From the Annals of the Frontier – In 1786, David Crockett was born in Tennessee. Crockett was an authentic frontiersman and hunter as a young man. When he embarked on a political career, his legend grew. Crockett was reputed to be uncomfortable with his portrayal in the popular media of the time and took exception to the unauthorized biography Sketches and Eccentricities of Colonel David Crockett of West Tennessee. But his popular persona helped him gain election to the Tennessee state house. From there his political career moved to Washington where served three terms as a U.S. congressman from eastern Tennessee. He was arguably among the two or three most famous Congressmen in U.S. history (Henry Clay and Sonny Bono might even agree). His stance against Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act likely caused him to lose his congressional seat and set him in motion towards Texas. In 1835, Crockett set out for Texas with 30 Tennesseans. Along the way he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds. Crockett still had political ambitions and likely viewed himself as a potential president of an independent Texas. Based on his previous experience, he was probably not interested in serious military activity in support of the Texas revolution and not interested in becoming a dead military hero. The circumstances of his death at the Alamo have been hotly debated. Credible accounts establish that he was among a handful of survivors who were executed after the fighting ceased. That in no way detracts from the heroism of this true American icon.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, the San Antonio de Valero Mission better known as the Alamo, was stormed after a 13 day siege by the Mexican army. The Mexican troops were under command of General Antonio Lòpez de Santa Anna who had pledged no quarter to the rebels. The early morning assault caught the defenders of the makeshift fortress relatively unaware. The battle lasted only 90 minutes during which time the Alamo was taken and all the Texian forces were killed. The crumbling chapel – which is the iconic symbol of Texas Independence – fell last. The historians debate whether the most famous Alamo defender David Crockett – who had arrived in San Antonio days before the siege – was killed or captured along with a handful of survivors. Crockett did not fancy himself a military figure and was likely surprised to be among the fighters in a hopeless situation. Santa Anna might have been anxious to take a valued captive. Regardless of whether Crocket was killed or executed after the battle, his sacrifice and the sacrifice of the other 185 defenders inspired the continued fight for independence from Mexico.
A romanticized version of Crockett’s death from Robert Onderdonk’s The Fall of the Alamo – at the Texas State Archives.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, David Crockett arrived in Texas. At the time, he was one of the most famous men in America. In 1834, the newly formed Whig Party had seriously considered Rep. Crockett of Tennessee for its presidential candidate. Crockett was a folk hero based on his backwoods origins, but he was also a reasonable shrewd politician who played up his popular image in winning a seat in Congress representing west Tennessee. He had pushed for land reform that would have benefitted his landless Tennessee constituents and refused to kowtow to Pres. Andrew Jackson. He strongly opposed the president’s Indian Removal Bill. But after suffering a last electoral defeat, he apparently realized that he could not compete with the powerful Jackson. When he lost his congressional seat in 1835 he was at a low point. Heavily in debt and estranged from his wife, he embarked on the trip to Texas undoubtedly hoping to revive his sagging political fortunes. He was well received in Texas and likely would have been a political force in the Republic had he survived the Revolution. “I told the people of my District, that, if they saw fit to re-elect me, I would serve them as faithfully as I had done,but, if not, they might to go to hell, and I would go to Texas.”