Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Wedding of Jefferson Davis and Sarah Knox Taylor

Sarah Knox TaylorSarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of future president Zachary Taylor and Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor, was born at Fort Knox in Vincennes, Indiana, in either 1813 or 1814 (probably the latter), and was named for her paternal grandmother and for the fort where she was born. Often called Knox or Knoxie, she was educated in Kentucky and Ohio and met Davis in 1832, when both he and her father were stationed at Fort Crawford in what is now Wisconsin. Her father opposed the relationship, both because of the hardships of army life and because there was some friction between Davis and himself.

The details of their courtship were lost to history in the summer of 1863 when Union troops carried off a packet of correspondence between Sarah Taylor and Davis. It is unknown whether they even saw each other from the time Davis left Fort Crawford until they met to be married. Rumors of an elopement circulated for decades, but there was a formal ceremony, and the couple apparently had the blessing of Zachary Taylor, perhaps because Davis had decided to resign his commission. Sarah's parents were not present at the wedding, however, which took place on June 17, 1835, at Beechland, near Louisville, Kentucky, the home of Sarah's widowed aunt Elizabeth Taylor.

The newlyweds took a steamboat to Vicksburg, traveling to visit Joseph E. Davis on Davis Bend. There Davis began the planning for Brierfield. Later that summer the couple went to see Davis' oldest sister Anna Smith at "Locust Grove" in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. Either on the journey or soon after their arrival, both Davis and Sarah contracted either malarial or yellow fever. On September 15, two days short of their three-month anniversary, Sarah Taylor Davis died. She was buried at "Locust Grove," which is now a state historical site that is open to the public.

Today, a historical marker stands at the site of their wedding (located at 2 Rebel Road, near the corner of Brownsboro Rd. and Zorn Ave.) with the following description:

On June 17, 1835, the daughter of Zachary Taylor, Sarah Knox, married Jefferson Davis in the house that originally stood on this site. The home was owned by Zachary Taylor's sister. Soon after their marriage, while visiting Davis' relatives in Louisiana, the couple contracted malaria. In September of that year, the young bride died. The present house built ca. 1870.
For more information, see The Papers of Jefferson Davis.

No comments:

Post a Comment