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Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents Series: The 12th President, 1849-1850 Hardcover – May 27, 2008


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Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents Series: The 12th President, 1849-1850 + Millard Fillmore: The American Presidents Series: The 13th President, 1850-1853 + Franklin Pierce: The American Presidents Series: The 14th President, 1853-1857
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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082371
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eisenhower (So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico), a military historian and retired army general, has a secure mastery of his subject and his era in this addition to the American Presidents series of nutshell biographies. Taylor's career, in Eisenhower's retelling, had two principal foci. First, he was a general in the American incursion into Mexico in 1846, and his campaign, crisply recounted here, was perceived as a success by the American populace, catapulting Taylor (1784–1850) to national prominence. Second, Eisenhower spotlights Taylor's equivocal relationship to slavery. A lifelong slave owner himself, he opposed abolishing slavery where it existed to preserve the Union. Yet Taylor claimed to oppose slavery on principle as well as its spread to California, New Mexico and other new states. Taylor lived only 16 uneventful months after his inauguration in March 1849, so Eisenhower's treatment of his presidency necessarily deals more with congressional debates on slavery than with Taylor himself. Eisenhower takes a nuanced view of the 12th president, finding Taylor gentle in civilian life, something of a disappointment as a soldier, but most fundamentally a man who aimed to preserve the Union. 1 map. (June)
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From Booklist

Eisenhower puts his subject’s best foot forward by recalling a remark to the effect that Taylor (1784–1850), a slaveholder who opposed extending slavery into new states, might have prevented the Civil War. A career army officer until mere weeks before his inauguration, Taylor also owned extensive plantations. He was wealthy but not haughty. Willingness to share his soldiers’ discomforts and, while maintaining military discipline, dressing informally endeared him to the troops. He served without great distinction until the Mexican War, which President Polk gave him discretion to start. By winning the war’s first great battle at the right time to attract the attention of Whig Party kingmakers looking for a winner in 1848, he wound up in the White House, intending to be a president for all the people—vainly, Eisenhower thinks. He died rather suddenly, in the wake of the Compromise of 1850, one constituent of which, the Fugitive Slave Act, he despised. Eisenhower doesn’t venture a guess, but would Taylor have vetoed it? The piquancy of such a question makes Taylor’s biography curiously ponderable. --Ray Olson

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Customer Reviews

Eisenhower should know Polk did not covet all the Mexican territory.
A. Ciardiello
The series covers the great and important presidents, such as Washington, Lincoln.
Robin Friedman
The authors of each book have done a good job and write in an interesting style.
avidreader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Quale on June 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Eisenhower handles Taylor's military career and his exploits in the Mexican War very neatly and offers selections from other Taylor biographers like Hamilton and Bauer to aid his case and offer the casual reader alternate windows into the life. A very neat summary of a very brief administration, Eisenhower's account never seems rushed or unduly cursory. The books in the American Presidents series vary wildly in quality. This particular volume is not a breath-taking small gem like Hans Trefousse on Hayes or a specialist treasure like Ira Rutkow's book on Garfield, but Eisenhower nevertheless provides a splendid small book on an unfortunately overlooked president.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By MarkK VINE VOICE on June 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Zachary Taylor ranks among that small group of presidents who was more famous for what they did before they became president than for their achievements once they occupied the office. A career army officer, he shot to fame when he led his troops to victory over Mexican forces in the Mexican War. Basking in the adulation of a grateful nation, his parlayed his triumph into a victory as the Whig candidate in the 1848 presidential election, only to have his presidency cut short by his death less than a year and a half after taking office.

Given Taylor's background and claim to fame, John S. D. Eisenhower would seem to be the ideal candidate to write a biography of America's 12th president. The son of a former president, he was a career army officer himself before retiring to become a prolific author of military histories. Yet the end result is disappointing. Eisenhower's slim book is a sketchy account of Taylor's life, one that provides only the barest of details about the man and little real understanding of his role in American history. The first quarter-century of Taylor's life are covered in a scant eight paragraphs, reflecting the lack of effort in understanding the role these early years played in shaping his personality. Much of his early military career is also glossed over in a rush to get to the critical years of the Mexican War. These chapters play to Eisenhower's strengths, allowing him to draw upon his previous work on the conflict, So Far from God: The U.S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848. Yet even here precious space is wasted providing unnecessary or superfluous background to events, diminishing the book's value as a biography of Taylor even further.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. C Sheehy on March 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Usually the presidents between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln are all lumped together as failures. While some just before the Civil War were, there were some very interesting stories that sadly never came to fruition. Zachary Taylor is one of those presidents. A strong leader and a national here, he died just as the country was hitting that vital cross roads between reconciliation and War. Taylor's military career was equally impressive and again he was a key player in one of our lesser known events, the Mexican/American War

John Eisenhower is a sharp and crisp writer who does a wonderful job evoking the era and the passions that drove on not only a professional and political level, but also on a personal level. A book well worth reading!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Taylor TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Zachary Taylor" by John Eisenhower is a good introduction for anyone who wants to learn more about Zachary Taylor, US President from 1849-1850.

The book covers areas of Taylor's life, including:

1. Birth in Virginia and move to Kentucky while still a very young child.
2. Military career that included important service in the Mexican War.
3. Happy home life and tragic loss of a daughter.
4. Encouragements from politicians to run for president.
5. Presidential campaign and election.
6. Brief term and premature death.
7. Analysis of life (family, military, business, politics).

The author comes up with an interesting point - if Taylor were re-elected, the Civil War could have been avoided. Whether or not you agree with the point, one cannot help but wonder.

The book flows freely and is an easy read. The book is a good introduction to President Taylor. However, I am sure there are more comprehensive biographies for readers who wish to learn more.

Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
To bring perspective to this year's eventful presidential campaign, I have been reading several volumes of the American Presidents Series edited by the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Sean Willentz. Each volume consists of a short biography of one of our presidents, prepared by a scholar with a particular interest in him, together with an assessment of his achievements. There is much to be learned in these short books about American history and about the nature of leadership.

The series covers the great and important presidents, such as Washington, Lincoln. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, together with the lesser-known and less successful presidents. This recent volume in the series by John Eisenhower explores one of the shorter and more obscure presidencies, that of Zachary Taylor. Taylor (1784 -- 1850) was the twelfth president of the United States. He served only 16 months (1849 -- 1850) before dying in office. Even though Taylor's time in office was short and uneventful, Eisenhower's book suggests that he has something to teach in our difficult days.

Taylor was born in Virginia but lived from his early years in Kentucky. Although not highly educated, Taylor became wealthy, owned several plantations, and was a slaveholder. Through mid-life, his life oscillated between military service and his plantation, including the desire for time with his family. Taylor earned a reputation in the War of 1812 and in several Indian wars. But his early military career had many long idle stretches. Taylor's life shows a certain restlessness.

Taylor's fame catapaulted with his success in the Mexican War, as he won impressive victories at Palo Alto, Monterrey, and Bueno Vista.
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