Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cruel Irony In Bayou Sara

(Relocated from my "Detour Through History" blog):

It’s a well-known fact that Zachary Taylor vehemently opposed the marriage of his daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, to his subordinate in the military, Jefferson Davis.

The novel, There Was A Season, offers the reason for Taylor’s opposition and how Bayou Sara plays into this (Sarah’s mother is talking to her in this passage from the book):

You’ve heard his reasons for being so set against service marriages a hundred times, haven’t you? The reasons he’ll offer in explanation, that is. The real reason is one of which he won’t even speak. Do you have any memory at all of Bayou Sara? I think..yes. But I was terribly young then. It was the summer of 1820, and you were six. You and your three sisters and I sent that summer with friends at Bayou Sara in the Louisiana Delta, while your father was on duty in the North. And all five of us came down with the bilious fever. You and Ann were lightly stricken. I nearly succumbed-- Yes, Knox said softly, and little Maggie and Baby Octavia died. I remember being terribly sick…but that’s all. Zeke blamed himself, but I didn’t know till we were together again. I think there can be nothing worse than seen a strong man break down before your eyes. He blamed himself for leaving us in ‘that foul miasmic hole.” For being so wrapped up in a thousand details of his career. For not being there to see after us. But what could he have done? Nothing, of course. But that blind iron sense of duty wouldn’t let him accept the fact. I believe now that he wanted me to say something, anything that would absolve him in my eyes and his own. But I—God forgive me—my babies were dead, and the words wouldn’t come then. Later, when I tried to say them, he silenced me. The matter is closed, madam. Just that flatly. And of course it wasn’t closed; it will never be.

From: There Was A Season, A colorful biographical novel of Jefferson Davis and his poignant romance with Sarah Knox Taylor, Olsen, Theodore V., Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1972.

Zachary Taylor, while at Fort Crawford, decided to become a property owner in Louisiana himself:

The Taylor corner (at the dance) was dominated by the colonel’s expansive and vigorous talk: exactly the unsoldierly sort any gentleman planter might make. On how the Southern levees were holding, his recent purchase of three hundred acres of Louisiana farmland [Note: Picture of historical marker near Rodney, Mississippi, explaining that Zachary Taylor had property in the area], last year’s tobacco crop on his Kentucky plantation. [There Was A Season]

Shortly after Jefferson Davis and Sarah Knox Taylor were married they went to visit Jefferson’s brother, Joseph Davis, in southern Mississippi, where they both contracted malarial fever. While both were still quite sick, they boarded a steamboat bound for New Orleans. However, the extremely ill Davis couple disembarked at BAYOU SARA.

There Was A Season

..we are approaching Bayou Sara on the Louisiana bank, sir. Bayou Sara. The name had a familiar ring. He gave his thoughts a sluggish fillip. Yes. His widowed sister Anna lived in Feliciana Parish, and he always disembarked at Bayou Sara when visiting Locust Grove, the plantation willed to Anna by Luther Smith, her late husband. Are you thinking, he whispered, of taking us to my sister’s place, James (Note: James was Jefferson Davis’s personal manservant)? Yes sir. Directly we dock, I’ll rent a wagon and move you and Miss Sarah to Locust Grove. Very well, James. We’re in your hands.

(Jefferson Davis to Sarah Knox Davis) We’ll lay in directly at Bayou Sara and go straight to my sister’s….(Sarah Knox): Where? Where did you say? Bayou Sara. Why…is something wrong? No, nothing. She smiled. It’s nothing.

Zachary Taylor’s greatest fear was realized – he lost another daughter to the fevers near Bayou Sara, Louisiana.

No comments: