ZACHARY TAYLOR was born in Orange County, Virginia, in November, 1784. He was the second son of Col. Richard Taylor, whose ancestors emigrated from England about two centuries ago, and settled in Eastern Virginia. The father, distinguished alike for patriotism and valor, served. as colonel in the revolutionary war, and took part in many important engagements. About 1790 he left his Virginian farm, and emigrated with his family to Kentucky. He settled in the ' dark and bloody ground,' and for years encountered all the trials then incident to border life. The earliest impressions of young Zachary were the sudden foray of the savage foe, the piercing warwhoop, the answering cry of defiance, the gleam of the tomahawk, the crack of the rifle, the homestead saved by his father's daring, the neighboring cottage wrapped in flames, or its hearth-stone red with blood. Such scenes bound his young nerves with iron, and fired his fresh soul with martial ardor; working upon his superior nature they made arms his delight, and heroism his destiny. Zachary was placed in school at an early age, and his teacher, who now resides in Preston, Connecticut, still loves to dwell on the studiousness of his habits, the quickness of his apprehension, the modesty of his demeanor, the firmness and decision of his character, and a general thoughtfulness, sagacity, and stability, that made him a leader to his mates and a pride to his master.
After leaving school, the military spirit of young Taylor was constantly fanned by the popular excitement against the continual encroachments of England; and soon after the murderous attack of the British ship Leopard upon the Chesapeake, in 1808, he entered the army as first lieutenant in the 7th regiment of infantry. He soon gained distinction in border skirmishes with the Indians, and the declaration of war with England found him promoted to the rank of captain. Within sixty days after the commencement of hostilities in 1812, the imbecility of Hull lost to the country its Michigan territory, and fearfully jeoparded the whole northwestern region. It was of the utmost importance to entrust the few and feeble forts of that great dominion to men of established valor and discretion, Captain Taylor was at once invested with the command of Fort Harrison, situated on the Wabash, in the very heart of the Indian country. The defenses of this post were in a miserable condition, and its garrison consisted of only fifty men, of whom thirty were disabled by sickness. With this little handful of soldiers, the young commander immediately set about repairing the fortifications. He had hardly completed his work, when, on the night of the 4th of September, an alarm shot from one of his sentinels aroused him from a bed of fever, to meet the attack of a large force of Miami Indians. Every, man was at once ordered to his post. A. contiguous block house was fired by the enemy, and a thick discharge of bullets and arrows was opened upon the fort. The darkness of the night, the howlings of the savages, the shrieks of the women and children, the fast approaching flames, and the panic of the debilitated soldiers, made up a scene of terror, but could not shake the determination nor the judgment of the young chieftain. He inspired his men with his own courage and energy. The flames were extinguished, the consumed breastworks were renewed, and volley answered volley for six long hours till day break enabled the Americans to aim with a deadly precision that soon dispersed their foes. This gallant repulse, at odds so unfavorable, prompted a report from Major General Hopkins to Governor Shelby that the firm and almost unparalleled defense of Fort Harrison had raised for Captain Zachary Taylor a fabric of character not to be affected by eulogy;' and forthwith procured from President Madison a preferment to the rank of brevet major, the first brevet, it is said, ever conferred in the American army.
Major Taylor continued actively engaged throughout the war; but being without a separate command, he had no opportunity to again signalize himself by any remarkable achievement. After the treaty of peace, he remained at the West, faithfully performing his duties at different military posts, and preparing himself for any future call to more active service. In 1832, he was promoted to the rank of colonel; and soon after the opening of the Florida war, he was ordered to that territory. Here he was in constant service, and distinguished himself for his discretion and gallantry in circumstances of the most trying difficulty and peril. His entire career won for him universal esteem and confidence.