Davis's parents moved to Mississippi when he was a boy. He was given a classical education at Transylvania Univ. and was appointed to West Point, where he was graduated in 1828. He spent the next seven years in various army posts in the Old Northwest and took part (1832) in the Black Hawk War. In 1835 he married the daughter of Zachary Taylor, but she died three months later. Davis spent the next 10 years in the comparative quiet of a Mississippi planter's life. In 1845 he married Varina Howell.
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