12th President (1849-50)
Zachary Taylor served in stormy times. Taylor was the second President to die in office. Though there were quiet murmurings that the President had been poisoned, none of these suspicions were medically investigated. Abraham Lincoln gave the eulogy at the funeral. Taylor earned his name as a military man, first as a captain in the War of 1812, and later as a colonel during the Black Hawk War. Relying on his reputation as a ruthless killer, he gradually rose in the ranks of the U.S. Army, eventually securing two major victories during the Mexican–American War.
Subsequently, Taylor became “America’s most popular figure,” a national hero celebrated for being both a stoic leader and a man who shared in his troops’ hardships. Strongly urged by the Whig Party, Taylor ran for President on the 1848 ticket; despite his utter lack of interest in politics and an incredibly vague platform, he won, and assumed the office on March 4, 1849.
Zachary Taylor left behind a country sharply divided, and a vice president, Millard Fillmore, who supported the Compromise of 1850 that specifically prohibited slavery in the new Western states. In the end, Taylor had little personal impact on the presidency, and his months in office did little to slow the approach of the great national tragedy of the Civil War. He is not remembered as a great president. Most historians believe that he was too non-political in a day when politics, parties, and presidential leadership demanded close ties with political operatives.
Margaret “Peggy” Mackall Smith Taylor (September 21, 1788 – August 14, 1852), wife of Zachary Taylor, was First Lady of the United States from 1849 to 1850. A semi-invalid, she remained in seclusion on the second floor of the White House, leaving the duties of official hostess to her daughter Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Taylor.