David Crockett_ Scout Small Boy, Pilgrim, Mountaineer, Soldier, Bear-Hunter and Congressman; Defender of the Alamo
SMALL BOY, PILGRIM, MOUNTAINEER,
SOLDIER, BEAR-HUNTER, AND CONGRESSMAN
“The fittest place where man can die is where he dies for man”
—M. J. Barry.
PHILADELPHIA & LONDON
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
PRINTED IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
GUARDIAN, COMRADE, AND KINDLY LIGHT
The story of David Crockett stands apart fromall others in our history—a nebulous collection oftraditions about a great array of facts. To theunnumbered thousands to whom his name is familiarhe is often as unreal as the hero of a mediævalromance or of Scandinavian mythology. Thisbook will follow his history with close attention todates, and without recognition of the impossiblelegends of many writers. To accomplish this hasrequired much reading and research, much weighingof evidence, and the help of others. The portraitof David Crockett, now for the first time published,is after the original in the Alamo, painted bythe famous artist Chapman while Crockett was aCongressman. It is a picture that reveals the secretof his success in winning friends and fame.
For the use of the picture thanks are due to Mrs.Rebecca Fisher, of Austin, Texas, the venerablePresident of the Daughters of the Republic ofTexas, and to Mrs. Marie B. Urwitz, the Chairman[viii]of the Executive Committee of the same Society.For other favors acknowledgment is made to MissJennie Moore, of Flag Pond, Tenn.; Prof. EricDoolittle, of the University of Pennsylvania; JudgeW. T. Rogers, of Denver; Mr. and Mrs. MarkF. Postlewaite, of San Antonio, Texas; and toRichard A. Paddock, for much information in regardto Reelfoot Lake.
It is hoped that this unpretentious volume mayhelp to a better understanding of the life and motivesof a man whose footsteps went into no darkplaces, and who died an honor to his race and hiscountrymen—a hero sans peur et sans reproche.
Charles Fletcher Allen.
Denver, Colorado, June 2, 1911.
|I.||The Young Frontiersman||13|
|II.||The Start for Virginia||26|
|III.||Davy Takes to the Woods||37|
|IV.||The Indians’ Visit||50|
|V.||Davy is a Scout||65|
|IX.||A Cabin in the Wilderness||125|
|XIII.||Lost in the Woods||185|
|XIV.||The Mississippi Flood||194|
|XV.||Clay and Webster||204|
|XIX.||The Rifle “Betsy”||253|
|XX.||Off for Texas||265|
|XXII.||The Alamo Besieged||288|
|XXIII.||The Mexicans’ Charge||300|
THE YOUNG FRONTIERSMAN
Birthplace in Tennessee—His Irish Blood—Summer-timein the Great Smokies—The Indian signal fires—LittleDavy gets fighting mad—His love of weapons—In theBald Mountains—Davy’s aspirations—John Crockettmoves again.
The antecedents of Davy Crockett are Irish,although his mother was Rebecca Hawkins, anative of Maryland, and probably of English descent.After the execution of King Charles I, inthe seventeenth century, many Irishmen were transportedto North America as rebels, and there soldinto a state of slavery among the English colonists.Many of them were sent to Virginia and tothe Somers or Bermuda Islands, and in Sir J. H.Lefroy’s “Memorials of Bermuda” occur thenames of James Sheehan and David Larragan astwo of the slaves bought and sold in those islands.As we might expect, the same records often makemention of the unruly and riotous nature of theIrish rebels, and of the complaints of those whothought the colony might well be rid of them. Itwas the blood of the fighting race that told, andone by one the slaves became freemen, to followevery bugle-call or rolling drum that has led intothe storms of shot and shell on our country’s battlefields.
David Crockett’s grandparents left Ireland forAmerica after the birth of William, their oldestson, and it is supposed that John Crockett, anotherson, and the father of David, was born duringthe voyage. The family, which eventually includedfour boys, settled in Pennsylvania. Here JohnCrockett lived as a farmer for some time, removingwhile still a young man to Lincoln County, NorthCarolina, and afterwards to the Tennessee mountaincountry. His parents, displaying the samerestlessness that characterized the career of David,came into what is now Hawkins County, Tennessee,and settled near the site of the present townof Rogersville. It is not unlikely that the countytook its name from the family to which RebeccaHawkins belonged.
The Creek Indians had now begun to feel thepressure of immigration into their sacred hunting-grounds,and were at all times dangerous, frequentencounters occurring between them and the settlers.Both of Davy’s grandparents were killed duringan Indian foray, near the Holston River, inHawkins County. In this bloody affair their sonJoseph had his arm broken by a bullet, though hefinally escaped. His brother James, who was deafand dumb, remained a prisoner for more thanseventeen years. It was without doubt due to hisbeing deaf and dumb that he was finally heard ofand identified by Davy’s father and uncle William,who paid some sort of a ransom and obtained hisfreedom. He lived for many years in CumberlandCounty, Kentucky.
Davy Crockett was the fifth of six sons, andthere were three sisters, besides, or nine childrenin all, in the family of John Crockett. In hisown story Davy makes little use of the names ofhis relatives, and although some of them are known,they are not material to this narrative.
Davy Crockett was born on the 17th of August,1786. At this time, the “Gateses, Lees, and roughYankee Generals,” as Carlyle styled them, had returnedto their own shores, and were striving toform a permanent union of the States. The courtsof the Old World were vying with each other inextravagance and riotous living.
But the Great Smoky Mountains were full ofpeace, and from the Unaka range to the far bluecrest of the Cumberlands the troubles of the far-offworld were but echoes faintly heard. The newand short-lived State of Franklin was a year old,and John Crockett, veteran of the Revolution, wascontent to work there from dawn till dark, thathis children might be fed and housed. The mountainswere full of game, corn could be raised whenthe ground was cleared, and the autumn yieldedbountiful stores of nuts, wild grapes, berries, andapples, until from one source or another the cabinwas filled with winter supplies; yet somehow therealways seemed to be insufficient for the long monthsbefore the anemones and azaleas came again besidethe leaping brooks or under the tender green ofthe wakening trees.
The log cabin of the Crockett family stood wherethe Limestone Creek joined the Nolichucky River,ten miles north of the great bend in the Bald Mountainrange. There the rocky summits, anglingabruptly about the watersheds of Indian Creek, arelike fortifications of the Titans, crowned withbattlements of the Appalachian range, whose peaksstand more than six thousand feet above the sea—higherthan any others east of the Mississippi.From the rocky escarpments, between the blackforests of pine and hemlock, shone the signal-firesof the Creek and Chickasaw, and from unseennooks between their giant flanks the thump-thump-thumpof the tom-tom caused the pioneer to lookto his stockades and his flintlock guns.
The fierce ebb and flow of war that had givenKentucky the name of “the Dark and BloodyGround” had now and then swept over parts ofTennessee—the massacre at Fort Loudon was a redspot upon the pages of her history; but the rivalriesof the English, French, and Spanish had promotedIndian raids in the disputable regions of the Ohioand the Mississippi, rather than in the lowlandsof the western part of this state and in the Alabamaplains. What Tennessee was spared inearlier days she knew in the Civil War in 1861to 1865, when from Knoxville to Donelson andShiloh, and from Lookout Mountain to the CumberlandGap, her fields were filled with unknown gravesand the wreck and misery of a terrible conflict.
It was not until many years after the birth ofCrockett that it became safe to travel the ruggedroads between Virginia and North Carolina andthe Nashville country. In the twenty or more tripsthat Andrew Jackson made between Jonesboro andNashville in the days when he was foremost inthe practice of the law, he had many a close callin Indian fights. More than a score of times hecame upon the bodies of men, women, and children,robbed and slain and scalped. Little Davy, listeningat nightfall beside the river, hearing above itsmurmur the hoot of the owl in the dismal trees,the howl of the wolf on the mountain-top, or thepanther’s anguished cry, floating out of the vagueunknown, would make good use of his sturdy littlelegs until he was safe at his mother’s side.
As the boy grew older, he lost the instinctive senseof fear that was perhaps a part of his naturalheritage; for the cry of the Banshee had filledthe souls of his Irish forebears with terror in theirlowly cabins across the seas. Something of thedaring of Sir John and of Richard his son, of theHawkins kin—slavers, freebooters, sea-scourges,admirals—had come to him on his mother’s side,and now, too, the fighting blood of his father’srace began to show. Davy was scarce six yearsold when four of his brothers, and a boy namedCampbell, left him on the shore of the Nolichuckywhile they put out into the river in the rude boatthat was used in crossing the stream. Had itnot been for the bravery of a man namedKendall, who saw their danger, the five boys wouldsurely have gone over the falls a little way below,which would have meant certain death. Davyseems partly to have realized their danger, but saidhe was too fighting mad at being left behind tocare what happened to them. When they weresafe again, his greatest satisfaction was in tellingthem that the scrape they had been in was whatthey had earned for not taking him along.
Like every boy of the frontier, Davy was quickto idealize the great flintlock rifles, powder-horns,and other implements of the hunter. He loved towatch his father mould bullets from the well-nighpriceless supply of lead, or cut and grease“patches” for loading. The boy would sometimesshoulder a stick and imagine himself a hunter, stimulatedperhaps by the loan of a powder-horn anda hunting-knife. All this was evidence of whatwas working in his mind.
An old man who knew the boy and always calledhim the “Corkonian” said that “the only diff’betwane a crowbar