Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jefferson Davis - A Love Story

One of the most poignant love stories ever told involves President Zachary Taylor and future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. They were in love with the same woman, and the fallout arising from that love would sever the two men’s relationship for years to come.

Jefferson Davis was a graduate of West Point, as were many of the future Confederate Generals, when he was stationed at Fort Crawford in Wisconsin. It was there that he met and fell in love with Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of the post commander and future President of the United States, Zachary Taylor. Davis was 23 and Sarah was 18 at the time. The General denied his permission for the young couple to wed based on his personal dislike for the young lieutenant, as well as his desire that his daughter not be subjected to the rigors of Army life.

But true love never dies, and after waiting for Sarah to attain the age of 21, Davis left the service and married her against her father’s wishes. They departed for Davis’s cotton plantation in Mississippi, stopping in Louisiana first to visit with Davis’s relations whom Sarah had not met. It was there that the couple both contracted malaria, with Davis making a full recovery. Sarah, however, did not fare so well, and after waiting over two years to be married, died in her husband’s arms only 3 months after their wedding. This marked the beginning of 8 years of self-imposed exile at his plantation.

By 1845 he had remarried and won a seat in Congress. The War with Mexico broke out soon after and Davis was chosen to lead a company of men from Mississippi in battle. Here, in one of life’s strangest twists, he found himself under the command of his ex-father in law. Davis fought a hard and bloody campaign, distinguishing himself and his men in several actions. Davis was wounded at Buena Vista.

The following morning, General Taylor arrived at the hospital tent where Davis was being treated. Looking at the wounded Captain Davis, the General told him, “My daughter was a better judge of men than I was.”

The two soldiers both went on to become Presidents; albeit of different countries. But, in spite of their differences over slavery and succession, the two remained close.  When elected President as a Whig in 1848, Taylor hosted Davis, and his second wife, at the White House on numerous occasions during his short term as the nation’s President. 

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