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law, and family physician for twenty years, was sent for from Columbia. But the skill and experience of this gentleman, aided by the highest medical talent, proved of no avail. Mr. Polk continued gradually to sink from day to day. The disease was checked upon him four days before his death; but his constitution was so weakened, that there did not remain recuperative energy enough in the system for healthy re-action. He sank away so slowly and insensibly, that the heavy death-respirations commenced eight hours before he died. He died without a struggle, simply ceasing to breathe, as when deep and quiet sleep falls upon a weary man. About half an hour preceding his death, his venerable mother entered the room, and offered up a beautiful prayer to the King of kings and Lord of lords, committing the soul of her son to his holy keeping."
His death occurred on the 15th of June, 1849, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. His funeral was attended the following day, in Nashville, with every demonstration of respect. He left no children. As death drew near, he felt, as thousands of others have done, the need of the supports of Christianity, and, in that eleventh hour, received the rite of baptism at the hands of a Methodist clergyman.
Birth. Emigration to Kentucky.-Neglected Education.
Enters the Army.-Life on
the Frontier.- Battles with the Indians.- Campaign in Florida. - The Mexican War. -Palo Alto. - Resaca de la Palma.-Monterey. - Buena Vista. - Nominated for the Presidency. Sufferings.- Death.
ZACHARY TAYLOR, the twelfth President of the United States, was born on the 24th of November, 1784, in Orange County, Va.
His father, Col. Richard Taylor, was a Virginian of note, and a distinguished patriot and soldier of the Revolution. When Zachary was an infant, his father, with his wife and two other children, emigrated to Kentucky, where he settled in the pathless wilder
ness, a few miles out from the present city of Louisville. He was one of the first settlers of that region; and as such, when the population increased, was honored with many responsible trusts.
In this rude frontier-home, far away from civilization and all its refinements, young Zachary could enjoy but few social or educational advantages. When six years of age, he attended a common school, and was then regarded as a bright, active boy, rather remarkable for bluntness, and decision of character. He was strong, fearless, and self-reliant, and manifested an eager desire to enter the army to fight the Indians who were ravaging the frontiers. There is little to be recorded of the uneventful years of his childhood on his father's large but lonely plantation. In 1808, his father succeeded in obtaining for him the commission of lieutenant in the United-States army; and he joined the troops which were stationed at New Orleans under Gen. Wilkinson. Soon after this, he married Miss Margaret Smith, a young lady from one of the first families in Maryland.
Our relations with England were, at this time, becoming very threatening; and we were upon the eve of our second war with that power. The English officials in Canada were doing their utmost to rouse the Indians against us. Immediately after the declaration of war in 1812, Capt. Taylor (for he had then been promoted to that rank) was put in command of Fort Harrison, on the Wabash, about fifty miles above Vincennes. This fort had been built in the wilderness by Gen. Harrison, on his march to Tippecanoe. It was one of the first points of attack by the Indians, led by Tecumseh. The works consisted simply of a row of log-huts for soldiers' barracks, with a strong block-house at each end. These buildings occupied one side of a square, the other three sides of which were composed of rows of high pickets. Its garrison consisted of a broken company of infantry, numbering fifty men, many of whom were sick.
Early in the autumn of 1812, the Indians, stealthily, and in large numbers, moved upon the fort. Their approach was first indicated by the murder of two soldiers just outside of the stockade. Capt. Taylor made every possible preparation to meet the anticipated assault. On the 4th of September, a band of about forty painted and plumed savages came to the fort, waiving a white flag, and informed Capt. Taylor, that, in the morning, their chief would come to have a talk with him. It was evident that their
object was merely to ascertain the state of things at the fort; and Capt. Taylor, well versed in the wiles of the savages, kept them at a distance.
The sun went down; the savages disappeared; the garrison slept upon their arms. One hour before midnight, the war-whoop burst from a thousand lips in the forest around, followed by the discharge of musketry, and the rush of the foe. Every man, sick and well, sprang to his post. Every man knew that defeat was not merely death, but, in case of capture, death by the most agonizing and prolonged torture. No pen can describe, no imagination can conceive, the scene which ensued. The savages succeeded in setting fire to one of the block-houses. There was a large amount of whiskey stored in the building; and the sheets of flame, flashing to the clouds, lit up the whole landscape with lurid brilliancy. The forest, the dancing savages, the yells of the assailants, the crackling and glare of the fire, the yelping of the dogs, the shrieks of the women (for there were several in the fort), who had become almost frantic with terror, the shouts of command, the incessant rattle of musketry, -all created a scene of terror which caused the stoutest heart to quail. Of course, no one thought of surrender. It was far better to perish by the bullet or the fire than to fall into the hands of the foe. Until six o'clock in the morning, this awful conflict continued. The savages then, baffled at every point, and gnashing their teeth with rage, retired. Capt. Taylor, for this gallant defence, was promoted to the rank of major by brevet.
Until the termination of the war, Major Taylor was placed in such situations, that he saw but little more of active service. When the army was reduced at the close of the war, the military board retained him, but assigned to him only the rank of captain. Not relishing this arrangement, Major Taylor resigned his commission, and returned to the peaceful pursuits of agricultural life on his plantation. Soon, however, the influence of friends regained for him his rank of major; and, returning to the army, he was sent far away into the depths of the wilderness, to Fort Crawford, on Fox River, which empties into Green Bay. Here there was but little to be done but to wear away the tedious hours as one best could. There were no books, no society, no intellectual stimulus. Thus with him the uneventful years rolled on. Gradually he rose to the rank of colonel. In the Black-Hawk War, which resulted
in the capture of that renowned chieftain, Col. Taylor took a subordinate but a brave and efficient part.
It is related of Col. Taylor, that, while engaged in this war, he was at one time pursuing Black Hawk with his Indian band, when they came to Rock River, which was then understood to be the north-west boundary of the State of Illinois. He had under his command a pretty large force of volunteers and a few regulars. The volunteers openly declared that they would not cross the river, as they had enlisted only for the defence of the State; and that they were not bound to march beyond the frontier into the Indian country. Col. Taylor, inclining to the same opinion, encamped upon the banks of the stream. But, during the night, orders came for him to follow up Black Hawk to the last extremity. The soldiers, hearing of this, assembled on the prairie, in a sort of town-meeting, to deliberate respecting what they should do. Col. Taylor was invited to attend. He was a man of few words, but had already attained some celebrity for his decisive actions.
Very quietly, for a time, he listened to their proceedings. At length, it came his turn to speak. "Gentlemen and fellow-citizens,” said he, "the word has been passed on to me from Washington to follow Black Hawk, and to take you with me as soldiers. I mean to do both. There are the flat-boats drawn up on the shore; here are Uncle Sam's men drawn up behind you on the prairie."
There was no resisting this argument. In a few hours, they were all across the river, in hot pursuit of the foe. For twentyfour years, Col. Taylor was engaged in the defence of the frontiers, in scenes so remote, and in employments so obscure, that his name was unknown beyond the limits of his own immediate acquaintance. In the year 1836, he was sent to Florida to compel the Seminole Indians to vacate that region, and retire beyond the Mississippi, as their chiefs, by treaty, had promised they should do. The great mass of the Indians, denying the right of a few chiefs to sell the hunting-grounds of their fathers, refused to emigrate hence the war. Col. Taylor was sent to capture or destroy them, wherever they might be found.
But little lasting fame can be acquired in fighting undisciplined savages. And still the American Indians were so brave and so cunning, appearing at this moment like a pack of howling wolves