The New Student's Reference Work/Taylor, Zachary

891733The New Student's Reference Work — Taylor, Zachary

Taylor, Zachary, twelfth president of the United States, was born in Orange County, Va., Sept. 24, 1784. His father was an officer of the Revolutionary War and one of the first settlers of Louisville, Ky., where Zachary was taken as a boy and lived till his 24th year, working on a plantation and getting but little schooling. Taylor entered the army in 1808 as lieutenant, and in 1812, as captain of a company of 50 men, two thirds of whom were down with fever, he defended Fort Harrison on the Wabash against a large force of Indians, led by Tecumseh (q. v.), the famous chief. Promoted to the rank of major for his gallantry, he was employed during the war in fighting the Indian allies of England. He built Fort Jesup in 1822, and ten years later served as colonel in the Black Hawk War. In 1836 he was ordered to Florida, where he gained an important victory over the Seminole Indians at Okeechobee, for which he was appointed brigadier-general and made commander of the United States forces in Florida. Just before the breaking out of the Mexican War Taylor was ordered to Corpus Christi, occupying the point with a force of 4,000 (1845). Next spring he marched across the disputed territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, and built Fort Brown opposite Matamoras. The Mexicans demanded that he retire beyond the Nueces, and on his refusal Arista crossed the Rio Grande with a force of 6,000. On May 8, 1846, Taylor defeated him at Palo Alto with 2,300 men, and a few days later drove him from a new position at Resaca de la Palma across the Rio Grande. War was at once declared by Congress; 50,000 volunteers were called for; and Taylor was made a major-general, re-enforced, and ordered to invade Mexico. On Sept. 9, with 6,625 men, he attacked Monterey, which was defended by 10,000 regular troops. After ten days' siege and three days' hard fighting it surrendered. All but 5,000 volunteers and 500 regulars of his army were now sent to aid General Scott at Vera Cruz, and Taylor was left with this small force to oppose President Santa Anna's army of 21,000. He took a strong position at Buena Vista, fought a desperate battle and won a decided victory. This victory against enormous odds caused the utmost enthusiasm, and Taylor, known as “Old Rough and Ready,” was nominated by the Whigs for the presidency and elected. Entering the White House in 1849, he found a Democratic majority in Congress, with the small but vigorous Free-Soil party holding the balance of power, while such exciting questions as the admission of California, the settlement of the boundaries of Texas and the organization of the newly-acquired Mexican territories were stirring the nation. Worn out by the unaccustomed turmoil of politics, the rough, good-natured soldier did not long enjoy his honors, but died on July 9, 1850, 16 months after his inauguration. See Lives by Fry, Montgomery and Stoddard.