President Zachary Taylor

November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850

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Zachary Taylor obtained a lot of military experience throughout his lifetime before becoming President in 1849. He was involved in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Mexican-American War.

War of 1812

Taylor was stationed at Fort Knox in about 1808. However, General William Harrison ordered him to Fort Harrison in Indiana territory shortly after the outbreak of the war. The battle was against many Native Americans, some of which were led by Tecumseh. Tecumseh and his men were defeated by American forces, putting an end to efforts of forming an Indian confederacy. Taylor was in command at Fort Harrison and helped them defeat the Native Americans. This was an important battle because it was the first land victory for Americans during this war.

Battle at Fort Harrison
Battle at Fort Harrison

Above: Battle at Fort Harrison
Below: Black Hawk
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Black Hawk War

The Black Hawk War began due to American's continuous expansion into Western territory. General Harrison signed a treaty in 1804 with Native American leaders that ceded all land East of the Mississippi River. Black Hawk (Native American leader) began to "invade" the land that was ceded and tensions grew. Taylor led the 1st Infantry Regiment during this war in 1832, and eventually Black Hawk surrendered.

Mexican-American War

Taylor was ordered to the Texas-Mexico border by President James K. Polk in 1845. Here, he took command of troops on the Rio Grande. Mexican forces attacked some of these troops, and the war was declared. Taylor also led troops at the battles of Palo Alto and Monterrey. General Santa Anna attacked Taylor at the Battle of Buena Vista, although unsuccessfully. After this battle, Taylor was seen as a war hero because he was greatly outnumbered but still beat Santa Anna.

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Above: General Santa Anna


Zachary Taylor was elected President of the United States in 1848. He never fully declared himself to one party or another, but he usually went with Whig principles. He was for the Wilmot Proviso, which banned slavery from all lands gained from the Mexican Cession. This increased the political focus on slavery issues. Taylor encouraged New Mexico and California to apply for statehood to the Union. This led to the Compromise of 1850, which Taylor never got to see put in place. The compromise admitted California to the Union. The Mexican Cession was divided into Utah and New Mexico. Slavery trade was banned in D.C. The Fugitive Slave Act was put in place to keep slaves in the South. Taylor died shortly after the Fourth of July in 1850. (His cause of death isn't certain, but some historians believe his death has to do with the milk and cherries he ate that day.)