Reading the West 3-15-10
March 15, 2010
“How Did Davy Die? And Why do We Care So Much?” by Dan Kilgore and James E. Crisp takes another look at what became a real controversy more than 30 years ago.
After the 1975 release of the first-ever English translation of eyewitness accounts of the Battle of the Alamo by Mexican army officer Jose Enrique de la Pena, Kilgore ignited a controversy when he stated publicly that historical sources suggested Davy Crockett did not die on the ramparts of the Alamo swinging his rifle, but rather, that Mexican forces took Crockett captive and then executed him on Mexican leader Santa Anna’s order.
In this commemorative edition of “How Did Davy Die?,” Crisp, a North Carolina State University associate professor, reconsiders the heated issue and poses an intriguing follow-up question, “And Why Do We Care
Soon after the publication of “How Did Davy Die?” in the 1970s, Kilgore became the subject of articles in national magazines, for having dared to “murder a myth.” Some considered his historical argument an affront to a treasured American icon and they delivered personal insults and threats of violence.
In this enlarged, commemorative edition, Crisp, reconsiders the heated issue. He reviews the origins and subsequent impact of Kilgore’s book, both on the historical record and on the author.
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The book is published by Texas A&M University Press in hardcover and costs $18.95.
Another new book about Crockett takes a look at his years in Congress, when he served from the state of Tennessee. James R. Boylston and Allen J. Weiner provide an outstanding opportunity to learn about Crockett in “David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend,” published by Bright Sky Press.
The book started as a project by Boylston to collect and annotate all of Crockett’s known correspondence. Weiner later joined him. This is first, and foremost, a book of primary documents: letters, political circulars and selected speeches covering Davy Crockett’s public years of 1820-1835, while serving in the Tennessee State Legislature and United States House of Representatives.
From the documents readers can see his emergence as a public figure. His letters show Davy was a smart politician and strong representative of the people he served as a congressman. The documents make it clear he was not the country bumpkin we may have been led to believe in various popular films and the television show that featured Fess Parker as Crockett.
Crockett may have killed a bear, and he may have worn a coonskin cap, but he wasn’t a shaggy bearded frontiersman and several original paintings give a view of how the pathbreaker may have appeared when serving in Congress, clean cut and quite handsome.