the First U.S. President? There were actually four first
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Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor
(1788 - 1852)
First Lady from March 4, 1849 to July 9, 1850
Margaret Taylor, born in
Calvert county, Maryland, about 1790; died near Pascagoula, Louisiana, 18
August, 1852, was the daughter of Walter Smith, a Maryland planter. She received
a home education, married early in life, and. until her husband's election to
the presidency, resided with him chiefly in garrisons or on the frontier. During
the Florida war she established herself at Tampa bay, and did good service among
the sick and wounded in the hospitals there. Mrs. Taylor was without social
ambition, and when General Taylor became president she reluctantly accepted her
responsibilities, regarding the office as a "plot to deprive her of her
husband's society and to shorten his life by unnecessary care." She
surrendered to her youngest daughter the superintendence of the household, and
took no part in social duties.
--Her eldest daughter, SARAH, became the wife of Jefferson Davis.
--Another daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1826, was educated in Philadelphia,
married Major William W. S. Bliss in her nineteenth year, and, on her father's
inauguration, became mistress of the White House. Mrs. Bliss, or Miss Betty, as
she was popularly called, was a graceful and accomplished hostess, and, it is
said, "did the honors of the establishment with the artlessness of a
rustic belle and the grace of a duchess." After the death of her father
in 1850, and her husband in 1853, she spent several years in retirement,
subsequently marrying Philip Dandridge, of Winchester. Va., whom she survives.
-Her only son, Richard, soldier, born in New Orleans, 27 January, 1826;
died in New York city, 12 April. 1879, was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland, when
thirteen years old, where he spent three years in studying the classics, and
then a year in France. He entered the junior class at Yale in 1843, and was
graduated there in 1845. He was a wide and voracious though a desultory reader.
From college he went to his father's camp on the Rio Grande, and he was present
at Palo Alto, and Resaca de la Palma. His health then became impaired, and he
returned home. He resided on a cotton-plantation in Jefferson county,
Mississippi, until 1849, when he removed to a sugar-estate in St. Charles
parish, Louisiana, about twenty miles above New Orleans, where he was residing
when the civil war began. He was in the state senate from 1856 to 1860, was a
delegate to the Charleston Democratic convention in 1860, and afterward to that
at Baltimore, and was a member of the Secession convention of Louisiana. As a
member of the military committee, he aided the governor in organizing troops,
and in June, 1861, went to Virginia as colonel of the 9th Louisiana volunteers.
The day he reached Richmond he left for Manassas, arriving there at dusk on the
day of the battle. In the autumn he was made a brigadier-general, and in the
spring of 1862 he led his brigade in the valley campaign under "
Stonewall" Jackson. He distinguished himself at Front Royal,
Middletown, Winchester, Strasburg, Cross Keys, and Port Republic, and Jackson
recommended him for promotion. Taylor was also with Jackson in the seven days'
battles before Richmond. He was promoted to major-general, and assigned to the
command of Louisiana.
The fatigues and exposures of his campaigns there brought on a partial and
temporary paralysis of the lower limbs; but in August he assumed command. The
only communication across the Mississippi retained by the Confederates was
between Vicksburg and Port Hudson ; but Taylor showed great ability in raising,
organizing, supplying, and handling an army, and he gradually won back the state
west of the Mississippi from the National forces. He had reclaimed the whole of
this when Vicksburg fell, 4 July, 1863, and was then compelled to fall back west
of Berwick's bay. General Taylor's principal achievement during the war was his
defeat of General Nathaniel P. Banks at Sabine Cross-Roads, near Mansfield, De
Soto parish, Louisiana, 8 April, 1864. With 8,000 men he attacked the advance of
the northern army and routed it, capturing twenty-two guns and a large number of
prisoners. He followed Banks, who fell back to Pleasant hill, and on the next
day again attacked him, when Taylor was defeated, losing the fruits of the first
day's victory. These two days' fighting have been frequently compared to that of
Shiloh--a surprise and defeat on the first day, followed by a substantial
victory of the National forces on the second.
In the summer of 1864 Taylor was promoted to be a lieutenant-general, and
ordered to the command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, etc. Here he
was able merely to protract the contest, while the great armies decided it.
After Lee and Johnston capitulated there was nothing for him, and he surrendered
to General Edward R. S. Canby, at Citronelle, 8 May, 1865. The war left Taylor
ruined in fortune, and he soon went abroad. Returning home, he took part in
politics as an adviser, and his counsel was held in special esteem by Samuel J.
Tilden in his presidential canvass. During this period he wrote his memoir of
the war, entitled "Destruction and Reconstruction" (New York, 1879).
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