Zachary Taylor National Cemetery is located in Jefferson County, Ky., in northeast Louisville. The cemetery was established in 1928 by an act of Congress initiated by the Taylor family to have the government take title to the family burial site where President Zachary Taylor was interred. Two donations of land from the state of Kentucky increased the original half-acre Taylor plot to the national cemetery’s present size of 16 acres. Although the Taylor family plot, which includes a tomb and mausoleum, is encompassed within the walled cemetery, it does not belong to the United States. Despite the best efforts of the Taylor family, the Army judge advocate general decided against federal possession. The Taylor family burial ground is, however, cared for and maintained by the National Cemetery Administration.
Before his tenure as president, Zachary Taylor was the most popular man in America, a hero of the Mexican-American War. He was born November 24, 1784, to a wealthy planter family. By 1800 his family owned 10,000 acres in Kentucky and a number of slaves. In 1808, he received his first commission as commander of the garrison at Fort Pickering, the site of what is now Memphis, Tenn. From there he transferred from one frontier post to another. In 1810, he married Margaret Mackall Smith, daughter of a prominent Maryland family. She followed him from post to post as their four daughters were born. Taylor won fame as an "Indian fighter" on the frontier. The family finally settled in Louisiana, where Taylor assumed command of the fort at Baton Rouge.
In 1845 Texas was granted statehood. Mexico disputed lands along the new state border, and President James K. Polk ordered Taylor and his troops into the contested area. After winning two decisive encounters, Taylor triumphed over overwhelming odds in a battle against the Mexican Gen. Santa Anna at Buena Vista. "Old Rough and Ready" as Taylor was known, became a national hero.
After his victory, clubs sprang to support his presidential candidacy. By then, Taylor was a wealthy slave-owner and the South hoped he would support states' rights and the expansion of slavery into the new areas won from Mexico. The North pointed to his service on the nation's behalf and hoped he would side with the Union. At its 1848 nominating convention, the Whigs named Taylor a candidate for president, and he won the election that November. On July 4, 1850, after attending celebrations in Washington, Taylor contracted a virulent stomach ailment that may have been cholera or typhoid fever, and he died five days later. More than 100,000 people lined the funeral route to see their hero laid to rest.
The president's remains, and those of his wife, who died in 1852, were initially interred in the Taylor family burying ground. In 1883, the state of Kentucky erected a granite shaft surmounted by a life-size figure of Taylor. The United States erected a new limestone neoclassical-style building with a marble interior 43 years later. Over double glass-paneled bronze doors is the inscription "1784 Zachary Taylor 1850." Each year on Nov. 24-Taylor's birth date-military personnel from Fort Knox conduct a wreath-laying ceremony there. Zachary Taylor National Cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Monuments and Memorials
A 50-foot granite monument topped with the life-size figure of former president Zachary Taylor was erected by the state of Kentucky in 1883. Taylor died July 9, 1850.