This Day in History – July 9

Zachary_Taylor_half_plate_daguerreotype_c1843-45On July 9, 1850, Zachary Taylor succumbed to illness following celebrations in Washington DC for Independence Day. The 12th president had enjoyed a fundraising event for the Washington Monument, which was under construction, and after having been served a dessert of cherries and iced milk, he became severely ill with what was thought to be cholera morbus, which was very different from the Asiatic cholera which killed hundreds in Lexington just two decades prior.

“Old Rough and Ready” moved to Louisville and lived at Springfield until entering into the United States army, joining prior to the War of 1812. During his tenure, Taylor successfully defended Fort Harrison in Indiana Territory from an Indian attack commanded by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. He went on to command troops in the Seminole Wars in Florida.

Taylor became a hero during the Mexican-American War, inflicting heavy casualties in many battles, including the Battle of Monterrey, a city which had been deemed “impregnable”, but was captured in three days, forcing Mexican forces to retreat. Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna attacked Taylor with 20,000 men at the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847, leaving around 700 Americans dead or wounded at a cost of over 1,500 Mexican.

Taylor ran as a Whig and was elected in 1848. His brief presidency was fraught with conflict regarding statehood and foreign affairs. Henry Clay took a central role in Congress, announcing the Compromise of 1850. The proposal allowed statehood for California, giving it independence on the slavery question, while the other territories would remain under federal jurisdiction. This would include the disputed parts of New Mexico, although Texas would be reimbursed for the territory. Slavery would be retained in the District of Columbia, but the slave trade would be banned.

Taylor died after only sixteen months in office. He was buried in the Taylor family burial plots, which became the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville.

 

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