The New International Encyclopædia/Taylor, Zachary
TAYLOR, Zachary (1784-1850). The twelfth President of the United States. He was born in Orange County, Va., on November 24, 1784, and was the son of Col. Richard Taylor, an officer of the Revolutionary War and one of the first settlers of Louisville, Ky., whither Zachary was taken in early childhood, and where he lived until his twenty-fourth year, working on a plantation and receiving only an elementary education. His elder brother, who had received a lieutenancy in the army, died in 1808, when Taylor was appointed to the vacant commission. In 1810 he was promoted to a captaincy; and in 1812, with 50 men, two-thirds of whom were ill of fever, he defended Fort Harrison, on the Wabash, against a large force of Indians led by Tecumseh. Promoted to the rank of major for his gallantry, he was employed during the war in fighting the Indian allies of Great Britain. In 1822 he built Fort Jesup; in 1832 he served as colonel in the Black Hawk War; and in 1830 was ordered to Florida, where he gained an important victory over the Seminole Indians at Okeechobee, for which he was appointed brigadier-general, and was made commander of the United States forces in Florida. In 1840, having been appointed to the connnand of the Southwestern Department, he purchased a plantation near Baton Rouge, La. On February 28, 1845, Congress passed the resolution for the annexation of Texas, formerly a province of Mexico, and for some time an independent republic. Texas claimed the Rio Grande for her southwestern boundary; Mexico insisted that there could be no claim beyond the Nueces, and prepared to defend the disputed territory, even if she could not reconquer the whole of Texas. General Taylor was ordered to Corpus Christi. This point he occupied in November with a small force which was increased by reenforcements to 4000 men. On March 28, 1846, he had moved to the Rio Grande, across the disputed territory, and had begun to build Fort Brown, opposite and commanding the Mexican port of Matamoros. General Ampudia, the Mexican commander, on April 12th, demanded that he should retire beyond the Nueces, pending negotiations; and on the refusal of General Taylor, his successor, General Arista, crossed the Rio Grande with a force of 6000 men and 10 pieces of artillery. On May 8th he was defeated at Palo Alto by General Taylor, with a force of 2300; and on the next day was driven from a new position at Resaca de la Palma across the Rio Grande. War was declared first by the President, and later by Congress, to exist by the act of Mexico; and 50,000 volunteers were called for, Taylor was made major-general, was reenforced, and ordered to invade Mexico. On September 9th, with 6600 men, he attacked Monterey, which was defended by about 10,000 regular troops. After ten days' siege and three days' hard fighting, it capitulated. General Scott, having been ordered to advance on the City of Mexico by Vera Cruz, withdrew a portion of the troops of General Taylor, leaving him only 5000 volunteers and 500 regulars, chiefly flying artillery, to meet an army of 20,000, commanded by Santa Anna. He took a strong position at Buena Vista, fought a desperate battle, on February 22 and 23, 1847, and won a decisive victory. (See Mexican War.) This victory, against enormous odds, created the utmost enthusiasm. General Taylor, popularly called ‘Old Rough and Ready,’ was nominated by the Whigs in 1848 for President of the United States, and was elected, receiving 163 electoral votes, while General Cass, the Democratic candidate, received 127 electoral votes, and Martin Van Buren, the Free Soil candidate, received none. Entering upon the Presidency in 1849, he found a Democratic plurality in Congress, with a small but vigorous Free-Soil Party holding the balance of power, while the most exciting questions connected with the extension of slavery, as the admission of California, the settlement of the boundaries of Texas, the organization of the other newly acquired Mexican territories, etc., were agitating the country, and threatening a disruption. On July 4, 1850, sixteen months after his inauguration, he was attacked with bilious colic, and died on the 9th. Consult Howard, General Taylor (New York, 1892), in the “Great Commanders Series.” See United States.