Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was the 12th president of the United States, serving only 16 months in office from March 1849 until his death on July 9 1850 from acute gastroenteritis.
Taylor was born near Barboursville, Virginia to a prominent family of planters who migrated westward to Kentucky in his youth. He received only a rudimentary education but was well schooled in the frontier skills of farming, horsemanship and using a musket. In 1808, he left home after obtaining a commission as a first lieutenant in the army.
In 1810, he married Margaret Mackall Smith, and they went on to have six children. Their second daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, would marry Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederacy, in 1835.
During the War of 1812, Taylor successfully defended Fort Harrison in Indiana Territory from an Indian attack commanded by the Tecumseh. Later that year he joined General Samuel Hopkins as an aide on two expeditions: the first into the Illinois Territory and the second to the Tippecanoe battle site, where they were forced to retreat in the Battle of Wild Cat Creek. Taylor moved his growing family to Fort Knox after the violence subsided.
In October 1814, he supervised the construction of Fort Johnson, the last toehold of the U.S. Army in the upper Mississippi River Valley. A few weeks after the death of his commander, Brigadier General Benjamin Howard, Taylor was ordered to abandon the fort and retreat to Saint Louis. Reduced to the rank of captain when the war ended in 1815, he resigned from the army.
He re-entered it a year later after gaining a commission as a major. Taylor’s status as a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican-American War , won him election to the White House despite his vague political beliefs. His top priority as president was preserving the Union, but he died before making any progress on the status of slavery, which had been inflaming tensions in Congress.
Of course I could have chosen Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, who led the Pike Expedition as a Captain in 1806-7, and for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. The same Zebulon Pike that led the American troops at the Battle of York, where he was killed (My letter Y.).
And finally, there is Reverend Zephaniah Wendell, the youngest brother of Talcott Wendell, my fictional memoir writer from the War of 1812 in “Seeking A Knife” – the beginning of this journey back in time.
PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS
Details on my 2015 A to Z theme and a linked list of posts can be found on my A to Z Challenge page, which also has a linked list of my 2014 posts.
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.
My theme is ‘The War of 1812’, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.
Further reading on The War of 1812: