back to top

PSA: Zachary Taylor Was The 12th President Of The United States

Apparently, no one knows who this man is.

Posted on

It's recently come to my attention that a lot of people have never heard of Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States.

I decided something needed to be done about this. So are you ready for a fun little ~history lesson~?! The only answer is yes, so here you go!


1. Zachary Taylor was president.

Wikimedia Commons

Here he is in all his craggy glory! Zachy T was the 12th president of the United States, and he served for just over a year, from 1849 to 1850. He was a member of the Whig Party, and a highly celebrated war hero.

2. Ever heard of someone nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready"? That was him!!!

NBC / Via

Cool, right?! Taylor got the affectionate nickname while serving as a general in the Mexican-American War from 1849 to 1848, in which he was known to get down and dirty in battle with his troops. His heroism in the Battle of Monterrey and the Battle of Buena Vista made him super popular and an obvious choice for president.

3. Political opponents claimed he was illiterate, but that wasn't true.

FOX / Via

Politics is brutal 😞. When Taylor was running for president, his pro-slavery rivals spread the rumor that he couldn't read or write. The truth is that while Mr. T valued education, he had very little formal schooling, which left him with poor spelling, terrible grammar, and handwriting that "was that of a near illiterate." So there!

4. He never voted for president before he was elected.

Mpi / Getty Images

And the master of side-eye was elected when he was 63 years old! The Zach Attack was a dedicated military man, and never wanted to cast a vote against a potential commander-in-chief. In fact, there's a possibility that neither he didn't vote for himself for president and neither did his family.


6. But even though he was a slaveholder, he turned his back on his Southern supporters by taking on an anti-slavery agenda as president.

Mpi / Getty Images

Taylor's many years of military service made him ardently opposed to secession, and he was willing to go into battle himself to fight to keep the country together. When he became president, a big issue was whether newly admitted states to the union could decide whether or not they wanted to allow slavery, and if slavery would be extended to the new territories. In spite of his background, Taylor wanted California and New Mexico to be admitted as free states, therefore stemming the spread of slavery. The South was not happy about this, to put it lightly.

Above: Exhibit B in the "politics is brutal" argument.

7. His daughter Sarah married Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederacy.

Wikimedia Commons

What a twisted web they wove! They tied the knot in 1835, long before the Civil War broke out. Taylor reportedly approved of the marriage, but it didn't last long β€” Sarah died just three months after the wedding from either malaria or yellow fever at the young age of 21.

8. Taylor died after 16 months in office after eating cherries and drinking iced milk.

Mpi / Getty Images

Summer days in Washington, DC, are no joke, and July 4, 1850, was no exception. In the midst of trying to find a compromise with pro-slavery lawmakers, Taylor attended an event for the Washington Monument and ~had his way~ with those milk and cherries and washed it all down with some delicious, unpurified water. Over the next few days, he experienced severe stomach pains, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. There's still debate on what exactly he came down with (more on that in a second), but his personal physician said he had "cholera morbus." Either way, doctors bled him and gave him opium in an effort to stop his mysterious illness, but he succumbed to it on July 9. What a way to go.


9. A lot of people think he was poisoned.

MoPo Productions / Via

Given the tense political climate at the time of his death and the sudden and hazy circumstances surrounding it, people thought he may have been poisoned by his opponents. And unlike Taylor, the conspiracy theory would not die. As late as the mid-1980s, historian Clara Rising suggested that, based on his symptoms, he’d had arsenic poisoning. She made a strong enough case that in 1991, 141 years after his death, his body was exhumed from his Louisville, Kentucky, grave, and tested for arsenic. The verdict? He had trace amounts of the poison in his hair, fingernails, and bones, but the amount was too low to have actually contributed to his death.

"It is my opinion that President Zachary Taylor was not poisoned by arsenic," Dr. George Nichols, the Kentucky medical examiner, said at a press conference in Louisville at the time, adding, "it is my opinion that Zachary Taylor died of one of a myriad of natural diseases which would have produced the symptoms of gastroenteritis." Case closed.

10. Either way, Taylor's death is how we ended up with Millard Fillmore as president.

Apparently, Alec Baldwin looks like more than one president. Fillmore was a relatively unknown New York politician who got thrust into the spotlight due to the consequences of Taylor's unfortunate diet. Fillmore made some questionable choices as president, including signing the Fugitive Slave Law, leading many to question what would've happened had Taylor not died so soon.

  1. JK, one quick question. Had you heard of Zachary Taylor before you read this post?

    Yes, duh
    No :/
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
JK, one quick question. Had you heard of Zachary Taylor before you read this post?
    vote votes
    vote votes

Take quizzes and chill with the BuzzFeed app.