• Born: November 24th, 1784 in Orange County, VA
• Died: July 9th, 1850 in Washington, D.C.
• Married to: Margaret “Peggy” Mackall Smith Taylor
• Children: 6
• No college
• Other occupation: Military
• Party affiliation: Whig
• Vice President: Millard Fillmore
• Burial site: Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, KY
Zachary Taylor, the nation’s 12th president, was one of only two Whigs to be elected to serve in the White House. Like Harrison, the only other Whig to hold office, Taylor was a soldier. He was also a farmer.
The Mexican War made Taylor a hero after President Polk sent him to Texas to hold the shores of the Rio Grande River. Taylor held it; but war resulted, and with inferior numbers, “Old Rough and Ready” won battle after battle and virtually ended the war with major victories at Monterey and Buena Vista against Santa Ana. However, President Polk was disturbed by General Taylor’s informal habits of command and his Whig Party leanings, and kept him in northern Mexico while sending General Winfield Scott to capture Mexico City.
He fought in the Seminole War and while “down south” acquired a plantation in Louisiana. He was nominated for the presidency by the Whig Party in 1848, just at the close of the victorious war. His popularity, coupled with the break of Martin Van Buren with the Democrats to run as Free Soil candidate, helped carry the election.
Taylor tried to run his administration in the same rule-of-thumb fashion that he had fought Indians. He wanted people to determine their own destinies. He urged settlers in New Mexico and California to draft constitutions and apply for statehood.
This upset southern leaders who knew each would come in opposed to slavery. Taylor told the southern leaders who threatened secession that he would enforce the laws even if he had to personally lead the army. A compromise was finally worked out which stopped secession for the time.
After 16 months in office, Taylor fell ill after participating in ceremonies at the Washington Monument, and within five days he was dead. He was buried near Louisville, Kentucky.