Zachary Taylor served as the twelfth President of the United States and was the last president born prior to ratification of the constitution. Born in Virginia on November 24, 1784, Taylor’s family migrated westward to Muddy Fork on Beargrass Creek, just east of Louisville, Kentucky. As a young man on the frontier, Taylor developed riding and shooting skills that would serve him well as a career soldier.
In 1808, Taylor was granted a commission in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant and steadily rose through the ranks until attaining the rank of Major General. Throughout his career, Taylor was transferred to numerous frontier military outposts while building a reputation as a fierce fighter and effective leader. His willingness to share in the hardships of military life, and his willingness to “get his boots dirty,” led his soldiers to affectionately nickname him, “Old Rough and Ready.” His victory in the Mexican-American War over Antonio López de Santa Anna made Taylor a national hero, setting the stage for his candidacy, and eventual victory, in the 1848 presidential election.
Taylor’s efforts as president focused on managing the sectional conflicts that arose regarding the expansion of slavery in the newly acquired western territories, as well as working to ensure the preservation of the union. Adamantly opposed to the secession of any state, Taylor informed southern leaders that he would personally lead troops against anyone taking up arms against the United States.
Taylor and his wife, Margaret “Peggy” Mackall Smith, were married in 1810 and were the parents of six children.