T. Michael Parrish
Taylor, Richard (27 January 1826–12 April 1879), Louisiana Democratic party leader, and Confederate general, was born at the Taylor family home, “Springfield,” near Louisville, Kentucky, the only son of Zachary Taylor, professional army officer and president, and Margaret Mackall Smith. Named for his grandfather, who had served as a revolutionary war officer, young Richard Taylor shunned his father’s “Rough and Ready” reputation, seeking instead to recapture the family’s heritage among Virginia’s colonial elite, which included ties to the Madisons and the Lees. A friend observed pointedly, “Dick Taylor had a magnetic personality, which overshadowed the fact [that] he was the only son of … the President.” While his father was stationed at remote frontier military posts, Taylor was sent to private schools in Kentucky and Massachusetts before his admittance to Yale College was secured in 1843. Graduating two years later, he had won no scholastic honors but instead had concentrated on reading widely in classical and military history. After spending several months trying to settle on a career, he visited General Taylor’s camp at Matamoros in July 1846, early in the Mexican War. Seeing his son for the first time in six years, the general described him as “talented” but “rather wild.” Finally Dick agreed to manage the family cotton plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi. In 1850 he persuaded his father (who had been elected president in 1848) to purchase “Fashion,” a large sugar plantation in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. In 1851 he married Myrthé Bringier, with whom he would have five children....