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Old March 15th, 2012, 07:16 PM   #1

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The death, eccentricities, and wardrobe of Davy Crockett


Ever since I was first introduced to him as a small child (thanks to his depiction by Disney), Davy Crockett has been one of my favorite figures in American history in the near-century that elapsed between the Revolution and the Civil War.

Though there is no serious doubt that Crockett lost his life during the defense of the Alamo in 1836, there is a question of whether he was killed during the battle, or was executed by the triumphant Mexicans afterwards. Apparently the manner of his death was a bone of contention immediately following the event - is there any way we can know for sure nearly two centuries later?

Several sources refer to Crockett dressing handsomely. One Texan said he dressed like "a gentleman and not a backwoodsman" while a Mexican soldier claimed to have seen him wearing "a coat with capes to it". Yet his legendary coonskin hat was apparently also part of his regular garb - one Susanna Dickinson claimed to have viewed his corpse and said "his peculiar hat" was "by his side". Did he simultaneously dress like a gentleman and like the Crockett of Disney legend?

Recently I also read a book that openly stated Crockett was a "certifiable eccentric". Is this true, based on what is modernly known of the man and his context in his times?

Hoping someone might indulge my curiosity. TJadams, I'm looking at you
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Old March 15th, 2012, 08:39 PM   #2

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The stage is set, here I come.....

If one wants to start a more caustic debate than debating how Crockett died at the
Alamo, I don't know what it could be. Authors in the past have received death threats
for writing that Crockett surrendered. That's a whole different thread unto itself.

One has to simply remember that Mr. Crockett was poorly educated and championed himself
a man of the people. Naturally when young, he was poor and had struggled like most on
the frontier. But once he made it into politics and all the way to Congress, he made
sure he dressed the part. He was no longer the coonskin wearing bumpkin of the frontier, but a polished and respectable man of society and he dressed it.

Mr. Crockett's image hit it big with the release of his A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee in 1834.
His popularity soared, "People accosted him in the House and on the city streets begging for his autograph, and in signing he could not
resist making again the point that he used in his opening preface to attest to the authenticity of his account." [1]

Mr. Crockett was trapped by his own fame. The success of his "Narrative" costs people to expect him to look the part of the frontiersman.
" No one reading the narrative wished or expected to see the head and shoulders of a man that broadcloth suit, provide his neck, sitting in
the obligatory three quarters suit view with some dim and indistinct background behind him. Those readers, and all Americans, wanted the
Crockett that David persuaded Chapman to paint, on the hunt in the wilderness where every man was the lord." [2]

Mr. Crockett , by the time he reached Texas, was nearly 50 and he had his eyes set
on getting huge leagues of land and perhaps getting into Texas politics. He had the name
recognition. He traveled to Texas on horseback and of course would have dressed for
traveling, but I highly, highly doubt he wore the deer skin clothes or animal carcass on his head.
Despite always being short of cash, he was able to afford fine clothes of the day. Besides, along the way to Texas
he made a lot of stops in towns and they always gave him parties and he was called
upon to give public speeches. Here he might have slipped on his 'costume' that the people expected to see.

Three Roads to the Alamo: the Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barrett Travis by William C. Davis
[1] 331
[2] Ibid.,333.

Last edited by tjadams; March 15th, 2012 at 09:05 PM.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 08:57 PM   #3

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A)
Quote:
Several sources refer to Crockett dressing handsomely. One Texan said he dressed like "a gentleman and not a backwoodsman" while a Mexican soldier claimed to have seen him wearing "a coat with capes to it".
B)
Quote:
Yet his legendary coonskin hat was apparently also part of his regular garb - one Susanna Dickinson claimed to have viewed his corpse and said "his peculiar hat" was "by his side".
C)
Quote:
Did he simultaneously dress like a gentleman and like the Crockett of Disney legend?
A) I'm of the strong opinion that Mr. Crockett dressed in the manner of a respected gentleman and saved the costume of buckskin etc., just for show.

B) That image of Crockett, lying dead on top of 24 dead Mexican soldiers
with his "peculiar hat' by his side is the sad fabrication of Mrs. Dickinson.
When interviewed by the press over the years, her story changed. She
often seemed to be easily prompted to answer in the way the reporter
wanted her to reply. If one is to accept her version of Crockett's death, then
one would have to teeter-tater that with the Jose de La Pena diary and
what it says.

C) I would say he dressed like a gentleman of the day , but would reluctantly
put on the garb of the frontiersman when needed be.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.
Crockett by John Chapman

Last edited by tjadams; March 15th, 2012 at 09:02 PM.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 09:08 PM   #4

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The 2004 movie "The Alamo" was a nice different pace that explored
the character of the men, instead of over-focusing on the battle alone.
Here is what I came away with imagining how Crockett really was.

...and, if you look and listen carefully, B.B. Thorton puts so much into focus when he utters, "Davy Crockett.." as he
sees Mexican soldiers wearing a coonskin hat, wearing his vest and he realizes that he must play one final act in portraying
the brave, unshakable, defiant image of the hero.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 09:08 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Salah View Post
Though there is no serious doubt that Crockett lost his life during the defense of the Alamo in 1836, there is a question of whether he was killed during the battle, or was executed by the triumphant Mexicans afterwards. Apparently the manner of his death was a bone of contention immediately following the event - is there any way we can know for sure nearly two centuries later?
I think that the story of Crockett surrendering should be taken with a grain of salt, considering the original sources.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 09:16 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by okamido View Post
I think that the story of Crockett surrendering should be taken with a grain of salt, considering the original sources.
Oh my Walter Lord!
If you think debating the Civil War is a raw nerve in Texas, just bring
up with scholars the death of Crockett! It would be more bloody than
the "Council House Fight" between the Comanche and Texans in
San Antonio in 1840.
There is and never will be one definitive answer on how or when
Crockett died. The only solid final bottom line conclusion that all sides
will concede is, that he did die on 6 March 1836.
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Old March 16th, 2012, 03:27 AM   #7

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I work with an alleged descent of Crockett. Word is that he got around.
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Old March 16th, 2012, 06:36 AM   #8

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whatever was just myth and whatever was just legend Ill guess we'll never know and I really dont care to know I like the story just as I learned it as a youth. One undisputed fact is he was one of the defenders of the alamo that died in the name of freedom and thats all I need to know
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Old March 16th, 2012, 09:26 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tjadams View Post
Oh my Walter Lord!
If you think debating the Civil War is a raw nerve in Texas, just bring
up with scholars the death of Crockett! It would be more bloody than
the "Council House Fight" between the Comanche and Texans in
San Antonio in 1840.
There is and never will be one definitive answer on how or when
Crockett died. The only solid final bottom line conclusion that all sides
will concede is, that he did die on 6 March 1836.
I question the timing of the modern revisionism as well as those who parlayed the story for political gain against Santa Anna in the past.
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Old March 16th, 2012, 11:13 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by okamido View Post
I question the timing of the modern revisionism as well as those who parlayed the story for political gain against Santa Anna in the past.
There's that magic word "modern"- were the 1960s, 70s etc modern then as well as today but won't be in ten years?

Historians are stubborn people. The available historical documentation is chewed swallowed and digest by historians differently.
It would appear for now that all the information that is available has already made its way to the top and when and if any new material surfaces,
it is instantly set upon as a fake if it runs counter to the accepted norm.

The Jose de la Pena diary has been taken apart by native speakers and non-speakers alike and even then, no one can agree on the validity, or as you
mentioned, the true target audience of the journal. Santa Anna had legions
of men; private, secular, political and military who were against him and would
have relished dinging his reputation and image to prosperity.

The tricky part is knowing what to accept as honest truth from the diary and
what is meant as a trap plainly laid out to snare the gullible reader.
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