|Carroll County IAGenWeb|
Transcribed by Sharon Elijah January 8, 2021
ZACHARY TAYLOR, the twelfth President of the United States, 1849-’50, was born in Orange County, Virginia, September 24, 1784. His father, Richard Taylor, was Colonel of a Virginia regiment in the Revolutionary war, and removed to Kentucky in 1785; purchased a large plantation near Louisville and became an influential citizen; was a member of the convention that framed the Constitution of Kentucky; served in both branches of the Legislature; was Collector of the port of Louisville under President Washington; as a Presidential elector, voted for Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Clay; died January 19, 1829.
Zachary remained on his father’s plantation until 1808, in which year (May 3) he was appointed First Lieutenant in the Seventh Infantry, to fill a vacancy occasioned by the death of his elder brother, Hancock. Up to this point he had received but a limited education.
Joining his regiment at New Orleans, he was attacked with yellow fever, with nearly fatal termination. In November, 1810, he was promoted to Captain, and in the summer of 1812 he was in command of Fort Harrison, on the left bank of the Wabash River, near the present site of Terre Haute, his successful defense of which with but a handful of men against a large force of Indians which had attacked him was one of the first marked military achievements of the war. He was then brevetted Major, and in 1813 promoted to the full rank.
During the remainder of the war Taylor was actively employed on the Western frontier. In the peace organization of 1815 he was retained as Captain, but soon after resigned and settled near Louisville. In May, 1816, however, he re-entered the army as Major of the Third Infantry; became Lieutenant-Colonel of the Eighth Infantry in 1819, and in 1832 attained the Colonelcy of the First Infantry, of which he had been Lieutenant-Colonel since 1821. On different occasions he had been called to Washington as member of a military board for organizing the militia of the Union, and to aid the Government with his knowledge in the organization of the Indian Bureau, having for many years discharged the duties of Indian agent over large tracts of Western country. He served through the Black Hawk war in 1832, and in 1837 was ordered to take command in Florida, then the scene of war with the Indians.
In 1846 he was transferred to the command of the Army of the Southwest, from which he was relieved the same year at his own request. Subsequently he was stationed on the Arkansas frontier at Forts Gibbon, Smith and Jesup, which latter work had been built under his direction in 1822.
May 28, 1845, he received a dispatch from the Secretary of War informing him of the receipt of information by the President “that Texas would shortly accede to the terms of annexation,” in which event he was instructed to defend and protect her from “foreign invasion and Indian incursions.” He proceeded, upon the annexation of Texas, with about 1, 500 men to Corpus Christi, where his force was increased to some 4,000.
Taylor was brevetted Major-General May 28, and a month later, June 29, 1846, his full commission to that grade was issued. After needed rest and reinforcement, he advanced in September on Monterey, which city capitulated after three-days stubborn resistance. Here he took up his winter quarters. The plan for the invasion of Mexico, by way of Vera Cruz, with General Scott in command, was now determined upon by the Government, and at the moment Taylor was about to resume active operations, he received orders to send the larger part of his force to reinforce the army of General Scott at Vera Cruz. Though subsequently reinforced by raw recruits, yet after providing a garrison for Monterey and Saltillo he had but about 5,300 effective troops, of which but 500 or 600 were regulars. In this weakened condition, however, he was destined to achieve his greatest victory. Confidently relying upon his strength at Vera Cruz to resist the enemy for along time, Santa Anna directed his entire army against Taylor to overwhelm him, and then to return to oppose the advance of Scott’s more formidable invasion. The battle of Buena Vista was fought February 22 and 23, 1847. Taylor received the thanks of Congress and a gold medal, and “Old Rough and Ready,” the sobriquet given him in the army, became a household word. He remained in quiet possession of the Rio Grande Valley until November, when he returned to the United States.
In the Whig convention which met at Philadelphia, June 7, 1848, Taylor was nominated on the fourth ballot as candidate of the Whig party for President, over Henry Clay, General Scott and Daniel Webster. In November Taylor received a majority of electoral votes, and a popular vote of 1,360,752, against 1,219,962 for Cass and Butler, and 291,342 for Van Buren and Adams. General Taylor was inaugurated March 4, 1849.
The free and slave States being then equal in number, the struggle for supremacy on the part of the leaders in Congress was violent and bitter. In the summer of 1849 California adopted in convention a constitution prohibiting slavery within its borders. Taylor advocated the immediate admission of California with her Constitution and the postponement of the question as to the other Territories until they could hold conventions and decide for themselves whether slavery should exist within their borders. This policy ultimately prevailed through the celebrated “Compromise Measures” of Henry Clay; but not during the life of the brave solider and patriot statesman. July 5 he was taken suddenly ill with a bilious fever, which proved fatal, his death occurring July 9, 1850. One of his daughters married Colonel W. W. S. Bliss, his Adjutant-General and Chief of Staff in Florida and Mexico, and Private Secretary during his Presidency. Another daughter was married to Jefferson Davis.
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