Zachary Taylor
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Louisville, Kentucky
August 19, 2004 14th Visited

In July 1850, Zachary Taylor became the
second U.S. president to die in office. The
Whig was temporarily interred in the public
vault at Washington's Congressional
Cemetery before he was transported to his
ancestral burial ground in Kentucky that

Locked out! Earlier that day, my father and
I had President William Henry Harrison's
tomb opened, but we had no such luck in
Louisville. All I could do was gaze through
the glass at the Taylors' marble sarcophagi.
Yet someone must have a key, as President
Taylor was exhumed for testing in 1991.

The Whig's current resting place was built
of limestone in 1926, two years before an
act of Congress turned his family's property
into the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
The hillside vault where he and First Lady
Margaret Taylor were previously entombed
is located just behind their neoclassical

A fifty-foot-tall granite monument 
dedicated to Taylor's army service
looms beside his mausoleum.
The base lists locations that
featured prominently in his
military career, such as Palo Alto,
Fort Harrison, and Buena Vista.

Fast Facts *

- First Lady: Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor
- Spouse: Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor (m. 1810-1850)

- Political Party: Whig Party

- Term: 1849-1850
- Vice President: Millard Fillmore

- Born: November 24, 1784

- Died: July 9, 1850

- Age:

- Cause of Death: Cholera Morbus

- Last Words: "I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me."

Cemetery: Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky
- GPS Coordinates: 38°16'46.2"N 85°38'37.2"W

* * * Background on Zachary Taylor * * *

* Nepotism played a large role in forging Zachary Taylor's path to the presidency. His popularity stemmed from his successful military career, which was jumpstarted when his second cousin, Secretary of State James Madison, offered him a commission as a U.S. Army lieutenant in 1808. In the years that followed, the man called "Old Rough and Ready" for his disheveled appearance rose through the ranks as he proved himself in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Second Seminole War. In early 1846, General Taylor and his forces were dispatched to Texas as tensions heightened with Mexico over the location of the border. After some soldiers were killed in a skirmish near the Rio Grande, Taylor led his outnumbered soldiers to victory at the Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. Within days, Congress declared war on Mexico. General Taylor saw many triumphs in the ensuing months, most notably his army's defeat of General Antonio López de Santa Anna at the Battle Buena Vista. Mexico ceded 529,000 square miles of land to the United States at the war's end in 1848, and Taylor was hailed as the conflict's greatest hero.

* With James K. Polk poised to retire after one term as chief executive, the Whig Party saw an opportunity to seize back the White House. The Whigs courted the hero of the Mexican-American War, General Taylor, who had neither held political office nor voted in an election. Taylor remarked that the thought of him serving as president was not "likely to enter the head of any sane person." Nevertheless, "Old Rough and Ready," who in private confessed to be "a democrat of the Jeffersonian school, which embodies very many of the principles of the Whigs," accepted the nomination. Taylor doubted that a Southern slave owner such as himself would get elected president amid such sectional tension, but the Louisianan prevailed over Democrat Lewis Cass of Michigan. As president, Taylor dedicated himself to keeping the union intact and threatened to hang Southern supporters of secession, which included his former son-in-law, Senator Jefferson Davis. During Taylor's second year in office, Senator Henry Clay introduced an omnibus bill intended to remedy increasing division by appealing to people on both sides of the slavery issue. The package would allow California to be admitted as a free state and abolish the slave trade in Washington D.C., but would also oblige officials in free states to return enslaved escapees to the South. Before his election, Taylor pledged to support whatever conclusion Congress reached on slavery. Yet, as president, he came out in opposition to the Compromise of 1850 and said that California's admission as a free state should not be contingent on any other matters. If the resolutions were approved by both houses of Congress, he promised to use his veto power.

* Neither the Compromise of 1850 nor the greater slavery issue were settled during Taylor's lifetime. On a sweltering Independence Day, the president attended a ceremony at the Washington Monument construction site. Hungry and dehydrated, he returned home to the Executive Mansion and consumed iced milk, a bowl of cherries, and copious amounts of water, after which he was stricken by severe stomach pains. A doctor diagnosed Taylor with cholera, a bacterial infection which killed hundreds of Washingtonians the year before. Prescribed opium and other drugs, the president improved briefly, but within a few days his health again deteriorated. In accordance with medical practices of the day, physicians then bled Taylor, which further weakened his constitution. On the evening of July 9th, he passed away surrounded by his family and members of his administration, including Vice President Millard Fillmore. Two months after Taylor's death and Fillmore's ascendancy, the new president signed the bills that comprised the Compromise of 1850. Theories emerged that slavery advocates poisoned Taylor with arsenic as a means of removing him as an obstacle to the deal. In 1991, a historian convinced the president's descendants to consent to his exhumation for forensic testing. The tests concluded that Taylor died of natural causes.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

Bixby, William K., ed. Letters of Zachary Taylor, from the Battle-fields of the Mexican War. Rochester, NY: Genesee Press, 1908.

Bomboy, Scott. "Zachary Taylor's shocking death amid the slavery expansion crisis." Constitution Center, October 2, 2014. crises.

Clinton, Catherine. "Zachary Taylor." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 150-56. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

"Exhumation of Zachary Taylor." C-SPAN video, 07:21. June 3, 1999. 1/exhumation-zachary-taylor.

Hutchinson, Rev. Enoch, ed. The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Record, Devoted to the History, Biography, Literature and Statistics of the Denomination IX. New York: Z. P. Hatch, 1850.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

"Life Portrait of Zachary Taylor." C-SPAN video, 2:14:50. May 31, 1999. 1/life-portrait-zachary-taylor.

Marriott, Michel. "Zachary Taylor's Remains Are Removed for Tests." New York Times, June 18, 1991.


The Presidents. "Taylor to Lincoln (1849-1865)." History Channel, 2005.

"Zachary Taylor National Cemetery." Accessed April 12, 2019.

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