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Sarah Dorsey
Birth: Feb. 16, 1829
Natchez
Adams County
Mississippi, USA
Death: Jul. 4, 1879
New Orleans
Orleans Parish
Louisiana, USA

Author, Confederate Folk Figure. A noted writer of her day, she is much better remembered as the late-life friend and companion of President Jefferson Davis. Born Sarah Anne Ellis to a family of both wealth and literary distinction, she was to see her father die when she was nine but was to receive an education far superior to that of most girls of the time via her stepfather Charles Gustavus Dahlgren. Miss Sarah studied with a local tutor then at Madame Deborah Greland's French School in Philadelphia where she was taught by Anne Charlotte Lynch (Botta), one day to run a noted New York literary salon, and numbered among her classmates Varina Banks Howell, the future Varina Davis, First Lady of the Confederacy. After further training in both law and accountancy she married, much against her family's wishes, wealthy Marylander Samuel Dorsey in 1852. Following a brief residence in Maryland the couple relocated to a prosperous plantation in Tensas Parish, Louisiana, where they lived comfortably until their home was burned by the invading Yankees in 1863. The Dorseys escaped to Texas where they worked in a Confederate hospital and where Miss Sarah published her first novel "Agnes Graham" which was serialized in the "Southern Literary Messenger" in 1863 and 1864; continuing to write, she released a well-received biography of wartime Louisiana Governor Henry Watkins Allen in 1866 which she followed with the fictional works "Lucia Dare" (1867), 1872's "Athalie", and the 1877 "Panola", all of her books treating the Lost Cause theme in some manner. Though their circumstances were a bit reduced the Dorseys were still well-off and were able to travel to Europe and England where Miss Sarah made several notable friends including Lady Henrietta Stanley and Anna Leonowens, one day to be brought to life on the Broadway stage by Gertrude Lawrence as the governess Anna of "The King and I". After moving to Beauvoir, a Gulf Coast plantation near Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1873 Miss Sarah saw Samuel die in 1875 then in December of 1876 was to invite President Davis, then down on his luck after the failure of his Memphis insurance business, for a visit. The invitation quickly became an offer to move in which the President accepted with the inevitable result that it was soon 'common knowledge' throughout the South that Mr. Davis and Miss Sarah were 'living in sin'. While the exact nature of the relationship was and is unknowable, several factors, beyond the devout character of both parties, mitigate against the conclusion of an illicit romance chief among them the fact that Davis was 68 and suffering from a multiplicity of chronic health problems. And then there is Varina to consider, with there being plenty of reasonable doubt whether the President would then or ever have dared to cheat on her. A gracious and proper Southern Lady, Varina could nevertheless be fearsome in her wrath and indeed there was hell to pay. Though included in the offer of residence Varina stayed away for almost two years during which time Miss Sarah cared for Mr. Davis and encouraged (or nagged) him in the writing of his two volume "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government". While some have gone so far as to speculate that Miss Sarah was the ghost writer of the work, the majority of scholars acknowledge that had she authored the piece it would have been better written. The opera began its final act when the Davis' last son Jeff Jr. died of yellow fever on October 16, 1878, with Varina suffering a complete collapse and finally moving to Beauvoir where Miss Sarah, forgetting old insults, nursed her back to health, the kindness to be returned all too soon when Miss Sarah was diagnosed with aggressive and inoperable breast cancer and Varina devoted herself to caring for her now-friend. Miss Sarah died following failed surgery and in her will disinherited her family and left everything to the the President and Varina who were to remain at Beauvoir until Mr. Davis' death in 1889. After Varina relocated to New York where she lived out her days as a successful newspaper writer Beauvoir was turned into a Confederate Veterans home. When the last of the old soldiers died off it became a museum which, though severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has now been restored with private donations. Today students of the Lost Cause still speculate on just what was going on between Miss Sarah and Jeff Davis. (bio by: Bob Hufford) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Thomas George Percy Ellis (1805 - 1838)
 
 Siblings:
  Sarah Dorsey (1829 - 1879)
  Sarah Ann Ellis Dorsey (1829 - 1879)*
  Thomas LeRoach Ellis (1836 - 1862)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Routh Cemetery
Natchez
Adams County
Mississippi, USA
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
Record added: Jan 29, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 84157368
Sarah Dorsey
Added by: Bob Hufford
 
Sarah Dorsey
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Margaret Gilmore
 
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Happy Birthday, Brad
- Undertaker 61
 Added: Feb. 16, 2014

- Bob Hufford
 Added: Feb. 16, 2014

- elaine bailey
 Added: Feb. 16, 2014
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