Historical Marker #1849 in Louisville notes the location of the boyhood home of general and president Zachary Taylor.
Taylor was born in Orange County, Virginia, in 1784 to Richard and Sarah Dabney Taylor. Richard Taylor had served in the Revolutionary War and became a planter in Virginia. The family moved west and settled in a log cabin in what would become Jefferson County, Kentucky. Soon after, Richard Taylor built a brick home - called Springfield - for his family on a large estate. Zachary Taylor lived at Springfield longer than any other location. At Springfield and throughout their lives, the Taylors relied upon the labor of over twenty enslaved persons.
In spite of his family’s growing affluence, Zachary Taylor received a rudimentary education. He attended a small academy in Middletown, Kentucky and then enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1808. From that point onward, Taylor’s life was that of a soldier. The War of 1812 proved to be Taylor’s first combat experience. He had been transferred to Indiana Territory in 1811, and was promoted to major for defending Fort Harrison against the British and their Native American allies.
After the War of 1812, Taylor was posted to several different assignments in the Northwest Territories and Louisiana. In the 1830s, Taylor participated in the Black Hawk War in Illinois and the Second Seminole War in Florida. During this period, he became known for his gruff appearance and military preparedness and earned the nickname “Old Rough and Ready.” During the Second Seminole War that Taylor was promoted to brigadier general.
While he rose up the ranks in the military, Taylor also increased his personal fortune. His military duties were initially limited and Taylor purchased land and enslaved people near Louisville. In 1810, he married Margaret Mackall Smith, of Calvert County, Maryland. The couple eventually had six children. One daughter, Sarah, married future Confederate President Jefferson Davis. One of his sons, Richard, became a Confederate general during the Civil War. In the mid-1820s, Taylor moved his family to Louisiana, where he purchased a plantation near Baton Rouge. By the 1840s, Taylor owned plantations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky, which were worked by at least 81 enslaved men, women, and children that Taylor purchased. The lives of the enslaved on Taylor’s properties have not been studied at length.
With the outbreak of the U.S.-Mexican War in 1846, Taylor rose to national prominence. His military victories at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and, most notably, Buena Vista, turned him into a national hero. Taylor had never embraced politics—he famously admitted during the campaign that he had never voted in a presidential election—but he was talked into being the nominee for the Whig Party by John J. Crittenden, a senator from Kentucky. Taylor won the election over the Democratic nominee, Lewis Cass of Michigan.
Taylor’s time in office did not last long, as he died in 1850. During his tenure, Taylor supported the admission of California as a free state, helped pass the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and issued proclamations against filibustering (illegal expeditions of armed men that set out from the United States). Taylor was the last president to bring enslaved persons with him to the White House. Upon his death, Taylor willed over one-hundred and twenty enslaved people to his wife. Taylor was buried at his boyhood home, Springfield, in Jefferson County, which eventually became the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
The marker text reads:
Col. Richard Taylor of Va., veteran of French and Indian War and the Revolution, built original part of "Springfield" ca. 1790. Boyhood home of son "Old Rough and Ready" Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), veteran of 1812 and Black Hawk wars. Mex. War hero and 12th U.S. pres. (1849-50). Zachary's daughter Sarah Knox married Jefferson Davis, future CSA president. Son Richard was Confed. Gen.