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President Zachary Taylor: Old Rough and Ready helps win the Mexican-American War

October 29, 20236 min read

From humble beginnings, Zachary Taylor grew up to be a tall and strong man, earning him the nickname "Old Rough and Ready." He was President of the United States from March 4, 1849 to his untimely death on July 9, 1850.

Zachary Taylor was born on November 24, 1784, in Montebello, Virginia, on a plantation that used slave labor. As a child, he enjoyed riding horses, hunting, and exploring the wilderness around his family's farm. If you’re homeschooled, then you have something in common with Zachary Taylor. From these beginnings, he grew up to be a tall and strong man, earning him the nickname "Old Rough and Ready."

Fun Fact 1: Zachary Taylor was the first president to be born after the British recognized the United States as it's own country, which happened on September 3, 1783!

Before he was President

One of the most exciting parts of Zachary Taylor's life was his career in the military. He joined the army when he was 24 years old. He fought in many battles, earning a reputation as a skilled and brave soldier. He even fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War.

Fun Fact 2: Zachary Taylor never voted in a presidential election because he was a soldier and believed it would be unfair to show his political preferences.

Zachary Taylor's most famous moments came during the Mexican-American War. He led the U.S. Army to victory in several battles against the Mexican forces. His most significant victory was at the Battle of Buena Vista in 1847. People were so impressed with his leadership that they started to talk about him as a potential presidential candidate.

Fun Fact 3: Zachary Taylor was known for his simple lifestyle. He didn't like fancy parties or ceremonies, and he often dressed in plain clothes.

President Taylor in the Oval Office

In 1848, Zachary Taylor ran for President under the Whig Party even though he wasn’t very political. He was a war hero, and many people thought he would make a great leader. He was elected as the 12th President of the United States and was the second president without any prior political experience, after George Washington. His term began in March 1849.

Fun Fact 4: Zachary Taylor was the first president to have a refrigerator in the White House.

Like with other pre-Civil War era presidents, the country was deeply divided over slavery and the issue was top on his list. One of his most important issues was whether new territories like California and New Mexico would allow slavery.

Remember that Zachary Taylor was from the South and he did own slaves. However, he thought that having slavery in the places that were added after the war with Mexico (like California, New Mexico, and Utah) wouldn't work well for the economy. So, he didn't want to allow slavery in those areas because he didn't want it to cause more arguments.

His main goal was to keep the Northern and Southern states from fighting and to make sure the United States stayed together. He believed the way to do that was by finding common ground through laws. As some people in the Southern states talked about leaving the United States (called secession), he started to agree more with those in the North who were against slavery.

He even said he would sign a law called the Wilmot Proviso, which would stop slavery from happening in new areas that the U.S. was taking control of. He was trying to keep the peace between the Northern and Southern states by making some compromises, even if it meant not allowing slavery in new places.

A Short Presidency

Zachary Taylor's time as president was quite short. He served for only about 1½ years when his life came to a sudden and mysterious end. In July 1850, he attended a ceremony at the construction site of the Washington Monument on a very hot day. He drank a lot of cold milk and ate cherries and cucumbers. Sadly, he became very sick and died just a few days later. To this day, there is some debate about what caused his illness and death. Some people believe that President Taylor might have been poisoned, but there is no clear evidence to support this theory.

Fun Fact 5: Zachary Taylor's horse, Old Whitey, was famous and even attended his funeral.


Zachary Taylor's presidency was short but memorable. He tried to keep the peace between the Northern and Southern states as the nation struggled with the issue of slavery. He never got to see the resolution of these conflicts because of his untimely death.

In the pages of history, Zachary Taylor's story is like an adventurous journey. He started as a farm boy, became a military hero, and ended up as the 12th President of the United States. Although his presidency was brief, his impact on our nation's history is still felt today.

So, remember that even if someone isn't the most famous person in history, their life can be full of excitement and interesting facts. Zachary Taylor's story is proof that heroes can come from all walks of life, and history is full of surprises waiting to be discovered!


Recommended Reading

Even though they have nothing to do with Zachary Taylor or the Mexican-American War, these classics take place during the 1840s.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Whether forming a pirate gang to search for buried treasure or spending a quiet time at home, sharing his medicine with Aunt Polly's cat, the irrepressible Tom Sawyer evokes the world of boyhood in nineteenth century rural America.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Twain's masterpiece sees Huckleberry Finn and Jim the slave escape their difficult lives by fleeing down the Mississippi on a raft. There, they find steamships, feuding families, an unlikely Duke and King and vital lessons about the world in which they live.

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox Book Cover

Thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier earns a few pennies playing his fife on the docks of New Orleans. One night, on his way home, a canvas is thrown over his head and he's knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, Jessie finds himself aboard a slave ship and forced to provide music for the slaves to dance to on the ship's deck--not for amusement but for exercise, as a way to keep their muscles strong and their bodies profitable. The Slave Dancer not only tells a vivid and shocking story of adventure and survival but depicts the brutality of slavery with unflinching historical accuracy.


Zachary Taylor Word Search Activity

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