Sarah Knox Taylor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Sarah Knox Taylor
Sarah Knox Taylor.jpg
Sarah Knox Taylor, age 16
BornMarch 6, 1814
DiedSeptember 15, 1835(1835-09-15) (aged 21)
Cause of deathMalaria or yellow fever
Resting placeLocust Grove State Historic Site
West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana
Jefferson Davis
(m. 1835; her death 1835)
Parent(s)Zachary Taylor
Margaret Taylor

Sarah Knox "Knoxie" Taylor Davis (March 6, 1814 – September 15, 1835) was the daughter of Zachary Taylor (1784–1850), who was a career military officer in the United States Army and commanding general in the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), and later became 12th President of the United States (1849–1850). She met Jefferson Davis, (1808–1889), when living with her father and family at Fort Crawford during the Black Hawk War in 1832. They married in 1835 and she died three months later of malaria.

Marriage and death[edit]

Margaret Mackall (née Smith) and Zachary Taylor had three surviving daughters and one son. Sarah Knox Taylor was their second child and spent some years growing up on military installations. Her father became a general and commanded forts; her mother provided most of her education. Sarah was given the nickname "Knoxie," which originated from her middle name and from Fort Knox II in Vincennes, Indiana, where she was born. In the early 1830s, her father commanded Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and was involved in waging the Black Hawk War. His wife and children were living there with him.

At age 17, Sarah fell in love with Jefferson Davis, (1808–1889), a recent graduate of the United States Military Academy on the Hudson River at West Point, New York and a newly commissioned lieutenant in the United States Army, who was second to General Taylor at the fort. Davis was transferred to St. Louis in 1833, yet managed to keep in contact with the woman whom he wished to marry. Taylor admired Davis for his soldiering skills but opposed the romantic match. The Taylors' older daughter had already married Army surgeon Robert Crooke Wood, and they were raising three young children in a desolate frontier outpost. Together with their own experience, the Taylors felt that the military life was too hard and did not want Sarah to be an Army wife.[1] After discussions with his older brother Joseph Emory Davis, Jefferson decided to resign from the Army so that he could marry Sarah. He returned to Mississippi to develop his Brierfield Plantation next to his brother's Hurricane Plantation. Joseph gave Jefferson the land, called Brierfield because it was largely covered with brush and briers.[2]

He and Sarah Taylor (now 21 years old) married on June 17, 1835, at the home of her aunt, near Louisville, Kentucky.[3] Both of the newlyweds contracted either malaria or yellow fever on a summer visit to Davis's sister, Anna Davis Smith, in St. Francisville, Louisiana. Sarah Taylor Davis died of the tropical illness, just three months after her marriage to Jefferson Davis, while staying in her sister-in-law's home, Locust Grove Plantation. Her husband nearly died, as well.[4]

The young Mrs. Davis was laid to rest near other members of Jefferson Davis's family, in the cemetery located on the site of the (former) Locust Grove Plantation. The cemetery has been preserved by the state of Louisiana and is now known as the Locust Grove State Historic Site.[5]


Jefferson Davis was devastated by the death of his young wife, as were her parents. Her death caused years of ill will between Davis and Zachary Taylor; Taylor and his wife felt that Davis should have known better than to go to St. Francisville in the "fever season"[This quote needs a citation]. The men met by chance in 1845 on a Mississippi steamboat and achieved some reconciliation.[6]

After recovering from malaria, seeking respite from the loss of his wife, Davis sailed to Havana, and then to New York City. In 1836, he returned to his Brierfield Plantation in Warren County, Mississippi, to take up cotton cultivation. After being reclusive for years, he gradually became active in politics. He remarried in 1845 and had six children. He served in Congress and was elected as President of the Confederate States of America, after secession in 1861.

When Jefferson Davis married Varina Banks Howell on February 26, 1845, he insisted that the newlywed couple visit Sarah's grave during their honeymoon.[citation needed]

Davis served as Colonel under the command of General Zachary Taylor in the 1847 Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican–American War.[7]

The city of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, designated March 6, 2013, as Sarah Knox Taylor Day.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Cooper 2000, p. 65.
  2. ^ Cooper 2000, pp. 75–79.
  3. ^ Davis 1996, pp. 69, 72.
  4. ^ Davis 1996, 74–75.
  5. ^ "Sarah Knox Taylor Davis 1814–1835, Wife of Jefferson Davis". Retrieved 2013-01-25.
  6. ^ Strode, Hudson (1955). Jefferson Davis, Volume I: American Patriot. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company. p. 136.
  7. ^ Hamilton, Holman (1978). "Jefferson Davis Before His Presidency". The Three Kentucky Presidents. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-0246-7.
  • The North Carolina Booklet, Oct. 1920, Jan. – Apr. 1921, vol. XX, nos. 2,3,4; Raleigh : Daughters of the Revolution, North Carolina Society, 1921. OCLC 36894682


External links[edit]