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Zachary Taylor Inaugurated as 12th President of the USA

Richard Cavendish remembers the events of March 5th, 1849

It was a grey, cloudy Monday in Washington, but no rain fell and the banners snapped briskly in the wind. Church bells rang and bands played as a hundred mounted marshals escorted the twelfth president of the United States in an open carriage drawn by four bay horses to the Capitol to be sworn in. A stocky, muscular, weatherbeaten man of sixty-four, dressed in his new black suit, he pulled his spectacles down onto his nose from their roost in his hair to read a short, non-committal speech. The oath was administered by Chief Justice Taney, the new president shook hands with his predecessor and artillery salvoes sounded as he was escorted to the White House. That night he visited all three inaugural balls, including one for 4,000 revellers at the City Hall, where the foreign diplomats shone in their orders and brilliant uniforms.

The twelfth president, who had little time for either diplomacy or uniforms, had spent his childhood in the tough border region of Jefferson County, Kentucky, at his father’s plantation on the Muddy Fork of Beargrass Creek. One of nine children, Zachary Taylor joined the army in the infantry as a young man and made a career fighting American Indians and keeping the frontiers quiet. Blunt and businesslike, he disliked army uniform and dressed more like a farmer than an officer. Though never known for finesse, he had an inspiring presence and a solid reputation for bravery.

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