Zachary Taylor — John S. D. Eisenhower

If you find yourself in the future contemplating reading a biography of a president or two, I thoroughly recommend you put Zachary Taylor pretty low on your list. Up until now I have read interesting biographies of interesting people, dry biographies of interesting people, and interesting biographies of people I feared would be uninteresting but weren’t (I’m looking at you Van Buren and Harrison). But Taylor really does come across as pretty boring. He had a handful of stellar moments in the army, and significantly contributed to Grant’s understanding of how generals should interact with their troops; he earned a sizeable reputation across the country for his conduct in the Mexican-American War; and the most interesting thing to happen in his presidency was probably his death from eating raw apples and cherries on 4th July. Which is a disappointing way to go for a war hero.

Eisenhower (the surname isn’t a coincidence: he’s Dwight Eisenhower’s son) does an excellent job of summarising Taylor’s career into a short account, and I was glad to breeze through it superficially. Although I would have been interested to read more of the Mexican-American War, I think a biography of Taylor is the wrong place to do so, and I intend to pick up Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs at some point in the future, which I am sure will give me more detail. The biography did a good job in explaining how Taylor got to become president despite being a man with no discernible political skill or knowledge, and I appreciated that.

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