-Zachary Taylor, (1784-1850), served his country for 40 years as a soldier and for 16 months as president. His courage and ability during the Mexican War made him a national hero.
-Childhood. Zachary Taylor was born near Barboursville, Virginia, on Nov. 24, 1784. He was the third son in a family of six boys and three girls.
-Taylor's family. Early in 1810, Taylor met Margaret Mackall Smith (Sept. 21, 1788–Aug. 14, 1852). She was the orphaned daughter of a Maryland planter. Taylor and Smith were married on June 21, 1810.
-Indian campaigns. During the War of 1812, Taylor won promotion to major for his defense of Fort Harrison in the Indiana Territory. In 1819, he became a lieutenant colonel. He served in Wisconsin during the Black Hawk War, and received the surrender of Chief Black Hawk in 1832.
-Mexican War. In 1846, Mexico threatened war with the United States over the annexation of Texas. Taylor was ordered to the Rio Grande with about 4,000 troops. Mexico considered this advance an invasion, and Mexican forces crossed the river to drive off the Americans. Taylor defeated them in battles at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. The United States declared war on May 13, 1846. Taylor then advanced into Mexico and captured Matamoros and Monterrey.
-Nomination for president. Many Whig leaders, especially in the South, believed Taylor could easily win the presidency because of his military fame. During the campaign, both Whigs and Democrats took a two-sided stand on the divisive issue of slavery, seeming to favor it at one time and oppose it at other times. Only the Free Soil Party, led by former President Martin Van Buren, campaigned to ban slavery in the newly acquired Mexican territories. Van Buren did not carry a single state, but he drew many votes from Cass. Taylor and Fillmore won by 36 electoral votes. The presidential election of 1848 was the first held at the same time in all the states.
-Taylor was inaugurated on March 5, 1849. He would normally have taken office on March 4, but declined to be inaugurated on Sunday. Some historians claim that David R. Atchison, president pro tempore of the Senate, served as acting president on March 4 because the presidency was vacant on that day.
-Life in the White House. Mrs. Taylor had not favored the idea of her husband running for president. She viewed it as a plot to deprive her of his company. Mrs. Taylor, a semi-invalid, took little part in the White House social life. Hostess duties passed to her daughter Mary Elizabeth, known as Betty. Betty's husband, Colonel William W. S. Bliss, served as Taylor's secretary.
-Death. Before the slavery issue could be settled, Taylor became ill and died on July 9, 1850. He was buried in the family cemetery near Louisville, Kentucky. Mrs. Taylor died on Aug. 14, 1852, and was buried beside her husband. In 1991, a team of experts examined President Taylor's body to determine whether he had been assassinated by poisoning. They concluded that he died of natural causes.
Holt, Michael F. "Taylor, Zachary." World Book Student. World Book, 2012. Web. 22 Jan. 2012.