Thursday, January 3, 2008
The Rebel President and The Colonel's Daughter...a tragic love story
Get out your' hankys and prepare yourselves...I have to eat crow on this one.
I grudgingly admit that Jefferson Davis...yes, that Jefferson Davis, was once a true and devoted Wisconsinologist. Here's the story...
At the close of the Civil War, William Upham, Sr., a veteran of the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment was assigned to guard duty at Fortress Monroe, where the captured Confederate President, Jefferson Davis was being held in custody. As officer of the guard, Upham had many opportunities to talk to Davis.....
"The topography of Wisconsin was more familiar to him than to me, a boy who had lived almost all his life in Wisconsin," the elder Upham recalled. "Davis had been stationed at Green Bay and at Prairie du Chien in frontier Wisconsin as a young soldier. He knew the meaning of all the Indian names. In spite of all his present troubles, he was never bitter or vindictive".
In 1828, Jefferson Davis was stationed at Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. His commanding officer was future President of the United States, Zachary Taylor. It was there, in 1832, that Davis met and fell in love with Taylor's beautiful daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor ("Knoxie" to her friends). Davis proposed marriage, but Taylor's father was opposed to the match. He felt that life with a career soldier and endless assignments to frontier posts was too harsh a life for his precious daughter. He offered Davis a choice, he could marry his daughter...but only if he resigned from the military.
Davis chose love. He resigned from the Army and married Sarah Knox Taylor on June 17, 1835 at the home of her aunt, near Louisville, Kentucky. The newlyweds traveled to Louisiana to visit Davis' sister. They were young, madly in love, and in the words of one observer, "..so completely devoted to each other." During their stay, they both contracted malaria. Two days short of their three-month anniversary, Sarah Taylor Davis died.
Davis was devastated. It would be the first of many personal tragedies that would mark his life. We will meet the man again....twice...the story of his Wisconsin connection is far from finished.