Many of the stories about Davy Crockett (1786-1836) are wrapped up in myth and masculinity, much of which was propagated by Crockett's own hand. He wrote an autobiography, aptly titled A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee, which detailed - and perhaps embellished - life on the American frontier.
Davy Crockett's stories became wrapped up in the frontier, manliness, and American strength, promoting a sense of machismo that contrasts heavily with its modern conception. As a frontiersman, soldier, and politician, Davy Crockett achieved folk hero status soon after his passing in 1836, and his reputation continued to grow throughout the 20th century.
The best Davy Crockett stories demonstrate the many lives he led and the challenges he faced - with some questionable details and antiquated mores mixed in.
Davy Crockett was married twice, first to Mary "Polly" Finley and later to Elizabeth Patton. Davy and Polly wed in 1806 and had three children - John Wesley, William, and Margaret. By the time the Creek War broke out in 1813, Crockett had moved his family to Tennessee, near Winchester.
As the War of 1812 raged, the Creek tribe split into factions. One group, the Red Sticks, attacked Fort Mims on August 30, 1830, taking the lives of militiamen, civilians, and Creek allies. The Fort Mims incident prompted national outrage; Davy Crockett, among others, responded by volunteering to fight against the Native Americans. Crockett, as he personally recalled, "had none of the dread of dying that I expected to feel," but Polly was terrified at the prospect of her husband leaving:
My wife, who had heard me say I meant to go to the war, began to beg me not to turn out. She said she was a stranger in the parts where we lived, had no connexions [sic] living near her, and that she and our little children would be left in a lonesome and unhappy situation if I went away.
While "it was mighty hard to go against such arguments as these," Crockett went anyway. His "countrymen had been [attacked], and I knew that the next thing would be, that the Indians would be scalping the women and children all about there, if we didn't put a stop to it."
He explained that he had to go to Polly, but he related, "Whether she was satisfied with this reasoning or not, she did not tell me... all she did was to cry a little, and turn about to her work."
During the Creek War, Davy Crockett marched through Alabama and Florida with roughly 800 other volunteers, razing Creek villages as they went. As they closed in on one town, "the Indians soon saw they were our property. So most of them wanted us to take them prisoners; and their squaws and all would run and take hold of any of us they could, and give themselves up."
Not everyone surrendered, however. Crockett and his fellow fighters chased down 46 warriors:
We pursued them until we got near the house, when we saw a squaw sitting in the door, and she placed her feet against the bow she had in her hand, and then took an arrow, and, raising her feet, she drew with all her might, and let fly at us, and she killed a man, whose name, I believe, was Moore. He was a lieutenant, and his [end] so enraged us all, that she was fired on, and had at least twenty balls blown through her.
Crockett noted Moore's demise was the first he'd witnessed at the end of a bow and arrow, but expressed no real emotion about it. He then described how his group brutally ended the remaining warriors, firing on them "like dogs," before they set "the house on fire, and burned it up with the forty-six warriors in it."
Davy Crockett was able to use his frontier skills to feed his fellow fighters during the conflict with the Creek. He described how scarce meat was among the troops, something that prompted him to think, "I must go in for it."
Crockett's efforts extended to animals of all kinds: "[I] hunted every day, and would kill every hawk, bird, and squirrel that I could find. Others did the same; and it was a rule with us, that when we stop'd at night, the hunters would throw all [the animals] in a pile, and then we would make a general division among all the men."
He hunted turkeys when he could find them, and after discovering a deceased deer, he gave the meat away, only keeping enough "to make a good supper for my mess." The next day, he "discovered a large gang of hogs. I shot one of them down in his tracks." Crockett's efforts set the rest of the hogs toward camp. The fighters opened fire on them, taking out " a good many of the hogs, and a fine fat cow" that had wandered free.
Davy Crockett said that hunting bears was one of his favorite activities, and claimed to have taken down more than 100 of them during a single hunting season. Some of his prey supposedly weighed 600 pounds.
Crockett would go out on the frontier with his dogs, which would track down and often trap bears for Crockett. On several occasions, Crockett drew his blade to fight bears that wouldn't go down after he fired on them.
Crockett described a dangerous situation after firing on a bear:
At this he raised one of his paws and snorted loudly. I loaded again as quick as I could, and fired as near the same place in his breast as possible. At the crack of my gun here he came tumbling down; and the moment he touched the ground, I heard one of my best dogs cry out. I took my tomahawk in one hand, and my big butcher-knife in the other, and run up within four or five paces of him, at which he let my dog go, and fixed his eyes on me. I got back in all sorts of a hurry, for I know'd if he got hold of me, he would hug me altogether too close for comfort. I went to my gun and hastily loaded her again, and shot him the third time, which killed him good.
On another hunting trip, Crockett used a butcher's blade and "stuck [the bear] right through the heart; at which he just sank down, and I crawled out in a hurry. In a little time my dogs all come out too, and seemed satisfied, which was the way they always had of telling me that they had finished him."