Description

    Zachary Taylor Important Autograph Letter Signed: Less than five years before his election as President, General Taylor writes a letter in favor of the promotion of a captain to major; this letter was quoted by President John Tyler in his message to the Senate promoting the captain!

    Signed: "Z Taylor", one page, 7.75" x 9.75". Fort Smith, Arkansas, December 15, 1843. To General Robert Patterson. With integral leaf addressed by Taylor to: "Genl. R. Patterson/Philadelphia" In full: " Dear Sir, Understanding the friends of Capt J. J. Abercrombie of the first Reg't of U.S. Infy intended to lay his claims before the President of the U. States, for the brevet appointment of Major for gallant & meritorious services in Florida, I beg leave to offer my humble testimony in favor of the claims of that officer for such promotion. Capt A accompanied his regiment to Tampa Bay in the fall of 1837, & was for the most part constantly on duty with it, both in winter & summer in the swamps and hammocks of that country, in pursuit of the enemy. Besides being in the battle of Okechobe [sic] on the 25th Decr, 37 on which occasion he acted with the greatest gallantry & coolness, he was charged during the Campaign in Middle Florida during the winter of 1839-40 with the operations in small boats, along the margin of the gulf bounded by that portion of the Territory, during which time besides penetrating every river, bay, creek, & inlet between the mouth of the Suwanee [sic] & Apalachicola rivers, he examined all the Islands near the coast, in search of the enemy, which dangerous & arduous duty he performed with the greatest ability & circumspection. Under such circumstances should the chief magistrate of the nation be pleased to confer such additional rank on Capt. Abercrombie, I have no doubt it will be gratifying to many besides myself, as I am satisfied it could not be bestowed on a more deserving & meritorious officer, or a more worthy gentleman. With respect & esteem I remain General your friend and obt srvt."

    Zachary Taylor's decisive victory at Okeechobee on December 25, 1837, marked the turning point in the Second Seminole War and paved the way for General Taylor's political career. On April 4, 1838, President Van Buren sent to the U.S. Senate his nomination of "Colonel Zachariah [sic] Taylor, of the 1st Regiment of Infantry, to be brigadier-general by brevet, to take rank the 25th of December, 1837, for distinguished services on that day in the battle of the Kissimme [sic], in Florida, with the Seminole Indians." Colonel Taylor's official report of the battle of Okeechobee to the Adjutant General in Washington was referred to by the War Department as "the battle with the Seminole Indians near the Kissimmee River." In May, 1838, Taylor was the commander of all forces in Florida; in April, 1840, at his own request, he was relieved of that post. After a year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he became commander of the Second Department, Western Division, at Fort Smith, Arkansas, in May, 1841. This letter was written from Fort Smith two years later.

    Robert Patterson (1792-1881) fought in the War of 1812, rising from Captain to Colonel in the 2nd Pennsylvania Militia before joining the U.S. Army. After the war, he became a businessman. A Jacksonian Democrat, he became influential in Pennsylvania politics and extended his business interests to the West and South. Patterson was commissioned Major General of Volunteers in the Mexican War and the Civil War. His daughter, Mary Engle Patterson (1818-1874) was married to John J. Abercrombie.

    John J. Abercrombie (1798-1877) served as Adjutant in the 1st Infantry from 1825-1833 and was made Captain in 1836. After serving in the Second Seminole War, he was engaged in frontier duty in the West. At the time of this letter, he was stationed at Fort Atkinson, Iowa. From 1846-1847, in the Mexican War, Abercrombie served as aide-de-camp to his father-in-law, General Robert Patterson, and was promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel. In the Civil War, Brigadier General Abercrombie commanded troops under General Patterson in the Shenandoah Valley and at the Battle of Falling Waters.

    Quoting from this very letter, on January 24, 1844, less than six weeks after this letter was written, President Tyler sent the following to the U.S. Senate: "I nominate to the Senate Captain J. J. Abercrombie, of the 1st Regiment U. S. Infantry, to be major by brevet, for gallant and meritorious services in Florida, to rank as such from the 25th December, 1837, the day on which was fought the battle of Okeechobee, on which occasion 'he acted,' in the language of his commander, Brevet Brigadier-General Taylor, 'with the greatest gallantry and coolness.'" This full page letter is in very fine condition with a minute tear in the blank upper left corner. Included are photographs of Patterson and Abercrombie. Rarely does a collector get the chance to buy a letter penned by a future U.S. President, with great military content, read by and quoted by another U.S. President in an official message to the U.S. Senate! It would be a wonderful addition to a military or presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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