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Zachary Taylor

Isaac Allerton m. Fear Brewster, daughter of William and Mary Brewster; Col. Isaac Allerton m. Elizabeth Willoughby; Sarah Elizabeth Allerton m. Hancock Lee; Elizabeth Lee m. Zachariah Taylor; Lt. Col. Richard Taylor m. Sarah Pannill Dabney Strother; Pres. Zachary Taylor m. Margaret Mackall Smith.

A descendant of three Mayflower passengers, Isaac Allerton, William and Mary Brewster.

William Brewster m. Mary
  Isaac Allerton m. Fear Brewster
    Col. Isaac Allerton m. Elizabeth Willoughby
      Sarah Elizabeth Allerton m. Hancock Lee
        Elizabeth Lee m. Zachariah Taylor
          Lt. Col. Richard Taylor m. Sarah Pannill Dabney Strother
              President Zachary Taylor

 

Taylor, Zachary

Zachary Taylor was a military leader and the 12th president of the United States (1849 - 1850).

Early Life and Career

Taylor was born in Orange County, Va., on Nov. 24, 1784, into a prominent Virginia family - his father had served with George Washington during the American Revolution. Taylor was raised on the Kentucky frontier, however, and received little formal education. He joined the army in 1808 and distinguished himself in the defense of Fort Harrison against the Indians during the War of 1812, rising to the rank of major. In 1816, after a one-year hiatus, he reentered the army and for the next 16 years served at various frontier posts. Promoted (1832) to colonel, he led the First Infantry Regiment in the Black Hawk War. He participated (1837 - 38) in the Seminole Wars, winning promotion to brigadier general as well as the nickname Old Rough and Ready.

Following a tour (1841 - 44) at Fort Smith, Ark., Taylor was placed in command of the military department of the Southwest and established a permanent home in Baton Rouge, La. In 1845, President James K. Polk ordered him to occupy the Republic of Texas after its annexation to the United States was approved and to defend Texas against a threatened Mexican invasion. Taylor sailed from Louisiana to Corpus Christi on July 23, establishing a camp on the south bank of the Nueces River. The ensuing Mexican War raised him from relative obscurity to the presidency.

Mexican War

The government of Mexico was taken over in December 1845 by radical Mexican Centralists who regarded the annexation of Texas as an act of war and Taylor's military occupation of Texas as an invasion of Mexican territory. After the failure of a U.S. peace initiative, Polk ordered Taylor to move his forces south to the Rio Grande. The general did so in March 1846, amid increasing threats of hostility from the Mexican Centralists. The Mexican War began on April 25, after Mexican troops had crossed the Rio Grande and attacked an American detachment. Additional Mexican attacks followed at Palo Alto (May 8) and Resaca de la Palma (May 9), but Taylor won unexpected victories that were responsible, in part, for the overthrow of Mexico's Centralist government.

On May 13 the United States declared war; shortly thereafter, Taylor was voted a gold medal and promoted to major general (June 29, 1846). More important, perhaps, he captured the popular fancy and was mentioned as a possible 1848 presidential candidate. His military decisions for the rest of the Mexican campaign, however, have been criticized. Plagued by inefficient logistical support, raw and untrained recruits, and inadequate transportation, Taylor was slow to occupy Matamoros and thus gave the enemy a chance to withdraw. He did not pursue the fleeing Mexican army southward but began a movement up the Rio Grande. By August he had reached Camargo and besieged Monterrey, Mexico's largest community, which fell on September 24, after four days of hard fighting. Lacking supplies, Taylor - in perhaps his greatest military blunder - granted an 8-week armistice to the Mexican commander, Gen. Pedro de Ampudia, allowing him to withdraw southward with most of his arms and ammunition.

Polk criticized Taylor severely, ordering him to release most of his troops to Gen. Winfield Scott and take a defensive position. Taylor, however, occupied Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila in northern Mexico. Polk, hoping to arrange an armistice, allowed the Mexican dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna safe passage through the U.S. blockade at Veracruz. At Buena Vista, Santa Anna attacked Taylor, who won a surprise victory.

Presidency

The victories brought Taylor widespread acclaim; his alleged blunders were largely overlooked. His popularity as a military hero enabled him to overtake Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky and win the Whig nomination for the presidency, with Millard Fillmore as his running mate. In the November election - a three-way contest in which he faced Democrat Lewis Cass and Free Soiler Martin Van Buren - Taylor won 15 of the then 30 states and a plurality of the popular vote.

During his brief term (Mar. 5, 1849 - July 9, 1850), Taylor presided over the ratification of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and the near secession of the South over the issue of slavery in the territory newly acquired from Mexico. A supporter of the Wilmot Proviso (1846), which stipulated that the Mexican Cession should be closed to slavery, Taylor encouraged both New Mexico and California to apply for admission as free states. He further angered his Southern followers by ignoring the claims of Texas - a slave state - to territory assigned to New Mexico. The Compromise of 1850 prevented Southern secession for the time being, although it did not pass Congress until after Taylor's death. The president died on July 9 of cholera. Fillmore succeeded him.

Biography from The Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia