Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book review - Life of General Taylor.

Just finished another book from my Grandfather's library. Life of General Taylor by J. Reese Fry is a 325 page biography of General Zachary Taylor. Having given only brief attention to The War with Mexico and General Taylor's part therein, I was interested in reading this book. Another thing that served to whet my interest was the fact that it was published in October of 1847. Since General Taylor would win the presidential election of 1848 I wonder if this could be considered a campaign biography.

The book was of course positive to General Taylor but it did not come across as fawning. The General's early years are quickly summed up and the book really starts to pick up steam at the beginning of his military career. Incidents are recounted from the Blackhawk war and the Second Seminole conflict in Florida. These take up some space in the book and are interesting foundations laid leading up to General Taylor's rise to national prominence.

The emphasis of the book by far is The War with Mexico. General Taylor was the commanding general of U.S. troops along the border prior to the war and his actions there are carefully laid out. His movements once the war broke out are also detailed. The book covers the siege of Fort Brown, and the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de La Palma, Monterrey, and Buena Vista. The narrative ends shortly after Buena Vista with General Taylor in his camp preparing for the next action.

The book is of particular interest for several reasons. It shows the American view of the war and General Taylor at the time. I found this to be interesting. It also includes reprints of much of General Taylor's reports and correspondence with the War Department. These are valuable primary sources that help explain some of what went on and why. The final reason I found the book interesting was what was not in it. Only very sparing mentions were made of President Polk and General Scott. This seems to confirm the possibility that this book was originally published with the intent to further General Taylor's presidential possibilities.

All in all Life of General Taylor was well-written and an interesting read. It needs to be read for what it is, the biography of a presidential candidate prior to election. Still, I heartily recommend this book to anyone who can find it.

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