Sunday, November 12, 2006

Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett
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This article is about the Davy Crockett known for the Alamo. For the pro wrestling announcer, see David Crockett (wrestling). Alternate meaning: Davy Crockett (nuclear device)

Davy Crockett
David Crockett (August 17, 1786March 6, 1836) 19th-century American folk hero usually referred to as Davy Crockett and by the popular title "King of the Wild Frontier". He represented Tennessee in the U.S. Congress, served in the Texas revolution, and died at the age of 49 at the Battle of the Alamo.
1 Early life
2 Political career
3 Texas Revolution
4 Death
5 Funeral
6 Legacies
7 Crockett in media
7.1 Television & Radio
7.2 Movies
8 Trivia
9 See also
10 References
11 Further reading
12 External links

[edit] Early life
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Contract of marriage for October 1805
Davy Crockett (originally David De Crocketagne) was born near the Nolichucky River in Greene County, Tennessee, descended mostly from French Huguenots who settled in Cork, Ireland before moving to Donegal, Ireland. His grandparents had emigrated to America and tradition says that his father was born at sea during the passage. David was the fifth of nine children of John and Rebecca Hawkins Crockett. He was named after his paternal grandfather, who was killed at his home in present-day Rogersville, Tennessee by Indians.
At maturity, Crockett stood about 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) tall and weighed approximately 190 pounds (86 kg).
According to Crockett's own words, he "killed a bar" (sic, "bar" meaning bear) at the age of 3, although many historians excuse this as sheer bragging of the kind that, while quite probably completely false, is a tale that is so entertaining and compelling that it has become as much fact as myth with regards to Crockett's history. By Crockett's own words again, his early years were all filled with adventure, hardship and traveling.
Shortly after being sent to school, Crockett left home to avoid an unfair beating at the hands of his father, a stern disciplinarian. According to Crockett's relating the story, he apparently had "whupped the tar" out of a school bully who'd embarassed him on his first day in class, and to avoid a beating at the hands of the overly strict schoolteacher began skipping school. After several weeks, the teacher wrote to Crockett's father, asking why his son wasn't attending class. When questioned, Crockett explained the situation to his father, who apparently was angered by having spent family trade goods for his son's education that had now gone to waste and now refused to listen to his son's side of the story. Crockett then ran away from home to avoid the expected beating, and spent several years roaming from town to town. During this period, Crockett claims to have visited most of the towns and villages throughout Tennessee, and learned the majority of his skills as a backwoodsman, hunter and trapper.
Around his 19th birthday, Crockett returned home unannounced, after several years of wandering. During the years of his travels, his father had opened a tavern, and Crockett had stopped in for refreshment. He was unnoticed by his family, save for one of his younger sisters, who recognized him with delight. Much to Crockett's surprise, the entire family - including his father - were all more than happy to see his return, and Crockett was welcomed as a member of the family once more.
Shortly afterwards, Crockett became engaged to marry Margaret Elder, and although the marriage never took place, the contract of marriage (dated October 21, 1805), has been preserved by the Dandridge, Tennessee courthouse. It is well-documented that Crockett's bride-to-be changed her mind and married someone else. [1]
On August 12, 1806, Crockett married Polly Finley (1788-1815). Their first child, John Wesley, was born July 10, 1807, followed by William (born 1809) and a daughter, Margaret. After Polly's death, David remarried in 1816 to a widow named Elizabeth Patton, and they had three children: Robert, Rebeckah and Matilda.
On September 24, 1813, he enlisted in the Second Regiment of Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Riflemen for ninety days and served under Colonel John Coffee in the Creek War, marching south into present day Alabama and taking an active part in the fighting. He was discharged from service on March 27, 1815. Crockett was elected lieutenant colonel of the Fifty-seventh Regiment of Tennessee Militia on March 27, 1818.

[edit] Political career
On September 17, 1821, Crockett was elected to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances. In 1826 and 1828 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. As a Congressman, Crockett supported the rights of squatters, who were barred from buying land in the West without already owning property. He also opposed President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act, and his opposition to Jackson caused his defeat when he ran for re-election in 1830; however, he won when he ran again in 1832.
Crockett was a staunch opponent of wasteful government spending. In his speech entitled "Not Yours to Give" [2], he was critical of his Congressional colleagues who were willing to spend taxpayer dollars to help a widow of a U.S. Navy man who had lived beyond his naval service, but would not contribute their own salary for a week to the cause. He described the spending as "unconstitutional" and the once popular proposal died in the Congress largely as a result of his speech:

Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.

In 1834, his book titled A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett was published. Crockett went east to promote the book and was narrowly defeated for re-election. In 1835, he was again defeated for re-election, saying "I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not ... you may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas". And he did just that, joining the Texas Revolution.

[edit] Texas Revolution
On October 31, 1835, Crockett left Tennessee for Texas, writing "I want to explore Texas well before I return". He arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas, in early January 1836. On January 14, Crockett and 65 other men signed an oath before Judge John Forbes to the Provisional Government of Texas for six months. "I have taken the oath of government and have enrolled my name as a volunteer and will set out for the Rio Grande in a few days with the volunteers from the United States." Each man was promised about 4,600 acres (19 km²) of land as payment. On February 6, Crockett and about five other men rode into San Antonio de Bexar and camped just outside of the town. They were later greeted by James Bowie and Antonio Menchacha and taken to the home of Don Erasmo Sequin.

Crockett's last home in Rutherford, Tennessee, Gibson County.
William Barret Travis was the commander in charge at the siege at the Alamo. His appeal for help has been used as an example of American courage and fortitude [2]. The Texas forces of 180-250 were overwhelmed by the attacking 1,300-1,600 Mexican soldiers. The Mexican commanders understood their superiority of numbers and position and offered free passage to all concerned. Travis, supported by his entire force, refused to surrender.

[edit] Death
What is known about the final fate of Davy Crockett is that he died at the Battle of the Alamo. As there were no survivors on the Texan side to provide eyewitness, the legend that has evolved from the testimony of the soldiers of the Mexican army and other historians of the battle has it that Crockett went down fighting inside the Alamo compound, most likely shot in combat.
In 1955, some controversial evidence came to light that has questioned the accepted account of Crockett's fate. According to the diary of José Enrique de la Peña, there may have been up to 6 survivors, with Crockett perhaps among them. Peña's account states that several prisoners from the Alamo were taken by Mexican General Manuel Fernández Castrillón and summarily executed by order of Mexican General and President Antonio López de Santa Anna. Crockett, according to Peña's entry, was identified to Santa Anna by Castrillón, who along with two other officers, begged the General to spare the life of the great hero. Santa Anna refused, and ordered all survivors to be executed immediately.
Critics of this report tend to discount its validity on two key points. Primary of these is the fact that no other account of Crockett surviving the Alamo have surfaced except for Peña's account. No documentation in the archives of the Mexican government, nor any of the personal records of any other person or persons present at the Battle of the Alamo, have given any hints of any survivors amongst the defenders of the Alamo, much less any claiming Crockett as a survivor. Secondly, there is some speculation that Peña's account may have been a deliberate fabrication, with the intention of presenting Santa Anna in a far more diabolical light than American (and especially Texan) historians have given the General since the fall of the Alamo. All things considered, in all likelihood the most common account of Crockett's final fate was that he was killed in the final minutes of the siege, having fallen back to the Alamo's redoubt position of the long barracks with the last dozen or so of Travis' men. Two eyewitness survivors of the Alamo confirm that Crockett did die in the battle. Susanna Dickinson, the wife of an officer, said that Crockett died in the assault and that she saw Crockett's body between the long barracks and the chapel, and Travis' slave Joe said that he also saw Crockett lying dead with the bodies of slain Mexican soldiers around him.

[edit] Funeral
Most sources indicate Crockett and all the Alamo defenders were cremated en masse. There were unconfirmed reports that some of the Mexicans who were hired to burn and bury the dead removed Crockett to a secret location and buried him in an unmarked location. Some say that he was secretly transported back to Tennessee to prevent Santa Anna from using his body as a trophy. These reports are all unconfirmed. Conspiracy theories aside, Crockett's body was most likely cremated with the other Alamo defenders on a mass funeral pyre after the fall of the Alamo.
On his tombstone, it says: "Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at The Alamo. 1786 - 1836".

[edit] Legacies
One of Crockett's sayings, which were published in almanacs between 1835 and 1856 (along with those of Daniel Boone and Kit Carson), was:

Be always sure you are right, then go ahead.

In 1838, Robert Patton Crockett went to Texas to administer his father's land claim.In 1854, Elizabeth Crockett finally came to Texas where she died in 1860. John Wesley Crockett became a U.S. congressman, serving two consecutive terms in office, before retiring in 1843.

[edit] Crockett in media

[edit] Television & Radio
His legend was again popularized by Walt Disney, who produced a three-episode television series loosely based on his life, starring Fess Parker in the title role: Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter; Davy Crockett Goes to Congress; and Davy Crockett at the Alamo. The shows aired on the ABC network between December 15, 1954, and February 23, 1955. Buddy Ebsen co-starred as his sidekick George E. Russel. (The final episode shows Crockett fighting the Mexicans at the Alamo in hand to hand combat).
The shows were a tremendous success, and coonskin caps like the one Parker wore were very popular with children for a time. Disney said that if he had realized how popular the Davy Crockett series would become, he would not have killed off his hero after just three episodes. Davy Crockett did, in fact, make a return with Disney in two further adventures: Davy Crockett and the Keelboat Race and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. In these two episodes Crockett faced off against Mike Fink, another early American legend.
The publicity for Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier also spawned a brief Davy Crockett Craze amongst the children of Britain in 1956. This Crockett phenomenon is referenced in books of the time such as the Molesworth series by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.
Disney emphasized Crockett as being a frontier hero, the symbol of patriotism. Crockett was the one who would take Texas from the Mexicans and lead Texas to victory. It gave people the idea that the United States would win anything at any cost. This was also at the time of the Cold War, so Crockett was what popular culture demanded; a hero who could help people escape from the problems around them and embody a nation that would win all. He was a super American who portrayed the U.S. as an invincible superpower.
The 1955 song "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" was introduced in this television series. Four different versions of the song hit the Billboard Best Sellers pop chart that year. Three of those versions (one by Bill Hayes; one by TV series star Fess Parker, and one by "Tennessee" Ernie Ford) charted in the Top 10 simultaneously, with Hayes' version hitting #1. Davy-mania had truly invaded pop culture.
In Legends of the Hidden Temple one of the artifacts was the Collar of Davy Crockett
Crockett is mentioned frequently in the final seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The characters Miles O'Brien and Julian Bashir were fond of Crockett and his last stand at the Alamo. They would often act out the events in Deep Space 9's holosuites.

[edit] Movies
After the Crockett fad had waned, John Wayne starred as Crockett in the 1960 feature film The Alamo (the first film he also directed). More recently was the John Lee Hancock version of The Alamo (2003). Thornton's Crockett is portrayed as a man trying to downplay his legend, but in the end unable to escape it. This is epitomized in a scene where Crockett, speaking to Bowie says, "If it was just me, simple old David from Tennessee, I might drop over that wall some night, take my chances. But that Davy Crockett feller...they're all watchin' him."
In films, Crockett has also been played by:
Charles K. French (Davy Crockett - In Hearts United, 1909, silent)
Dustin Farnum (Davy Crockett, 1916, silent)
Cullen Landis (Davy Crockett at the Fall of the Alamo, 1926, silent)
Jack Perrin (The Painted Wagon, 1937)
Lane Chandler (Heroes of the Alamo, 1937)
Robert Barrat (Man of Conquest, 1939)
George Montgomery (Davy Crockett, Indian Scout, 1950)
Trevor Bardette (The Man from the Alamo, 1953)
Arthur Hunnicutt (The Last Command, 1955)
James Griffith (The First Texan, 1956)
John Wayne (The Alamo, 1960)
Brian Keith (The Alamo; Thirteen Days of Glory, 1987)
Merrill Connally (Alamo: The Price of Freedom, 1988)
Johnny Cash (Davy Crockett: Rainbow in the Thunder, 1988)
Tim Dunigan (Davy Crockett: Rainbow in the Thunder, Davy Crockett: A Natural Man, Davy Crockett: Guardian Spirit, Davy Crockett: Letter to Polly, 1988-1989)
David Zucker (The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, 1991 [a very small cameo role])
John Schneider (Texas, 1994)
Scott Wickware (Dear America: A Line in the Sand, 2000)
Justin Howard (The Anarchist Cookbook, 2002)
Billy Bob Thornton (The Alamo, 2003)
Davy Junior (The True Memoirs of Davy Crocket)

[edit] Trivia
In May 1836 Richard Penn Smith wrote Colonel Crockett's Exploits and Adventures in Texas and Carey & Hart published this material claiming it was the "authentic diary" of Crockett's taken from the Alamo by a Mexican general who was later killed at the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1884, the book was discovered as a phony after selling thousands of copies.
In 1872, a play about Crockett ran for over 2,000 performances ending in 1884 with the death of the lead actor.
Davy Crockett named his favorite rifle "Betsy". History often confuses "Betsy" with his second rifle, "Old Betsy," given to him by the Whigs upon his re-election. "Betsy" was a gift from the people of Tennessee. When he went to Texas, he left the "Old Betsy" at his home in Tennessee and took his standard "Betsy" hunting rifle. Though "Betsy" was lost in the Alamo, "Old Betsy" now resides in the Alamo Chapel in San Antonio.
Davy Crockett's tombstone reads: "Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at The Alamo. 1786 - 1836."

[edit] See also
Timeline of the Texas Revolution
The Ballad of Davy Crockett

[edit] References
^ Program #1001. Antiques Roadshow. PBS. Tampa Convention Center. Original broadcast 2006-01-09. and Lofaro, Michael A. "Crockett, David". Handbook of Texas Online. URL accessed 2006-05-30.
^ [1]. Not Yours to Give. Courtesy Rep. Ron Paul/Project Freedom. URL accessed 2006-11-10.

[edit] Further reading
Derr, Mark The Frontiersman. Davy Crockett William Morrow and Co. ISBN 0-688-09656-5
Davis, William C., Lone Star Rising-The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic; Free Press; ISBN 0-684-86510-6
Davis, William C., Three Roads to the Alamo; Harper Collins; ISBN 0-06-017334-3
Roberts, Randy & Olson, James S., A Line in the Sand-The Alamo in Blood and Memory; Simon & Schuster; ISBN 0-684-83544-4
Levy, Buddy, The Real Life Adventures of David Crockett; Putnam Press; ISBN 0-399-15278-4

[edit] External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Davy Crockett

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Davy Crockett
Crockett's Congressional biography
The Handbook of Texas Online: David Crockett
An account of Col. Crockett's tour to the North and down East, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four. . . written by David Crockett, and published 1835, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
Sam Houston ; David Crockett. published 1901, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
Sketch of David Crockett from A pictorial history of Texas, from the earliest visits of European adventurers, to A.D. 1879, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
David Crockett, available freely at Project Gutenberg; written by John S. C. Abbott
Not Yours To Give, by Col. David Crockett, US Representative from Tennessee
Davy Crockett, the Common Man - A short and concise history of Crockett and his entrance into popular culture
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Categories: Spoken articles 1786 births 1836 deaths American folklore History of Texas People from Tennessee People from Texas Scots-Irish Americans People of the Texas Revolution Members of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee Creek War people Americans with Huguenot ancestry
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