What You Didn’t Learn: Zachary Taylor Edition

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For anyone that missed the first blogs in this series which covered the first eight United States Presidents, you can check them out here. For a quick summary of what these are, and will continue to be, is every Monday, I'm running through what we collectively didn't learn in school about United States presidents, starting with Washington and working my way toward now. This isn’t at all about policy or politics or what laws and bills they did or did not approve of. The goal here is simply to provide you with some more information on some of the most powerful dudes to ever walk this planet that our educations left out. Maybe that will be enough, maybe it will send you on a journey to discover even more on your own time. I think I am just going to include this beginning paragraph every time for clarity, and those who have tuned in (and continue to do so thank you for your support) will know to skip it. Regardless, I’m happy you're here.

Zachary Taylor! Our twelfth POTUS. (Boy does the word twelfth never look properly spelled). You know why I am excited to (maybe, hopefully) teach you all about Zachary Taylor? Because I don't remember learning a damn thing about the guy myself. I know I am semi-redundant with that statement, and have shared the same sentiment about a couple of the guys we have already covered, but I think Taylor is the first president I genuinely didn't learn anything significant about. This is not to say that he didn't accomplish anything (kind of didn't as POTUS, but we'll get to that), but he played a largely significant role in the military prior, garnering comparisons to George Washington and Andrew Jackson, aiding his ascension to the United States' highest office. Let's get into it.

What we learned: 

He was the twelfth President of the United States

- He died while in office. (Probably due to the same reason William Henry Harrison did! Read that blog!)

- He was an established career military leader (learned this fifteen seconds ago in the previous paragraph, but still counts).

What we didn't learn:

He loved to spit - Huh? I took a solid five minutes trying to figure out exactly how to phrase that, but that's what we're going with. Zachary Taylor was a big fan of chewing tobacco and was notable for always having a wad in. He was even known for his ability to accurately hit a spittoon from significant distance. What many of our early presidents had in perceived elegance, formal education and refinement, Taylor had in absolutely not giving a shitness. It is also said that if his trusty spittoon was not in spitting distance (which was apparently a pretty solid distance) he would just go ahead and blast a mouthful of tobacco juice on the White House rugs.

He was known by a very apt nickname - "Old Rough and Ready" is objectively a sweet nickname and it is the one given to Taylor by his men in the Second Seminole War. Let's break down what gets a man a nickname like that. Well I, personally, am not opposed to referring to a guy spitting dip spit all over the Oval Office as "rough," but it doesn't end there. He served FORTY years in the military. Forty years is a damn long time, especially considering the fact the United States was consistently engaged in some sort of conflict for the entirety of his service. What does that look like? Here's a list of wars and major battles he engaged in.

- War of 1812

- Siege of Fort Harrison

- Black Hawk War

- Second Seminole War

- Battle of Lake Okeechobee

- Mexican–American War

- Battle of Palo Alto

- Battle of Resaca de la Palma

- Battle of Monterrey

- Battle of Buena Vista

Those are enough battles to turn the absolutely smoothest individual rough around the edges. There may not be a better and more apt nickname in the history of nicknames than this one for a dude who threw himself directly into any conflict he could for four entire decades. 

Additionally, a cool "Rough and Ready" fun fact (outside of the clearest reference that is our boxing events under Rough n Rowdy, is that there is a town in California named Rough and Ready, which got its name from Captain A.A. Townsend, who served under President Zachary Taylor. When Townsend headed west and ended up in California in 1849, finding mineable gold, he reported back to his president and named the town after him. This place still exists today.

He refused to take sides on key issues, but his offspring did not - Even though Taylor himself was a strong proponent of keeping the United States united, and did not take a side on slavery during his election, he did not push for the expansion of slavery, which was essentially taking a side as far as many were concerned (another reason many believed he may have been poisoned). His offspring, however made their allegiances very clear. Taylor’s second daughter, Sarah, went on to marry Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy and his only son Richard eventually became a Confederate Army general during the Civil War.

Taylor didn't really do much as President of the United States. A lack of diplomatic experience, indecisiveness on an issue that eventually nearly tore our country in half and the giant poop marsh stopped 'ol Rough and Ready from checking many boxes during his presidency, but his legend as a war hero cannot be ignored.


He, like William Henry Harrison, died in office, likely due to the same causes - So I mentioned this earlier up top, and also three weeks ago in my WHH blog, but I'll elaborate again here as well. Basically, up stream from the White House there was a giant poo marsh filled with a ton of bacteria, as poo marshes often are. Without any sort of proper irrigation system, this bacteria would travel its way down into the White House's food and water supply. It (likely) killed William Henry Harrison, almost killed James K. Polk and ultimately, just 16 months into his own term, took out Zachary Taylor, proving the "night soil" filled giant poo marsh to be one of America's biggest enemies (held back from an enema joke there, so you're welcome) to date. Like the falsities surrounding WHH's death (attributing it to him not wearing a jacket at his inauguration), suspicions arose surrounding Taylor's death, with many people believing he was poisoned. Some people suggested that Taylor had been poisoned. However, his remains were tested in 1991 but a normal level of arsenic (he had been seen the day before absolutely hammering cherries and guzzling milk) and no evidence of poison was found. Just doo-doo water. No one is 100% sure exactly how he died, but experts are confident it was sickness born from the lack of proper plumbing and irrigation.