ZACHARY TAYLOR: SOLDER, PLANTER, STATESMAN OF THE OLD SOUTHWEST
by K. Jack Bauer
ISBN 978-0-945707-08-0 $32.50
348 pages including an essay on sources, index, illustrations and maps.
Considering the course his life took, one might wonder how Zachary
Taylor ever came to be elected the twelfth president of the United States.
According to K. Jack Bauer, Taylor "was and remains an enigma". He
was a southerner who espoused many antisouthern causes, an aristocrat with
a strong feeling of the common man, an energetic yet cautious and conservative
solder. Not an intellectual, Taylor showed little curiosity about
the world around him, In this biography - the most comprehensive since
Holman Hamilton's two-volume work published more than thirty years ago - Bauer
offer a fresh appraisal of Taylor's life and suggests that Taylor may have
been neither so simple nor so nonpolitical as many historians have believed.
Much of Taylor's adult life was spent in the army, although
his military career proved unexceptional until circumstances thrust him into
command of the troops sent to occupy Texas. That role projected him
into the first clashes with Mexico on the northern bank of the Rio Grande.
With minimal advance planning, Taylor led his men against the northern Mexican
center of Monterey, where he displayed little confidence as a battlefield
commander. Nevertheless, he forced the defenders to request terms.
The ensuing armistice brought him the disapprobation of the government but
greater public renown. His fame was later assured by his troops' victory
a Buena Vista, a battle that cleared the path to the White House.
Taylor's sixteen months as president were marked by disputes
over California statehood and the Texas-New Mexico boundary. Taylor
vehemently opposed slavery extension and threatened to hand those southern
hotheads who favored violence and secession as a means to protect their
interest. He died just as he had begun a reorganization of his administration
and a recasting of the Whig party.
Balanced and judicious, forthright and unreverential, and based
on thoroughgoing research, this is likely to be for many years the standard
biography of Zachary Taylor.