His life, Travis,
Bowie, Santa Anna and the siege of the Alamo
was born in a small cramped cabin on August 17, 1786 in the wilderness of
eastern Tennessee, which at the time was a part of Virginia. Although his
parents named him David, the world would soon become to know him as Davy.
Davy's grandparents came to America from Ireland, settling in the frontier.
Having to move further west to escape the Indians, they and their family
were eventually massacred by the Indians, except one son, John.
and his wife had nine children; six sons and three daughters, of which Davy
was the fifth born. Life was difficult growing up, especially living in the
wilderness, without the benefit of an education, as there were no schools,
no churches, and no books.
In an attempt to
find a more suitable location, the Crockett family moved frequently, until
they settled on the Holston River, and opened a tavern. Davy helped operate
the tavern, even at the young age of eight when records confirm his presence
there. The Crockett Tavern was an overnight stop for travelers going from
Virginia to the West. Seeing new people frequently at the tavern, and after
listening to stories they told, Davy was infatuated with the outside world ‑
a world he had not yet seen.
later, when Davy was a mere twelve years old, a Dutchman stopped by the
tavern on his way driving his herd of cattle over the mountains to Virginia.
Needing assistance to drive his herd, he struck a deal with John Crockett
for the services of Davy. Davy did not desire to go, but the money John
received meant more to him than the safety of Davy, so the next day, he and
the Dutchman set off on their journey. Their travel took them about
twenty-five days to cover the four hundred miles to their destination. Along
the way, the Dutchman was very kind to Davy, and once in Virginia, asked him
to stay with him. Davy told him he would stay, but soon his homesickness
took over, and he ran away, heading home. Soon he came across a caravan, and
they let Davy ride with them. But, the caravan traveled very slowly, and
Davy's desire to get home got the better of him, and he decided that he
could make better time on his own. Now about two hundred miles from home,
he pushed on alone through the thick, desolate wilderness. Three days after
beginning his journey, he came upon a man who was going in his direction,
and who happened to have an extra horse. The man lent Davy the horse, and
they traveled together with this man taking him within 15 miles of his home.
Once at home,
Davy learned that a school had opened near his house in the time he was
away. Excited, Davy entered the school in the beginners' class, but
unfortunately his stay was cut short. After class on his fourth day, Davy
was bullied by another boy, and not desiring to take it, beat the other boy
up. The following morning, Davy, knowing that a beating was awaiting him
from this boy and his friends, did not go to school, but rather stayed in
the woods until it was time to go home, as if he had been there. Davy
repeated this pattern for a few days, until the schoolmaster sent a note to
his father, asking why he was absent. Davy now knew that a more severe
punishment was imminent, when his father, with a hickory stick in hand, came
after him. Running to the safety of the woods, he eluded his father, hiding
until his father went angrily home.
Afraid of the
punishment that awaited him, Davy decided to run away, joining a drover who
was taking cattle to Front Royal, Virginia, a journey that was two hundred
miles further than the trip he made with the Dutchman. Over the next two
years, Davy worked at various jobs earning about twenty‑five cents per day.
When thoughts of going home entered his mind, the thoughts of a whipping by
his father took over, and he remained away.
fear of his father faded, and being older, he decided to return home. When
he walked into the Crockett Tavern, all thoughts of his perceived punishment
disappeared, and during the celebration of his return, Davy told his family
that he would have suffered many beatings rather than cause his mother and
sisters any more worry by staying away.
By the customs
of the time, Davy was bound to stay with his father until he reached the age
of twenty-one. As his father was in debt, he purposed to Davy that he work
off some of this debt; a note for thirty‑six dollars, after which he could
have his freedom. To gain his independence, Davy worked faithfully for six
months, paid off the debt, and gained his freedom. Having developed a sense
of honesty through his work, he discovered that he could earn forty‑dollars
for another six months work. In doing so, he could pay off another note of
his father's. He did so, and six months later, he presented the canceled
note to his father, who thought it was a bill. His father said that he could
not pay it, after which Davy surprised him with the news that it had been
Now 16, Davy was
sensitive concerning his lack of education and the fact that he could
neither read nor write. Desiring to learn, but too old to start again in
school, he took a job where he worked two days a week for board, and
attended school for four days. After six months, Davy learned to sign his
name, as well as could accomplish a few simple math problems, and very
simplified reading. With this limited knowledge, Davy then set out to find a
Within a short
time, he found and won the affection of a pretty Irish girl. On August 16,
1806, one day before his 20th birthday, Crockett married Mary (Polly) Finley
in Jefferson County, Tennessee, and with fifteen borrowed dollars, settled
in a log cabin. Still living in the wilderness, game was plentiful, and Davy
was an outstanding shot with his musket. As such, they had food, and cloth,
as his wife was handy with a loom, that provided them the necessities of
life, although still very primitive. Moving frequently, they finally settled
in 1813, in what is today Franklin County, Tennessee. They had two sons:
John Wesley Crockett was born July 10, 1807, followed by William Finley
Crockett (born 1809), and a daughter, Margaret Finley (Polly) Crockett in
About this time
in Alabama, Crockett had learned that the Creek Indians were on the warpath,
destroying homes and massacring settlers. When the news of the massacre at
Fort Mins in Alabama reached Crockett, he decided that the settlers must get
organized to mount a defense. Among the first to enlist, he joined a
volunteer army under the command of General Andrew Jackson. Because he was a
natural in the woods, as well as one of the best riflemen, Jackson placed
him in charge of a scouting party. Soon he learned that the woods were quite
live with Creek Indians, and brutal and savage battles ensued. By April
1814, the Creeks finally asked for peace. Interestingly, during the
fighting, Jackson's army was very poorly provisioned, almost to starvation
numerous times. Had it not been for Crockett and his skills as a woodmen and
rifleman, able to find and kill game, the troops would surely have starved.
Returning home from the Creek War, sadly he found his wife was quite sick,
and who died shortly thereafter, leaving behind their two children.
Davy then met
and married a widow with two children named Elizabeth Patton in 1815; they
had three children: Robert, Rebecca and Matilda. Desiring fewer crowded
surroundings in which to live, as by this time, many settlers were moving to
his part of Tennessee, Davy and his wife and children moved about eighty
miles west, to what is today Giles County, Tennessee. Being quite popular
with the people there, and although he knew little about the law, he was
made the area's magistrate. But, legal knowledge really meant little, as
most disputes of the time were handled using common sense, and Crockett had
a great deal of that.
When he first
took over this position, all the warrants he issued were verbal, but as
times progressed, he found that the warrants had to be in writing. At the
beginning he still could barely write his name, but with drive and ambition,
he soon mastered the art of writing.
By this time
Crockett was very popular among the townspeople, and soon was chosen a
colonel in one of the state’s regiments. A great storyteller, his popularity
grew and soon he was asked to run for the legislature. Crockett accepted the
challenge, but soon admitted that he did not know what the legislature was.
Following a local hunt and barbecue, Crockett met his opponent. Crockett,
knowing he had to make a speech, was quite nervous. His opponent, sure that
the backwoodsman would fall on his feet, was confident. However, Crockett
shined with his jokes and wonderful stories, and soon thereafter, was
elected with twice as many votes. In no time after occupying his seat in the
legislature, Colonel Crockett was as informed as any of his peers. He had a
talent for remembering anything that he had learned or heard.
never desired to be too close to civilization, and upon the legislature
adjourning, he set out westward, actually to look for a place to build a new
home, where water and game were bountiful. After traveling about 150 miles
he found himself to the extreme west area of Tennessee, on the Obion River.
It would be here that he decided to build a cabin. The country here was
wild, with an abundance of bears, wolves, panthers, deer and lots of smaller
game. Loving the solitude of the wilderness, Crockett's nearest neighbors
were seven and fifteen miles away. After settling here, Crockett and his
family were very well liked, so much so that he was reelected to the
legislature. Once there Crockett was urged to run for Congress, and he
agreed, yet the tide turned when it seemed the issue that decided the
election was based on a new tariff law. Conveying different views and
opposition to the tariff law, Crockett was defeated in the election, but by
only two votes.
experience in the wilderness with hunting, there was nothing he liked more
than a good bear hunt. He longed to put on his coonskin cap and hunting
knife, and grabbing his beloved musket that he named "Old Betsy," he would
set out for a day of hunting. Most times his sons would accompany him, or
perhaps a neighbor, as on each trip, Crockett always brought home a bear, no
matter how fierce. There are hundreds of interesting tales told by Crockett
on his adventures with bear hunting. On two occasions he brought down bears
weighing more than six hundred pounds. Another story tells of a bear who was
trying to get away, whereby it crawled into a deep hole, with Davy right
behind it. In one week he killed seventeen large bears, and killed more than
fifty‑eight in one fall and winter. Another story tells that he killed
forty‑seven in one month, for a total of one hundred five bears killed in a
year. Bears were a useful catch, as their meat was a delicacy, and their
skins were used for beds and bedding, with their fur used for coats.
attempt at Congress, Crockett was elected in 1827, as such; he had to
abandon his bear hunting and travel to Washington, D.C. Upon arriving at
Congress, he began to introduce himself, saying, "I am the same David
Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half‑horse, half alligator, a little
touched with the snapping turtle...I can whip my weight in wildcats and if
any gentleman pleases, for a ten‑dollar bill, he can throw in a panther
too." This introduction and his presence made quite a stir in
Washington, but he was well liked and people loved to listen to him speak of
his adventures. Several times he was entertained by President John Quincy
Adams at the White House.
Congressman, Crockett's service was outstanding, as he was very honest and
quite conscientious ‑ one that could never be bribed nor forced to vote for
anything he did know was right. While he was still serving in this office
during his second term, the nation got a new President and one from
Crockett's beloved Tennessee in Andrew Jackson. Generally speaking, Crockett
was supportive of Jackson. However, on several occasions, Crockett did not
believe in Jackson's measures, thinking they were wrong. Consequently, this
brought him the censure of his constituency, which brought him defeat in his
next election. Upon losing the election, Crockett said, "If they won't
elect me with my opinions, I can't help it."
Upon his return
home after his defeat, he found that his former love of bear hunting had
lost its appeal. Instead of hunting, Davy decided to write his
autobiography, while still looking forward to running again in the next
election. He finished his book which was published in 1834. In his
introduction, Davy wrote, "a plain, honest, homespun account of my life."
One year before
his book was published; Crockett was able to defeat the people behind Andrew
Jackson and was again elected to Congress. Because Jackson, or "Old
Hickory," as he was known, practiced high‑handed politics, Crockett gained
quite a lot of support from those who opposed Jackson. Within no time,
Crockett was dubbed the "Honest Congressman." So popular was he that
he dreamed one day of becoming President.
On April 25,
1834, Crockett set out on his famous tour of the Eastern cities. Starting in
Baltimore, Maryland, he boarded a train for the first time in his life. He
liked the ride and described the train as a "new, clean sight."
Although the ride only lasted for seventeen miles, he enjoyed it. The
remainder of his tour would be traveled by boat or stagecoach.
visited, he was met by crowds of cheering people, who were curious to see
and meet the famous backwoods man. He was wined and dined, and cheered some
more. At each stop, his speeches and stories entertained all who attended.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, he was met by a crowd of five thousand, and
here was presented with a rifle that would go on to replace "Old Betsy," as
well as serve him well at the Alamo. A larger crowd met in New York City,
and in Jersey City he participated in a shooting match that proved his skill
was no myth. Continuing on his tour, he went to Boston, where he loved the
historic sites, then traveled to a few other areas in New England. His tour
was now winding down, taking him back to Philadelphia then Pittsburgh. Here
he boarded a boat and traveled down the Ohio River, stopping at Wheeling,
Cincinnati, and Louisville, before returning home to his cabin in Tennessee.
earlier, in 1833, the Americans who had settled in Texas decided to seek
their independence and separate from the Mexican state of Coahuila. They
organized a government, drew up a constitution, and appointed Henry Smith as
governor and Sam Houston as their commander‑in‑chief. On December 10, 1835,
they succeeded in capturing the town of San Antonio, driving the Mexican
army, commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, out of Texas.
Not far from the
center of town in San Antonio stood the Alamo, an old Spanish mission
building built in1744 (that means "cottonwood" in Spanish) that had been
converted into a fort, with a garrison of about one hundred fifty Texans.
Its name came from its occupation by a Spanish company from Alamo de Parras
in Mexico. These Texans were commanded jointly by Colonels William Barret
Travis and James Bowie.
was born in South Carolina on August 9, 1809. Before his military career, he
practiced law in Alabama, before moving to Texas. In Texas, he became a
lieutenant colonel early in the revolution. When James Bowie became ill, he
assumed total command at the Alamo. James Bowie was born in Tennessee in
1795, in an area which today is in Kentucky. He was quite the adventurer, as
well as an excellent Indian fighter, known for his famous "Bowie knife." He
lost his wife and all his children in 1833 in a cholera epidemic. Just a few
months before the siege at the Alamo, he defeated a Mexican cavalry unit in
October 1835 at Mission Conception. He held joint command at the Alamo with
Travis until his was stricken with typhoid‑pneumonia.
his defeat, Santa Anna decided to exact his revenge at the Alamo in February
1836. Meanwhile, Colonel Crockett and four of his "Tennessee boys" arrived
at the Alamo. Being from Tennessee, certainly Crockett and his men had no
commitment in Texas, nor owed her nothing. Yet, they were there as
volunteers, to fight for Texas, against tyranny, wherever it may have been.
Crockett and his few men, combined with those under the command of Travis
and Bowie, numbered about one hundred eighty-eight. These patriots were
ready at the Alamo to take on the force under Santa Anna, now marching in
their direction, and numbering about five thousand. Upon the arrival of
Santa Anna, he ordered Travis to surrender. Determined, Travis answered
Santa Anna with a cannon shot. On February 23, 1836, the fight at the Alamo
Others at the
Alamo during the siege were some of the families of the defenders, including
the wife and daughter of Captain Almeron Dickinson, as well as a few
servants. James Bowie, present during the battle as well, had been stricken
with typhoid‑pneumonia, and could not move from his cot.
As the battle
raged, the defenders of the Alamo now exhausted and nearly out of ammunition
and supplies, hoped for a miracle but waited for the inevitable that came on
the chilly morning of March 6. Travis, Crockett and the others heard the
bugles sound as Santa Anna's forces approached. The thousands of men under
Santa Anna, in columns, attacked from the north, the east, the south and the
west. But, the determined defenders repulsed them twice, using the last of
their cannon and musket fire. As the third attack came at the now battered
north wall, Colonel Travis, leading his men, was shot through his forehead,
falling across a cannon, dying instantly. Passing by where Travis lay, the
Mexicans stormed into the plaza. Overwhelmed, and with no time to load their
muskets against such a large force of Mexicans, the defenders used the
muskets as clubs. Colonel Crockett, likewise using his musket as a club, was
killed as the attackers, now with reinforcements, stormed the south wall,
and headed for the chapel, where those Texans inside were killed. James
Bowie, fighting his best from his cot, his pistols now empty, and his famous
knife bloodied, and with his body now riddled, died on his cot. With no
defenders left, the battle at the Alamo was over.
her child, and fourteen other non‑combatants, were spared. Santa Anna had
suffered about 1600 losses. In further retaliation, he ordered the bodies of
all the defenders burned.
the siege at the Alamo, the Texans' desire for independence would not fade.
Three weeks after the defeat at the Alamo, Santa Anna, at a place known as
Goliad, coldly and savagely ordered the massacre of three hundred Texas
prisoners taken at the Battle of Coleto Creek. On April 21, 1836, just
forty‑six days after the fall of the Alamo, about eight hundred angered Texans
and other American volunteers under the command of General Sam Houston
launched an all-out attack on Santa Anna and his force of 1300 men at San
Jacinto. Shouting "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" as they attacked,
they overran the Mexican army in a few minutes, killing six hundred thirty,
while only suffering eight losses themselves. In the battle, Santa Anna was
captured. Texas was now free and a new Republic was born. Texas, acted as an
independent nation for about ten years, before being annexed to the United
States on December 29, 1845.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was imprisoned for eight months, after which he
was released and went into exile. Recalled from exile in 1846, he served
in the war against the United States, where he was twice defeated in the
field. In 1853 he was again recalled to service in the revolution, and
was appointed president of Mexico for life. However, in 1855 he was
driven from the country. In 1867, following the death of Maximilian, he
attempted to effect a coup, but was captured and sentenced to death, but was
then allowed to retire in New York. Under the amnesty agreement of 1872,
he returned to Mexico where he died in 1876.
David (Davy) Crockett, who was born on August 17, 1786, died on March 6, 1836
at the young age of 49. He was then and still remains an outstanding American,
statesman and folklore hero. On the day he died, he wrote a letter to his
daughter during the siege, saying not to worry about him, for he was with his