Sarah Knox Taylor Davis
Sarah 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. Davis was transferred to St. Louis
in 1833, but he remained in correspondence with the woman he hoped would
become his wife:
"[Your] kind, dear letter [in which she apparently consented
to marriage], I have kissed it often and it has driven many mad notions
from my brain. Sarah whatever I may be hereafter I will ascribe to you.
Neglected by you I should be worse than nothing and if the few good
qualities I possess shall under your smiles yield a fruit it will be
your's as the grain is the husbandman's. . . . Shall we not soon meet
Sarah to part no more? oh! how I long to lay my head upon that breast
which beats in unison with my own, to turn from the sickening sights of
worldly duplicity and look in those eyes so eloquent of purity and love"
(December 16, 1834, in Davis Papers, 1:346).
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
For more information, see Volume 1 of The Papers of Jefferson Davis.