer in the cavalry in 1808. He wed Margaret Mackall (Margaret Taylor) around 1810, and the two had six kids together. 

His son Richard Taylor served as a general officer in the Confederate Army during the Revolutionary War, and their child Sarah Knox Taylor wed Jefferson Davis, the potential leader of the Confederate Nations of America, in 1835.

After over 40 years of military service, Taylor was eventually promoted to the general officer position (1846). He oversaw military operations throughout the Battle of 1812, the American Black Hawk Revolution (1832), and the 2nd Seminole Rebellion in Florida (1835–42), where his performance at the Fight of Lake Okeechobee earned him advancement to the position of brigadier general (1837). He made Baton Rouge his home after being posted to a station in Louisiana around 1840.

Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States of America

President Polk sent Taylor and a 4,000-man force to the Rio Grande, across from Matamoros, Mexico, not long after Texas was annexed (1845). The Mexican-American War started on April 25, 1846, when a group of Mexican soldiers entered the Rio Grande and clashed with Taylor’s soldiers. 2 weeks later, Mexican armies traversed the river once more to confront Taylor. Still, this time, in the engagements of Palo Alto as well as Resaca de la Palma, Taylor’s forces easily repelled the attackers on two consecutive days (May 8 and 9). The United States went to War on Mexico on May 13.

It subsequently gave the Mexican army an eight-week ceasefire after Taylor had led his men out across the Rio Grande and moved on Monterrey, which was captured on September 22 and 23, angering Polk. By denouncing Polk and his general secretary, William L. Marcy, in a published telegram, Taylor antagonized Polk even more. 

Polk gave Taylor the directive to limit his efforts to those required for defense and moved Taylor’s finest men to General Winfield Scott’s force. However, Taylor violated these instructions the following February and proceeded south using his smaller force. He brilliantly defeated a Mexican troop that outweighed his powers by a ratio of around four to one in the War of Buena Vista.

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Zachary Taylor’s Presidency (1849–1850)

Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor Presidency, (March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850)


Zachary Taylor kept a low profile in Washington while president-elect and didn’t give up command of the Western Department until the end of January 1849. He selected his government throughout the months that followed the election. To the dismay of his fellow Whigs, he made thoughtful, quiet judgments. Even though he loathed power games and favoritism, he had to deal with a barrage of approaches from those vying for positions in his government.

Zachary Taylor distributed the seats regionally because he intended his cabinet to represent the different interests of the country, even though he would not nominate any Democrats. He also refrained from selecting notable Whigs, eschewing Clay, and other apparent choices.

He offered Crittenden the critical position of Minister of State because he considered Crittenden a pillar of his government. Still, Crittenden persisted in finishing his term as Kentucky’s head of state, which he had recently won. Taylor ultimately decided on Crittenden’s close friend and senator from Delaware, John M. Clayton.

Taylor made the final six cabinet selections with Clayton’s help. Taylor would’ve been choosing the agency’s first secretary because creating the Cabinet of Wildlife would be one of the next Congress’s first acts. Thomas Ewing took the lucrative Department of the Interior job after previously holding the office of a congressman from Ohio, then Treasury secretary during William Henry Harrison. Taylor nominated Vermont Representative Jacob Collamer for the appointment of Superintendent, which also acted as a hub of favoritism.

Horace Binney declined the position of Treasury Secretary, so Taylor went with William M. Meredith, another well-known Philadelphian. Longtime Georgia General George W. Crawford assumed the appointment of commander of the army, and Virginia representative William B. Preston was named minister of the navy. Perhaps one of Taylor’s most powerful cabinet ministers, Representative Reverdy Johnson from Maryland, obtained the position of Attorney General. Since Taylor did not like Vice President Fillmore, they ignored him during Taylor’s administration.

Early in January, Taylor started his voyage to Washington; it was fraught with terrible climate, delays, accidents, illnesses, and even kidnapping by a close friend.

On February 24, Taylor made it to the country’s capital and spoke with former President Polk right away. The governing Democrat had a poor impression of Taylor and said privately that he was “wholly unprepared for the post” of presidency and “without political knowledge.” The previous week, Taylor met with influential political figures, including some who were displeased by his beliefs and demeanor. He visited with Clayton less than two weeks before his installation and quickly put his cabinet together.

Zachary Taylor Inauguration

Taylor took the oath of office on Sunday, March 4, although his ceremony wasn’t held until Monday, March 5, due to ethical considerations. His inaugural address described the different challenges facing the country, but instead of taking solid executive action, he advocated a leadership style that showed respect to Congress and regional consensus. In addition, he underlined the value of avoiding entangled alliances by citing President Washington’s example.

Taylor found time to speak with various candidates for office and other ordinary people who wanted his consideration in the months after his inaugural. He also went to several burials for Dolley Madison and past presidents Polk. Eisenhower claimed that Taylor made the term “First Lady” up at his funeral for Madison. 

Zachary Taylor traveled around the Northeast American States in the summertime of 1849 to get to know a part of the country he had not previously seen. He was afflicted with stomach symptoms for the whole journey and was back in Washington in early September.

Zachary Taylor Segmental Crisis

The Mexican Cession, which the United States acquired following the Mexican War, was the subject of numerous concerns for Congress. The admittance of the Utah Colony, New Mexico Landmass, and California Region as free states was opposed by Southerners. In Washington, DC, northerners urged that the national slave trade be abolished at the same time. Texas asserted territorial disputes over portions from the east side of New Mexico and prepared to use its paramilitary force to impose those claims by force.

Sectional peace and the preservation of the Union via legislative agreement were Taylor’s main objectives. Taylor, an enslaver from the South, found that the system within the Mexican Cession was unprofitable from an economic standpoint.

A constitutional amendment overwhelmingly decided to embrace the Union and outlaw slavery in 1849. At the time, California’s populace was increasing, and the California Gold Boom was already underway.

At the moment of Zachary Taylor’s administration, the border issue between New Mexico and Texas was unresolved. In terms of having little to no representation in the freshly acquired region from Mexico, Texas was eager to include a large area of terrain in northern Santa Fe inside their borders. Taylor backed the claim of the New Mexicans, originally advocating for the region to remain a federal area, but then favored independence to end the fight over enslavement in Congress further. P. Hansborough Bell, the newly appointed administrator of Texas, attempted to escalate military intervention in defense of the state against the national govt, but his efforts were ineffective.

In December 1849, Taylor delivered his sole Presidential address to Congress. He provided information on the statehood bids from California and New Mexico. Prosaic and emotionless, the study concluded with a harsh rebuke of separatists. Legislators in the South, who saw the admittance of two free republics as an ongoing threat, were unaffected by it.

Foreign Policy

At a time when American-international relations were broadly quiet, Governor Zachary Taylor and Director of Department John M. Clayton took office. Taylor was able to hand off Clayton’s responsibilities for foreign affairs with little supervision, thanks to their common patriotism. They loudly backed German but also Hungarian liberals within the 1848 uprisings as adversaries of the despotic European system. While earlier Whig cabinets had placed a strong emphasis on commerce in the Pacific, the Taylor president made no significant moves in the Far Eastern.

The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which relates to a planned interoceanic tunnel across Central America, is considered the Taylor administration’s most important foreign affairs accomplishment. In addition, they challenged Spain, which had detained numerous Americans on piracy-related charges. They declared a blockade and eventually gave López and his colleagues the go-ahead to be arrested in bulk.

Zachary Taylor Final Moments and Efforts at Compromise

As Congress discussed the issue of slavery, Clay assumed a prominent position. Although there were several points where his views and Taylor’s overlapped, the president avoided Clay at all costs. Consequently, as Congress was formulating a compromise, Taylor was disregarded. Despite allowing sovereignty for California, the Agreement of 1850 preserved enslavement in the Department of Columbia.

The relatives of a colonial merchant whose contributions to the British crown were not compensated at the beginning of the American Rebellion were the subject of a fifteen-year legal dispute implicating Minister of War Crawford. The U.S. Legislature convicted Taylor, and newspapers demanded his prosecution.

Zachary Taylor Death

Zachary Tyler Grave
Zachary Tyler Grave

On July 23, 1850, They performed a funeral service for George Washington in New York City. The 7th Military Police Regiment fired three volleys during the march. Thirty pallbearers were used, representing the number of states in the Nation at the time.

President Zachary Taylor passed away on July 4, 1850, after becoming ill with an unidentified stomach disease. Despite the fact that other cabinet colleagues had contracted a similar ailment, historians continue to speculate on the origins and cause of his condition. His Army doctor Alexander S. Wotherspoon identified the sickness as cholera morbus,” a general term for digestive disorders including diarrhea and dysentery in the middle of the 19th century.

Taylor was cremated in an airtight Fisk aluminum burial case with a frosted glass plate so that mourners could see the deceased’s face. Taylor developed a fever, and her chances of recovering were slim.

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