Miller Center

Zachary Taylor: Death of the President

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Zachary Taylor's sudden death shocked the nation. After attending Fourth of July orations for most of the day, Taylor walked along the Potomac River before returning to the White House. Hot and tired, he drank iced water and consumed large quantities of cherries and other fruits. The President suffered severe stomach pains for the next five days. Diagnosed as suffering from "cholera morbus" by his physicians, Taylor ate slivers of ice for relief until his body began rejecting fluids. At about ten in the morning on July 9, 1850, Taylor called his wife to him and asked her not to weep, saying: "I have always done my duty, I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me."

His funeral took place on July 13. An estimated 100,000 people thronged the funeral route in the nation's capital to witness the presidential hearse, drawn by eight white horses accompanied by grooms dressed in white and wearing white turbans. The hearse was followed by Washington dignitaries, military units, the President's beloved horse "Old Whitey," and the President's family. Behind them a line of military units, officials, and common citizens stretched in procession for over two miles. His final resting place was in Louisville, Kentucky, the site of the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery and Monument today.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Michael F. Holt

Professor Holt is the Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia. His writings include:

The Civil War and Reconstruction (Co-authored with Jean H. Baker and David Herbert Donald, W.W. Norton, 2001)

The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1999)

Political Parties and American Political Development from the age of Jackson to the age of Lincoln (Louisiana State University Press, 1992)