American Heroes: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

In the annals of American history many impressive accounts of heroism and valor are written not only in words and deeds, but in blood. After all, those who have taken active roles in filling the pages of our history books perish all too often as a result of their selfless acts. The sacrifices of our nation’s heroes should not be forgotten, and flat-out will not be forgotten, by those among us who understand their value and significance.

When you consider our most memorable and influential American heroes, who comes to mind? Does your memory jump from our founding fathers right ahead to the World Wars, and from there to modern times? For all too many that’s exactly how it works, and while those times are chock full of serious American badasses there’s a particular moment in time we’d all do well to remember, and that’s the time frame of the frontiersmen. Yes, it’s time that we stepped back in time to just beyond the time of our nation’s birth; it’s time we remember the frontier. It’s time we remember the Alamo.

In the tradition of American Heroes, we’re going to focus on one man in particular while taking a closer look at a particular battle. If you can’t guess who, here’s a hint: he was the King of the Wild Frontier. Need more? He’s rumored to have killed a bear when he was nothing but a toddler. If you still need more, I find I might be more than a bit disappointed, but here you go: he was the epitome of the coonskin cap, the epic frontiersman, and the kind of hunter most of us can only dream of being. He was Davy Crockett, and he was one heck of a man.

[quote_box author=”” profession=””]“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew ev’ry tree, kilt him a b’ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!” (The Ballad of Davy Crockett)[/quote_box]

Crockett Side 1David Stern Crockett, better known to all of us as Davy, was born on August 17, 1786, in what’s now Greene County in Tennessee but was then North Carolina. He was born near the Nolichucky River near Limestone, which is now in northeastern Tennessee, and if you ever want to head that way and visit, it’s now the site of the David Crockett Birthplace State Park. But in 1786, it was the frontier, and his parents, John and Rebecca, were pioneers. He was not their first child, not by a long shot; young Davy was the fifth of nine kids. Without young Americans like the Crocketts our nation would never have been explored and settled, and without frontiersmen like Davy Crockett, our nation wouldn’t have ass-kicking states like Texas.

By the time Davy Crockett was twelve years old; his family had moved three times and apparently amassed some significant debt. In an attempt to get some of their debt taken care of, the elder Crocketts indentured their young son to a man by the name of Jacob Siler. Davy ended up going on a four hundred mile journey with Siler and his cattle, ending up in Virginia, and though by all accounts Siler treated the boy well, Davy didn’t like Virginia. After a matter of weeks he wanted to go home, so he did. Upon his arrival home he was enrolled in school along with his brothers, which wasn’t exactly a success. Within four days of school starting, he, in his own words, “whupped the tar” out of another student, and that was that. He didn’t go back, and his father was not happy, to say the least. But when John Crockett tried to deliver a whipping to Davy, his son easily outran him – and kept on going.

The next few years were spent hard at work. Boys of Davy’s age today spend their time playing computer games and overloading their smart phones with apps; but in the 18th century, it was all about hard, dangerous work. That, and survival. Davy first set out on another cattle drive that just happened to head to Virginia – you have to wonder if he saw the humor in that – and upon arrival, he met a teamster named Adam Myers and began working with him. When he wasn’t working with Myers he was working at a farm, and when those jobs ended he began a four-year apprenticeship with a hatter. Yes, young Davy knew the meaning of an honest day’s work, which is a journalistic understatement for “he worked so hard he probably spilled his own blood on a regular basis and built up a hide thicker than a dozen bear skins combined.” His work ethic was something not often seen in adults today, let alone children.

It was 1802 before Davy saw his family again and when he did, it was to work off more of their debt. John Crockett once again hired his son out to pay off a $36 debt, and Davy again gritted his teeth and did the job. Once the first debt was paid, Davy simply began working off another debt of his father’s to a different man, this one for $40. With the second debt paid, Davy’s father informed him he was free to go, and because Davy understood the importance of work he returned to work for the man he’d just finished working for while paying off the second debt. He didn’t know the meaning of backing down, but he did know the meaning of serious, back-breaking work. That stubborn single-mindedness would shine its brightest in the last days of his life and impact our nation’s history in bold splashes.

A quick marriage synopsis: Davy Crockett didn’t have the best of luck getting married. He fell in love repeatedly and went through failed engagements before finding his first wife. Then, after having three children, his wife passed away. He remarried that same year and had three more children for a total of six. All this happened in a brief time span, and by 1817, 27-year-old Davy Crockett made a rather drastic change and entered the world of politics.

Yes, Davy Crockett was a politician in addition to his awesome hunting skills and scary cool abilities as a frontiersman. Things moved pretty fast; first he was a commissioner, then, a matter of months later, he was made justice of the peace. Soon after, he was elected as the lieutenant colonel of the 57th Regiment of the Tennessee Militia, meaning he was running a bunch of businesses, working as justice of the peace for the county and also rather high up in the militia. Davy Crocket was a busy man, and something had to give, so he withdrew as justice of the peace and from the regiment, leaving him still commissioner and multiple-business owner (and father of six, remember).

[quote_box author=”” profession=””]“Andy Jackson is our gen’ral’s name, his reg’lar soldiers we’ll put to shame
Them redskin varmints us Volunteers’ll tame, ’cause we got the guns with the sure-fire aim
Davy, Davy Crockett, the champion of us all!” (The Ballad of Davy Crockett)[/quote_box]

Crockett Side 2He was also a soldier. The aforementioned brief stint as lieutenant colonel wasn’t a moment that magically appeared; it was earned. Crockett was apparently spurred on to join by the Fort Mims Massacre of 1813, which was a gory attack on the fort by the Creek Indians, who massacred everyone they found present. This attack understandably brought on severe retaliation, and Crockett was part of it. He fought viciously – and well. During his time with the militia he also utilized his hunting skills to feed his fellow soldiers, and when his promised service was up, he re-enlisted as part of the move to get the British out of Florida. When it got to the point that he was simply foraging for food and not serving a purpose, he returned to his family. His time as a soldier and fighter
was not yet finished, though.

There were more politics, but we’re going to jump ahead. He’d already become a legend in his own time, which led to his autobiography being written by himself and Thomas Chilton; it was titled “A Narrative of the Life of Davy Crocket, Written by Himself” and published in 1834. When he lost re-election for the political seat he was in at that time he decided to travel to promote the book,
which led to the following quote being broadcast in newspapers: “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.” He did the era’s version of a book tour, and then he went to Texas.
[quote_box author=”” profession=””]“He heard of Houston an’ Austin so, to the Texas plains he jest had to go
Where freedom was fightin’ another foe, an’ they needed him at the Alamo
Davy, Davy Crockett, the man who don’t know fear!” (The Ballad of Davy Crockett)
[/quote_box]
Davy Crockett rightly assumed a revolution was coming in Texas. The centralized government in Mexico was causing serious problems in the Lone Star State, and as tensions rose and the danger grew, Crockett talked to his friend Benjamin McCulloch about rallying men to go to Texas and fight. And so it was, in 1835, Davy Crockett and three others set out for Texas. The moment was remembered by his youngest daughter Matilda, who said her father “was dressed in his hunting suit, wearing a coonskin cap, and carrying a fine rifle presented to him by friends in Philadelphia. He seemed very confident the morning he went away that he would soon have us all join him in Texas.” It was to be the last time Matilda ever saw her father.

On January 14, 1836, Davy Crockett and 65 other men signed a six-month oath to the government promising to serve. The men were each promised 4,600 acres for their efforts. They would pay with their lives.

On February 6, 1836, the men met up with another historical figure you might now: James Bowie. With Bowie was Antonio Menchaca, and the two men took the others to Don Erasmo Seguin’s home. They wouldn’t stay for long.

Crockett’s first day at the Alamo was February 8th. On February 23rd, Santa Anna arrived with his Mexican army, and the siege began.

One of the first actions of the Mexican army, upon their arrival, was the raising of a blood red flag. The flag was a direct message to all those who would oppose them and the centralized government they stood for: no quarter. No matter, because Davy Crockett and the men with him didn’t want any.

We all know at least a piece of the Battle of the Alamo, but few realize the full impact of the thirteen-day fight. To say it was unbalanced is an understatement of monumental proportions; there were approximately 200 men in the Alamo, and about 2,000 Mexican soldiers. Due to those numbers, Santa Anna’s army was able to maintain a constant bombardment; with so few men to fight back, those within the walls of the Alamo were functioning on little to no rest and not enough food. By March 5th, which was day twelve – 1836 was a leap year – the men in the Alamo were falling prey to exhaustion. Knowing this, a well-timed pause in the assault took place, and, lulled into a false sense of temporary security, the men slept, and Santa Anna planned his final, deadly attack.

An American by the name of Ben who was being kept as a slave and used as a cook by Santa Anna gave an account of the discovery of Davy Crockett’s body that answers some questions of how he spent his final hours on March 6th.

An artist's rendering of Crockett at the Alamo
An artist’s rendering of Crockett at the Alamo

A knife-fighting expert once told me the majority of knife fights begin and end within nine seconds. Between the adrenaline and the energy expended as muscles over-tense and hearts race, he said, it ends fast. He who is best prepared, he who has learned to fight long and hard, comes out on top. Of course, he who is outnumbered 200 to 1, or worse, is doomed from the start. Davy Crockett didn’t just have his rifle, he had his favorite knife. He knew how to use it.

According to Ben, Crockett’s body was found amidst sixteen dead Mexicans.  They’d been cut down – literally – and Crockett’s knife was found hilt-deep in the chest of one. Nine seconds, times sixteen, or more, considering who could have crawled from the room to die elsewhere.

If time was endless and attention spans fixed, this would be an excellent point to discuss the significance of the Battle of the Alamo in Texan and American history. Suffice to say, it was important. Although Santa Anna won that particular day, he and Mexico lost in the long run. Davy Crockett was a mighty Tennessean, a valiant fighter, and a fearsome warrior. He was an American hero whose role is sometimes forgotten and frequently downplayed as a Disney exaggeration, but those who believe such things are fools.

American heroes like Davy Crockett are, in some ways, a thing of the past. While we have heroes today – and thank God for them – the King of the Wild Frontier was something special, something rare. When you think of Crockett, think hero, but also think Badass with a capital, bold, italicized “B” – and think it with a smile, because without men like Davy Crockett, we wouldn’t be here today.

Freedom isn’t free.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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3 thoughts on “American Heroes: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

  1. “Victory Or Death!” was more than mere words, it was a code of honor. Today we live in a time when less than 1% of the U.S. population has worn the uniform of our armed forces.

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