Biography of David Crockett:
David Crockett was an American frontiersman and politician. He was famous as a hunter and outdoorsman. Later, he served in the US Congress before heading west into Texas. He was among the defenders at the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, where he was slain along with all of his comrades by the Mexican army. He is still a well-known and popular figure, particularly in Texas, and was portrayed by John Wayne in the 1960 movie The Alamo. Crockett was a larger-than-life figure even in his own lifetime, and it can be hard to separate facts from legends when dealing with his life.
Crockett’s life before Politics:
Crockett was born on August 17, 1786 in Tennessee, then a frontier territory. He ran away from home for a while at the age of 13 and lived for a while doing odd jobs for settlers and wagon drivers. He eventually returned home at the age of 15. He was an honest and hardworking young man: he even undertook at one point of his own free will to work for six months for a man named Kennedy to pay off one of his father’s debts. In his twenties, he enlisted in the army in time to fight in Alabama in the Creek War. He distinguished himself as a scout and hunter, providing food for his whole regiment.
Crockett Enters Politics:
After the War of 1812, Crockett served in a variety of low-level political jobs such as Assemblyman in the Tennessee legislature and town commissioner. He soon developed a knack for public service. Although he was poorly educated, he possessed a razor-sharp wit and a gift for public speaking: his rough, homespun manner endeared him to many. His bond with the common people of the west was genuine and they respected him. In 1827 he won a seat in Congress running as a supporter of the immensely popular Andrew Jackson
Crockett and Jackson Fall Out:
Crockett was at first a die-hard supporter of fellow westerner Andrew Jackson, but political intrigues with other Jackson supporters, among them James Polk
, eventually derailed their friendship and association. He lost his seat in Congress in 1831 when Jackson endorsed his opponent but regained it in 1833, this time running as an Anti-Jacksonian. Crockett's fame continued to grow. His folksy speeches were very popular and he released an autobiography full of young love, bear hunting and honest politics. A play called The Lion of the West
, with a character clearly based on Crockett, became a big hit.
Exit from Congress:
In the early 1830’s, Crockett was a popular figure, known for delivering folksy speeches and Anti-Jackson rants in Congress. He had the charm and charisma to make a potential presidential candidate, and the Whig party, which was Jackson’s opposition, had their eye on him. In 1835, however, he lost his Tennessee seat in Congress to Adam Huntsman, who ran as a supporter of Jackson. Crockett knew he was down but not out, but he still wanted to get out of Washington for a while. In late 1835, Crockett decided to head to Texas to see what all the fuss was about.
The Road to San Antonio:
Crockett slowly made his way across the country, making stops along the way. The Texas Revolution had just broken out with the first shots fired at the Battle of Gonzales
, and Crockett found among the common people a great passion and sympathy for Texas. Flocks of men and families were making their way to Texas: many were going there to fight with the understanding that they would be given land if the revolution were successful. Many believed Crockett was going there to fight for Texas as well: he was too good a politician to deny it. He saw a real opportunity: if he fought in Texas, his political career could only benefit.
Crockett at the Alamo:
Crockett entered Texas in early 1836: he heard that the action was centered around San Antonio
, so he headed there. He arrived in early February with a group of volunteers mostly from Tennessee who had made him their de facto
leader. The Tennesseans with their long rifles were most welcome reinforcements at the poorly-defended fort. Morale at the Alamo surged, as the men were delighted to have such a famous man among them. Ever the skilled politician, Crockett even helped defuse tension between Jim Bowie
, leader of the volunteers, and William Travis
, commander of the enlisted men and ranking officer at the Alamo.
Did Crockett die at the Battle of the Alamo?:
Crockett was still at the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836, when Mexican President and General Santa Anna
ordered the Mexican army to attack. The Mexicans had overwhelming numbers and in about 90 minutes they had overrun the Alamo, killing all inside. There is some controversy over Crockett's death. It is certain that a handful of rebels - no more than ten - were taken alive and later executed by order of Santa Anna. Some historical sources suggest Crockett was one of them: other sources say he fell in battle. Whatever the case, Crockett and the other 200 or so men inside the Alamo fought bravely until the end.
Legacy of Davy Crockett:
Davy Crockett was an important politician and an extremely skilled hunter and outdoorsman, but his lasting glory came with his death at the Battle of the Alamo. His martyrdom for the cause of Texas independence gave the rebel movement momentum when it needed it the most. The story of his heroic death, fighting for freedom against insurmountable odds, made its way east and inspired Texans as well as men from the United States to come and continue the fight. That such a famous man gave his life for Texas was the best possible publicity for the Texans' cause.
There was great sympathy for the Texan cause in the USA: had Crockett fought for Texas and lived to tell about it, the sky would have been the limit for his political career. Crockett would have been a political force to be reckoned with, and he may have even wound up being President of the United States.
Crockett is a great hero to Texans (who don't like being asked if he survived the battle to be executed later). The town of Crockett, Texas, is named after him, as is Crockett County in Tennessee and Fort Crockett on Galveston Island. There is any number of schools, parks, etc. named for him as well. The character of Crockett has appeared in countless films and TV shows: he was famously played by John Wayne in the movie The Alamo (1960) and later by Billy Bob Thornton in a movie also called The Alamo (2004).
Brands, H.W. Lone Star Nation: the Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence. New York: Anchor Books, 2004.