The tenth child of Samuel and Jane (Cook) Davis, Jefferson Davis was born in a log house, in Christian (now Todd) County, Kentucky, on June 3, 1808. The Davis's migrated to Louisiana, and from there to Rosemont Plantation, which they established and built in 1810, near Woodville, Mississippi. Joseph, the eldest of the sons, moved to Natchez to practice law and grew cotton at Davis Bend south of Vicksburg. He soon amassed a fortune and made the Davis family one of the leading and wealthiest families of the new State of Mississippi.
At seven, Jeff took a thousand-mile journey on horseback with Colonel Thomas Hinds to enter St. Thomas College, a seminary in Kentucky. On this trip he met Andrew Jackson and stayed at the Hermitage. At nine, he attended Jefferson Academy at Washington, Mississippi, at thirteen, was back in Kentucky, attending Transylvania University, and at sixteen, he entered West Point, where he first met Robert E. Lee. With a commission of second lieutenant, Davis participated in the Black Hawk War. In 1835, Davis married Sara Knox, a daughter of Colonel Zachary Taylor, against Taylor's wishes. The Taylor's were related to the Lee's of Virginia. Davis resigned from the army, and returned to Mississippi where his bride of three months died of malaria.