Mrs. Napier, the immediate Past Regent of the White House Association has said many times to people “if you think you have problems just look at the life of Jefferson Davis”. And it is true that when we think about Jefferson Davis’ life we can’t help but reflect that he went through much sorrow and sadness.
First of all, his father died at an early age and he was “mentored” by his elder brother Joseph, who was quite a taskmaker. Second of course was his tremendous loss of the love of his youth, his first wife, Sarah Knox Taylor, who died only three months after they were married. Then came eight years of seclusion as he mourned her loss.
Marriage to Varina, I am guessing, was probably not a “bed of roses” for either of them, as they were both very strong willed. He sustained a severe wound at the battle of Buena Vista and it took many months for him to recuperate. Then later came the extremely difficult war years, ending in crushing defeat and imprisonment. The two years of incarceration at Fortress Monroe had to be a time of tremednous suffering and enormous hardship.
And perhaps saddest of all is when we look at the lives of his children: the loss of Samuel, at age two, Joe at age five, and William at age eleven must have been devestating. Actually he outlived four of his six. Jeff, Jr. died in 1878 at age 21. (Davis lived until 1898). Winnie, the youngest child, outlived him but died tragically young as well (age 34) and never married.
Margaret, the oldest, was the only of his offspring who lived to marry and have children of her own. Her great- grandson, Bertram Hayes-Davis is a great friend of the First White House and visits often. We are very indebted to him for all he has done for us!