News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 18, 2012

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Zachary Taylor and the Battle of Fort Harrison

Barbara Carney
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — As the Vigo County Historical Society commemorates the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, we recall one of the most important figures in the Battle of Fort Harrison.

On Sept. 4, 1812, Fort commander, 28-year-old Zachary Taylor, who wrote a detailed account of the event, heard gunfire as he peered out from the jagged walls of the Fort. Fearing an attack from the Indians, he worried even more knowing that a fever epidemic had weakened many in the fort. Only about 15 men would be able to fight. Around 11 p.m., he heard the howling of several hundred Indians and was informed that a fire was raging in the blockhouse. Three men having been ordered to the roof, tore off the burning section to prevent the spread of fire. During two days of battle, Taylor’s men kept up a steady stream of gunfire, and while greatly outnumbered, were able to hold the Indians at bay and watch their retreat.

After one failed attempt, Taylor dispatched two men to Vincennes to replenish provisions and report to General William Henry Harrison. Governor Harrison was immensely pleased with Taylor’s courageous defense of the stockade, and recommended that he be promoted to brevet major. It was the start of an impressive climb for Taylor, who later led American campaigns against the Indians in Illinois and later against Mexico.

Zachary Taylor was elected the 12th president of the United States in 1848. He died in office on July 19, 1850, after serving only 16 months. It is ironic that both William Henry Harrison, our country’s ninth president and Zachary Taylor died in office.

Zachary Taylor will be portrayed during a program to take place at the Historical Society’s Annual Dinner on Sept. 2nd at The Landing.