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Zachary Taylor

12th President of the United States

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Zachary Taylor gained national fame as a military leader and served only briefly in political office. He was born in 1784 in Orange County, Virginia and grew up on his father's plantation near Louisville, Kentucky. He joined the regular army in 1808 and was commissioned first lieutenant. He fought in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War in 1832, and the second Seminole War beginning in 1837.

In 1847, President James K. Polk sent him to the Rio Grande City with an army. When the Mexicans attacked him, Polk declared war on Mexico. Badly outnumbered, Taylor defeated General Santa Anna at the Battle of Buena Vista. This made him a national hero and earned him the nomination of the Whigs in 1848. Once in office, he worked for the admission of California as a free state. He died in office on July 9, 1850 and was succeeded by Millard Fillmore.