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OMITTING genealogical details, we come at once to the fact that Major-General Zachary Taylor, the third son of Colonel Richard Taylor, was born in Orange county, Virginia, on the 24th of Noovember, 1784. In the suc------ ceeding summer Colonel Tayroos Post&W lor emigrated to Kentucky, then just beginning to be settled, and his children from their earliest years were inured to the hardships and perils of frontier life. His first military lessons are said to have been from a man named Whetsel, who loaded
Commands Fort Harrison.
his rifle while running and successively killed four Indians, who were pursuing him. Zachary Taylor was enrolled as a volunteer in one of the companies formed to oppose any scheme that might be concocted by Aaron Burr, during his suspicious sojourn in the west. In May, 1808, he received a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th regiment of United States infantry, the vacancy he was appointed to fill having been made by the death of his brother. He was ordered to report himself to General Wilkinson at New Orleans, where he was taken with the yellow fever, and recovered with a constitution so much shattered as to compel his temporary retirement from active service. General Harrison having been ordered to march into the Indian country, erected a block-house and stockade on the Wabash, which afterwards was called Fort Harrison. Lieutenant Taylor was employed in the perilous duty of watching the movements of the hostile savages at this post, and performed it in such a manner as to be promoted to a captaincy in the beginning of 1812. He was then placed in command of Fort Harrison, and in September, 1812, made his memorable successful defense of that post, with a sickly garrison of fifty men, against a large body of Indians of Tecumseh’s party. The attack was begun at midnight and the lower building was set on fire by the enemy. The flames soon reached the store-room where a quantity of whisky took fire, and spread the conflagration rapidly. By great perseverence and presence of mind, however, the fire was stopped in the building where it commenced, and the garrison kept up a steady discharge of musketry upon the enemy, who continued the assault for seven
Defense of Fort Harrison.
hours. They then retired, carrying off the horses and cattle. The danger to which the whisky thus exposed the gallant captain, of death by flames on one side, or savage arms on the other, was probably remembered when he issued stringent orders against those who dealt in that article on the Rio Grande. General Hopkins said of this achievement, in a letter to the governor of Kentucky, “the firm and almost unparalleled defense of Fort Harrison by Captain Zachary Taylor, has raised for him a fabric of character not to be effaced by eulogy.” The government acknowledged it by conferring upon Taylor the rank of major by brevet. In October and November, Major Taylor, in command of the Kentucky volunteers, and accompanied by General Hopkins, made two expeditions into the Indian country; one against the Kickapoo villages on the Illinois river, the other against the settlements in the neighbourhood of Tippecanoe. No general engagement was fought, but they were attended with many hardships and privations, and proved of incalculable benefits to the territories of Indiana and Illinois. Several of the enemy’s towns, and large quantities of provisions were destroyed. This demonstration of our strength inspired them with awe. In the winter of 1813 Major Taylor was appointed to superintend the recruiting service in Indiana and Illinois, in which he continued with industry and success until July. In that month he proceeded with a force of Rangers and Kentucky volunteers against the Massassinawa town near the source of the Wabash. The town was found abandoned, and meeting with no supply of provisions, the detachment was exposed during its return to the severest privations.