Kurt's Historic Sites

Zachary Taylor monument

Zachary Taylor

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Louisville, KY August 19, 2004 14th President visited

Photographed August 19, 2004.

The assertion that this plaque marks the first burial site of former President Zachary Taylor is true… “from a certain point of view,” as a noted science fiction character would say. On July 13, 1850, four days after he became the second U.S. president to die in office, Taylor’s remains were placed within the public vault at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The twelfth POTUS was held there for three months. In October he was exhumed, and he arrived at the family cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 1st. The tomb he was placed in that day bears this plaque, which was presented on October 2, 1976.

After her death in 1852, former First Lady Margaret Taylor joined her husband in this hillside vault. They stayed there until May 6, 1926, when they were transferred to a newly-constructed mausoleum a few yards away. The original tomb, the present mausoleum, and a 50-foot monument dedicated to Zachary Taylor’s military service are the standout features of the northeastern corner of the property. The burial ground — located on what was once part of Taylor family land — is now the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

Photographed August 19, 2004.
Photographed August 19, 2004.

The 1926 mausoleum is of a Neoclassical design and is primarily comprised of limestone. Mrs. Taylor has not been moved since her transfer from the hillside vault. On the other hand, Zachary Taylor’s corpse was briefly disinterred in 1991 so a medical examiner could test a professor’s theory that the former president and general was poisoned. The evaluation concluded he was not assassinated by poisoning.

On several occasions I have gained access to the interior of generally-locked presidential tombs — including William Henry Harrison’s, which my father and I visited just a few hours before we paid our respects to Zachary and Margaret Taylor. No such special entry occurred at the Taylor mausoleum. Through the back window my father took my picture looking at the first couple’s sarcophagi through the glass panes of the door, forlorn.

Photographed August 19, 2004.

Fast Facts

Born: November 24, 1784 in Orange County, Virginia

Spouse: Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor (m. 1810-1850)

Highest Military Rank: Major General — U.S. Army

Political Affiliation: Whig Party

Presidential Tenure: 1849-1850

Vice President: Millard Fillmore

Died: July 9, 1850 in Washington, D.C.

Cause of Death: Cholera Morbus

Age: 65

Last Words: “I am about to die. I expect the summons very soon. I have tried to discharge my duties faithfully. I regret nothing, but I am sorry that I am about to leave my friends.”

Interment: Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky

"Any attempt to deny to the people of the State the right of self-government in a matter which peculiarly affects themselves will infallibly be regarded by them as an invasion of their rights, and, upon the principles laid down in our own Declaration of Independence, they will certainly be sustained by the great mass of the American people. To assert that they are a conquered people and must as a State submit to the will of their conquerors in this regard will meet with no cordial response among American freemen."
- Zachary Taylor
January 23, 1850, discussing popular sovereignty related to slavery in California in a message to the U.S. Senate
Photographed July 12, 2015.
Photographed August 19, 2023.

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Davis, Camille. “The Mixed Legacy of Zachary Taylor: Mourning a Soldier, Losing a President.” In Mourning the Presidents: Loss and Legacy in American Culture, edited by Lindsay M. Chervinsky and Matthew R. Costello, 80-97. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2023.

Lamb, Brian and the staff of C-SPAN. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. Rev. ed. New York: Public Affairs, 2003.

Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.

Taylor, Zachary. “Message Regarding Newly Acquired Territories,” January 23, 1850. Letter. From University of Virginia, Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/january-23-1850-message-regarding-newly-acquired-territories.

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