Sarah Taylor was born 6 March 1814 in Ft. Knox II, Vincennes, Indiana, United States to Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) and Margaret Mackall Smith (1788-1852) and died 15 September 1835 St. Francisville, Louisiana, United States ((at Davis's sister's home)) of malaria. She married Jefferson Finis Davis (1808-1889) .

Template:Citations Sarah Knox Taylor (March 6, 1814 - September 15, 1835) was the daughter of Zachary Taylor, who was a career military officer during her life. She met Jefferson Davis when living with her father and family at Fort Crawford during the Black Hawk War. They married in 1835, and she died three months later of malaria.

Early life and education

Born to Margaret Mackall (Smith) and Zachary Taylor, Sarah Knox Taylor grew up some years in military installations. Her father became a general and commanded forts. She received most of her education from her mother. She had three sisters and a brother. Her father was elected later as President of the United States. Sarah was given the nickname "Knoxie", which originated from her middle name and from Ft. Knox II in Vincennes, Indiana, where she was born.

In the early 1830s, her father commanded Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and his wife and children were living with him. He was involved in waging the Black Hawk War. At age 17, Sarah fell in love with Jefferson Davis, a recent graduate of the United States Military Academy and a lieutenant, 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 C. Wood. 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.


Marriage and death

Davis resigned from the Army, perhaps to respond to Taylor's objection, and returned to Mississippi to develop his plantation next to his brother's.

He and Sarah Knox Taylor married on June 17, 1835 at the home of her aunt, near Louisville, Kentucky. Both of the newlyweds contracted malaria on a summer visit to Davis' sister in St. Francisville, Louisiana. Sarah Taylor Davis died of it three months later, still at his sister's home.

Taylor is buried along with other members of Jefferson Davis' family in the cemetery located on the former site of the Locust Grove Plantation. The cemetery has been preserved by the state and is now known as the Locust Grove State Historic Site.


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; he and his wife felt that Davis should have known better than to go to St. Francisville in the fever season. The men met by chance in 1845 on a Mississippi steamboat and achieved some reconciliation..

After recovering from malaria, seeking respite from the loss of his wife, Davis sailed to Havana, Cuba, and then to New York City. In 1836, he returned to his Brierfield Plantation in Warren County, Mississippi to take up cotton cultivation. It was adjacent to Hurricane, owned by his brother Joseph Davis. 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.

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


  • 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

NAME Taylor, Sarah Knox
SHORT DESCRIPTION Daughter of US President Zachary Taylor, wife of the President of the Confederate States of America
DATE OF BIRTH March 6, 1814
PLACE OF BIRTH Vincennes, Indiana
DATE OF DEATH September 15, 1835
PLACE OF DEATH St. Francisville, Louisiana


Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General
§ Remains
  • The cemetery located on the former site of the Locust Grove Plantation.

Robin Patterson

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