George Washington. Teddy Roosevelt. Andrew Jackson. When you think of some seriously tough American Presidents, you name these 3 guys most of the time. However, most fail to realize that Zachary Taylor, known as “old Rough and Ready” was one of the most hardcore dudes to ever take the oath of office.
Born in rural Virginia in 1784, Taylor instantly felt a need to kick ass, so he signed up for the US Army in 1808. Stationed in Indiana when the War of 1812 broke out, and the British started whipping American butts all over North America, but Taylor didn’t give a flip. Once attacked by over 600 British-led American Indians while he was stationed at Fort Harrison, Taylor just loaded his rifle and send the stars-and-stripes up the flagpole. With only 15 men under his command, 5 of which were puking their guts up from sickness, Taylor just told his men to shoot anything that moves. The Indians even set fire to the fort at one point, but Taylor and his men put it out and then beat the hell out of the Indians. This turned out to be the first American victory of the War of 1812, and it helped to inspire Taylor’s countrymen to get angry, get inspired, and fight off the British invasion.
Taylor then went on to fight against the Indians again in the Black Hawk War, and later served with distinction against Osceola’s successors in the Second Seminole War. His gruff and simple demeanor earned him the nickname “Old Rough and Ready” because even though he was a freaking General at this point, Taylor didn’t care much for worrying about appearances and wore rumpled clothes. But make no mistake: with his beat up hat and haggard face, he was ready to fight anybody, anytime, anywhere, for any reason.
General Taylor got the perfect opportunity to brush up on his face-smashing skills in 1845, when he was sent to defend the borders of Texas against the Mexicans. William Travis and Sam Houston had already beaten the Mexicans and declared independence from Mexico, but the Mexicans were still pretty damn cheesed over this and and were going crazy trying to take back Texas. Yeah, no. Travis showed up and with an army stationed on the Rio Grande, took on the Mexican army.
Ol’ Zachary led 1700 badass frontiersmen in a killer calvary charge against 4000 Mexican troops and beat them with realness. Then he just kept heading south and fought his way all the way down to Mexico City. Monterrey fell after some evil street-to-street fighting, and the city of Saltillo was up next. This angered our old friend Santa Anna something fierce, so he sent 20,000 pissed-off troops to Taylor’s army of only 4500. Taylor didn’t crawl into a ball and cry on the floor – instead, he ordered his cannons to use double loads of grapeshot and to blow the hell out of anything that moved. Somehow, Taylor pulled a victory in the battle, killing over 2500 enemies and crushing the main body of the Mexican Army. The war ended a few months later, and Taylor was honored as a real American war hero.
Mexico surrendered to the US and ceded the territories that became the states of Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, and New Mexico. Taylor decided it was time to end his 40-year military career, having led American troops to victory in four wars, and retired in 1848. Even though he didn’t really even give a damn about politics he was nominated for the Presidency by the Whig party, who hoped to ride his badassitude all the way to the Oval Office. Taylor won, despite his indifference, because back in the 19th century the American public wasn’t content to be led by a guy who hadn’t personally stabbed another man to death with a bayonet. The Whigs, thinking that Taylor didn’t give a crap, believed that once he was in power they would be able to use him as a puppet President, and immediately started telling him what they wanted him to do. He told them to go pound sand. He was a total badass war hero, and he wasn’t going to be pushed around by a bunch of soft, overweight senatorial dumbasses. The contentious 12th President went completely against many core Whig beliefs, opposed the spread of slavery into the newly-acquired territories, and told everyone else to get bent. If people didn’t like it, tough stuff. He then said that if any dumbasses even thought about seceding from the Union he would personally resign his post and mercilessly march his army all over the country, crushing anybody foolish enough to willingly incur his wrath.
Unfortunately, he never got the chance. President Taylor stroked out and died 16 months into his term, and one of the toughest, most badass generals and commanders in American history was replaced by some dude named Millard.