Fun facts to know and tell (and a poem)

by chuckofish

Today is the anniversary of the death of 12th U.S. President Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) who, you will recall, died in office. Millard Fillmore succeeded him as president.

“Old Rough and Ready” was born in Virginia to a prominent family of planters, a descendent as well of a signer of the Mayflower Compact. He was elected on the strength of his impressive military career. He was an Episcopalian.


He has a good face. Clearly those 19th century presidents were not overly vain–Taylor neither combed his hair or straightened his tie for this portrait.

I had forgotten that one of his daughters, Sarah Knox Taylor, was married briefly to Jefferson Davis, who later became President of the Confederate States. She was twenty-one when she died.

Taylor had five daughters and (finally) one son, Richard Scott Taylor (1826–1879), who was a Confederate General in the Civil War.

Zachary Taylor is buried in the family mausoleum in Louisville, Kentucky.


Eight presidents have died while in office. William Henry Harrison was the first–he had only been president for 31 days when he died of pneumonia in 1841.

Zachary Taylor was next in 1850 when he died of acute gastroentiritis.

Three assassinations followed: Lincoln (1865), Garfield (1881) and McKinley (1901).

Then Warren G. Harding died of a heart attack in 1923, followed by FDR with a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945. JFK was assassinated in 1963.

Well. Here’s a poem that seems appropriate.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

–Maya Angelou