This Day in History: Zachary Taylor

On this day in 1784, future President Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) is born in Barboursville, Virginia.

Surprisingly, despite Taylor's impressive resume, most Americans know little about him.

A distant relative of America's fourth president, James Madison, Taylor served valiantly in the War of 1812, the Blackhawk War (1832), second Seminole War (1835-1837), and Mexican-American War (1846-1848), after which he ran for the presidency.

The biggest controversy involving Taylor is the cause of his death, which continues to be debated to this day. On a searing Fourth of July in Washington D.C., he downed a large quantity of iced milk and cherries, followed by a few glasses of water.

Some historians believe the water or milk may have been tainted with bacteria, causing him to contract cholera. (Outbreaks of cholera were common in Washington D.C. at time.) Others claim that he died of gastroenteritis, typhoid fever, or food poisoning. No evidence of foul play was ever found.

Taylor fiercely opposed the expansion of slavery. His daughter Sarah married future Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1835, but died of malaria just three months into her marriage.

Had you heard of Zachary Taylor before? Do you remember anything about him from history class?

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