August 17 History | Davy Crockett: Man, Myth, or Both?

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David Crockett was a politician, frontiersman, militiaman, and American mythical hero. Crockett’s biographers often split his life into two personas: David Crockett, the three time US congressman and frontiersman, and Davy Crockett, the mythical defender of the Alamo and “King of the Wild Frontier”. Here is a breakdown of fact, myth, and what might be true.

The Facts about David Crockett – Born August 17, 1786

  • Raised in East Tennessee and was famed for his community involvement (including business and militia activity).
  • Joined the militia under the command of future president Andrew Jackson.
  • Elected as a US Representative in 1827, 1829, and 1833.
  • Once Threatened to leave the US for Texas because he feared that future president Martin van Buren would continue Andrew Jackson’s actions of Cherokee Indian Removal
  • In 1835, Crockett left for Texas, with the anticipation that a revolution was imminent.
  • During the Battle of the Alamo, Crockett was killed by the Mexican force under the command of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Since most of the American forces were killed at the Alamo (including Crockett), it’s uncertain exactly what happened at points during the siege and battle. Crockett’s legend revolves around what may or may not be true. Following his death, almanacs and stage plays quickly inflated his already larger-than-life escapades.

The Legend of Davy Crockett

  • Davy used his rifle as a club as Mexican forces closed in on the remaining US forces in the Alamo.
  • Davy’s individual final stand resulted in 16 Mexican casualties, most (if not all) by hand with his knife

Most of the myths about Crockett revolve around bear hunting, not the defense of the Alamo.

  • Davy killed a bear with only his knife.
  • Davy hunted 105 bears in one year.
  • Davy killed a bear when he was three years old

The TV series “Davy Crockett” produced by Disney in the 50s added to the legend of Davy Crockett. Crockett also describes several tall tales about himself in his autobiography.

Crockett’s volunteer, defense, and martyrdom at the Alamo cemented his legacy. Whether man, myth, or somewhere in-between, Davy Crockett is one of many iconic characters with a large place in both true American history and folk lore.


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