Thursday, February 16, 2023

Zachery Taylor

My second book for February was Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents Series: The 12th President, 1849-1850 by John S. D. Eisenhower. It fits into my long term project to read books about all of the presidents. I finished the book on my flight home from Phoenix.

The author was a United States Army officer, diplomat, and military historian. He was a son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.

Taylor was a Kentucky plantation farmer and slave owner. He was born into a prominent family of plantation owners of English ancestry who moved westward from Virginia to Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor was a descendant of a Pilgrim leader of the Plymouth Colony and a Mayflower immigrant. Taylor's second cousin was James Madison, the fourth president. He was also a member of the famous Lee family of Virginia and a third cousin once removed of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

His father, Richard Taylor, served as a lieutenant colonel in the American Revolution. Taylor joined the U.S. Army in 1808. He received a commission from President Thomas Jefferson as a first lieutenant of the Kentuckian Seventh Infantry Regiment. While maintainng his plantations, Taylor had a long military history including serving in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. His success in the Second Seminole War attracted national attention and earned him the nickname "Old Rough and Ready." His victories as the general leading the troops in the Mexican-American War made him a popular hero and served as a springboard for the Whig party presidential nomination in 1848.

Taylor’s sixteen months as president were marked by disputes over California statehood, the expansion of slavery to California, Utah and New Mexico, the Fugitive Slave Act and the Texas–New Mexico boundary. Taylor opposed slavery in the new territories as a needless source of controversy.

Taylor died in office on July 9, 1850; he was 65 years old. Taylor was the last president to own slaves while in office.

This book is short compared to many of the presidential biographies that I have read. I didn't realize that he had died in office. Reading in the Kindle app, you don't have a sense of how thick the book is. All of sudden, Taylor got sick and died. The book was a solid introduction to Taylor, but I probably need to read a longer book about Taylor.

One footnote, in the section of this book about the Mexican-American War, I surprised that there was no references to Grant. I read and enjoyed Chernow's book about Grant last year. I thought that he had a somewhat prominent role in several of the key battles.

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