Who knew that George Washington was not the first President of the United States, or that Jefferson Davis had such a connection with Zachary Taylor? Lost facts found!
America’s 2 Forgotten Presidents:
The United States’ first President was not George Washington. The last man to sign the Articles of Confederation in 1781 was a delegate from Maryland. After signing, he was elected President of the assembled delegates. Even George Washington referred to him in a letter as, “President of the United States.” His name was John Hanson.
- David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, The People’s Almanac (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), p 261
In 1849, the United States had a President for one day by the name of David Rice Adams. What happened was that James Polk’s term ended at noon on March 4, 1849, and Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn in as President until the next day, which was a Monday. With no President or Vice President, the “President Pro Tempore” of the Senate, per the Constitution, assumed the role of President. So for one day, from Noon to Noon, David Rice Atchison was the President of the United States. He reportedly spent the day in bed after a few busy nights finishing Senate matters. His family seemed much more proud of this accomplishment, writing on this tombstone, “President U.S. one day.”
- David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, The People’s Almanac (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), p178-80.
Jefferson Davis and Zachary Taylor
Jefferson Davis was the only president of the Confederacy, and he was well trained in military procedures at West Point. After he graduated, at 23, he fell in love with Sarah “Knox” Taylor, the daughter of the future president Zachary Taylor, and she with him. Incidentally, Taylor was also the commandant of Davis’ post. Being a military man, Taylor did not want his daughter to suffer the fate of his wife; the struggles and pain that go with marrying a military man. He refused to let the two marry. Davis waited two years until Knox was of legal age, then quit the military, so that they may marry. Taylor still disapproved of the marriage, but was aware of their intent. Sadly, Knox died just 3 months after their wedding, after both husband and wife contracted Malarial Fever in Louisiana, while traveling to Mississippi to Davis’ home. Davis became reclusive after her death for 8 years, and saw nearly no one. He slowly emerged into society again in the early 1840s, and remarried in 1845. He was also elected to the House of Representatives that year, from Mississippi.
During the Mexican War, Davis was recruited to lead volunteer soldiers from Mississippi, once again falling under the commandment of General Zachary Taylor. Davis was wounded in the Battle of Buena Vista. General Taylor himself came to his tent and admitted, “My daughter was a better judge of men than I was.”
Though Taylor and Davis were on opposite ends politically; one leaning to secession, the other threatening to personally lead the army against any state wanting to secede, once Taylor took office in 1849, Davis and his wife were nearly constant guests at the White House and treated as part of his family, as if Knox had not passed away at all.
- Holman Hamilton, The Three Kentucky Presidents (Lexington, Ky.: University of Kentucky Press, 1978), pp.12-13.