Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/98

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

promoted to first lieutenant, in 1834. But he held the post only a few months, resigning in June of the next year.

For some reason, never explained, "Old Zach" Taylor had taken a strong dislike to his subaltern; but the latter was deeply and seriously in love with the fair young daughter of his chief Miss Knox Taylor. To the surprise of everyone – and none more than her sire – Miss Taylor married the young soldier almost immediately on his resignation. Her father never forgave her, and he never saw her again. She went as a bride to the home of her sister-in-law, Mrs. Anna Davis, at West Feliciana, La. Three months later she was buried there, after a brief illness, and the shock broke down completely the health of the young husband, already undermined by hard frontier service.

On his recovery, Mr. Davis made a tour of the West Indies; thence paid a long visit to his old friends in Washington and made many new and useful ones, who were loyal to him until the end. Then he settled in Mississippi, by his brother's advice, becoming a planter in Warren County, Miss., but devoting really more attention to reading law and managing local politics. The latter proved the more congenial and successful. He was elected to the Legislature in 1842; was Elector for Polk and Dallas two years later, and gained high repute as a debater in a tilt with the famous Sergeant S. Prentiss. In February, 1845, he married Miss Varina Banks Howell, daughter of Colonel William Burr Howell, native of New Jersey, who had moved to Mississippi and wedded the daughter of the Virginia settler.

This marriage was a most congenial and helpful one to the already rising young statesman. No woman of her day proved a more potent factor in the semisocial and semipolitical government at Washington in the Davis' long sway at the Capitol. Today, in both sections of the Union and abroad their names have gone down the aisles of time linked in one.

In the autumn after his marriage Mr. Davis was elected to Congress by a handsome majority, promptly taking a prominent stand and gaining quick recognition for vigor and eloquence in championing the ultra pro-slavery and states rights wing of the Democracy. Hearing his maiden speech in the house, John C. Calhoun said: