Miller Center

Zachary Taylor: Family Life

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Zachary Taylor lived most of his life as an army officer at various frontier outposts. Two of his five daughters died as young children. Another daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, married the young Mississippian who would become the president of the Confederacy and who served under Taylor in Mexico—Jefferson Davis. Sarah tragically died from cholera just two months after her wedding. At the time of his presidency, Taylor had three surviving children: Ann Margaret Mackall, Mary Elizabeth, and Richard. Elizabeth "Betty" married Major William W. S. Bliss, known to the Taylor family as "Perfect Bliss." Major Bliss had served under Taylor in Texas and at the Battle of Monterrey. Even before and after his marriage to Betty, Bliss was like a son to Taylor, advising him about finances, politics, and military tactics.

On numerous occasions, Taylor used family time to manage his lands and plantations. Seldom at home long enough to supervise slaves or crops, he relied on associates, relatives, and his daughters to assist his wife with daily finances and decisions. He understood the toll that his career took on his family, and he hoped that his daughters would never marry career soldiers. So adamant was he on this that Lieutenant Jefferson Davis actually resigned from the Army in order to wed Taylor's oldest daughter, Sarah.

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)