Zachary Taylor
1784 - 1850
Zachary Taylor first distinguished himself in the War of 1812, and by the end of the 1830s had become a brigadier general, thanks to his many frontier victories against the Indians. He was over sixty when his 5,400 troops prevailed over 20,000 Mexican soldiers at the Battle of Buena Vista, marking the turning point of the Mexican American War. By the time "Old Rough and Ready" returned home in November 1847, he was the most beloved hero in America. The following June, Taylor became the Whig nominee for President--a compromise candidate over perpetual favorites Henry Clay, Daniel Webster,and Winfield Scott, --and defeated Democrat James K. Polk. Though a southerner and a slaveholder, Taylor surprised many by supporting the Wilmot Proviso, which restricted the extension of slavery into the territories. But the nation never felt the true impact of his leadership; he died from food poisoning in July 1850. Brady photographed Taylor in Washington in 1849, around the time of his inauguration. The following year, this portrait became the basis for the first plate in his Gallery of Illustrious Americans, a series of twelve lithographic portraits of national leaders.

See John Ellis Wool and Jack Hays

Gallery of Illustrious Americans
National Portrait Gallery
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