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Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free,
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree,
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier!

Fought single-handed through many a war
Till the enemy was whipped and peace was in store
And while he was handlin' this risky chore
He made himself a legend forever more
Davy, Davy Crockett, the man who knew no fear

He went off to Congress and served a spell
Fixin' up the Government and the laws as well
Took over Washington, so I heard tell
And he patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell
Davy, Davy Crockett, seeing his duty clear

When he came home his politic'ing was done
And the western march had just begun
So he packed his gear and his trusty gun
And lit out a-grinnin' to follow the sun
Davy, Davy Crockett, leading the pioneer

From "The Ballad of Davy Crockett"

Davy Crockett

He was born in a small cabin beside the banks of the Nolichucky River, not on a mountaintop. He did not kill a bear when he was only three. He was called David, not Davy. But his achievements and fictional exploits have entered the American imagination. It's difficult to distinguish what he did and said from what has been attributed to him; it's also difficult to discuss the influence of the frontier on the American temperament without reference to David Crockett.

David Crockett lived. He was born in Tennessee; he did die at the Alamo. But even these events have become clouded by the tales, some created by the publicity machine of an ambitious man, that have grown up around Crockett, a potential candidate for President of the United States.

David Crockett, (father of John Wesley Crockett), was at the confluence of Limestone Creek and Nolichuckey River in the State of Franklin, present day Greene County, Tenn., August 17, 1786. He attended the common schools.

Having served in the Creek campaign, 1813-1814, he became a member of the Tennessee state house of representatives, 1821-1823. An unsuccessful candidate for election to the Nineteenth Congress in 1825, he was elected as a Jacksonian to the Twentieth Congress (March 4, 1827-March 3, 1829). Crockett changed from a Jacksonian to an Anti-Jacksonian, and was elected as an Anti-Jacksonian to the Twenty-first Congress (March 4, 1829-March 3, 1831).

In 1830 Davy Crockett was a young member of the House of Representatives from Tennessee. Crockett attempted to abolish the Military Academy at West Point because he thought was too elitist. He called it a school for the “sons of the noble and wealthy,” complicating a larger problem that “no man could get a commission in the Army unless he had been educated at West Point... those who are educated there, receive their instruction at the public expense and are generally the sons of the rich and influential who are able to educate their own children while the sons of the poor for want of active friends are often neglected… ”

An unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Twenty-second Congress in 1830, he was elected as an Anti-Jacksonian to the Twenty-third Congress (March 4, 1833-March 3, 1835), he was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Twenty-fourth Congress in 1834.

Crockett fought at the Battle of the Alamo, San Antonio, Tex., 1836; died about March 6, 1836; remains cremated. By one account, Crockett was killed by a bullet shot while at his post on the outworks of the fort, and was one of the first to fall. The traditional story holds that Crockett, the former congressman from Tennessee, fought to the end, wielding his long-rifle, "Betsy," like a club before he fell near the front doors of the Alamo's chapel.

Another story, of Crockett being captured with a gun barrel in one hand, and a huge knife in the other, and a semicircle of dead Mexicans about him is pure fiction. Bowie was ill at the time of the fight, and was found murdered in his bed; and a single bullet-hole in the forehead of Travis tells the whole tale of his death.

The memoir published in Mexico in 1837 by Ramón Martínez Caro, the personal secretary to General Antonio López de Santa during the Texas campaign, provides reportage of the incident is likely to be accurate in the essentials. "Among the 183 killed there were five who were discovered by General Castrillón hiding after the assault. He took them immediately to the presence of His Excellency who had come up by this time. When he presented the prisoners, he was severely reprimanded for not having killed them on the spot, after which he turned his back upon Castrillón while the soldiers stepped out of their ranks and set upon the prisoners until they were all killed." Crockett was among those who thus perished. Martínez Caro added, "We all witnessed this outrage which humanity condemns but which was committed as described. This is a cruel truth, but I cannot omit it."

In his 1960 film, John Wayne gave Crockett the almighty, larger-than-life look that people at the time were interested in seeing. John Lee Hancock directed The Alamo, in 2004. This was a critical and commercial flop. Despite a budget of $90 million, and billing itself as the most accurate Alamo movie, it angered people because it basically tore apart the legends surrounding Texan heroes such as David Crockett.

Crockett's achievements and fictional exploits have entered the American imagination. It's difficult to distinguish what he did and said from what has been attributed to him; it's also difficult to discuss the influence of the frontier on the American temperament without reference to Crockett.

A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834) is the autobiography most likely to be the actual work of Crockett; edited by Thomas Chilton. Much of the other writing attributed to Crockett was actually penned by ghost writers (presumably due to Crockett's lack of formal education) and was approved by Crockett before publication.)

Target Shooting, from "Life of David Crockett" (1860), starts after Crockett has won a shooting contest. He reluctantly agrees to a second, more difficult contest. He misses the target completely, but he's prepared himself for such a possibility.

"When it came to my turn, I squared myself, and turning to the prime shot, I gave him a knowing nod, by way of showing my confidence; and says I, "Look out for the bull's eye, stranger." I blazed away, and I wish I may be shot if I didn't miss the target. They examined it all over, and could find neither hair nor hide of my bullet, and pronounced it a dead miss; when says I, "Stand aside and let me look, and I warrant you I get on the right trail of the critter." They stood aside, and I examined the bull's eye pretty particular, and at length cried out, "Here it is; there is no snakes if it ha'n't followed the very track of the other." They said it was utterly impossible, but I insisted on their searching the hole, and I agreed to be stuck up as a mark myself, if they did not find two bullets there. They searched for my satisfaction, and sure enough it all come out just as I had told them; for I had picked up a bullet that had been fired, and stuck it deep into the hole, without any one perceiving it."

Crockett's Rules for the Guidance of Politicians, from "Life of David Crockett" (1860), advised:

"When the day of election approaches, visit your constituents far and wide. Treat liberally, and drink freely, in order to rise in their estimation though you fall in your own. True, you may be called a drunken dog by some of the clean shirt and silk stocking gentry, but the real rough necks will style you a jovial fellow, their votes are certain, and frequently, count double. Do all you can to appear to advantage in the eyes of the women. That's easily done—you have but to kiss and slabber their children, wipe their noses, and pat them on the head; this cannot fail to please their mothers, and you may rely on your business being done in that quarter.

"Promise all that is asked," said I, "and more if you can think of up thing. Offer to build a bridge or a church, to divide a county, create a batch of new offices, make a turnpike, or anything they like. Promises cost nothing, therefore deny nobody who has a vote or sufficient influence to obtain one.

"Get up on all occasions, and sometimes on no occasion at all, and make long-winded speeches, though composed of nothing else than wind."

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Page last modified: 28-12-2017 18:41:48 ZULU