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Title: David Crockett: Scout - Small Boy, Pilgrim, Mountaineer, Soldier, Bear-Hunter and - Congressman; Defender of the Alamo
Author: Allen, Charles Fletcher
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            DAVID CROCKETT
                                 SCOUT



[Illustration: DAVY HAD A CHANCE TO FIGHT THAT MUST HAVE SATISFIED HIM]



                            DAVID CROCKETT

                                 SCOUT

                   SMALL BOY, PILGRIM, MOUNTAINEER,
                 SOLDIER, BEAR-HUNTER, AND CONGRESSMAN

                         DEFENDER OF THE ALAMO


                                  BY
                        CHARLES FLETCHER ALLEN


                           _FRONTISPIECE BY_
                            FRANK McKERNAN


    “The fittest place where man can die is where he dies for man”
                                                    ――M. J. BARRY.


                            [Illustration]


                         PHILADELPHIA & LONDON
                       J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY



             COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                         FIFTEENTH IMPRESSION


                  PRINTED IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                                  To

                          EDITH SQUIRE ALLEN

                  GUARDIAN, COMRADE, AND KINDLY LIGHT



PREFACE


The story of David Crockett stands apart from all others in our
history――a nebulous collection of traditions about a great array of
facts. To the unnumbered thousands to whom his name is familiar he is
often as unreal as the hero of a mediæval romance or of Scandinavian
mythology. This book will follow his history with close attention
to dates, and without recognition of the impossible legends of many
writers. To accomplish this has required much reading and research,
much weighing of evidence, and the help of others. The portrait of
David Crockett, now for the first time published, is after the original
in the Alamo, painted by the famous artist Chapman while Crockett was a
Congressman. It is a picture that reveals the secret of his success in
winning friends and fame.

For the use of the picture thanks are due to Mrs. Rebecca Fisher, of
Austin, Texas, the venerable President of the Daughters of the Republic
of Texas, and to Mrs. Marie B. Urwitz, the Chairman of the Executive
Committee of the same Society. For other favors acknowledgment is made
to Miss Jennie Moore, of Flag Pond, Tenn.; Prof. Eric Doolittle, of the
University of Pennsylvania; Judge W. T. Rogers, of Denver; Mr. and Mrs.
Mark F. Postlewaite, of San Antonio, Texas; and to Richard A. Paddock,
for much information in regard to Reelfoot Lake.

It is hoped that this unpretentious volume may help to a better
understanding of the life and motives of a man whose footsteps went
into no dark places, and who died an honor to his race and his
countrymen――a hero _sans peur et sans reproche_.

                                               CHARLES FLETCHER ALLEN.

DENVER, COLORADO, June 2, 1911.



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                              PAGE
     I. THE YOUNG FRONTIERSMAN          13
    II. THE START FOR VIRGINIA          26
   III. DAVY TAKES TO THE WOODS         37
    IV. THE INDIANS’ VISIT              50
     V. DAVY IS A SCOUT                 65
    VI. FOLLOWING INDIANS               78
   VII. HARD FIGHTING                   90
  VIII. BEAN’S CREEK                   107
    IX. A CABIN IN THE WILDERNESS      125
     X. THE ELECTION                   142
    XI. EARTHQUAKES                    156
   XII. HUNTING BEARS                  168
  XIII. LOST IN THE WOODS              185
   XIV. THE MISSISSIPPI FLOOD          194
    XV. CLAY AND WEBSTER               204
   XVI. IN CONGRESS                    215
  XVII. DAVY’S POPULARITY              225
 XVIII. TRAVELLING HARD                241
   XIX. THE RIFLE “BETSY”              253
    XX. OFF FOR TEXAS                  265
   XXI. THE BEE-HUNTER                 278
  XXII. THE ALAMO BESIEGED             288
 XXIII. THE MEXICANS’ CHARGE           300



David Crockett



I.

THE YOUNG FRONTIERSMAN

Birthplace in Tennessee――His Irish Blood――Summer-time in the Great
Smokies――The Indian signal fires――Little Davy gets fighting mad――His
love of weapons――In the Bald Mountains――Davy’s aspirations――John
Crockett moves again.


The antecedents of Davy Crockett are Irish, although his mother was
Rebecca Hawkins, a native of Maryland, and probably of English descent.
After the execution of King Charles I, in the seventeenth century, many
Irishmen were transported to North America as rebels, and there sold
into a state of slavery among the English colonists. Many of them were
sent to Virginia and to the Somers or Bermuda Islands, and in Sir J. H.
Lefroy’s “Memorials of Bermuda” occur the names of James Sheehan and
David Larragan as two of the slaves bought and sold in those islands.
As we might expect, the same records often make mention of the unruly
and riotous nature of the Irish rebels, and of the complaints of those
who thought the colony might well be rid of them. It was the blood of
the fighting race that told, and one by one the slaves became freemen,
to follow every bugle-call or rolling drum that has led into the storms
of shot and shell on our country’s battlefields.

David Crockett’s grandparents left Ireland for America after the birth
of William, their oldest son, and it is supposed that John Crockett,
another son, and the father of David, was born during the voyage. The
family, which eventually included four boys, settled in Pennsylvania.
Here John Crockett lived as a farmer for some time, removing while
still a young man to Lincoln County, North Carolina, and afterwards
to the Tennessee mountain country. His parents, displaying the same
restlessness that characterized the career of David, came into what is
now Hawkins County, Tennessee, and settled near the site of the present
town of Rogersville. It is not unlikely that the county took its name
from the family to which Rebecca Hawkins belonged.

The Creek Indians had now begun to feel the pressure of immigration
into their sacred hunting-grounds, and were at all times dangerous,
frequent encounters occurring between them and the settlers. Both
of Davy’s grandparents were killed during an Indian foray, near the
Holston River, in Hawkins County. In this bloody affair their son
Joseph had his arm broken by a bullet, though he finally escaped. His
brother James, who was deaf and dumb, remained a prisoner for more than
seventeen years. It was without doubt due to his being deaf and dumb
that he was finally heard of and identified by Davy’s father and uncle
William, who paid some sort of a ransom and obtained his freedom. He
lived for many years in Cumberland County, Kentucky.

Davy Crockett was the fifth of six sons, and there were three sisters,
besides, or nine children in all, in the family of John Crockett. In
his own story Davy makes little use of the names of his relatives,
and although some of them are known, they are not material to this
narrative.

Davy Crockett was born on the 17th of August, 1786. At this time, the
“Gateses, Lees, and rough Yankee Generals,” as Carlyle styled them, had
returned to their own shores, and were striving to form a permanent
union of the States. The courts of the Old World were vying with each
other in extravagance and riotous living.

But the Great Smoky Mountains were full of peace, and from the Unaka
range to the far blue crest of the Cumberlands the troubles of the
far-off world were but echoes faintly heard. The new and short-lived
State of Franklin was a year old, and John Crockett, veteran of the
Revolution, was content to work there from dawn till dark, that his
children might be fed and housed. The mountains were full of game, corn
could be raised when the ground was cleared, and the autumn yielded
bountiful stores of nuts, wild grapes, berries, and apples, until from
one source or another the cabin was filled with winter supplies; yet
somehow there always seemed to be insufficient for the long months
before the anemones and azaleas came again beside the leaping brooks or
under the tender green of the wakening trees.

The log cabin of the Crockett family stood where the Limestone Creek
joined the Nolichucky River, ten miles north of the great bend in the
Bald Mountain range. There the rocky summits, angling abruptly about
the watersheds of Indian Creek, are like fortifications of the Titans,
crowned with battlements of the Appalachian range, whose peaks stand
more than six thousand feet above the sea――higher than any others east
of the Mississippi. From the rocky escarpments, between the black
forests of pine and hemlock, shone the signal-fires of the Creek
and Chickasaw, and from unseen nooks between their giant flanks the
thump-thump-thump of the tom-tom caused the pioneer to look to his
stockades and his flintlock guns.

The fierce ebb and flow of war that had given Kentucky the name of
“the Dark and Bloody Ground” had now and then swept over parts of
Tennessee――the massacre at Fort Loudon was a red spot upon the pages
of her history; but the rivalries of the English, French, and Spanish
had promoted Indian raids in the disputable regions of the Ohio and the
Mississippi, rather than in the lowlands of the western part of this
state and in the Alabama plains. What Tennessee was spared in earlier
days she knew in the Civil War in 1861 to 1865, when from Knoxville to
Donelson and Shiloh, and from Lookout Mountain to the Cumberland Gap,
her fields were filled with unknown graves and the wreck and misery of
a terrible conflict.

It was not until many years after the birth of Crockett that it became
safe to travel the rugged roads between Virginia and North Carolina and
the Nashville country. In the twenty or more trips that Andrew Jackson
made between Jonesboro and Nashville in the days when he was foremost
in the practice of the law, he had many a close call in Indian fights.
More than a score of times he came upon the bodies of men, women, and
children, robbed and slain and scalped. Little Davy, listening at
nightfall beside the river, hearing above its murmur the hoot of the
owl in the dismal trees, the howl of the wolf on the mountain-top,
or the panther’s anguished cry, floating out of the vague unknown,
would make good use of his sturdy little legs until he was safe at his
mother’s side.

As the boy grew older, he lost the instinctive sense of fear that was
perhaps a part of his natural heritage; for the cry of the Banshee
had filled the souls of his Irish forebears with terror in their
lowly cabins across the seas. Something of the daring of Sir John
and of Richard his son, of the Hawkins kin――slavers, freebooters,
sea-scourges, admirals――had come to him on his mother’s side, and
now, too, the fighting blood of his father’s race began to show. Davy
was scarce six years old when four of his brothers, and a boy named
Campbell, left him on the shore of the Nolichucky while they put out
into the river in the rude boat that was used in crossing the stream.
Had it not been for the bravery of a man named Kendall, who saw their
danger, the five boys would surely have gone over the falls a little
way below, which would have meant certain death. Davy seems partly to
have realized their danger, but said he was too fighting mad at being
left behind to care what happened to them. When they were safe again,
his greatest satisfaction was in telling them that the scrape they had
been in was what they had earned for not taking him along.

Like every boy of the frontier, Davy was quick to idealize the great
flintlock rifles, powder-horns, and other implements of the hunter. He
loved to watch his father mould bullets from the well-nigh priceless
supply of lead, or cut and grease “patches” for loading. The boy would
sometimes shoulder a stick and imagine himself a hunter, stimulated
perhaps by the loan of a powder-horn and a hunting-knife. All this was
evidence of what was working in his mind.

An old man who knew the boy and always called him the “Corkonian” said
that “the only diff’ betwane a crowbar and a gun is thot the gun do
have a hole in it, and a stock.” The hunter’s rifle was made from a bar
of iron weighing about the same as a crowbar, from eleven to fifteen
pounds being the usual weight of the gun. From this it is easy to see
that the small boy of 1795 could not take a very active part in the
hunting that furnished the greater portion of the supply of food for
the pioneer and his family.

In talking with General Grant, who had suggested a way in which the
reserves might be of use while not needed at the front, Abraham Lincoln
once said: “Oh, yes; I see that. As we say out West, if a man can’t
skin he can hold a leg for the one that does.” A five-year-old boy
might not be able to hunt and kill deer, but he could “hold a leg.” The
boy of to-day can go forth with a four-pound “twenty-two” with less
fatigue than his grandfather felt in handling a rifle when ten years
older. At the age of fifteen a boy might learn to shoot, but he was
hardly able to range the mountains for game.

It was on a day in August, when Davy was six years old, that his father
and his uncle took him with them on a hunting trip into the dark
forests of pine on the northern slopes of the Bald Mountains. They were
gone but a single day, but every moment was a revelation to the little
fellow. They were looking for wild turkeys, and had bagged several
when they came to an opening surrounded by maples, beeches, and other
deciduous trees. The grass was fresh, and a dozen sorts of flowers were
under their feet as they tied their single horse, on which Davy rode
with the game.

The men were talking of the West, and as they pointed out across the
peaceful land of the Chickasaws, the boy heard often the names of the
great rivers, the Tennessee, the Holston, the Cumberland, the Ohio,
and the Mississippi. The spirit of unrest that was in their hearts was
already in his own, and from that day the Nolichucky was no longer
satisfying to him; he wanted something bigger.

In the faint echoes of ringing steel and bloody threats that came from
the cities of the Old World, those August days, there was somewhat
that excited the natural restlessness of the pioneer. The events in
France were terrible and momentous. On the 20th of the month before,
the “black-browed Marseillaise,” the Reds of the Midi, had finished
their long march from the shores of the Mediterranean, and had entered
Paris, six hundred strong, armed with forks and scythes and pikes, and
singing the song of Rouget de Lisle that forever afterwards was to be
the War Hymn of Unrest. The few who had left for the New World had not
been missed in the ranks of the starving people of Europe’s overcrowded
streets and lands. The “black chaos of insurrection” had burst upon the
last defenses of the French king, and it may have been while the three
looked westward to the promised land that the Swiss Guards――hunted like
wild beasts――died to the last man in the Place de Grêve. The time for
blood-letting had come to France, and the whole world was in a ferment
that was soon to set the red men of America in battle against the
aggressions of the colonists. There could never have been peace in the
Old World until the opening of the New, and that also meant war to the
knife.

From then until he went forth into the strange places of the east, Davy
grew in thought and stature and in the knowledge of common things, but
without any education other than that obtained by the use of sharp ears
and keen sight. When he was seven or more, the whole Crockett family
moved to a place about ten miles north of Greenville. From the habit
John Crockett had, of going from one place to another, it seems that
he depended mostly upon game and pelts for a living. He could not have
been much of a farmer, in a country where land had to be cleared before
crops could be raised.

It was while in Greene County that Joseph Hawkins, brother of Davy’s
mother, shot a man while hunting, having mistaken him for a deer. The
man was gathering wild grapes, and as he reached for the clusters above
him, Hawkins thought he saw the moving ears of a deer. As all kinds
of game were common in such a place, and hunters were scarce, he took
a careful aim, and shot the grape-gatherer through the chest. The man
finally recovered from the effects of the wound, but Davy tells that
he saw his father draw a silk handkerchief through the bullet-hole and
through the man’s body. Such accidents were less frequent in those
days, when the human target might be one of a party of Indians skulking
in the thickets. In such a case the hunter would be tomahawked and
scalped before he could reload――or bound fast, and he might be tortured
to death later.

A Chicago paper obtained a list of one hundred and thirteen men who
were killed in the year 1910, through such mistakes and careless
handling of guns. In war, the killed are far less in number than the
wounded, but in 1910 only eighty-seven were wounded as against one
hundred and thirteen killed. This shows that the hunters who do the
killing are much more careful in their aim than in finding out what
they have for a target. It is a pretty sure thing that the immediate
scalping of such blunderers would save one hundred lives every year.
Davy Crockett’s father used to tell him, when he began to use a rifle,
“Look mighty hard before you shoot: it may be a man you see, but you
can always get a man.”

From Greene County John Crockett moved, after a year or so, to the
mouth of Cove Creek, some twenty-five miles below the mouth of the
Limestone.



II.

THE START FOR VIRGINIA

The mill on Cove Creek――Swept away, “lock, stock, and barrel”――The
Crockett family keeps moving――Andrew Jackson and the corn-thief――“A
boy’ll be after trouble before his ears are dry”――The empty
cupboard――’Lasses-b’ilin’s, bean-stringin’s, butter-stirrin’s――Bobtail
pigs and bawling calves――Davy is sent to Virginia on foot with Jacob
Siler――He gets homesick, and longs to see his family――Good friends come
to his aid, and he returns home.


It would appear that John Crockett had some funds upon moving to Cove
Creek, for he at once began the building of a mill, in partnership with
a man named Galbreath. They had about finished the mill――undoubtedly a
primitive affair――when trouble came.

Over all the flanks and summits of the Appalachian range the snow
lay deep in the shelter of the pines. It was the accumulation of the
long winter, compact, and covered with a glaze of ice. All through
the winter the creek on which the mill was built flowed quietly in
its course, held in check by the icy rein of the zero weather. But
the stream grew deeper and swifter as the days advanced, and when
the swamp-apple and the wild cherry were like woodland fairies in
their robes of tender pink and creamy white, when the rumble of the
partridge’s wings was heard and the violets were scarfs of blue flung
here and there, the south wind swept along the range with lowering
clouds, the heavens were opened, and the rain began. In “the twinkling
of an eye” the stream they had relied upon to run their mill swept
every vestige of their labor out of sight, “lock, stock, and barrel,”
as Crockett described the disaster.

Few men care to build upon the scene of ruined hopes, and John Crockett
moved on again. We follow him next to a place on the road that was
frequented by travellers between Virginia and Nashville. Here he kept
an inn for the wayfarer――a poor kind of an affair, where only such
people as wagoners were likely to halt. They were as rough as the
roads over which they came, and in feeding such guests there was small
profit. The Western settlers were always ready to take arms against
any authority that held too tight a rein, and each man was as quick
to show fight in his own behalf. In his later years, David Crockett
remembered the little tavern between Jonesboro and Knoxville as a place
of “hard times, and plenty of ’em.”

It was there that Davy first saw Andrew Jackson, who was afterwards
his leader in the Creek War of 1813. Already the renown of the State’s
Attorney had become a household subject in Tennessee. Jackson feared no
man, and brought to justice the most defiant of the mountaineers. The
men of that day had a habit of settling their differences out of court,
which caused many to die “with their boots on.” Much the same system
even now prevails in some parts of Kentucky and Tennessee. To those
who have deplored the passionate natures and the crimes of the foreign
element in our country, it may be said that the most lawless and cruel
of our citizens are primitive Americans, the feudists of the Dark and
Bloody Ground and the Big Bend State. The reason why Jackson had most
of the court cases in those days was because they were criminal suits,
and to him, as public prosecutor, came the duty of conducting them.

One day there stopped at the Crockett tavern a man from the head of
the Limestone, who had come down the Nolichucky with a load of corn
that he had stolen from a neighbor. Of this he openly boasted, and he
defied any one to interfere with him. John Crockett told him he did not
care to take stolen corn as payment for feeding him and his horses, and
asked him to go; but the unwelcome guest said he should stay as long as
he liked. The next day, towards dark, appeared a number of horsemen,
who had been belated by a storm in the mountains. Among them was Andrew
Jackson, and there were also two or three constables and prisoners on
the way to Knoxville. Then in his twenty-seventh year, Jackson was an
ideal leader of men. More than six feet tall, slender but muscular, the
glance of his dark blue eyes meant more than verbal threats. To him,
John Crockett told the story of the vainglorious thief. Jackson told
the man that he was under arrest, whereupon the latter at once became
violent and threatening.

The room of the tavern in which the wagoners spent the spare hours was
large and dingy, built of logs, and had been the scene of more than one
desperate quarrel. There were enough bullet-holes in the logs to prove
it.

Jackson whispered to a constable, and under the directions of the
latter every one left the room except Jackson and the thief. Ten
minutes afterwards the latter came out of the room, without his rifle
or knife, and sullenly left the place. The horses and the wagon-load of
corn were left behind, and were afterwards turned over to the man from
whom they had been stolen. Davy, who was a lad of eight or nine years
at the time, had been terrified by the threats of the corn-thief, and
always wondered at the quiet way in which Andrew Jackson had disposed
of him.

The small boy’s days are short, but full of zest. Having as yet no
conscience, or at least a dormant one, he feels no regrets for his
misdeeds, but sleeps the sleep of the just, and wakes with all his
faculties for mischief whetted. Where “two or three are gathered
together,” there is always danger in the air. Davy had brothers whose
experiences gave him a good start, and he “profited by their example.”
Up to the age of five, when he danced with rage on the banks of the
shore where he had been left alone, he tells us that he never had worn
any breeches. From this we infer that as he was easy to overhaul in
flight, and was without any protection from the usual application of
punishment, he had to grow and be clothed before he became a serious
source of trouble. An Irishman fresh from the Old Sod will tell you
that “a boy’ll be after huntin’ trouble before his ears are dry.” And
once started, he never quits.

In Davy’s time there were no jam closets for him to rob, for the
cupboard was always empty, except for the great loaves of bread that
were baked from corn and rye. Everything being devoured as fast as
it was cooked, none of the boy’s time was taken up with watching
the pantry, and his time was his own. If there happened to be such
neighborhood events as corn-huskin’s, ’lasses-b’ilin’s, log-rollin’s,
bean-stringin’s, or butter-stirrin’s, which still prevail in the
mountains, there was a respite for his victims. Upon one occasion,
when his parents had gone to a corn-husking, Davy and one of his
brothers, with another boy, rounded up all the hogs that were fattening
on beech-nuts in the woods, penned them up, cut off their tails, and
let them go. It was some weeks later when their villainy was detected.
They were forced to confess that they were guilty, and that the tails
had been roasted in hot ashes and eaten. Such mild pastimes as robbing
birds’ nests were diversified by practical jokes on the travelling
public, and many a beating fell to the lot of the Crockett boys. One
of the tricks they played was to take the calves away from their
bovine mothers after dark. This meant all-night bawling, and human
wakefulness, until the cows were united with the lost offspring. If
Elisha had lived in the Tennessee mountains, the bears would have been
busy all the time.

When Davy was twelve, in 1798, he had become a strong and useful lad,
with a fully developed conscience. The wishes of his parents were the
only law he had known, and when at last the time came when his father
said to him, as Saul to him of old, “David, go, and the Lord be with
thee,” he went forth as a pilgrim. It is not certain with what words he
was sent forth, but he seems to have made no appeal from the bargain
that sent him four hundred miles over the mountains, on foot, in the
keeping of a stranger. Perhaps he had come to know that his father
found it hard to feed so many mouths. At any rate, he took up the long
march with an old German, Jacob Siler, who was bound to Virginia with
a herd of cattle, where he proposed to remain. How many have read with
sympathy and keen appreciation Davy’s simple story of his departure
“with a heavy heart,” perhaps never to return!

Siler treated the boy kindly, and paid him five or six dollars for his
help. When he reached the end of his journey, he tried to persuade
Davy to stay with him. At first Davy thought it his father’s wish that
he should remain, so for some weeks he tried to be content; but the
yearning to see his family again was strong within him. One day, as he
was playing in the road, there came along three familiar faces, those
of a man named Dunn and two sons, each with a good team. The sight of
them was like a sight of home, for they were bound to Knoxville, and
the way led past the lowly Crockett inn, and Davy was soon telling his
plight to sympathetic listeners. As his disappearance in the daytime
would soon be known and might result in his being brought back, they
told him that if he could get to the place where they were to put up
for the night, seven miles away, they would take him home. All the
tiresome journey there, Davy had come on foot, and at the prospect of
riding all the way back, heaven opened before him.

To his delight, he found that the “good old Dutchman and his family”
had gone to a neighbor’s. Davy’s own story of what followed is this:

“I gathered my clothes and what little money I had, and put them all
together under the head of my bed. I went to bed early that night, but
I could not sleep. For though I was a wild boy, yet I dearly loved my
father and mother, and I could not sleep for thinking of them. And
then the fear that I should be discovered and called to a halt filled
me with anxiety: and between my childish love of home, on the one
hand, and the fears of which I have spoken, on the other, I felt mighty
queer.”

It was three hours before daylight when Davy crawled out of his bed. He
got away from the house without waking any one, and found it snowing
hard, eight inches having already fallen. In the absence of moonlight,
it was a difficult matter to reach the main highway, half a mile off;
but once in that, he steered his way towards the place appointed,
guided by the opening made through the woods. He was two hours trudging
through snow up to his knees, and as his tracks were covered as
fast as they were made, the Siler family must have wondered at his
disappearance.

Davy found the Dunns up and feeding their teams, and was kindly
received. As he warmed himself by the fire, he forgot his struggle with
the storm in his thankfulness for their goodness and help. As soon as
breakfast was over, the wagoners set out, and the boy found himself
counting the seemingly endless miles of the homeward journey. When they
reached the Roanoke valley, his desire to get home was too great for
him to endure the slow progress of the loaded wagons. He could travel
twice as fast afoot, so at the house of John Cole, on the Roanoke, he
thanked his kind friends for what they had done for him, and started
out alone on what must have been a tramp of three hundred miles.

He was near the first crossing of the river in a few hours, and dreaded
it, as he would have to wade or swim to the other side, in water that
was very cold. Then he heard the clatter of horses’ feet behind him,
and a cheery hail from a man who was returning from where he had sold
some stock. He had an extra horse, saddled and bridled, and as he had
also a soft spot in his heart for boys, in a moment Davy was mounted,
as proud as a king. In this way he travelled until within fifteen miles
of home, when he went his way on foot, full of gratitude towards the
stranger for his goodness towards a “poor little straggling boy.”



III.

DAVY TAKES TO THE WOODS

Davy is welcomed home――A school-house in the mountains――He makes
an enemy――Wildcat style of fighting――Davy takes to the woods――John
Crockett cuts a stout hickory switch――Davy is off for Virginia
again――He goes to Baltimore――The clippers and the privateer――Prevented
from sailing for London――He leaves his self-appointed guardian and
starts for home――He crosses New River through slush ice――The trail in
spring――A strange boy at the family table――“It’s Davy come home!”


Davy reached his father’s inn the same night, and his welcome may be
imagined. It was late in the fall, and he lived at home until the red
flames of the sumac and the poison oak were again fiery spots and
streaks upon the hills. Then John Crockett took it into his head to
send the boy to a school near-by. A rude log cabin, with benches hewn
from logs and a floor of earth, offered its single room to those who
came. A great slab of wood, three feet wide, and standing on hickory
stakes, reached across the room, and was used as a table for the
scholars. “Readin’, spellin’ an’ cipherin’” were the principal studies.
Writing, of course, was taught, but the quill pens and poor ink they
had to use were as hard to get as was paper, and the blackboard seldom
made a penman of an awkward lad.

On the fourth day Davy spent in school he had an altercation with a boy
larger and older than he. When the children were dismissed, Davy hid in
the bushes and waited for his enemy. As the boy was passing the ambush,
Davy “set on him like a wildcat, scratched his face to a flitter-jig,
and made him cry for quarter in good earnest.”

Young Crockett was now in a bad fix, for he knew there was a flogging
in store for him. The next day, and for several days, he left home in
the morning, ostensibly for school, but spent the time in the woods,
until the children went home. His brothers attended the same school,
but he had persuaded them to say nothing of his “playing hooky.”
When the schoolmaster wrote to John Crockett, telling him of Davy’s
absence, the whole story came out.

“I was in an awful hobble,” Davy wrote of this, “for my father was in
a condition to make the fur fly. He called on me to tell why I had not
been to school. I told him that I was afraid to go, for I knew I should
be cooked up to a cracklin’ in no time. My father told me, in a very
angry manner, that he would whip me an eternal sight worse if I didn’t
start at once to school.”

While Davy was begging not to be sent back, the elder Crockett was
cutting a stout hickory switch, and from past experience the boy knew
what this meant. At his father’s first move towards him, he broke into
a run. The chase lasted a mile, when the boy dodged aside into the
bushes, and his father then gave up the hunt. Davy had been careful to
lead off in a course away from the school-house, having a keen idea of
his fate if both the teacher and his father should get him at the same
time.

Fearing to return, Davy kept on for several miles and put up for the
night at the house of a man who was about to start for Virginia with
a drove of cattle. The boy at once hired out to go with him, and
before starting one of the older Crockett boys joined them. Thus was
Davy again a pilgrim, with a journey of nearly four hundred miles
before him. The trail they followed was probably about the same as the
route of the Norfolk & Western Railroad of the present time, through
Abingdon, Wytheville, and Blue Ridge Springs, to Lynchburg, passing
south of Hanging Rock, to which place Davy had travelled the previous
year. From Lynchburg the drove went on to Charlottesville and Orange
Court House, up the headwaters of the Rapidan, again through the Blue
Ridge Mountains, to Front Royal, on the Shenandoah River, where the
stock was sold.

Davy and a brother of the man with whom he had started out, with a
single horse for the two, now took the homeward trail. They were
together three days, travelling with so little rest that the boy
finally told the man to go ahead, and that he would come when he got
ready. He bought some provisions with four dollars that the man had
given him for the four hundred miles’ journey, and plodded stolidly
along until he met a wagoner who lived in Tennessee, and who intended
to return after his trip was finished. He was bound for Winchester,
not very far away, and as he was a jolly sort of fellow, Davy gladly
accepted his offer to take him along. Two days later they met Davy’s
brother and the rest of the former party, but Davy refused to go with
them. He says that he could not help shedding tears, as he watched his
brother disappear, but the thought of the schoolmaster, and of his
angry father with the big hickory switch, was too potent.

At Gerardstown, Virginia, Davy worked for twenty-five cents a day for
a man named John Gray. Adam Myers, the wagoner, was engaged all winter
in hauling loads to and from Baltimore. When spring came, Davy had
money to buy decent clothes, and something like seven dollars besides.
He took it into his head that he would go with Myers to Baltimore, to
see what kind of place it was, and how people lived there. This came
near being Davy’s last trip, for on reaching Ellicott’s Mills he had
perched himself on top of the barrels of flour that made the load, when
the horses ran away at the sight of a road gang with wheelbarrows. The
frightened animals turned short about, snapped the pole and then both
axle-trees, and nearly buried the boy in the falling barrels. Escaping
with nothing more serious than bruises, the two went on with a hired
wagon, and soon arrived in Baltimore.

At this place Davy Crockett nearly became a sailor. The harbor was full
of shipping, gay with flags and the glories of fresh paint, loading and
discharging the riches of all nations. There were never such ships as
the Baltimore clippers. Their memory lives in the hearts of every true
sailor――

    The _Flying Cloud_ and the _Cockatoo_,
    The _Southern Cross_, the _Caribou_,
    The _Polar Bear_ and the _Northern Chief_,
    The _Yankee Blade_ and the _Maple Leaf_.

The names of the vessels in the good old clipper times were those that
set a boy’s heart to thumping, and the sight of a great full-rigged
ship sweeping out to sea was enough to make sailors of farmers’ sons.
It was the spring of 1800, and in the port there was a vessel flying
the English flag, and then called the _Polly_. As much of Davy’s time
as possible was spent on the wharves, and finally he took courage and
went on board a vessel about to clear for London. She was a Yankee
ship, for in those days every vessel that flew the Stars and Stripes,
from Eastport to Savannah, was a Yankee. Seeing the boy gazing about
the decks and aloft, one of her men began talking with him. The
_Polly_ being at a wharf near-by, it was not long before Davy heard
the history of the old privateer, which had sailed from Baltimore in
1778, and before her return in November had fought with and captured
three British armed merchantmen: the _Reindeer_, four hundred tons
and fourteen guns, with a cargo worth one hundred and fifty thousand
dollars; the _Uhla_, of same tonnage and ten guns, and a hundred
thousand dollar cargo; and the _Jane_, of the tonnage and armament
of the _Reindeer_, and with a cargo also worth one hundred and fifty
thousand dollars. One-third of all this treasure was the share of the
Government. Before the _Polly_ was unlawfully seized in a neutral port
and handed over to the English, she had captured nearly thirty prizes,
in many cases fighting desperate battles for the mastery.

The master of the ship either took a fancy to Davy or thought that
he might prove useful, for before the boy’s second day in Baltimore
had passed, he had arranged to go to London as cabin-boy. But when he
returned for what spare clothes he had on shore, and told Myers of his
intent, the latter refused to give him either his money or clothing,
and swore that he should not go. He kept watch over him, prevented
his going to the ship, and started back with him as soon as ready,
giving him no chance to escape. As he had become very harsh with Davy,
threatening him with his whip, the boy left him one morning before
daylight. Davy had not a cent in his pockets, but he resolved to go
ahead and trust to Providence. This trait was the prominent feature of
David Crockett’s nature: he made up his mind, and went ahead; it was
hard to turn him, and he went at everything “hammer and tongs.”

As the historian contemplates the spectacle of this penniless
thirteen-year-old youngster bravely facing towards his home, four
or five hundred miles away, it is but natural to wonder what would
have become of him if he had sailed for London. He might have become
a famous sailor, a reckless privateer, or a merchant with ships in
every sea. Up to this time Davy had had no schooling, except the four
days at the place to which he had been afraid to return. Many a boy
of the present time is graduated from a high school at fourteen, but
Davy Crockett did not know a single letter of the alphabet. As it
was, however, the Fates had no idea of sending him to sea, and while
the great ship was beating her way along the Atlantic coast, he was
resolutely facing west.

It was more than a year and a half before Davy was destined to see
his home again. Working for two or three employers, after reaching
Montgomery Court House, he saved up a little money and finally made
another start for Tennessee. For eighteen months he had worked for
a hatter who failed before paying his wages, and it was a poor and
half-clothed stripling that was now returning, with a better record,
but in no better luck, than the Prodigal Son. At the crossing of the
New River, only forty miles on the old trail he was now retracing, he
found high water and stormy weather. No one would row him across, and
in his impatience he disregarded all warnings, hired a canoe, and put
out into the stream. He finally reached the other side, the boat half
full of water, and his clothing soaking wet and freezing upon his back.
After going up the river for three miles, he found a warm shelter and
food.

As Davy finally went down the old road into the Tennessee valleys, the
woods were full of wakening life. The tender green of the beech and
maple shimmered on every slope. Beside his path the arbutus showed its
pink-white petals, and the azaleas and June-berries, full of bloom,
were eagerly sought by droning bees. The spring wind sang in every
pine, and the breath of the hemlock and the balsam was like a rare
perfume to the homesick boy.

In Sullivan County he encountered the brother who had in vain begged
him to return home. Perhaps Davy still dreaded the sight of the old
school-house, for it was some weeks before he left this brother’s cabin
and sought his father’s. He had travelled all day, and as he drew near
to the wayside inn he saw the teamsters caring for their horses and
covering the wagons for the night. He noticed that the poles of some
of the wagons pointed eastward, while the others showed that the loads
were on the westward journey. The latter were the ones that looked good
to Davy, who had had enough of wandering in the East.

His heart seemed in his throat as he saw his sisters and brothers going
in and out, and he feared at any moment to see his father with the
seasoned hickory, or perhaps old Kitchen, the schoolmaster, looming
over him like an inexorable fate. He hung about unseen until the jangle
of a horse-shoe and a poker called all hands to supper. When they were
plying knife and fork, he slipped in and took a seat quietly at the
long table. A great pewter platter was heaped with chunks of boiled
meat; another was filled with corn on the ear, and still another with
potatoes with their jackets on. Bowls of gravy, and bread, broken into
pieces as the loaves went round, completed the bill of fare. White
bread was hardly known in the mountains, corn and rye, or “rye and
Indian,” seeming to answer every demand of the wayfarer. In those times
some taverns had _menus_ to suit the purse and fastidiousness of the
traveller. For “Corn-bread and common doin’s” the charge was fifteen
cents, but for “White bread and chicken fixin’s” the bill was two bits,
or twenty-five cents.

Davy tackled the platters as they went the rounds, but in spite of
his hunger, he was conscious that there were sharp eyes awake to the
fact that a strange boy was at the table. His eldest sister had ceased
eating in the intentness of her gaze. He was so much larger than when
he had left home, that she was full of doubt, but at last, as her
eyes met Davy’s squarely, and his face became red with blushing, she
sprang from her seat at the table, and screaming, “It’s Davy! It’s
Davy, Mother! It’s Davy come back!” she threw her arms about his neck,
clinging to him with tears of joy running down her face. This was his
restoration to those who loved him, and whose reception of the wanderer
so touched his boyish heart that he humbled himself before them, no
longer fearing that they had forgotten him during the long and weary
time he had spent away from them.

Davy was now a strong and healthy youngster almost fifteen years old,
with much worldly wisdom, but unable to read or write.



IV.

THE INDIANS’ VISIT

Davy pays his father’s debts――The old man’s tears――Gets a suit of
clothes――Calf love――Barks up the wrong tree――Finds another girl――Sweet
plugs and snuff as evidences of affection――He is gaily deceived, and
wants to die――Pretty Polly Finlay――Davy marries at last――Other events
of the times――Moves to Lincoln County in 1809――Another move――Red Eagle
and the Creeks――Three hungry braves――Tecumseh and Big Warrior――The
Earthquakes of 1811.


The next year of Davy’s life was one of hard work and no pay. He had
been at home but a short time when his father told him that if he would
work for six months for a man named Abraham Wilson, Wilson would in
return give up a note of John Crockett’s for thirty-six dollars. As
a reward, Davy could thereafter work for himself, without waiting to
become of age. The boy fulfilled the compact without missing a day, in
a place where some of the roughest of the settlers made a practice of
meeting to drink and gamble. At last the note was his, and the joy of
his father at its surrender was Davy’s recompense.

It was always a satisfaction to Davy Crockett to know that his father
was a man who honestly tried to pay his debts. The son appears to have
had the same spirit. When he asked to be given work at the home of “an
honest old Quaker, John Kennedy,” he found that the man held another
note of his father for forty dollars. Davy was offered the note for
another six months’ work, and with a keen desire to do his duty, and to
ease his father’s burdens as much as he could, he disregarded his newly
acquired right to work for his own account, and started in. At the end
of the time he received the note, borrowed a horse, and went home for a
visit.

“Some time after I got there,” Davy afterwards said, “I pulled out the
note and handed it to my father, who supposed Mr. Kennedy had sent it
for collection. The old man looked mighty sorry, and said to me that he
had not the money to pay it, and didn’t know what he should do. I then
told him I had paid it for him, and it was then his own; that it was
not presented for collection, but as a present from me. At this he shed
a heap of tears; and as soon as he got a little over it, he said he was
sorry he could not give me anything, but he was not able, he was too
poor.”

For two months, after going back to the Quaker’s, Davy worked to get
something decent to wear. The last good clothing he owned had been
left with Adam Myers, together with his seven dollars of hard-earned
cash, when he had quit that troublesome person, a few days out from
Baltimore. This was nearly three years ago, so it is easy to imagine
the boy’s shabby appearance. About the time when Davy was able to
spruce up and aspire to polite society of the kind about him, he fell
in love with the Quaker’s niece, who had come on a visit from North
Carolina, and who was much older than he. All the symptoms of what the
mountaineers called “calf love” were forthcoming. He couldn’t keep out
of the girl’s sight, yet nearly choked when he tried to talk to her.
When he had reached the proper state of desperation, he acted with
his usual headlong energy, and told the young lady that he would die
without her. He says that the girl listened kindly enough, but told him
that she was to marry a son of the Quaker.

Davy concluded that his troubles were mostly due to his lack of
learning. He was now in his seventeenth year, with a record of four
days at school. He soon arranged with the old Quaker’s son, who kept
a school a mile or so away, to work for him two days in the week, for
board and tuition, and go to school the other four days. This plan was
followed for six months.

“In this time,” says Davy, in his later account of his boyhood, “I
learned to read a little in my primer, to write my own name, and to
cipher some in the first three rules of figures. And this was all the
schooling I ever had in my life.”

Davy had now grown to be a stout young fellow, and as he had learned
to use a rifle with great accuracy he became a successful hunter. This
was to a great extent a warrant for his plans for securing a wife, and
he laid siege to the heart of a pretty young girl whom he had known
since his early days. His courting was done without the knowledge of
the Quaker, with whom he was now living. In the evening, when all were
asleep, Davy would let himself out of the up-stairs window, by means
of a sapling, and ride ten miles to the girl’s home, always returning
before daylight. She at last agreed to marry him, and the day was set.

Lovers were not then given to sentimental tokens of affection. A
plug of sweet tobacco, or a bladder of snuff, for dipping, was quite
the thing to show the state of a young man’s feelings. Flowers were
nothing but “yarbs,” and the present of a bouquet of may-flowers
or laurel-blossoms would have caused inquiry as to his sanity. The
mountaineer took no more notice than the Indians of the beautiful
things in nature.

A few days before the expected wedding, Davy set out, as he told his
employer, for a hunt, deer being then numerous. Instead of hunting,
he went to a shooting-match on the way to the girl’s home. Making a
deal with another rifleman, who must have had a little money, they
took chances in the shoot for a beef, and when it was over, Davy had
won. After selling the prize, the partners each had five dollars, and
with that in his pocket, and his head above the clouds, the boy went
to claim his bride. Two miles from the girl’s home her uncle lived,
and there he found her sister. As soon as he began to talk with her,
he saw that something troubled her, and then the whole pitiful story
came out: the girl had played with him, and was to be married the next
day to another man. For a time Davy was speechless. His pride was
hurt, and he turned homeward his “lonesome and miserable steps,” like
a wounded animal, stricken with mortal pain. He was thought to be sick
for several weeks, for he was too proud to tell his trouble, and in
his story of suffering there is ample evidence of the strength of his
attachment to those whom he loved.

For some time Davy was too low-spirited to care for anything, even
hunting; but one day he took his rifle and set out for the woods. On
his way home, he stopped at the cabin of a Dutch widow, whose daughter,
he says, was “as ugly as a stone fence.” It was this girl, however, who
pointed out to him how great a mistake he made in “mourning over the
loss of a single fish, when the sea was full of others as good.” She
told him of a pretty Irish lass who was to be at a reaping bee in a
few days, and induced him to come, too. By the end of the evening the
charms of Polly Finlay took possession of his thoughts and Davy found
life more worth living. As in so many cases, the course of true love
did not run smooth, for the girl’s mother had selected another suitor
for her daughter, and she bitterly opposed Davy’s suit.

After some weeks of courting, Davy won the girl’s heart, but when
he went to ask for his bride, the old lady ordered him out of the
house. With the girl’s consent and the tacit permission of her father,
the young man secured the services of a justice to marry him on the
following Thursday, and made arrangements to have his wife received at
the tavern kept by his own father. In Ellis’s story of Crockett’s life,
he quotes the following from the records of Weakley County, Tennessee:

    Davy Crockett, with Thomas Doggett, security, binds himself
    in a bond of twelve hundred and fifty dollars, to Gov. John
    Sevier, Aug. 1, 1806, to marry Polly Finlay.

No record of this kind really exists, as Weakley County was not
organized until 1823.

We do not know what the wedding fee was in those days, but it was
probably in the shape of worldly goods of small value. As all sorts of
pelts were used for currency, we may imagine Davy paying the justice in
coon-skins or muskrat hides.

To obtain a horse, Davy had agreed to work six months, board and
lodging free. By giving up his rifle, he came into possession of the
animal before the time was up, and when he went to the Finlay cabin,
he was able to tell the young woman that he would come for her on
the day set, with a horse, saddle, and bridle. When the day came――a
Thursday――Davy went to the Finlays’, accompanied by two brothers and
a sister, a brother’s wife, and some others, and found a number of
neighbors there waiting for the wedding.

Mrs. Finlay was up in arms, but Davy rode up to the door, and asked the
girl, if she was ready, to “light on the horse he was leading.” He was
displaying his usual determination, which ended in winning the day.
After the bride had taken her seat on the led horse, and the party
was about to leave, a parley was brought about by the girl’s father;
the old lady melted at the thought of her girl being married away from
home, and the wedding took place without further opposition.

What ceremonies the outsiders observed, Davy never related. He says
that they were treated as well as could be expected. They were not
subjects for a charivari, but it is likely that the free use of
gunpowder, liquor, and vocalized mountain air must have made the night
one to be forever remembered by the two young people who were made man
and wife.

The next day Davy and his bride went to the Crockett tavern for a
visit. The young wife’s going-away dress was a dark blue homespun,
and at her throat was a scarlet kerchief that had been brought from
Baltimore by her mother. She is said to have been a very pretty girl,
with warm gray eyes and a tender smile. The girl’s parents gave them
their blessing, together with two cows and two calves, and when the
kind old Quaker, John Kennedy, had arranged for a credit of fifteen
dollars at the store, they were able to get what they most needed for
the cabin they had rented in the vicinity of John Crockett’s inn. Polly
was skilled in the use of the loom, and for some years they managed to
make a living on the rented land. The homestead system was not then in
practice, and the settler was called a squatter, and seldom had any
other tenure than the pleasure of the land-owner.

About the time Davy and his wife were making their new home pleasant,
Lewis and Clark were returning to Washington from their expedition to
the Pacific coast; Napoleon was forming his Confederacy of the Rhine,
and becoming the terror of all Europe; and the alleged conspiracy of
Aaron Burr was discovered and frustrated, though Burr still had the
support of Henry Clay, who claimed him to be innocent. Two months
after Davy’s wedding, Napoleon made his triumphant entry into Berlin,
and was at the summit of his career. The insolence of English naval
officers in disregarding the rights of American seamen found fruit
in the War of 1812. Yet the most dramatic events of modern times
scarcely drew the attention of the people of the western slope of
the mountains. Only when some painted prophet from the tribes of the
north or those with whom the French or the Spanish intrigued, went
through the border-lands, leaving a trail of unrest and superstitious
passion behind him, did the pioneers think of war. The Creeks and the
Chickasaws had been peaceful for many years, but among the former tribe
and its confederates a faction of the dissatisfied was slowly gaining
ground. So little fear of the Indians prevailed that Davy Crockett
did not hesitate to move from Jefferson County, to the region about
fifty miles west of Lookout Mountain, near the Elk River, where there
were all kinds of game, though bears were not as numerous as in the
northwestern part of Tennessee. When Davy moved to this new home in
Lincoln County, in 1809, he had two boys, both under two years of age.
His wife’s father, with his own horse, helped the family in moving.

Davy again moved in 1810, this time to Franklin County, settling ten
miles below Winchester. Deer were abundant, wild turkeys were found
in every forest, and it was an easy matter to supply food for his
family. At times some of the Creeks strayed up from the Coosa country
across the Alabama line, and were always treated with courtesy. But
after Davy’s last shift, the Alabama Indians were not always friendly.
The United States Government had secured a right-of-way for a highway
across Alabama into the Tombigbee region, into which the settlers had
begun to go in great numbers. The sight of such an influx of whites had
alarmed the Creeks, and Red Eagle, or Weatherford, was the leader of
those who now planned to go to war, if necessary, for the preservation
of their ancient hunting-grounds. Red Eagle was hardly one-fourth
Indian, his father having been a Scotch trader, his mother the Creek
princess Sehoy, the daughter of a Scotchman named McGillivray. Red
Eagle was also known as Weatherford, after his father, Charles
Weatherford.

Soon after Davy Crockett settled in Franklin County, there came to
his cabin three Creeks, whose manner was not to his liking. They were
evidently “spying upon the land,” and one of them, who wore a head
decoration made of twenty or thirty silver florins, asked for food.

“Injun hungry, Injun heap hungry! Walk long time, no eat. White man
make ’um supper!”

Davy went into his cabin, conferred with his wife, and soon reappeared
with a large piece of corned beef, which he intended to boil in the
kettle that hung from a tripod of stakes in front of the door. The
braves took a look at the meat, held a short consultation, and their
leader spoke again:

“Salt meat no good. White man eat ’um, Injun no eat ’um.” Then he
pointed to a fine fat calf that was the pride of the family, and said:

“No eat ’um corn’ beef. Injun kill ’um calf. Eat ’um calf!”

Davy shook his head in refusal of the plan proposed, and reached for
his rifle, which was always at hand. The Indian spokesman thereupon
made another suggestion:

“Kill ’um calf: white man half――Injun half,” right hand across his
body――“Injun half.”

While the Indians were making this effort at compromise, with nothing
to lose in any event, Polly Crockett untied the calf, led it into the
cabin, and shut the door. The three braves went scowling away.

During the year 1811 the great chief Tecumseh, acting as an agent
of the British, travelled from the lake region to Florida, where he
succeeded in persuading the warlike Seminoles to promise help in
fighting the whites. On his way south, he visited the Chickasaws in
western Tennessee, and although these Indians did not listen with
favor to his plans, his visit created an uneasy feeling among the few
settlers in their country. In October, Tecumseh, with thirty naked
braves, marched into the Tookabatcha town, while Colonel Hawkins was
holding a Grand Council for the purpose of placating the war party
among the Creeks. As long as Colonel Hawkins remained, Tecumseh was
silent, but after his departure, the renowned chieftain soon won the
majority of the Creek nation to his side.

It was in October, 1811, that Tecumseh resumed his journey to the
north, with the assurance of Red Eagle’s readiness to make war when
the time should be ripe. In November, the next month, the battle of
Tippecanoe was fought, and General Harrison defeated the Indians, who
were commanded by Elskwatawa, the Prophet, brother of Tecumseh.

Before leaving the Creek country, Tecumseh quarrelled with the chief
Big Warrior, who refused to join in his schemes. Tecumseh told him, so
the tradition runs, that when he reached Detroit he would stamp upon
the ground and all the houses in Tookabatcha would fall to the ground.
Some writers, mentioning this threat, seem to be in doubt regarding the
promised earthquake, but on the midnight of December 15, 1811, after
the arrival of Tecumseh in the north, earthquakes along the Mississippi
valley suddenly began. The town of New Madrid disappeared, the face of
the country was much changed, and what is known as Reelfoot Lake, fifty
miles long and very wide, was formed close to the main river. Of this
lake there is more to tell in a later chapter.



V.

DAVY IS A SCOUT

Farmer and trapper――Tall Grass and his boys――The blow-guns of the
Chickasaws――Loony Joe――Little Warrior starts trouble, and punishment
follows――Davy dreams of higher things――The Spanish at Pensacola aid
the British and the hostile Indians――Hurricane Ned brings news from
Alabama――The Red Sticks――The massacre at Fort Mims, and the call to
arms――Davy becomes a scout under Jackson――Gets his dander up――The
independence of the mountaineer volunteers.


The year of 1811 was a busy one for Davy, who was then coming
twenty-five. He was still boyish and rather awkward in some ways; but
with the rifle, and in securing pelts of the most valuable sorts, he
had few rivals.

Shot-guns, or scatter-guns, were not much used in hunting. Powder and
lead were the most precious of all the pioneer’s possessions, and
nothing smaller than a wild turkey was considered worth the cost of
a shot. For that reason, small game was always abundant and almost
fearless in the presence of the hunter.

One autumn morning Davy was talking with Tall Grass, a Chickasaw, who
had two of his boys with him. They were from ten to twelve years old,
and each carried a reed blow-gun nearly ten feet long. Davy had heard
of these weapons of the Chickasaws, and he asked the boys to show him
how they were used. They all started for the woods a mile away, where
small game was plenty.

In a swampy spot the logs lay here and there across the ground, as the
result of a cyclone or wind-storm in the years gone by. In the Northern
States such a place would be called a “windfall”; in Tennessee it was
called a “harricane.”

The boys went ahead, their reeds at tilt, like spearmen of feudal
days. Each carried small darts, tipped with steel, with thistle-down
tied at the opposite ends. A rabbit flashed from under a bush as they
advanced, and stopped fifty feet away. The older boy slipped a dart
into his reed, brought it to a steady aim, filled his lungs and cheeks,
and put all his young strength into the puff that sent the twelve-inch
arrow on its course. The rabbit leaped from its mound of moss, and fell
struggling with the dart in its side. A partridge that perched in the
limbs of a hickory came tumbling down when the younger boy tried his
skill. With dignified pride, Tall Grass said to Davy:

“Some day big chiefs!”

The boys soon secured all the game they could carry, Tall Grass
not offering his aid, and the party started to return. Suddenly a
terrifying yell rang through the woods, startling the Indians until
they saw a grin on Davy’s face. The noise of feet was heard, and there
soon appeared what was intended to represent a warrior in full attire,
with paint, turkey-feathers, bow and arrows, scalping-knife, and
moccasins. As the strange creature came closer, the Indians saw that
it was a white boy, evidently half-witted. He had trailed them all the
way, and had sounded his war-cry in what seemed to him the fittest spot
for dark and bloody deeds. Tall Grass gave him a disgusted glance and
turned away.

“Heap fool!” was all he said.

The boy was allowed to go back with them, and was shown the use of the
blow-gun. He afterwards made one, and became of some use in hunting
small game, but he never could get rid of the notion that he was an
Indian warrior. He was known as Loony Joe.

Some weeks later the Creek chief, Little Warrior, who had gone north
with Tecumseh, returned to Alabama with his thirty braves, of the war
faction of their nation. In the Chickasaw country, not far north of
where Davy lived, they murdered several families of settlers in cold
blood. The leaders of the Creek nation, which was at peace with the
whites, answered the demands of the United States Government by hunting
down and killing the whole party. Justice was satisfied, but the war
faction of the Creeks grew fiercer and angrier with each rising sun.
The Alabamas, an associated tribe, became especially truculent, and
killed one of the mail-carriers employed by the Government. When Big
Warrior sent a Creek messenger to the same tribe, inviting their chiefs
to a council, they murdered his envoy, and a desultory war began.

The danger of an Indian uprising became imminent during 1812, and after
the United States had formally declared war against Great Britain, on
June 18th, every pioneer looked to his rifle and supply of ammunition.
While Tecumseh’s messengers were distributing the calendars of red
sticks to the Creek chieftains, the British warship _Guerrière_ was
taking New England sailors from the decks of American vessels in sight
of New York City. England was landing supplies and agents at Pensacola,
for use among the restless Indians, the Spanish acting as go-betweens.
Uncle Sam was surrounded by the growling dogs of war, without a friend
in the world.

While thus the clash of arms drew near, Davy still hunted and farmed
and trapped on Bean’s Creek, adding to his fame as a rifleman, and, as
he said when he had become known in Congress, “laying the foundation of
all his future greatness.” We should not blame him for his overestimate
of his own importance, when the flattering attentions of great men, who
were equally great politicians, had been thrust upon him. If he at one
time seriously thought that he might become President, only his lack
of education made his imaginings unjustifiable in a nation that has so
often chosen its leaders from the humble cabins of the poor.

Every day the two parties among the Alabama Indians became more
truculent, and frequent encounters ended in bloodshed. In the spring
of 1813, the prophet Francis (made to order and ordained by Tecumseh),
Peter McQueen, and High-Head Jim began a predatory warfare upon the
peaceful Indians and half-breeds, who had good houses and farms. With
more than three hundred followers, the hostile leaders set out for
Pensacola with their plunder. Under Colonel Caller, assisted by so many
lieutenant-colonels, majors, and captains, that his force was like
Artemus Ward’s regiment of brigadier-generals, a force of two hundred
American volunteers overtook the Indians at Burnt Corn, sent them
flying, and proceeded to divide the plunder left by the enemy. Before
they had finished this, the Indians attacked them in turn, having
rallied when no longer pursued, and the volunteers were driven back and
dispersed. As they are not known to have lost more than two of their
number, they do not seem to have been very desperate fighters.

When Hurricane Ned, an old hunter of Hurricane Fork, brought the news
of this to Franklin County, he predicted an attack by the Creek war
party, who were being urged by British agents to paint themselves for
battle. Red Eagle would have temporized with his chieftains, but they
seized his children and his negro slaves as hostages while he was away
from home, so he prepared, perforce, to strike a decisive blow at the
progress of civilization. The red sticks were thrown away day by day,
until but few were left. When the last was gone, and the tom-toms were
beating, the frenzied braves smeared themselves with vermilion till
their naked bodies were like flames of fire. The white settlers and the
friendly Indians flocked to the various forts, hastily built of logs.
In Fort Mims three or four hundred men, women, and children, with about
two hundred volunteers sent as a garrison by General Claiborne, came
together in the middle of August.

About the 27th of the month, a badly scared negro returned to Fort
Mims from a hunt for stray cows. He had seen the woods full of
Indians, apparently covered with blood. Their red skins being ominous
of trouble, Major Beasley, who was in command, sent out scouts to
the place where the negro had been. The scouts failed to find Red
Eagle and the thousand braves with him, and the negro had a close
escape from being flogged for lying. Two days later two other negroes
claimed to have seen the Indians, and were whipped. One of them was
still triced up when the bell called the people of the fort to dinner.
As they went their way, Red Eagle and his savages crept from their
hiding-places, and were within a hundred feet of the gates before
they were discovered. Then it was found that the gates were blocked
by drifted sand and could not be closed. For some hours the battle
raged, and before sunset all but twenty or thirty of the people in
the fort had been killed and scalped. A few had escaped through the
stockade, and some had been spared as slaves. After in vain trying to
stop the fury he had fanned to action, Red Eagle rode away from the
scene of butchery, and when he returned, on his fine black horse, more
than five hundred lay dead and mutilated within the fort. No half-way
position was now possible, and until the end of the war he was active
and aggressive.

The whole western slope of the mountains now awoke to the danger.
Calls for men were answered by North and South Carolina and Georgia,
and Tennessee, whose volunteers for the defense of New Orleans had
recently been recalled from Natchez, also took up the gage of battle.
All her people agreed that Andrew Jackson should be the one to lead
the volunteers into Alabama, but he was in bed, suffering from a wound
in his left shoulder, caused by two slugs from the pistol of Thomas H.
Benton, in a free-for-all fight. The two men were afterwards reconciled
and became friends, but Jackson could never wear one of his heavy
epaulets for any length of time.

While Jackson is generally spoken of as a great Indian fighter, he was
not at this time entitled to such a reputation. A few years before he
had been chosen Major-General of Volunteers, but most of his actual
fighting had been with his personal and political foes. He had killed
Charles Dickinson in a duel for slurs upon Mrs. Jackson, and had
ridden full tilt at Governor Sevier with the intention of running over
him.

Before Jackson could take the saddle, a rally was held at Winchester,
ten miles from Davy Crockett’s. As Davy there enlisted as a volunteer,
it will be worth while to hear what he had to say upon the subject.

“I, for one, had often thought about war, and had often heard it
described; and I did verily believe that I couldn’t fight in that
way at all; but my after experience convinced me that this was all a
notion. For, when I heard of the mischief that was done at the Fort,
I instantly felt like going, and I had none of the dread of dying
that I had expected to feel. In a few days a general meeting of the
militia was called, for the purpose of raising volunteers; and when
the day arrived for the meeting, 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 connections living near
her, and that she and our little children would be left in a lonesome
and unhappy situation if I went away. It was mighty hard to go against
arguments like these; but my countrymen had been murdered, and I
knew that the next thing the Indians would be scalping the women and
children all about there, if we didn’t put a stop to it. I reasoned the
case with her as well as I could, and told her that if every man would
wait until his wife was willing for him to go to war, we would all be
killed in our own houses; that I was as able to go as any man in the
world, and that it was a duty I believed I owed to my country. Seeing
that I was bent on it, all she did was to cry a little, and turn about
to her work. The truth is, my dander was up, and nothing but war could
bring it right again.”

When the militia was paraded at Winchester, volunteers were called
for, and Davy was one of the first to step forward. In a short time
a company was raised, officers were chosen, and they arranged to
make a start on the Monday following. The company were all mounted,
and when the day came Davy said farewell to his wife and his little
boys, and rode away to the rendezvous. From there the command went
to Huntsville, Alabama, forty miles south, then on to Beaty’s Spring,
where they were joined by other mounted men, until they mustered
thirteen hundred. Davy’s company was one that stuck together, under the
same leader, Captain Jones, until they returned to Tennessee. Jones was
later sent to Congress.

Davy’s experience as a scout now began. Major Gibson, who was about
to go into the Coosa country to get information about the Indians,
asked Captain Jones to let him have two men who could be relied
upon as woodsmen and riflemen. The Captain called Davy, who was now
twenty-seven, and strong and healthy, with a full beard. Davy expressed
his willingness to join the scouting expedition, if he might choose
his own mate. This being granted, he picked out a friend named George
Russell. When Gibson saw Russell he said he hadn’t beard enough to suit
him; he wanted men, not boys. At this Davy’s dander was up, and he told
the Major that by this rule a goat would have the call over a man; that
he knew what sort of a man Russell was, and that he was not likely to
be left behind on a march. Seeing Davy’s warmth, the Major relented
and took them both.

The temper of the Western volunteers recalls Maclay’s story of the
backwoodsman who took part, on board of the _Hyder Ally_, in Cape May
Roads, in the fight with the _General Monk_. He stood near Lieutenant
Barney in the action, picking off the enemy with the same deliberation
with which he reloaded under a sharp fire. His Buck County blood was
up, but his curiosity was not asleep; twice he turned to Barney to ask
the same question:

“Say, Cap, who made this gun I’m using?”

Resenting such a breach of naval decorum in a marine, Barney answered
him roughly, ignoring the question. But as it was again asked, he
sharply inquired his reason for wanting to know.

“W-a-al,” replied the man, with the drawl peculiar to the mountaineers,
“this ’ere bit of iron is jes’ the best smoothbore I ever fired in
my life.” With the mountaineers’ independence, Andrew Jackson had
strenuous dealings before the end of the Creek War.



VI.

FOLLOWING INDIANS

Scouting in the Cherokee country――The Red Sticks on the move――A
scared darky comes into camp on the run――Davy makes a sixty-mile
ride――Colonel Coffee shows scant appreciation of Davy’s efforts――Old
Hickory in command of a hungry army――Burning Black Warrior’s town――The
cane-brake and the hogs――More news of the Red Sticks――The Battle of
Tallushatchee――One hundred and eighty-five Indians slain――A squaw kills
Lieutenant Moore with an arrow.


Evidently in those days there was no superstition about the number 13,
for the party with which Davy set out the next morning was of thirteen
men, including Major Gibson. The first day they reached and crossed
the Tennessee at Ditto’s Landing, and camped seven miles south, guided
by an Indian trader. The next day the Major took seven of the men,
giving Davy charge of those remaining, with orders to meet him at
night fifteen miles beyond the house of a Cherokee named Brown. On
the way Davy induced a half-breed, Jack Thompson, to follow the party
and come to the place where the Major was to meet them. They travelled
through a rather barren country, sometimes across prairie-like land
where wild flowers were abundant and beautiful. In the low places were
cane-brakes, often fifteen to twenty feet high. The scouts avoided the
open spaces, fearing both Indians and snakes, which sometimes crippled
or killed a horse.

Night came on without the Major appearing, and Crockett’s squad camped
among the trees, away from the Indian trail. The hoot of an owl came
floating through the silence of the evening, and was at once answered
by Davy. It was the signal of the half-breed, who soon afterward came
into the gleam of their fire. The morning broke, and there was still no
news of the other party of scouts. As usual, Davy decided to go ahead,
and passed through a Cherokee village, twenty miles farther south,
reaching the house of a squaw-man, named Radcliff, in time for dinner.
This man they found badly scared. He told them that ten painted Creeks
had left the place during the forenoon; if they learned that he had
fed the scouts, they would kill his whole family and burn the house.
When dinner was over, Davy found that a few of his men wanted to turn
back; they said that the party was too small to venture into the Creek
country, just before them. But Davy knew that some of the men would
stand by him, and he determined to go ahead. When he started on the
whole party went along, for the few who wished to go back were afraid
to do so alone. Soon after dark they reached a camp of some friendly
Creeks. It was a strange condition of affairs, when some of the Indians
of this tribe could be trusted, while others were slinking through the
woods, smeared from head to foot with vermilion, and fierce for blood.

The moon was at its full, and for a while Davy and his men tried
their skill with the bows and arrows of the Indian boys. While they
were doing this, a scared negro who had joined them during the day
warned them that the Red Sticks were likely to surprise them, but they
made light of his fears. They tied their horses ready to mount at a
second’s notice, and lay with their guns by their sides. They had
scarcely dozed when a cry like that of an angry panther rang through
the night. The negro shouted that the Red Sticks were coming, and every
one stood at bay. Then an Indian appeared in the bright moonlight, with
the news that the war party had been crossing the Coosa all day at the
Ten Islands, on their way to fight Jackson’s army, then gathering at
Fayetteville, in Tennessee.

In a few minutes every Indian in the camp had fled, while Davy and
his men “put out in a long lope” on the back trail, to give notice to
the force they had left at the landing, sixty-five miles away. At the
Cherokee town they found great fires blazing, but no Indians. Radcliff
and his family had disappeared. At daylight they came to Brown’s
house, where they ate hurriedly and then pushed on. Having crossed
the Tennessee, they reached the volunteers’ camp, and reported to
Colonel Coffee. To Davy’s disgust, the Colonel seemed to place little
confidence in the story he had to tell, so far as the imminence of
danger was involved. The little band of scouts had ridden their tired
horses sixty-five miles in eleven hours by moonlight, and had forded
the river, and they were disgusted by their reception. Davy said that
he was burning inside like a tar-kiln, and wondered that the smoke was
not pouring out of him as he withdrew.

The next day the Major came into camp with a similar report, which set
Colonel Coffee into what Davy called “a fidget.” He at once threw up
breastworks twelve hundred feet long, and dispatched a messenger to
hurry up Jackson’s army. It always rankled in Davy’s memory that the
word of a common soldier and scout could be so lightly held, while the
Major’s report was never doubted for a moment. Davy had much to learn
in a world where so many unjustly receive pay and praise for work that
is done by obscure toilers. The forty thousand French who lay dead
or dying that week before the walls of Leipzig are nameless now, but
Napoleon is not forgotten. Davy’s sense of the unfairness of Fame may
be the reason for his later enmity towards Andrew Jackson. When, years
afterward, he told of the forced march that brought Old Hickory and his
troops to the support of Coffee, he called the General “Old Hickory
Face.”

Still suffering and weak from his wound, Jackson arrived at Huntsville
with his command the next day, October 11, 1813. The men were wearied
with the forced march, and their feet were blistered and lame, so they
went to their tents while the volunteers kept watch for the enemy.
Although now in charge of at least two thousand men, Jackson was
without supplies, and at this time Major Reid, of his staff, wrote to a
friend:

“At this place [Thompson’s Creek, on the Tennessee] we remain a day to
establish a depot for provisions; but where these provisions are to
come from, God Almighty only knows. I speak seriously when I declare
that we may soon have to eat our horses, which may be the best use we
can put a great many of them to.”

Of Davy’s movements between October 11th and the following month, we
have no account, but he could have played only a minor part in the
waiting game that took place. But one day in November, Coffee, with
eight hundred volunteers, including Davy’s company, went west to Mussel
Shoals, where they crossed the Tennessee, losing some of their horses
in the dangerous and rocky fording. From there the expedition struck
south, crossing the Warrior River, to Black Warrior’s town, near the
present site of Tuscaloosa. Here they found some corn and a lot of
dried beans, but no Indians. They burned the town, and turned back to
meet the main army at the place where Davy and his scouts had waited in
vain for Major Gibson, in October. The next day the supply of meat gave
out, and Davy went to Coffee and asked permission to hunt while the
march progressed. He says Coffee told him he might do so, but to take
good care of himself. Within an hour he found a freshly-killed deer,
skinned and still warm. He knew that an Indian must have fled at his
approach, and, even under the conditions, had scruples against taking
the meat. What he tells of this is so typical of his character that it
should be repeated:

“Though I was never much in favor of one hunter stealing from another,
yet meat was so scarce in camp that I thought I must go in for it.
So I just took up the deer on my horse before me, and carried it on
till night. I could have sold it for almost any price I would have
asked; but this wasn’t my rule, neither in peace nor war. Whenever I
had anything, and saw a fellow-being suffering, I was more anxious to
relieve him than to benefit myself. And this is one of the secrets
of my being a poor man to this day. But it is my way; and while it
has often left me with an empty purse, which is as near the devil as
anything else I have ever seen, yet it has never left my heart empty
of consolations which money couldn’t buy, of having sometimes fed the
hungry and covered the naked.”

Davy kept enough of the deer for his own mess, and gave the rest away.
Most of the men were living on parched corn.

The day after, they made camp near a large cane-brake. In these brakes,
the cane, of which the scientific name is _Arundinaria Macrosperma_, is
an arborescent grass, dying down in the winter, but growing to a height
of twenty feet, in some places, during the summer. Into this brake,
impassable except for paths made by cattle and swine, Davy went with
his rifle after meat. In a short time he found a number of hogs, and
as he shot one of them the whole drove started towards camp. The roar
of guns and the squealing of the hogs sounded like an Indian massacre.
Most of the hogs and a fat cow were the results of his activity, and
for these an order on Uncle Sam was given the people of the Cherokee
town where they stopped the next day. Before night they met Jackson’s
army, and turned south with them. At Radcliff’s place they found his
two big half-breed sons, and, having learned that he had sent the
runner who had so alarmed the camp with the news of the Red Sticks’
approach, they forced them to serve as soldiers, to repay Radcliff for
what was intentionally a false alarm.

At a place named Camp Wills, Coffee was made a General, and other
promotions were announced. The next point reached was Ten Islands,
on the Coosa River, and here they heard of a gathering of Red Sticks
at a town ten miles distant. Jackson sent nine hundred men, under
General Coffee, to attack them. Part of the force was made up of
friendly Cherokees, under their chief, known as Dick Brown. To prevent
being mistaken for the enemy, these Indians wore white feathers and
deer-tails on their heads.

At daybreak, Colonel Allcorn, with the cavalry, in which Davy served,
went to the right of the line of march, while Coffee and Colonel Cannon
kept to the left, soon enclosing the town completely with a cordon of
horse and foot. The Indians discovered their approach, and manifested
their defiance with yells and frantic beating of their drums. As they
refused to come out, Captain Hammond and two companies of rangers
advanced to bring on the action. The Indians seem to have believed
this small force to be all with whom they had to deal, for, as Davy
says, they soon came at them “like so many red devils.” As the rangers
fell back, the main army line was reached, and the fight was on. The
Creeks fired a volley and ran back to their huts. Slowly the cordon of
soldiers closed upon them, and one of the most desperate Indian fights
of history took place. The Red Sticks asked no quarter, firing from
the shelter of their cabins until they were shot dead by the soldiers
who came to their doors, or charging with shrill war-cries between the
impassable walls of gleaming rifles that surrounded them. Refusing
quarter even from the Cherokees, whom they had known as friends before,
they fought till they could no longer lift their guns or draw their
knives in a last effort.

According to Crockett’s story of the affair, the squaws rushed through
the hail of bullets to ask for mercy. Many of them were accidentally
shot in the houses with the men, but that was unavoidable. Every brave
was killed, and eighty-four women and children were taken prisoners.
General Coffee counted one hundred and eighty-six dead Indians, while
of his own force but five were killed and forty wounded.

The difference in the mortality between the two sides is remarkable.
The red man never knew how hopeless a battle he fought with the
Juggernaut of Civilization. All his savage energy could avail against
the pioneer no more than the throne of Hardicanute, on Britain’s shore,
could turn the wild and angry waves of the North Sea.

During the fight, many of the Creeks took refuge in one of the houses
of the town. As the soldiers closed in, a squaw who sat in the doorway
with a bow and arrow put her feet against the bow, placed an arrow,
pulled with all her might, and killed Lieutenant Moore, outright. The
act so enraged the soldiers that she was riddled with bullets, and the
house, with the forty-six Indians in it, was burned. A boy of twelve,
who had been wounded, was seen by Davy so near the burning house that
he was being scorched by the heat; yet this brave lad made no sound,
nor did he ask for help.

Though they had gained a decisive victory, the soldiers were in
terrible straits for food, and when everything in sight had been eaten,
they learned that “Hunger is sharper than the Sword.”



VII.

HARD FIGHTING

The friendly Indians besieged at Talladega――Jackson sends them
help――The attempted ambush――“Painted scarlet, and naked as when
they were born”――The battle of Talladega, and the bleaching
skulls――Mutiny of the volunteers――Davy goes home when his time is
up and reënlists――The Indian victory at Enotachopco Creek――Davy is
in a furious fight――One hundred volunteers killed or wounded――English
Intrigue at Pensacola――Davy’s visit to that place――Many stirring
adventures in the Escambia River country――Davy is hungry enough to
climb a tree after a squirrel――With powder and lead he buys corn from
an Indian――Home at last.


Early in November, 1813, Jackson built a fort at Ten Islands, on the
north shore of the Coosa River, and many refugees came within its
stockades. It was called Fort Strother, after the owner of the place on
which it stood. On the 7th of the month an Indian runner arrived with
bad news from the friendly town of Talladega, where a small fort had
been built. One hundred and fifty peaceable Creeks were besieged by
more than a thousand Red Sticks and their allies. The latter had given
the fort three days to surrender, and relied on thirst and hunger to
bring their intended victims to terms. The runner who came to Jackson
is said to have disguised himself as a hog, in order to escape in the
woods near-by. Jackson resolved to save the friendly Indians at any
risk. Their faithfulness could not be unrewarded. They had refused all
attempts to turn their allegiance, and when the enemy tried to induce
them to help whip Jackson’s army and secure the booty that might be
expected, they were repulsed with scorn. Just after midnight Jackson
began crossing the river with two thousand men, of whom eight hundred
were mounted. He relied upon the arrival of General White, with his
men, to protect Fort Strother.

It was sun-up of the 8th when the little army came in sight of
Talladega, and deployed to right and left, for the purpose of
surrounding the hostile Creeks. Only through the bravery of the
beleaguered Indians were the companies under Major Russell and Captain
Evans saved from an ambush. As they drew near to the fort, the friendly
Indians within shouted in welcome:

“How do, brother? How do?”

This they kept up till Major Russell had passed the fort and was headed
for the brush-covered creek behind it, where the enemy waited to
surprise him. The friendly Creeks tried in vain to call him to a halt,
and at last two of them leaped from the walls, ran to his horse’s head,
and pointed out the danger. At once the hidden warriors fired on them,
and, to quote Crockett’s description of the event, “They came forth
like a cloud of Egyptian locusts, screaming as if all the young devils
had been turned loose, with the old devil of all at their head. They
were all painted scarlet, and were as naked as when they were born.”

Leaving their horses, Russell’s men made for the fort. As the cordon
of soldiers rushed to enclose them in an ever-narrowing ring of fire,
the ill-fated Red Sticks fell in heaps. Many of them were armed only
with bows and arrows――futile weapons, even against flintlock guns. Four
hundred painted braves fell before the survivors broke through the
line of drafted militia and escaped. When Davy returned that way, a
year afterward, he saw the bleaching skulls scattered about like gourds
upon a winter field.

At Fort Strother, after returning from Talladega, the volunteers,
whose sixty days were long elapsed, asked to go home for fresh horses
and clothing, but Jackson, who felt that he needed every man, refused
permission. White had failed him, following orders from General Cocke,
and the situation was a bad one. The volunteers were within their
rights, but the General was determined, and as they prepared to leave,
he covered with cannon, and the guns of his other troops, a bridge that
must be crossed on leaving camp. Of this affair a dramatic account is
given in Eggleston’s history of the war. He tells us that behind the
cannoneers with matches lit, their general gave the malcontents a few
seconds in which to go back, with the promise of shot and shell if they
refused; and then, the story runs, the mutineers gave in and asked for
terms.

Davy Crockett says that the discontented volunteers, with flints
picked and guns primed, marched across the bridge, amid the clicking
of the gun-locks of the militia, some of whom had run at the battle
of Talladega. He says they were determined to fight their way, or die
together. The merits of this affair are in dispute, but Davy and his
company returned to Tennessee, where many reënlisted after a time. It
may be set down for certain that from that day Davy was no friend of
Jackson.

When Davy returned to the Creek country, he went to serve the balance
of six months, although his term of two months had expired. Jackson
now had less than a thousand whites, with about two hundred and fifty
Cherokees and friendly Creeks. One of the companies was made up of
officers whose men had gone home. Major Russell was in command of a
body of scouts, of whom Davy was one.

It is strange that such a small force could not be supplied with
provisions. It seems to have been in no way backed up by the
Government. But in the East matters had not gone well. Perry’s victory
and other naval successes had not made the New Englanders any more
loyal. Their pockets had suffered, and the prizes won in privateering
were only a partial salve for their losses. The war with the Alabama
nations was not regarded as a matter of importance on the Atlantic
coast.

It was from the ranks of the ill-fed volunteers of Kentucky and
Tennessee that victory was to come. The battle of New Orleans was
fought after the conclusion of peace, but the capture of that city by
Pakenham would have meant more war. Jackson knew the danger of Indian
victories, and with his hungry and ragged troops and scouts fought
regardless of odds. Davy Crockett was one of the men who learned to
know what hunger was, but he was eager to be in the hottest of the
trouble, and never had enough.

In January, 1814, Jackson’s little army pushed on to the Horseshoe Bend
of the Tallapoosa River, and camped in a hollow square, with every
prospect of being attacked by hostiles, who were in great numbers in
the vicinity. Two hours before dawn, the pickets were heard firing.
Throwing brush on the camp-fires, the volunteers waited for the attack,
expecting to see the Indians by the glare of the flames; but the Creeks
kept out of sight, and were themselves aided in aiming by the light in
the camp. Four whites were killed and a number wounded, and although
several charges were made, Jackson found it necessary to retreat. The
dead were burned, to prevent their being scalped, and the force fell
back to the Enotachopco Creek. Some historians have called this affair
a victory!

When the army was about to cross the creek, the savages fell on the
rear guard, which Colonel Carroll was commanding. On the right flank
Colonel Perkins was in charge, and on the left Colonel Stump. Carroll
did his duty bravely, but the other Colonels fled and their men
followed them. As Stump rode frantically past Jackson, the General
tried to cut down the coward with his sword, but missed him. Colonel
Carroll was thus left with only twenty-five men, and was in danger of
being cut to pieces by the yelling and triumphant warriors.

Then the scouts under Russell, with the aid of the artillerymen, who
had only one six-pound cannon, sprang to the aid of the rear guard,
and Davy had a chance to fight that must have satisfied him. While
the artillerymen were dragging the piece up the bank of the creek
and loading it with grape, Davy’s company, led by old Major Russell,
rushed across the stream and attacked the left flank of the Indians,
who outnumbered the whites ten to one. Constantine Perkins and Craven
Jackson, of the cannoneers, at last swept the ranks of the savages,
huddled in the narrow descent to the creek, with a hail of grape. Then
the scouts fell on the demoralized enemy, who took to the woods, and
Jackson’s army was saved. One hundred and eighty-nine dead Indians
were counted after this fight, and twenty volunteers were killed and
seventy-five wounded.

It is worth while to consider the iron tenacity of Old Hickory, in
the face of such disastrous losses. Practically without an army, and
with no supplies for the friendly Creeks, he renewed his appeals to
the people of Tennessee and Kentucky, and hopefully awaited their
response. Every day of delay made the danger greater, for the Creeks
were constantly securing firearms and powder and lead from the British
agents at Pensacola.

The spectacle of the English unloading guns and scalping-knives for
the savages at a Spanish port has always been miserable to look upon.
But in 1865, after the surrender of Lee had ended the Civil War,
twenty-five cases of Colt’s Navy revolvers, received via London, were
taken from the warehouse of the Confederate Agent at St. George’s in
the Bermuda Islands, sold to an American, and sent to New York on the
bark _Palo Alto_. The Southern army had Hartford revolvers, via England
and the blockade, with which to fight the brothers of the men who made
them. Until the United States Government prohibited the shipping of
beef to Nassau, Bermuda, and Havana, there was a supply sent to the
Confederates through the blockade, as best it could be, by New York
dealers. There is no use in the pot calling the kettle black.

As the volunteers returned to their homes, they stirred the hearts of
their neighbors with the story of Jackson’s bravery and self-sacrifice,
and the indifference of the people turned to enthusiasm. Before the end
of February, Coffee returned to Alabama with two hundred of his old
brigade, and there soon followed him two thousand men from Western
Tennessee, and two thousand more from the mountains of Eastern Tennessee.
Every man was a rifleman. The Choctaws also offered the stubborn General
all the warriors of their tribe to fight the Creeks.

After serving about four months instead of the two for which he at
first volunteered, Davy Crockett returned to his home, and for some
time he was busy in providing for the comfort of his family. After the
battle of Tohopeka, in March, 1814, in which Jackson completely routed
the hostile Creeks, the victorious General made plans for an attack
on Pensacola, which port the British fleet was using as if it were
under the “gridiron” flag. Davy has said of this time: “I determined
to go again with them [to Pensacola] as I wanted a small taste of
British fighting, and I supposed they would be there.” It was in vain
that Polly Crockett begged him to change his mind. Under the command
of Major Russell, he crossed the Tennessee at Mussel Shoals, and at
the junction of the Alabama and the Tombigbee Rivers, was two days
behind the main army of General Jackson. Here they found the horses of
the army, and left their own, as forage was not to be had nearer to
Pensacola. With their guns, blankets, and provisions, they made the
march of nearly eighty miles in two days, and came in sight of the town
and of the British fleet, which lay off the port.

It was now November of the year 1814, and as Jackson had made terms
with the Indians, and had occupied Pensacola, he marched his army to
New Orleans, where the British were defeated in the following January.
As Crockett was now at liberty to go home, he did so, but he was a long
time getting there.

A careless reading of his story of this period of his adventurous life
is utterly confusing, but with a better understanding of his meaning,
the account is a logical one. Davy called things as he was accustomed
to hear them called, and when he speaks of the Scamby River, meaning
the Escambia, or calls the Conecuh, the Conaker, he gives the best
proof that in his relation he was not indebted to the imagination of
an educated and inventive editor. In Eggleston’s intensely interesting
history of the Creek War, the author tells us that after his treaty
with the Creek nation, August 14, 1814, General Jackson went back to
The Hermitage, because his work was done, and that for a year Red
Eagle, the vanquished chief, was his guest. But from Hickory Grove,
the place of the treaty, Jackson must have gone to Pensacola, which he
occupied November 7, 1814; and as he fought the battle of New Orleans
in January, 1815, it is a cause for wonder that any historian should
make a statement so far from facts known to the ordinary schoolboy.

It was in November that Davy and his regiment set out for Tennessee.
Just how long the trip lasted, we do not know, but before it ended
they met volunteers from the Tennessee mountains bound to New Orleans.
Among them was a younger brother of Davy’s, as well as many of his old
neighbors. The regiment to which Davy belonged seems to have gone to
Fort Montgomery, near Fort Mims, and then towards Pensacola, and back
and forth between the Choctawhatchee and Escambia Rivers, intent, for
the most part, on getting something to eat. Some of their adventures
are of interest, but must be referred to without any attempt to fix
their dates. Davy tells them as they happen to come into his head, and
his book was written twenty years after.

On reaching the Escambia, they found a flooded country, and waded a
mile and a half in cold water up to their shoulders. Reaching the high
land and yellow pine timber, they were drying themselves when their
spies came “leaping the brush like so many old bucks,” with the news
that they had found a hostile Creek camp. After the braves and Major
Russell had been suitably decorated with war-paint they set out for
the place, but before they reached it, two of their Choctaw scouts
treacherously killed two Creeks whom they had met. The fight was thus
prevented, as the firing alarmed the Creek camp, and the hostiles made
good their escape. Davy’s party found that the scouts had already cut
off the heads of the Creeks, and each warrior in turn walked up to the
heads and struck them with a war-club. Davy says that after he had done
this, the Choctaws danced about him, struck him on his shoulders, and
called him “Warrior! Warrior!”

Soon after this they found a Spaniard and his wife and four children
killed and scalped, and Davy says the sight made him feel “ticklish.”

After scouting about between the Escambia and the Choctawhatchee,
the regiment divided, a part going to Baton Rouge, where they joined
Jackson on his way to New Orleans. From now on, Davy was looking out
for his stomach, hunting everything alive along the trail. Hawks,
squirrels, small birds, gophers, and even wood-rats, were thrown into
one pile each night by the hunters, and then divided.

One evening Davy came in without fur or feather for the pile; but there
was a sick man in his mess, and Davy intended to feed him, even if he
himself went hungry. He found Captain Cowen, his commander, broiling a
turkey gizzard, and was told that the turkey had been killed by Major
Smiley, and divided among the sick. Davy went straight to Smiley’s
camp-fire, and he, too, was broiling a turkey’s gizzard. Davy told the
Major that it was the first time he had heard of a turkey with two
gizzards, but it ended with the sick man going hungry.

The next morning, Davy and his mess went on ahead, desperate with
hunger. There appears to have been no attempt to preserve military
discipline. For three days they went without food, and were ready to
“lie down and die.” At last they came to a wide prairie, crossed it,
and found a large creek and wooded bottom-lands. Then a squirrel was
seen, and Davy shot him, but the stricken animal managed to get into a
hole in the tree, thirty feet from the ground. Davy climbed the tree,
without a limb to help him, and fished the dead creature out of the
hole. He says that showed how hungry he was. Shortly after he and the
man with him shot two more squirrels, and also started up a flock of
wild turkeys, finally killing two of them. The hunters then raised
a shout, and were soon joined by the rest of their party, when they
cooked the game and ate it, without salt or bread. The next day a
relief corps came back with a small quantity of flour and other food
from Fort Decatur, and some bee-trees were also found, the honey making
some of the men sick.

Reaching Fort Decatur, the company could get no more than one ration of
meat, and no bread. Davy, who never spared himself, crossed the river
and went to Black Warrior’s town, where he tried to buy food. Taking
off his large hat, he offered an Indian a silver dollar if he would
fill it with corn. The Indian had no corn, but he told Davy of another
of the tribe, who had some left. When the latter was asked to sell part
of his precious store, he refused silver.

“You got some bullet?” he asked.

Davy produced ten bullets, for which he got his hatful of corn.

The Indian weighed the matter in his mind, and asked again, “You got
some powder?”

For ten charges of powder another hatful was bought, and tied up in
Davy’s hunting-shirt. He said that fifty silver dollars would not have
bought it. After much tramping, going out of the way to get rations,
and leaving as many as thirteen horses played out in a single day, they
reached Fort Strother, on the Tennessee, where there was at last plenty
of food. Here it was that the volunteers going to New Orleans were met,
among them Davy’s younger brother.

From there Davy went directly home to his family. “I found them all
well, and doing well,” he says, “and although I was only a rough
backwoodsman, they seemed mighty glad to see me, however little the
quality folks might suppose it. For I do reckon we love as hard in the
backwoods country as any people in the whole creation.”



VIII.

BEAN’S CREEK

Two years on Bean’s Creek――A new girl in the family――The death of Polly
Crockett――Some years of peace――The prairie schooner and the steamboat
make their appearance――Davy marries again――He makes another excursion
into Alabama, and nearly dies of fever――Saved by a whole bottle of
Bateman’s Drops――Returns home and moves to Shoal Creek――Becomes a
magistrate of Giles County, and learns to write――Elected Colonel of a
regiment of State militia――Davy enters the political field――Squirrel
hunts and barbecues――He makes his first stump speech――Elected to the
State Legislature and becomes the Honorable David Crockett.


Of the period of his life described in the preceding chapter, Davy
afterwards said, “This closed my career as a warrior, and I am glad of
it, for I like life a heap better now than I did then; and I am glad
all over that I lived to see these times, which I should not have done
if I had kept fooling along in war, and got used up at it.”

He then goes on to say something of the political situation when he
was writing his book, and this, though irrelevant, will be quoted as
a good specimen of his style of writing, and his determined opposition
to the proceedings of the Jackson administration, nearly twenty years
later.

“When I say I am glad, I just mean that I am glad that I am alive,
for there is a confounded heap of things that I a’nt glad of at all.
I a’nt glad, for example, that the ‘Government’ moved the deposits
[here he refers to Jackson’s war on the United States Bank], and if my
military glory should take such a turn as to make me President after
the General’s time, I’ll move them back. Yes, I, the ‘Government,’ will
‘take the responsibility,’ and move them back again. If I don’t, I wish
I may be shot.”

[Illustration]

The illustrations on the preceding page show the two sides of a coin
struck in the days of the Bank war, and the legends and designs of
this curious token are from the partisan phrases of the enemies of Old
Hickory.

For two years Davy remained at the Bean’s Creek home, where a girl baby
was added to his family. Then came a turning point in his career――the
death of Polly Crockett. At the age of about twenty-seven, the little
wife whom Davy had loved, as he says, “almost enough to eat her,”
passed into the far unknown. She had fulfilled the duties of the true
woman, and brought her children into the world and cared for them while
their father fought back the terror of the scalping-knife and tomahawk.

The year 1817 came in as the first in which the armies of the world
were not to cut each others’ throats, or do battle to the death. The
phantom of Napoleon had risen to confound the pampered sovereigns
of the world, and to lead to bloody graves the youth and strength
of Europe. Out of the temporary tyranny of the Little Corporal had
come the Louisiana Purchase, that was to change the history of our
own country. Twenty-eight years of war was past, and Napoleon was now
quarrelling with his jailer at St. Helena! At least, the dethroned
Emperor could remember with satisfaction his words after he had sold
the Louisiana territory to the United States:

“I have given England a rival who, sooner or later, will humble her
pride.”

His prophecy was coming true. Endless caravans of prairie schooners
were wending their way to the West, and on a single turnpike fifteen
thousand wagons paid toll in 1817. In Pittsburg there were less than
ten thousand people, and Chicago was yet unknown. Everywhere in the
valleys of the great rivers, and out upon the rolling plains from
whence their waters came, the log cabin or the sod-house arose as if
by magic. A single room, a door with latch and string, and perhaps a
window of paper rubbed with oil, were what the settler pictured in his
dreams of a future home. The first steamboat upon the Mississippi,
at St. Louis, was a harbinger of the new dispensation, the era of
steam. The spirit of progress let no man rest, and from each new Indian
purchase to the next, the pioneer went on, unsatisfied.

Davy Crockett was now thirty-one, a “rough backwoodsman,” unable to
write, but strong and brave. His brother and his wife had come to live
with Davy, and to help in caring for his two boys and the baby, but
he felt the need of a real home. At last he married the widow of a
volunteer killed in the Creek War. Between them they had five children
to begin housekeeping with. Davy’s second marriage was a wise step, and
he never regretted it. Having thus provided himself with a helpmeet,
he was at liberty to indulge the restless strain in his blood by an
excursion into Alabama, with three neighbors. Why he did so is not of
record, but he had been farming for nearly three years, and evidently
wanted a change.

Crossing the Tennessee, the four men went to where Tuscaloosa is now
situated. One of the party, named Frazier, was bitten by a copperhead
snake in crossing a swamp, and was left at the house of a settler
whom he had known before the war. The others made camp and hobbled
their horses for the night. The job was not a good one, or some one
maliciously cut the ropes, for in the night the bells of the ponies
were heard, showing that they were moving about and uneasy. At daylight
Davy set out to bring them in, carrying his rifle, which he says was
a very heavy one. At every place where he found settlers, he heard
that the horses had passed along, but no one had tried to stop them.
After going nearly fifty miles, across swamps and streams, through
cane-brakes and over mountains, he gave up the chase and stayed that
night at the first house he could find. He started to retrace his steps
the next morning, but by noon he was too sick to keep on. His rifle was
heavier than ever, his head was aching with a fierce pain, and in the
midst of the wilderness he lay down, beside the “trace,” to see if rest
would help him.

A little after noon several Indians found him, and offered him some
ripe melons. He could not eat, and when the Indians signed to him that
he would die under such conditions, he fully agreed with them. They
told him that there was a house only a mile and a half away, and he
tried to reach it. He “reeled like a cow with the blind staggers,” and
finally hired one of the Indians to carry his gun for a half a dollar.
Reaching the house, Davy was dosed with hot drinks and put to bed.
The next day, although he had a high fever and was half delirious, he
persisted in going on with two of his Tennessee neighbors who had come
along. They were bound to the place where the horses had escaped, and
Davy took turns at riding behind the men until the old camp was reached.

His comrades were still there, and as Davy grew worse, they took him to
the house of a man named Jesse Jones, and went on with the two men who
had brought him back. For two weeks Davy was very ill, most of the time
unconscious. Despairing of his recovery, Mrs. Jones gave him a whole
bottle of “Bateman’s Drops,” the only medicine she had in the house.
He tells us that the result was a profound sweat, which lasted till
morning. Then he awoke, and asked for water, nearly frightening the
kind woman to death, for she had expected him to die without recovering
consciousness. The crisis being over, he slowly recovered, and when
able to leave, hired his passage with a wagoner who came along, and who
lived twenty miles from Davy’s home on Bean’s Creek.

When he hove in sight of his humble dwelling, on a borrowed horse, he
was welcomed as one from the dead. The men who had first set out with
him had returned with the report of his death, and his wife had sent
for his money, rifle, and other effects. The men had brought his horse
home, having found all the stray ponies together.

Another year passed at the same place; then he concluded that it was
too unhealthful there, and decided to go eighty miles north and west,
into the newly-purchased Chickasaw lands. The place where he built his
fourth cabin, in 1818, was at the head of Shoal Creek, near the divide
between the Duck and Elk Rivers. He at first started out to explore the
country for some distance, but was taken sick, and had to remain near
the creek until he recovered. Before that time, he concluded to try the
place as a cure for the fever and ague contracted in Alabama. Shoal
Creek was but a little way from the eastern border of the Chickasaw
land purchase. In many respects it was like the No Man’s Land of Texas,
without defined limits, laws, or courts. Many outlaws moved in, and
started to run things to suit themselves. To protect their rights and
properties, the law-respecting men came together, selected magistrates,
and gave it out that punishment would be the lot of those convicted of
wrong-doing.

It was probably 1820 when this was done, and Davy Crockett was chosen
to act as a Justice of the Peace. He set about his duties without
misgiving. In civil actions, he heard the evidence and ordered
judgment, or dismissed the action, as the evidence seemed to warrant.
The constable who assisted in these matters was able to make out the
necessary execution papers, or writs, and nobody questioned their
validity. Sometimes the prisoner brought before Davy would be a man who
had been marking his neighbor’s hogs. Proof of guilt was followed by a
whipping and orders to leave the place. In the Far West, this “marking”
is called brand-blotting, and the cattle-thief, or rustler, seldom gets
into court, or even is buried on the lonely prairie where he meets his
fate.

When matters had gone along in this way for some time, the Legislature
of Tennessee made a new county, named Giles, containing six hundred
square miles, and including that part of the Purchase where Davy lived.
In commissioning Justices of the Peace, all those who had been acting
as such were duly appointed. When he was furnished with books of record
and the usual blanks for his proceedings, Davy awoke to the knowledge
of his inability to read or write well enough to act. But with the help
of his constable, who seems to have signed for him in any emergency,
the new Squire managed for a while, and in the meanwhile diligently
used his time in improving his handwriting, until at last he was able
to do his part of the work. If he was a poor scholar, he had a keen
sense of right and wrong, and disregarded all the cobwebs with which
lawyers delight to obscure the spectacles of the learned judges before
whom they plead. Red Eagle, or Weatherford, three-quarters a white man,
and one of the craftiest and wisest of the nation he ruled, would
never learn to read or write, believing these accomplishments would
cloud his perception of affairs about him. He was a great orator, and
could make a better speech than Davy Crockett ever learned to make.

As Davy had never read a page of a law-book before becoming a Squire,
he relied on common sense in his decisions, and they were never
appealed from. The sense of his responsibility and importance in the
community in which he lived added to his dignity and self-possession,
and he no longer resembled the awkward and boyish scout from Bean’s
Creek. That there was something about him that people admired is
plainly shown, for the honors that he bore were almost invariably
thrust upon him, not sought after. It is not known with what motive he
was asked by Captain Matthews, a well-to-do neighbor, to run for the
office of Major of a certain regiment, the Captain being out for the
Colonelcy. Davy at first refused, but finally he allowed his name to be
used, and with his family attended a barbecue given by the Captain at
his home. The principal part of the affair was, of course, the serving
of the meat of an ox roasted whole, and the generous dispensation
of such beverages as the country afforded; but there was also a
corn-husking on the Captain’s place, and the young fellows and the shy
damsels who expected to pay the usual penalty for finding a red ear of
corn, were with the older people from far and near. In the midst of
the frolic, a friend told Davy that the Captain’s son had decided to
run for Major against him. Davy went to the Captain and asked what it
all meant. It seems likely that the decision of his son must have been
a surprise to the Captain, but he said the story was true, though the
young man dreaded to run against Davy Crockett, preferring almost any
other opponent.

This was enough to get Davy’s dander up. He told the Captain to tell
his son not to worry, for Davy Crockett was going to run against his
father for the office of Colonel. The two men went into the midst of
the company, and the Captain, mounting on a wagon, announced that
Crockett was to be his opponent in the election of a Colonel. That
there was something of the “real old Southern gentleman” in the
make-up of the Captain showed in this frank introduction of the man
who was to run against him. As soon as the Captain had climbed down,
Davy mounted the wagon, and explained why he had decided to try for the
office of Colonel, instead of Major. He said that as he had the whole
family to run against, he thought he might as well “levy on the head of
the mess.” Another man offered for the office of Major, and both he and
Crockett were elected by good pluralities over the Captain and his son.

Davy was now becoming a man of weight in the county, and even beyond
its borders. Politics then was the same keen game as it is to-day,
a little cruder, perhaps, but not more scrupulous. The leaders were
looking for men who could get votes, and in Davy they saw great
promise. He was asked to run for the Legislature, and in February,
1821, he agreed to. As the election was not until some months later, he
took a drove of horses to North Carolina, and was gone three months.
As soon as he returned he began an active campaign, in those days
called “electioneering.” He says that he found the people expected
him to tell them about things of which he knew nothing. His ideas of
government and constitutions were scarcely nebulous, and it behooved
him to listen to the words of wisdom that fell upon his ears. Like many
wise men and judges, he knew enough to “reserve his opinion,” and to
follow the example of the Tar Baby, who “kept on sayin’ nothing.” The
Assembly district comprised two or three counties, and it required much
travelling to cover the field. The most trying event in Davy’s history
was undoubtedly his coming before the Duck River people at the time of
the big squirrel hunt and barbecue.

From all parts of the district the squirrel-hunters came, with the best
rifles the world had ever seen. When Davy was chosen by one of the two
sides he received the best possible advertisement. The hunt lasted
two days, and only the scalps were needed in the count, the squirrels
being eaten by the hunters. The nuts were yet unripe, but the corn had
suffered from the little animals’ greed, and they were fat and saucy.
Black squirrels, gray squirrels, foxies, red squirrels, all helped to
swell the count. Davy killed a large number in the way by which he had
made a reputation: he “barked” them by shooting between the squirrel
and the limb on which it sat, generally killing it without a scar. When
the scalps were counted it was found that Davy’s side had won, and
their opponents furnished the materials for the barbecue, and provided
music for the dancing that followed.

All day great fires had been kept going in long pits dug in the ground,
hard, dry beech and maple being used for fuel. On the next morning,
the last day of the hunt, half of a fatted ox or deer was placed over
the coals of each pit on an iron rod or a green sapling, and slowly
roasted, being carefully watched, seasoned, and basted with fat. When
everything was ready, the meat was cut from the bones by skilful
carvers, and the hungry crowd was served. There is no sauce like
hunger, and no meat like that roasted over a bed of hardwood coals.
After the feast, came the dancing. But between the barbecue and the
time for the “Virginny Reel” and “Money Musk,” with the hoedowns,
pigeon-wings, and other rural embellishments, the people had to be
amused, and Davy was called on for a speech. What he thought and did in
this crisis is best told in his own words:

“A public document I had never seen, nor did I know there were such
things; and how to begin I couldn’t tell. I made many apologies, and
tried to get off, for I know’d I had to run against a man who could
speak prime, and I know’d, too, that I wasn’t able to shuffle and cut
with him. He was there, and, knowing my ignorance as well as I did
myself, he also urged me to make a speech. The truth is, he thought
my being a candidate was a mere matter of sport, and didn’t think
for a moment that he was in any danger from an ignorant backwoods
bear-hunter. I found I couldn’t get off, and so I determined just to go
ahead, and leave it to chance what I should say. I got up and told the
people I reckoned they knowed what I had come for, but if not, I could
tell them. I had come for their votes, and if they didn’t watch mighty
close I’d get them too. Then I tried to speak about something else
(about government), until I choked up as bad as if my mouth had been
jammed and crammed chock full of dry mush. There the people stood,
listening all the while, with their eyes, mouths, and ears open, to
catch every word I would speak.

“At last I told them I was like a fellow I had heard of not long
before; he was beating on the head of an empty barrel near the
road-side, when a traveller, passing along, asked him what he was doing
that for? The fellow replied that there had been some cider in that
barrel a few days before, and he was trying to see if there was any
then; he said if there was, he couldn’t get at it. I told them there
had been a little bit of a speech in me a while before, but I believed
I couldn’t get it out.”

Having in this way set the crowd to roaring with laughter, Davy told
them a few stories, then took the first chance to say that he was as
dry as a powder-horn. A great cheer rose as he led the way to the stand
where rum, apple and peach brandies, cider, and buttermilk were to be
had.

Then came the country dances, the name being a popular rendering of
the French term _contre-danse_, and the figures the same as might
have been seen――before the Revolution――in the gay court of Louis
the Fourteenth; as Davy, thoroughly at home, took his part in the
extravagant features of the frolicsome reels and riotous quadrilles, he
made votes by the hundred, and when the day of the election came about
he had two-thirds of all those cast.



IX.

A CABIN IN THE WILDERNESS

Davy builds a mill and distillery――Along Shoal Creek――A tidal wave in
politics――Another one in Shoal Creek leaves Davy without a dollar――The
year 1822 sees Davy seeking a new home on the Obion River――Encounter
of his party with floods――The story of the flat-boat’s trip up the
Obion――Davy builds a cabin in the wilderness――A great day for deer――The
passing of the red man――Davy returns to the Obion with his whole
family――Risks his life for a keg of powder at Christmas time――He is now
loaded for bears.


While Davy Crockett was rapidly becoming known to the people of his
State, he was planning to increase his income by building a large
distillery, and a mill for grinding corn, with an addition for the
manufacture of powder. He had saved enough money partly to pay for it,
and built it in a great measure with his own hands. After the mill
began its output, Mrs. Crockett acted as miller when Davy was absent.
She is said to have been able to lift the bags of corn about, as
well as the men who brought them could. The tourist to-day will look
in vain for the site of the mill. Where the great wheel turned slowly
beneath the weight of the waters of the creek, and the rumble of the
millstones startled the traveller with the sound of distant thunder,
the rhododendron now opens its gorgeous buds, and the laurels cover the
waste places with a measureless profusion of delicate flowers. Among
the hemlocks close to the quiet stream, the thrush and the cat-bird
sing their liquid scores, and the redbird and the scarlet tanager vie
with the Kentucky and blue-winged yellow warblers in the glory of their
April dress. All things are changed in these old places of the world,
until we climb the mountains to its top, and see the far blue ranging
crests that blend at last with gentle skies, unchanging and unchanged.

When Davy set out for Nashville, to take his seat as a member of the
Legislature, he had finished his mill, but still owed for labor and
material. The mill was worth three or four thousand dollars, and
besides that, he owned several able-bodied slaves, and more than
the usual stock of goods and chattels. He saw prosperity and honors
assured, and his soul was full of faith in the future. The Legislature
that came together after the elections of 1821 was composed of the
class that represented the men of the frontier, rather than the
aristocracy that had hitherto monopolized both the wealth and the
honors of the State.

In the same year, William Carroll, who had so bravely commanded the
rear guard of Jackson’s forces at Enotachopco Creek, was a candidate
for the Governorship. He represented, as did Davy, the men who paid
rentals to monopolists, and taxes to the State that favored the wealthy
in the filling of remunerative offices. When Carroll’s enemies accused
him of having let his note go to protest, they threw a boomerang that
slew them in its sudden homeward flight; for Carroll’s friends made it
known that he had lost everything in going security for them in dire
financial straits. His opponent, Ward, was cold and unapproachable.
To him a man from the cane-brakes or the windowless cabins of the
mountains was little better than the savages just beyond. In Phelan’s
history of Tennessee, there is mention of a sarcastic letter printed in
the Nashville _Clarion_ over the signature “A Big Fish.” In this the
supposed Big Fish, or Big-Bug, as the aristocrat was then often called,
gave the reasons why he could not vote for Carroll. He said that
Carroll was born of poor parents, and had never learned the rudiments
of Latin and Greek; as a boy and a young man, he had plowed and reaped
and cleared the land; he had always been handy at log-rollings, country
weddings, and huskings; he had gone to the wars, instead of staying
home to save the wealth that was needed for the Governor’s position; he
could not support the dignity of the great office with fine dinners,
splendid carriages, liveried servants, and state balls; he was too
ready to shake hands with the ragged soldier because they had fought
on the same fields. A man who was not above such low-born loons was
not fit to command the votes of the educated and the men of the higher
classes.

Carroll received forty-two thousand votes, while his austere and
wealthy rival had but eleven thousand. On the same popular tidal
wave, Davy Crockett was carried to Nashville as a representative of
his neighbors in the recent Purchase from the Indians, and in the
atmosphere that prevailed in the halls of state he believed he had
found his place.

Davy had hardly been sworn in as a member of the Legislature when bad
news from home reached him. A freshet had swept away his mill, and his
distillery was worthless without the corn that was ground by it. When
he had served through the session, he rode home, sold all that he had,
and paid every dollar he could realize to his creditors. He was left
with nothing but his household “plunder,” as he termed it, and the
times were hard. The “Loan Bank” scheme that was to provide a currency
and credit for development of the State had become a failure. There was
nothing to do, in such times, but to live by the sweat of the brow.
His wife stood bravely by him, and he gave up all he had, and “took a
bran-fire new start.”

He was now thirty-six, and his oldest boy was sixteen. With this son
and a young man named Abram Henry, Davy started in the spring of 1822
to look at the Obion River region, then reputed to be full of game.
It was a long tramp across an unsettled country, nearly one hundred
and fifty miles in a bee-line, and the three led a single horse which
carried their scanty outfit of food, blankets, and ammunition. There
were many streams to cross, including the Tennessee. In what is now
Carroll County they struck the head of the south fork of the Obion
River, and this they followed to a place about ten miles south of
where the small settlement named after Crockett now is situated. Here
they found themselves in a wilderness, abounding with game. The three
nearest cabins were seven, fifteen, and twenty miles distant. The one
seven miles away was that of the Owens family, and it was on the other
side of the Rutherford Fork of the Obion, a tortuous stream, then in
flood and over its low banks for half a mile on either shore. The water
was chilly, the depth uncertain, and the crossing difficult and full of
danger.

There was nothing to do but to take to the water, and after hobbling
the horse, so that he could graze till they returned for him, they went
at it “like so many beavers.” When the water was too deep to go ahead,
Davy felt the way over the shallower bottom by using a pole. His boy
often had to swim beside them, and progress was slow. When the river
channel was reached, they found that a tree had fallen and lodged in a
pile of flood-trash near the middle of the main stream. The water was
deep at this place, and there was no way of crossing without some kind
of a bridge. A large buttonwood tree stood upon the near side of the
river, and the two men began cutting it down with Davy’s tomahawk. They
managed to do this so that it fell above the flood-trash, and when it
had been washed against it the bridge was ready.

“When we got over this,” says Davy, “it was still a sea of water as far
as the eye could reach. We took into it again, and went ahead for about
a mile, hardly ever seeing a single spot of land, and sometimes it was
very deep. When at last we came in sight of land, and got out, it was
but a little way before we saw the house, which was more pleasing
even than the sight of land. I felt mighty sorry when I would look at
my boy, and see him shaking like he had the worst kind of an ague, for
there was no time for fever then. As we got near the house, we saw Mr.
Owens and several men that were with him, just starting away. They saw
us, and stopped, but looked much astonished until we got up to them,
and I made myself known. The men who were with him were the owners of
a boat which was the first that ever went that far up the Obion River,
and some hands they had hired to carry it about a hundred miles further
up, by water, though it was only about thirty, by land, as the river is
very crooked.”

The whole party then went back to the Owens cabin, where Mrs. Owens won
Davy’s gratitude by taking charge of the shivering boy. A great fire
blazed in the fireplace, and before that they dried themselves. After
supper, leaving his boy with Mrs. Owens, Davy and the others went on
board of the boat, and stayed all night. It was a flat-bottomed boat,
drawing but a foot or so of water. The cabin, or deck-house, was of
light material, furnished with bunks, and stored with the freight that
would be injured by rains. The other freight was lashed on deck, and
the load was all that was safe to carry. This boat was carrying flour,
sugar, castings, coffee, salt, and other goods needed on the frontier,
and was to go as far as McLemore’s Bluff. This was in Carroll County
(as now named), and the crew were to be paid five hundred dollars bonus
if they landed the freight at that point. It was to be a proof that the
river was navigable thus far, though it seems that a flood was first
necessary.

In the morning Davy went with the boat, to help get it by a place on
the river where a “harricane” had blown trees across it, making it hard
to get through. They found that the water had gone down, and had to
wait for a rain. The next day it rained “rip-roariously,” as Davy tells
us, but yet not enough. While waiting, Davy and the boatmen crossed
the Fork, and in a short time “slapped up a cabin” on a spot selected
by him. Here Davy procured four barrels of meal, one of salt, and ten
gallons of spirits, in payment for which he was to help get the boat
to McLemore’s Bluff. Henry and the boy were left in the new cabin,
after a deer had been killed for them, and other supplies provided.

The day after the cabin was built, Davy started out with his rifle for
a hunt. Within a few minutes he had killed a fine buck, and hung him
up. He started to go back to the boat for help in bringing him in, but
on the way he struck the trail of a number of elk and went after them.
In a short time he saw two deer, large bucks with immense antlers. He
dropped one, and then shot the other, which would not leave the one
first killed. Hanging the two out of reach of bears and wolves, Davy
kept after the elk till evening, when he gave up the chase, being four
miles from the cabin, and “as hungry as a wolf.”

As he set out for the river, on his way back, he killed two more bucks.
Dressing these in the usual way, with the skins on, he hung them up and
kept on. Before he got to the river, just at sundown, he killed another
buck, making six since morning. At last he reached the lower edge of
the “harricane,” and was disappointed at not finding the boat there.
He had not expected it could be taken through that day. When he fired
his rifle as a signal, the answer came from up the river. He then knew
that he had to crawl and climb through the “harricane,” in which all
kinds of berry-bushes and vines were growing. A fat coon would have had
a hard time in getting through after him, he tells us. Finally he got
to a place where a skiff came for him. He says that he felt as if he
needed sewing up all over, thanks to the brambles and the briers along
his trail, and he was so tired that he could scarcely work his jaws to
eat.

The next morning four of the deer were secured and taken on board, and
the voyage proceeded. Pushing, and hauling with ropes, it took eleven
days to reach the Bluff, from which point Davy and a young man named
Flavius Harris went back to his cabin in the skiff, given to them by
the boatmen. They at once cleared a field, in the usual rough way,
leaving the charred stumps standing, and planting among them. Davy put
in enough corn to do for the winter, but had no time for fencing.
It was late spring, and he was anxious to return for his family.
While thus planting and planning, Davy killed ten bears and “a great
abundance of deer,” repaying the Owens family many times over for their
kindness to him and his boy. In these weeks of hard work the only white
faces seen were those of the Owenses, and once in a while those of men
looking over the country.

There were many Indians in the timber, and sometimes they came to
Davy’s clearing, and watched with vague forebodings the gleam of the
axe and the tender green of the springing grain. Their traditions
were full of the untrammelled freedom of the wilderness, of the
plentiful supplies of game and mast, of rivers alive with fish, on
whose banks the beaver and otter were scarcely afraid of those who
wore the splendid peltries of their kind. When they turned from the
scene towards the solitude of the wilderness, their hearts were sad,
for the knell of their race resounded through their ancient temples,
built by the Great Spirit, whose aisles were rows of stately oak and
pine, whose arches of living green were hung with golden blossoms of
the tulip-tree and the fiery clusters of the trumpet-vine. There was
no sentiment in the heart of the pioneer, who classed the Indian, the
wolf, and the moccasin of the steaming swamp, as equally worthy of
extermination.

When the corn had started, Davy made his way back to Shoal Creek, and
from there to Nashville to attend a special session of the Legislature.
With his three dollars per diem in his pocket, he returned to the scene
of his disasters, and as soon as possible started with all his family
for the clearing on the Rutherford Fork of the Obion, where Harris was
working out his own salvation with axe and fire, while keeping the
“varments” out of the Crockett corn. It was some time in the fall of
1822 that the wearied family came in sight of the rude cabin that was
to be their home. Most of them had tramped the one hundred and fifty
miles across the trackless land, for upon the horses were loaded the
household effects and wearing apparel that Davy still owned. The loom,
the wooden trencher, spare clothing, table utensils, and a few rude
dishes were about all that the pioneer thought necessary in these
days, always excepting the priceless ammunition and the guns.

The small clearing of six to eight acres that Davy had made, a quarter
of a mile east of the Fork, could only partly feed so many mouths,
and the task of supporting his family would have been desperate, had
it not been for the supply of game that could always be counted upon.
The river and the lakes were full of fish, and when the meat for the
winter had been cured or salted down, there was always a good chance
of getting more if needed. When Davy had harvested his crop of corn,
in the last of October, 1822, he set out for the usual fall hunt. The
buffalo had already disappeared from that vicinity, and he never saw
one of these ponderous animals until he was on the way to the Alamo, in
the last year of his life. Of all other wild “varments,” as he termed
them, the woods were full.

When Christmas approached Davy’s supply of powder ran low, and he
determined to cross the Fork and go to the home of a brother-in-law
who had settled six miles west, and who had brought with him a keg of
powder for Davy. The river was full of slush ice, and was out of its
banks, as when Davy first saw it, but the determination to have powder
for the usual Christmas fusillade, and the fact that they were out of
meat, overruled his wife’s argument that they might as well starve as
to have him drown or freeze. With his gun and hunting tools, and a few
extras in the way of clothing, he started through the deep snow that
had fallen, and waded across half a mile of flooded ground, until the
main channel was before him. This he crossed on a log that lay from
bank to bank, but farther on he came to a slough which was wider than
the river itself, though he had always been able to cross it on another
log. This was entirely under water, but he recognized its location by
the sapling that stood beside it. By cutting another long sapling and
lodging it against the first, he managed to use the submerged log as
a bridge, and reached an island, now under water in the slough. Again
wading for a long distance, he crossed another slough part way on a
floating log, but fell off it when it turned over with him. He waded
out of the water, which was nearly up to his head, and when he got
to solid ground, put on the dry clothing which he had held, with his
rifle, above the water. He says that after he had done this and had
hung the wet clothing on the bushes, he had no feeling in his flesh. He
tried to run to warm himself, but could scarcely move his feet.

When he got to his brother-in-law’s cabin, he thought the smell of the
fire the best thing he had ever known. The next morning was piercing
cold, and he stayed there to hunt, killing two deer for the family.
The third day he decided to return, hoping that the ice had frozen so
as to help him cross the still places in the sloughs. But time after
time he broke through, and when he reached the sloughs and the river he
had to go through the same performance as he had when he first crossed
them――a feat made even harder by having to cross first with his gun,
and then go back for the powder-keg. The ice had been broken as if a
bear had gone across, and he at once fresh primed his gun, so that he
was ready to “make war upon him,” if he appeared. When Davy reached
his home, he was hailed as one risen from the dead. He learned that
the ice had been broken by a man sent after him by his distressed
wife, who had given up hope of his ever returning. He concludes this
incident by saying: “I wasn’t quite dead, but mighty nigh it; but I had
my powder, and that was what I went for.” This impatience at delay was
one of Davy’s traits. He might easily have managed to subsist until the
falling of the water, or until the ice was strong enough to bear him,
but he couldn’t wait. It is a sure thing that he celebrated Christmas
with a part of the dearly-earned powder.



X.

THE ELECTION

Hunting in the “harricane”――His dream of a big black “nigger”――His
dogs bark up the wrong tree――A bear as big as a bull――Davy’s trip to
Jackson――Meets some former comrades-in-arms――His name again suggested
for the Legislature――He becomes a candidate in hunting coat and
coon-skin cap――He is elected a member from his new district――Votes
against Jackson’s friend for United States Senator――Old Hickory puts a
mark opposite Crockett’s name――In the next election Davy is defeated by
Jackson’s influence――Returns to farming again.


Davy Crockett in his time was celebrated as the greatest bear-hunter
that ever lived. The story of one of his hunts was probably read by
almost every man, woman, and child, of his generation, in Tennessee.
His own version is by far the best, and is now given word for word as
he wrote it. First let the reader understand that Davy’s cabin was near
the Rutherford fork of the Obion, on the east side, and just below
the “harricane,” where either a great wind-storm or a not uncommon
earthquake had laid most of the timber flat. East of the cabin, five
or six miles, was the middle or main fork of the Obion. A look at the
map will show very nearly the location of his home. The hunt began the
morning after he had secured his precious keg of powder. Davy’s story
is as follows:

“That night there fell a heavy rain, and it turned to sleet. In the
morning all hands turned out hunting. My young man and a brother-in-law
who had lately settled near me went down the river to hunt for turkeys,
but I was for larger game. I told them I had dreamed the night before
of having had a hard fight with a big black nigger, and I know’d it
was a sign I was to have a battle with a bear; for in a bear country,
I never know’d such a dream to fail. So I started to go above the
harricane, determined to have a bear. I had two pretty good dogs and
an old hound, which I took along. I had gone about six miles up the
river, and it was then about four miles across to the main Obion; so
I determined to strike across to that, as I had found nothing yet to
kill.

“I got on to the river, and turned down it; but the sleet was still
getting worse and worse. The bushes were all bent down and locked
together, so that it was almost impossible to get along. In a little
time my dogs started a large gang of old turkey gobblers, and I killed
two of the biggest sort. I shouldered them up, and moved on, until I
got through the harricane again, when I was so tired that I laid my
gobblers down, to rest, as they were confounded heavy, and I was mighty
tired.

“While I was resting, my old hound went to a log and smelt it awhile,
and then raised his eyes towards the sky and cried out. Away he went,
and my other dogs with him, and I shouldered up my turkeys again, and
followed on as hard as I could drive. The dogs were soon out of sight,
and in a very little time I heard them begin to bark. When I got to
them, they were barking up a tree, but there was no game there. I
concluded that it had been a turkey, and that it had flew away.

“When they saw me coming, away they went again, and, after a little
time, began to bark as before. When I got near them, I found they were
barking up the wrong tree again, as there was no game there. They
served in this way three or four times, until I was so infernal mad
that I determined, if I could get near enough, to shoot the old hound
at least.

“With this intention, I pushed on the harder, till I came to the edge
of an open prairie, and, looking on before my dogs, I saw in and
about the biggest bear that ever was seen in America. He looked, at
the distance he was from me, like a large black bull. My dogs were
afraid to attack him, and that was the reason why they had stopped so
often――that I might overtake them. They were now almost up with him,
and I took my gobblers from my back and hung them up in a sapling, and
broke like a quarter horse after my bear, for the sight of him had put
new springs in me. I soon got near to them, but they were just getting
into a roaring thicket, and so I couldn’t run through it, but had to
pick my way along, and had close work at that.

“In a little while I saw the bear climbing up a large black oak tree,
and I crawled on till I got within about eighty yards of him. He was
setting with his breast to me, and so I put fresh priming in my gun and
fired at him. 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 ran 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 knowed that 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 a third time, which killed him for good.

“I now began to think about getting him home, but I didn’t know how
far it was. So I left him and started; and in order to find him again,
I would blaze a sapling every little distance, which would show me
the way back; I continued this until I got within a mile of home, for
there I knowed very well where I was, and that I could easily find my
way back to my blazes. When I got home, I took my brother-in-law and
my young man and four horses, and went back. We got there just before
dark, and struck up a fire and commenced butchering my bear. It was
some time in the night before we finished it; and I can assert, on my
honor, that I believe he would have weighed six hundred pounds. It was
the second largest I ever saw. I killed one, a few years afterwards,
that weighed six hundred and seventeen pounds.

“I now felt fully compensated for my sufferings in going after my
powder; and well satisfied that a dog may be doing a good business,
_even when he seems to be barking up the wrong tree_.”

The bear referred to as weighing six hundred pounds was a fine specimen
of the black bear of the East, but the white bears of Alaska are
nearly twice as large. In 1909, near the western extremity of the
Alaskan Peninsula, a white bear was killed by Dr. J. Wylie Anderson,
of Denver, and Mr. Hornaday, the celebrated zoölogist, estimated its
weight at twelve hundred pounds.

In the month of February, 1823, Davy went to Jackson, carrying a great
quantity of skins to sell. Jackson was then a little cross-roads
settlement, the county seat of Madison County, and about forty miles
from Davy’s clearing. He was there only twenty-four hours before the
skins were sold, and supplies of sugar, coffee, salt, powder, and lead
were bought and packed in readiness for an early start for home the
next day.

About this time the outlaws and cut-throats that afterwards came
under the leadership of John A. Murrell were haunting the highways of
the southwestern part of Tennessee. Now and then stories of murders
by Indians were heard with suspicion by the wise; there were white
murderers as well as red ones, they thought. Even Davy had little
desire to stay any longer than necessary in that vicinity; for the fact
that he was now worth robbing might become known to the outlaws, who
watched for victims with the keen vision and cruelty of the wolves
that howled at night in the dark shadows of the pines. But the evening
was before him, and a man who had worked and hunted for six months, as
he had, might be expected to look for recreation. He wanted to hunt up
some of the men whom he had known in the Creek War, and before long he
had found enough of them to make a quorum in the bar-room, whose tallow
candles threw a dull glow across the muddy street. If Davy had gone to
bed after getting ready to start, his future would have been different,
and his history might never have been of especial interest to the world.

While Davy and his fellow-soldiers were busy talking over old times,
others came in, among them three prominent candidates for nomination
for the Legislature in that district, which included eleven counties.
One of these was Doctor Butler, nephew by marriage to General Jackson.
Some one said to Davy:

“Crockett, here are three candidates for the Legislature. You ought to
offer also, seeing that you know the ropes so well.”

Davy was in doubt as to the man’s sincerity, but he may have had this
thought in mind himself. He seems to have had no idea of trying to run,
for he told the man that he lived forty miles from a settlement, and
had no intention of electioneering. He went home the next morning, with
his little boy, and took up his usual round of duties.

About a week afterwards a stranger appeared at the edge of the little
clearing of six or seven acres, in the midst of which the smoke curled
peacefully from the great “mud-and-sticks” chimney of the Crockett
home. He came to the door, which almost always stood open, even in
the coldest weather, this being the usual custom in that part of
the country, and when he was seated before the leaping flames of
the fireplace, he took a paper from his pocket and read aloud the
announcement of Davy’s offering for the nomination. Davy heard it with
the same suspicion as that with which he had heard the suggestion at
Jackson, but the fact that the announcement would look genuine to the
public put him on his mettle. It was time to begin the spring work on
his little wilderness farm, but for this he hired a young man, and at
once set out to feel the public pulse. Everywhere he went his fame as
a bear-hunter, and as the member from the cane-brakes, had gone before
him. The three men whom he had met at Jackson had settled their affairs
by caucus. Doctor Butler had been named, and the others were working
for him. To these men, Davy’s electioneering was a huge joke: he lived
a three days’ tramp through the wilderness from any public highway;
he was a poor man, still a rough backwoodsman, and appeared as little
to be feared by his opponents as did Andrew Jackson at first in the
eyes of the “silk stockings” of the Old Dominion, who had so nearly
monopolized the statesmanship of the nation. As the campaign went on,
the news that Davy Crockett would be at a meeting brought out of the
woods men who had been there so long that they were like the Butler
County man who had to be blindfolded to get him on the cars. Whether
it was a barbecue, a shooting-match, corn-husking, log-rolling, or any
other of the usual out-of-doors gatherings, Davy, dressed in homespun
and wearing a coon-skin cap, and always with his rifle in hand, was the
object of attention and admiration.

When he met his opponents he told them that he had little money to
use in electioneering. Plenty of tobacco-twist and a jug of liquor
would be his best weapons. His young man and the coon-dogs on the Fork
would tree and capture all the coons needed to furnish funds for the
supplies, but in a pinch he could “go a-wolfing,” kill a wolf, and get
three dollars of the State Treasury money for the scalp, to keep him
“along on the big string.” His way of talking was more suited to the
frontier than to the halls of state; but the voters were with him on
election day, and with three candidates against him Davy came out with
two hundred and forty-seven more votes than all the others together.
The news of his election to the Legislature in a district to which he
had just removed, after serving as a Representative from another part
of the State, made him famous within the boundaries of Tennessee and
even beyond.

When the first session of the Legislature took place, it chose a new
United States Senator to succeed John Williams, whose term was about
to close. Senator Williams was up for reëlection, and it was evident
that the opposition could not beat him with their candidate. In this
emergency, they appealed to Andrew Jackson to allow his name to be used
against Williams. At that time Jackson was the most talked-of candidate
for the Presidency of the United States, but he was not unwilling to
become a member of the Senate while biding his time, and he entered
into the contest at Nashville, receiving ten more votes, in the joint
session of the Legislature, than Colonel Williams. Davy Crockett was
one of the twenty-five who voted against Andrew Jackson. Referring to
this matter, Davy said, in later years:

“Voting against the old chief was mighty up-hill business to all of
them except myself. I never would, nor never did, acknowledge that I
was wrong; and I am more certain now that I voted right than ever. I
told the people it was the best vote I ever gave; that I had supported
the public interest, and cleared my conscience in giving it, instead
of gratifying the private ambition of a man. I let the people know, as
early as then, that I wouldn’t take a collar round my neck.”

Thus early in his career as a statesman Davy became the political enemy
of Jackson. It is not likely that he ever forgave the General for his
attempt to force his volunteers to stay longer than they had enlisted
for. Jackson was for a tariff, and Davy’s party, locally, were against
it. He was looking towards the fulfillment of their wishes, and had no
way to avoid a vote against Old Hickory, who without doubt put a mark
opposite the name of Crockett, for the purpose of remembering him and
punishing him when a chance came about.

Davy Crockett is said to have been the first prominent Whig in
Tennessee. His prominence began with his second election as a State
representative, and while still in that capacity he was talked of as a
possible Congressman. In 1824 the first tariff law was passed by the
Congress of the United States, and Tennessee was not in favor of it.
Davy was at last persuaded to run for Congress, and made an up-hill
fight for the prize. Cotton rose in price after the tariff law was
passed, and the planters and merchants were so elated with their sudden
prosperity that they gave Colonel Alexander, Davy’s opponent, credit
for having helped them by his actions as a Congressman. He was elected
by two votes only over Davy, who never felt entirely satisfied that the
count was fair. There was nothing to do but to go back to work again
as a farmer, with an eye to any speculation that he might be able to
undertake. Some of his adventures during the year 1825 will be told in
the next chapter.



XI.

EARTHQUAKES

Making shooks for New Orleans――The building of the flat-boats――Davy
goes to Reelfoot Lake――A feeling of awe comes over Davy――The story
of a strange and mysterious place――Something about the night riders
and their neighbors――Where some of Davy’s descendants now reside――The
padre’s story of the Reelfoot earthquake and the destruction of New
Madrid――The earth trembles beneath his listeners’ feet.


After the harvest was over in the fall of 1825, the year after Davy’s
term as Representative had expired, he saw a prospect of making money
by the shipment of staves to New Orleans. There was an unlimited supply
of white oak on the Obion River and on the shores of a lake about
twenty-five miles from his home in the woods. He took a couple of
horses and an outfit, and started for the lake, which he reached the
next day. It is not known just what Davy meant by “the lake” referred
to, but it was probably one of the widened parts of the slow and
tortuous river, not far above Island Number Two, at the junction of the
Obion with the Mississippi.

As soon as he arrived on the ground, Davy hired men to build two
flat-boats and get out the staves. The staves were split from the
straight-grained oak logs cut in the woods and hauled to the water.
They were often called shooks, and when ready for market were made up
in bundles for shipment. When used, they had to be hewed and trimmed
with draw-knives, then stood on end in a circle, when they were hooped
with hickory bands into hogsheads and fitted with heads. The hogsheads
were used for molasses and for the cane sugar produced in the South.

Davy worked with the men he had hired, overseeing the plans for the
boats, until everything was well under way, when he had a visit from a
neighbor on Reelfoot Lake, who wanted him to take a trip to his part
of the country, less than thirty miles distant. Having heard something
about this strange body of water, Davy agreed to go, and was in sight
of his neighbor’s clearing before sunset of the day following. As
he saw the lake for the first time, a feeling of awe came over him,
as if he looked into a vista of some old dead or dying world. A fair
expanse of shining water, with islands bright with the autumn glories
of deciduous trees, and skirted by hills that were dark with pine and
hemlock or thickly set with oak and maple groves, was dotted with black
and decaying stumps that rose above the surface, high in air, like the
masts of a sunken fleet. In places, only the tops of the sunken trees
were seen, but everywhere, like the wreck that covers the sea after
storm and battle have done their work, were floating logs and drifting
limbs, charred and unsightly relics of the wilderness.

Reelfoot Lake is fifty miles long and several miles in width, and
where it steams in the sun were once great forests and primeval
hunting-grounds. In 1907, it was the scene of a murderous affair that
brought the Night Riders of Tennessee into ghastly prominence. On a
dark night they killed two men, and a third escaped by hiding under
one of the many logs near the edge of the lake. He was wounded by
the bullets of the murderers and thought to be drowned. So little is
known of the lake, that a description of some of its features should
be interesting. In 1909 Richard A. Paddock, in an article in _Sports
Afield_, wrote:

“It is a strange, weird, mysterious place, filled with uncanny sights
and sounds, haunted by the ghosts of former dusky inhabitants, whom it
swallowed without warning and extinguished in a twinkling of an eye
in the most diabolical manner, and whose tortured spirits even now
cry out for relief and freedom from cruel bondage on every dark and
stormy night. Strange and uncanny are its surroundings, and strange
and mysterious are its inhabitants; stealth and superstition lurk on
its borders. Danger and sudden and premature death are so common as to
be held in contemptuous disregard. Mysterious secrets are hidden in
its almost impenetrable islands――secrets and mysteries that I hesitate
to mention here, for I have had my warning, and know the danger of
disregard.

“The lake is inhabited by a race of people who are a class unto
themselves; there are no others like them; they take their living and
surplus from the waters of Reelfoot Lake. They have nothing else――no
other means of livelihood. It is their sustenance, their farm, their
business, their all. These fishermen make no idle threats. They are
stern, determined, ignorant, superstitious physical giants, who make
and execute their own laws, and recognize no others. They suffer from
mosquitoes, malaria, and chills and fever, to such an extent that their
livers are always out of order, and life has a bilious hue. They go
hungry often enough to make them desperate. They do not take kindly
to the visiting sportsman. They feel that he is a trespasser on their
rights; he is making them and their children go hungry and naked; he
ought to be made an example of, to the discouragement of other future
unwelcome guests.”

The lake now has all and more than it can support in comfort. Its
inhabitants are very poor, always on the ragged edge, always in a
hand-to-hand scramble with starvation. They have no other way of
gaining a living; they cannot do manual labor; they never have done
it, nor have their fathers before them. It is fish, hunt, and trap, or
starve, with them, and they usually do all four.

The people about Reelfoot Lake have among them some of Davy’s
descendants. His daughters and sons lived in that part of the State,
and his relatives and neighbors from the mountains followed the trail
he had made. It is not fair to say that his principles live in the
code of the Night Riders, but human nature is always the same, and the
hungry fishermen of Reelfoot are as jealous of their preserves as was
the Red Man of his hunting-grounds.

One night, when Davy sat with his friend’s family before the flare of
the blazing logs in the wide fireplace, there was with them a Catholic
Father who for years had wandered from St. Louis to New Orleans and
Pensacola, and back again, even as Brébeuf and the beardless Garnier,
and Isaac Le Jogue, had dared the dangers of the wilderness, seeing
visions of Heaven while their stomachs were empty, and ever blazing the
cross upon stately trees in the dark recesses of the forests. Davy
asked the Padre to tell him the story of the earthquake to which the
lake owed its origin. He filled his pipe with tobacco cut from one of
Davy’s twists, and then for a long time looked into the heart of the
fire, without speaking.

“_Hay catorce años, Señores_,” he finally began in the softest of
Spanish, and then, realizing that Davy would not understand him, began
again:

“It was fourteen years ago, almost, it being the night of the 16th of
December, of the year 1811, that I went on shore at the little city of
New Madrid, leaving at the landing the boat in which I had come from
St. Louis with Brother Anselmo. When we had found a place in which
to rest, and had refreshed ourselves with food for the first time in
nearly two days, we walked about the place, being cramped and stiffened
from our long sitting in the boat.

“The houses were far apart, built of logs, and set in the midst of mud
and filth; but in a greater building than all the others, we heard the
music of the dance, the sound of many voices, and all the echoes of
thoughtless enjoyment. There were the French from New Orleans and St.
Louis, boatmen and traders upon the great river Mississippi, and the
Spanish of the settlement, with the Americans from the Ohio and the
northern lands. We knew that we should see many we had known, among
the people there, and with Brother Anselmo I entered the room. It was
a great hall, with floors of sawed timber, very smooth for dancing,
and not like the floors of hewn logs that were in the houses of that
time. There were many candles about the walls, and also torches of
lightwood that flared and hissed and threw black shadows of the dancers
across the floor. When they saw us, there was silence, and no one moved
until we had been seated in a part of the hall where we could watch
the others. Never have I seen, Señores, so gay and so thoughtless a
gathering; there were beautiful women there, and the bravest of men,
and they were young. I saw the soft light of love in the eyes of men
who had dared the tomahawk of the Indian as they had dared the soldiers
of Napoleon and the dangers of the deep, and the smiles that answered
them were sweeter than those of Fortune or of Fame.

“As the night wore on, we looked from the open door of the hall,
across the swirling waters of the Mississippi. The stars were dim
with haze, and the air was still and soft and damp; it seemed hard to
breathe it down deep in the lungs, and the boatmen looked for rain. It
was eleven hours of the night, when wild sounds were heard without,
and all the frolic ceased. The reports of many guns and the war-cries
of Indians were soon recognized, and they grew louder and came nearer.
The people were saying to each other, ‘The war-party is returning from
the Chickasaw lands.’ It was not long before there came into the room
many white men and as many as twenty Chickasaws, daubed with paint and
covered with mud. They had been in pursuit of some of Little Warrior’s
braves, who had hidden in the swamps after the murder of the white
families along their trail. The chief, Big Tree, held up for all to see
the head of one of the Creeks, a sight, Señores, that chilled my blood,
for I knew it to be the head of White Corn, whose house was built on
the Coosa River, and whose hospitality was always to be counted upon.

“As I looked upon the wild rejoicing over the death of the misguided
brave, the old Spanish timepiece rang the midnight hour, so softly
and so sweetly, so like the benediction of an angel choir, that in an
instant all was still. Then the floor seemed to rise and sway beneath
our feet, the building rocked like a ship at sea, and as the torches
and the candles fell one by one to the floor, the cries of terror and
despair were like the shrieking of the bottomless pit. Before all could
reach the street, a dozen were trampled under foot.

“We were sick and faint with the swaying of the ground; the crash of
the falling roofs of the cabins was mingled with the roar of the water,
swelling in great wrathful waves about the banks. We held our breath
as the earth rose suddenly under a cabin across the way, higher and
higher, until with a leaping out of gas-like flame we saw what seemed
an open grave, deep and wide and long, into which the fated house fell
out of sight. There was no longer a crying aloud. Dumb with despair,
the hopeless people awaited the coming of the tardy sun. The earth
still rocked and trembled and yawned, and huge waves swept at times
among the cabins lower down. It was like the Day of Judgment, and what
we should see when day had come, no man could think.

“It is a long story, Señores, longer than you have time to hear. When
at last there was light once more, we looked across wide lakes where
forests of pine and oak had stood the night before. In many a place the
tops of the tallest trees were scarcely seen above the waves. Where the
bayous had been wide and deep, there was new, strange land, without
tree or plant, fresh from the bowels of the earth. The lake upon whose
shores we sit to-night had swallowed the hills and valleys of an
ancient hunting-ground; the blackened trunks that have stood these many
years will remain a hundred more to tell the story of the earthquake
that lasted for weeks and months, and changed the face of the region
about us; it destroyed the town of New Madrid, now but half rebuilt
in a safer spot, and it swept the wilderness with all the destructive
force of a hurricane. From this there came the story of Tecumseh’s
wrathful threat, to stamp upon the ground and destroy the cabins of
the Tookabatcha town.”

The Padre ceased, for suddenly the cabin seemed to swing like a
drifting ship. They all started to their feet, the children ran to
their mother’s arms, and then the swaying stopped. It was one of
the strange quakes that have never entirely ceased in the hundred
years since the time of the Padre’s story. As late as 1907 a rather
disquieting shock took place in the region of Samburg, but it did
nothing notable in the way of damage. There is no doubt that the
“harricane” so often mentioned by Davy was the work of an earthquake.



XII.

HUNTING BEARS

Hauling a net in Reelfoot Lake――A ton of shovel-nosed cats and
alligator gars――Davy rubs his eyes at the sight, and resolves to keep
out of the water――He kills fifteen bears in two weeks――He goes home,
but soon feels obliged to have another hunt――With his son, he kills
three bears the first day――The bear hunt in the cane――Takes a hungry
man and family into partnership in the hunt――How the “varments” spend
the long winters――He trees a bear near Reelfoot Lake――“Mixing it up”
with the dogs――Salting the meat.


Early the next day, Davy and his host were at the shore of the lake,
waiting for three boats that could be seen coming from a distance, two
of them under sail. When they arrived at the Jepson landing, close to
the house where Davy was staying, Davy’s friend had his own boat ready,
and in a few minutes all four were headed for a bay-like place between
some of the islands. In one of the boats was a long cotton net, brought
from St. Louis. Davy had never seen a net hauled, and was eager to
watch the proceedings. When near the islands, the net was strung
overboard, extending across the bay for several hundred feet. Two boats
were fastened to it at each end and it was drawn in toward the land,
where there were no stumps or trees to interfere. It was slow work, for
the net touched bottom, and often caught on sunken logs. There was no
appearance of fish within it as it came slowly in, until both ends of
the net were fast to shore and the bight was being hauled. When it was
about thirty feet out, a great fish broke water with a splash, and all
over the surface within the ropes were ripples that told of others.

Close to the shore were several stakes standing in the water, and
attached to them was the pound-net towards which the catch was being
hauled. The two boats slowly narrowed the circle until most of the
fish had gone into this. When all was ready, and the large net was
clear, the mouth of the pound-net was closed, and it was freed from the
stakes, when the ten men of the fishing expedition pulled it to a small
dock, built of logs, in a few feet of water. Standing on this, they
lifted the pound-net from the water and dumped the contents into the
largest boat. Davy shouted with astonishment at the sight. As many as
forty shovel-nosed catfish and a dozen alligator garfish writhed and
squirmed before his eyes. They might have weighed a thousand pounds
in all, but the traditionist of the Samburg settlement has not been
admitted to the Ananias Club, and gives only a vague history of the
catch in which his grandfather was interested, under the arrangement
of “share and share alike.” He knows that it was a big haul, but one
that is, of course, often outdone to-day. In the account of a trip
to the lake in 1908, to which reference has been already made, Mr.
Paddock gives a description of the fish named, and it is so much more
interesting than anything scientific, that it is repeated here.

“When I went to Reelfoot,” says Mr. Paddock, “I had never heard of a
spoon-bill catfish, and when I saw in the boat more than two tons of
these slippery monsters of the deep, _with paddles on the ends of their
noses more than two feet long_, I had to pinch myself to see if I was
awake.

“If I have laid myself open to criticism when I told about those three
big black bass, I am going to now ‘bust’ my reputation for veracity
wide open――beyond all repair――for, by actual weight on the scales at
our dock, one-third of those fish averaged seventy pounds apiece, and
the smallest would weigh fifteen pounds.

“If you have never been to Reelfoot, and doubt this statement, take a
trip down there, my brother. They are taking out these whoppers just
the same to-day. They dress them and take them to the dock, where they
get one cent a pound for them. They are the strangest of all fish; they
have no scales or bones, except a gristly spinal column. They have a
long, slender, symmetrical, and graceful body, and their upper jaws
project away ahead, so that at least one-third of their entire length
is nose, which widens and flattens out into a graceful paddle. Most
likely they use it as a shovel; I never had a chance to see one of them
feeding. They live in deep water, but I imagine that they shovel around
in the mud for worms.”

The garfish of Reelfoot Lake are of varying size, with long bills and
sharp, interlocking teeth. Some of them weigh ten to fifteen pounds,
and are formidable specimens. It is likely that after seeing what the
water afforded, Davy preferred to take his chances with the bears.
The fish taken in cold weather often are dried for winter use, and
sometimes smoked, affording a valuable supply of food. The lake is
frequently covered with wild ducks and geese, and water-turkeys or
cormorants act as scavengers. In Davy’s time it was too expensive to
kill water-fowl. His object in going to Reelfoot was to get meat for
his friend, who was helping in the building of the boats. Davy had
already killed and salted down enough for his own family, and as he
seems to have loved bear-hunting more than any other sport, he readily
took the trip to the lake, where the first day or two was spent in
fishing.

The bears were very fat and very plenty, and, for that reason, easily
treed. Davy said that he asked no favors of the bears, except civility,
as he had eight large dogs, as fierce as “painters” (panthers), that
no bear could get away from. The hunt near Reelfoot lasted two weeks,
and in that time fifteen bears were killed. Davy then went home,
afterwards putting in part of his time with the men who were splitting
staves and building the boats. He seems to have been something of a
capitalist at this time, or he may have been backed by some one’s
money. It was in December that he realized that he “couldn’t stand it
without another hunt,” and between Christmas and New Years he and his
son crossed the lake where the men were working for him, and turned
the dogs loose. Before evening he had killed three bears, which they
dressed and salted, putting the meat upon a scaffold built of saplings
and brush. This was the only way to save it from the ravenous wolves.

The meat being safe overhead, Davy and the boy were eating their
breakfast, when a number of hunters appeared with fourteen dogs. The
animals were in hard luck, for Davy tells us that they were so poor
that whenever they indulged in barking they had to lean against the
first tree to rest. They fell on the bones left by the other dogs, and
after the men had been given some of the meat from the scaffold, Davy
“left them and cut out.”

The hunting season was usually at an end before the New Year, as the
bears holed up when the weather became very cold, and remained hidden
until the sap started in the woods. Although they have no food or
water, they are just as fat as ever in the spring, but as their cubs
are born about the time the old ones appear, the mother bears are
not hunted then for the sake of meat or fur. The year in which these
adventures took place was warm during December, and as the story of
Davy’s hunting near the Obion has been read in a thousand school-rooms
in the West, it will be given in as nearly his own words as possible.
At this time he was everywhere known as Colonel Davy Crockett, and
in the middle of the last century, when each scholar used to bring
any book he could get to read from in school, the “History of Colonel
Crockett” rivalled in the small boy’s favor the “Life of General
Francis Marion.” The part most beloved of the young American was the
following, which starts in at the time he left the hungry dogs to gnaw
the bones of the bears killed the day before:

“I hadn’t gone far when my dogs took a first-rate start after a
very large fat old he-bear, which run right plump towards my camp. I
pursued on, but the other hunters had heard the dogs coming, and met
them and killed the bear before I got up to them. I gave him to them,
and cut out for Big Clover Creek, which wasn’t very far off. Just as
I got there and was entering a high cane-brake, my dogs all broke and
went ahead, and in a little time they raised a fuss in the cane, and
seemed to be going every-which-way. I listened a while, and found my
dogs was in two companies, and that both was in a snorting fight. I
sent my little son to one, and I broke for the other. [The son was
nearly eighteen years old.] I got to mine first, and found my dogs
had a two-year-old bear down a-wooling away on him, so I just took my
butcher, and went up and slapped it into him, and killed him without
shooting. There was five of the dogs in my company.

“In a short time I heard my little son fire at his bear. When I went to
him, he had killed it, too. He had two dogs in his team. Just at this
moment we heard my other dog barking a short distance off, and all the
rest at once broke to him. We pushed on, too, and when we got there
we found that he had a still larger bear than either of them we had
killed, treed by himself. We killed that one also, which made three we
had killed in less than half an hour.”

He then goes on to say that the meat was taken care of as on the day
before, and that afterwards he came to where a poor fellow who was the
very picture of hard times was grubbing in the ground.

“I asked him what he was doing away in the woods by himself. He said
he was grubbing [clearing the ground] for a man who intended to settle
there, and that he was doing it because he had no meat for his family,
and could earn a little.

“I was mighty sorry for the poor fellow, for it was not only a hard
but a very slow way to get meat for a hungry family, so I told him if
he would go with me, I would get him more meat than he could earn by
grubbing in a month. I intended to supply him with meat, and also to
get him to assist my little boy in salting and packing up my bears. He
had never seen a bear killed in his life. I told him I had six killed
then, and that my dogs had just gone after another.

“He went off to his little cabin, which was a short distance in the
brush, and his wife was very anxious he should go with me. So we
started and went to the place where I had killed my three bears,
and made a camp. Night now came on, but no word from my dogs yet. I
afterwards found that they had treed the bear they had gone after,
about five miles off, near a man’s house, and had barked at it the
whole enduring night. Poor fellows! Many a time they looked for me,
and wondered why I didn’t come, for they know’d there was no mistake
in me, and I know’d they were as good as ever fluttered in the breeze.
As soon as it was light enough to see, the man took his gun and went
to them, and shot the bear and killed it. My dogs, however, wouldn’t
have anything to do with this stranger; so they left him, and came back
early in the morning to me.

“We got our breakfast and cut out again, and we killed four large and
very fat bears that day. We hunted out the week, and in that time we
killed seventeen, all of them first rate. When we closed our hunt,
I gave the man over a thousand weight of fine, fat bear-meat, which
pleased him mightily, and made him feel rich. I saw him the next fall,
and he told me he had plenty of meat to do him the whole year from his
week’s hunt. My son and me now went home. This was the week between
Christmas and New Year that we made this hunt.

“When we got home, one of my neighbors was out of meat, and wanted me
to go back, and let him go with me, to take another hunt. I couldn’t
refuse, but told him I was afraid the bears had taken to house by
that time, for after they get very fat, in the fall and early part of
the winter, they go into their holes, in large hollow trees or into
hollow logs, or their cane house, or the harricanes, and lie there till
spring, like frozen snakes. And one thing about this will seem mighty
strange to many people. From about the first of January till about the
last of April, these varments lie in their holes altogether.

“In all that time they have no food to eat; and when they come out
they are not an ounce lighter than when they went to house. I don’t
know the cause of this, and still I know it is a fact; and I leave it
to others who have more learning than I have, to account for it.” (The
bears might be suspected of having learned and practised the secrets of
the Norwegian stove, or the modern fireless cooker, whereby a little
heat is made to last for many hours.) “They have not a particle of food
with them, but they just lie and suck the bottoms of their paws all the
time. I have killed many of them in their trees, which enables me to
speak positively upon the subject.

“However, my neighbor, whose name is McDaniel, and my little son and
me, went on down to the lake to my second camp, where we had killed the
seventeen bears the week before, and turned out to hunting. We hunted
all day without the dogs getting a single start. We had carried but
little provisions with us, and the next morning were entirely out of
meat. I sent my son to the house of an old friend, about three miles
off, to get some. The old gentleman was much pleased to hear that I
was hunting in those parts, for the year before the bears had killed a
great many of his hogs. He had that day been killing his bacon hogs,
and so he gave my son some meat, and sent word to me that I must come
in to his house that evening, and that he would have plenty of feed for
my dogs, and some accommodations for ourselves; but before my son got
back, we had gone out hunting, and in a large cane-brake my dogs found
a big bear in a cane house, which he had fixed for his winter quarters,
as they sometimes do.

“When my lead dog found him, and raised the yell, all the rest broke to
him, but none of them entered his house till we got up. I encouraged my
dogs, and they know’d me so well that I could have made them seize the
old serpent himself, with all his horns and heads and cloven foot and
ugliness, if he would have only come to light, so they could have seen
him. They bulged in, and in an instant the bear followed them out, and
I told McDaniel to shoot him, as he was mighty wrathy to kill a bear.
He did so, and killed him prime. We carried him to our camp, by which
time my son had returned; and after we had got our dinners, we packed
up and cut for the house of my friend, whose name was Davidson.

“We got there and stayed with him that night; and the next morning,
having salted up our meat, we left it with him, and started to take
a hunt between the Obion lake and Reelfoot lake. As there had been a
dreadful harricane which passed between them, I was sure there must
be a heap of bears in the fallen timber. We had gone about five miles
without seeing any sign at all; but at length we got on some high cany
ridges, and as we rode along I saw a hole in a large black oak, and, on
examining more closely, I discovered that a bear had clomb the tree. I
could see his tracks going up, but none coming down, and so I was sure
he was in there. A person who is acquainted with bear-hunting, can tell
easy enough when the varment is in the hollow; for as they go up they
don’t slip a bit, but as they come down they make long scratches with
their nails.

“My friend was a little ahead of me, but I called him back and told
him there was a bear in that tree, and I must have him out. So we lit
from our horses, and I found a small tree which I thought I could fall
so as to lodge against my bear tree, and we fell to work chopping it
with our tomahawks. I intended, when we lodged the tree against the
other, to let my little son go up and look into the hole, for he could
climb like a squirrel. We had chopped on a little time, and stopped to
rest, when I heard my dogs barking mighty severe at some distance from
us, and I told my friend I know’d they had a bear; for it is the nature
of dogs, when they find you are hunting bears, to hunt for nothing
else. They become fond of the meat, and consider other game as ‘not
worth a notice,’ as old John said of the devil.

“We concluded to leave our tree a bit, and went to my dogs, and when
we got there, sure enough they had an eternal great big fat bear up
a tree, just ready for shooting. My friend again petitioned me for
liberty to shoot this one also. I had a little rather not, as the bear
was so big, but I couldn’t refuse; and so he blazed away, and down came
the old fellow like some great log had fell.

“I now missed one of my dogs, the same that I had before spoke of as
having treed the bear by himself some time before, when I had started
the three in the cane-brake. I told my friend that my missing dog had a
bear somewhere, just as sure as fate; so I left them to butcher the one
we had just killed, and I went up on a piece of high ground to listen
for my dog. I heard him barking with all his might some distance off,
and I pushed ahead for him. My other dogs that were with me heard him
and broke for him, and when I got there, sure enough he had another
bear already treed. If he hadn’t, I wish I may be shot! I fired on him,
and brought him down; and then went back, and helped finish butchering
the one when I had left my friend. We then packed, on our horses, both
to the tree where I had left my boy.

“By this time, the little fellow had cut the tree down that we intended
to lodge against the hollow one, but it fell the wrong way; he had
then feathered in on the big tree, to cut that, and had found that it
was nothing but a shell on the outside, and all doted [decayed] in the
middle, as too many of our big men are in these days, having only an
outside appearance. My friend and my son cut away on it, and I went
off about a hundred yards with my dogs to keep them from running under
the tree when it should fall. On looking back at the hole in the tree,
I saw the bear’s head out of it, watching down at them as they were
cutting. I hollered to them to look up, and they did so, and McDaniel
catched up his gun; but by this time the bear was out, and coming down
the tree. He fired at it, and as soon as it touched the ground the dogs
were all round it, and they had a roll-and-tumble fight to the foot of
the hill, where they stopped him. I ran up, and, putting my gun against
the bear, fired and killed him. We had now three, and so we made our
scaffold and salted them up.”



XIII.

LOST IN THE WOODS

Continuation of the Reelfoot hunt――Starts a big fellow in the
“harricane”――Snaking it through the brambles and fallen trees――Trees
the bear and kills him, and misses his hunting-knife――His knife found
by McDaniel――A terrible encounter with a bear after dark――Davy kills
him with his knife in a deep chasm caused by the earthquakes――The dogs
are badly mauled, and Davy is lost in the woods――He climbs up and down
a smooth-barked tree all night to keep from freezing to death――Another
’quake follows――A total of fifty-eight bears in four months.


The “harricanes” so often referred to by Davy were undoubtedly the
work of the earthquakes before described, together with the fierce
wind-storms that seemed to be a part of the disturbances. The story of
the Reelfoot hunting-trip goes on as follows:

“In the morning we left my son at the camp, and we started on towards
the harricane; and when we had went about a mile, we started a very
large bear, but we got along mighty slow on account of the cracks in
the earth occasioned by the earthquakes. [These cracks, which may still
be traced after the lapse of a hundred years, ran from southwest to
northeast, and in many places great trees that had been split in the
middle, stood with divided trunks above the chasms.]

“We, however, managed to keep within hearing of the dogs, for about
three miles, and then we come to the harricane. Here we had to quit
our horses, as old Nick himself couldn’t have got through it without
sneaking along in the form he put on to make a fool of our old
grandmother Eve. By this time several of my dogs had got tired and come
back; but we went on ahead for some time in the harricane, when we met
a bear coming straight to us, and not more than twenty or thirty yards
off. I started my tired dogs after him, and McDaniel pursued them, and
I went on to where my other dogs were. I had seen the track of the bear
they were after, and I know’d he was a screamer.

“I followed on to about the middle of the harricane, but my dogs
pursued him so close that they made him climb an old stump about twenty
feet high. I got within shooting distance of him and fired, but I was
all over in such a flutter from fatigue and running, that I couldn’t
hold steady; but, however, I broke his shoulder, and he fell. I run up
and loaded my gun as quick as possible, and shot him again and killed
him. When I went to take out my knife to butcher him, I found I had
lost it in coming through the harricane. The vines and briers was so
thick that I would sometimes have to get down and crawl like a varment
to get through at all; and a vine had, as I supposed, caught in the
handle and pulled it out. While I was standing and studying what to do,
my friend came to me. He had followed my trail through the harricane,
and had found my knife, which was mighty good news to me, as a hunter
hates the worst in the world to lose a good dog, or any part of his
hunting tools. I now left McDaniel to butcher the bear, and went after
the horses, and brought them as near as the nature of the case would
allow. I then took our bags and went back to where he was; and when
we had skinned the bear we fleeced off the fat and carried it to our
horses in several loads. We then packed it upon our horses, and had a
heavy load on each one. We now started and went on till about sunset,
when I concluded we must be near our camp; so I hollered and my son
answered me, and we moved on in the direction to the camp.

“We had gone but a little way when I heard my dogs make a warm start
again; and I jumped down from my horse and gave him up to my friend,
and told him I would follow them. He went on to the camp, and I went
ahead after my dogs with all my might for a considerable distance,
till at last night came on. The ground was very rough and hilly,
and all covered over with cane. I now was compelled to move on more
slowly; and was frequently falling over logs, and into the cracks of
the earthquakes, so that I was very much afraid I would break my gun.
However, I went about three miles, when I came to a good big creek,
which I waded. It was very cold, and the creek was about knee-deep;
but I felt no great inconvenience from it just then, as I was all
over wet with sweat from running, and I felt hot enough. After I got
over this creek, and out of the cane, which was very thick on all
our creeks, I listened for my dogs. I found they had either treed or
brought the bear to a stop, as they continued barking in the same place.

“I pushed on in the direction of the noise, as far as I could, till I
found the hill was too steep for me to climb, and so I backed and went
down the creek for some distance, till I came to a hollow, and took
up that, till I came to a place where I could climb the hill. It was
mighty dark, and it was difficult to see my way or anything else. When
I got up the hill, I found I had passed the dogs, and so I turned and
went to them. I found, when I got there, they had treed the bear in a
large forked poplar, and it was setting in the fork.

“I could see the lump, but not plain enough to shoot with any
certainty, as there was no moonlight; and so I set in to hunting for
some dry bush to make me a light; but I could find none, though I
could find that the ground was torn mightily to pieces by the cracks.

“At last I thought I could shoot by guess, and kill him; so I pointed
as near the lump as I could, and fired away. But the bear didn’t come,
he only clumb up higher, and got out on a limb, which helped me to see
him better. I now loaded up and fired again, but he didn’t move at all
this time. I commenced loading for a third fire, but the first thing
I know’d, the bear was down among my dogs, and they were fighting all
around me. I had my big butcher-knife in my belt, and I had a pair
of dressed buckskin breeches on. So I took out my knife, and stood,
determined, if he should get hold of me, to defend myself in the best
way I could. I stood there for some time, and could now and then see a
white dog I had, but the rest of them, and the bear, I couldn’t see at
all, it was so miserable dark.

“They still fought around me, and within three feet of me; but at last
the bear got down into one of the cracks that the earthquake had made
in the ground, about four feet, and I could tell the biting end of him
by the hollering of my dogs. So I took my gun and pushed the muzzle of
it about till I thought I had it against the main part of his body, and
fired; but it happened to be only the fleshy part of his foreleg. With
this he jumped out of the crack, and he and the dogs had another hard
fight around me, as before. At last, however, they forced him back into
the crack again, as he was when I had shot.

“I then began to hunt for my gun, which I had laid down in the dark;
and, while hunting, I got hold of a pole, and I concluded I would punch
him with it awhile. I did so, and when I would punch him, the dogs
would jump in on him, when he would bite them badly and they would
jump out again. I concluded, as he would take punching so patiently,
it might be that he would lie still enough for me to get down into the
crack, and feel slowly along till I could find the right place to give
him a dig with my butcher. So I got down, and my dogs got in front of
him and kept his head towards them, till I got along easily up to him;
and, placing my hand on his rump, felt for his shoulder, just behind
where I intended to stick him. I made a lunge with my long knife, and
fortunately struck him right through the heart, at which he just sank
down, and I crawled out in a hurry.”

Davy had to stay all night at the place where he had killed the bear,
and nearly froze to death before morning. To avoid this, he hit upon
a plan that would be impossible for most men to carry out. He found a
two-foot tree near-by, without limbs for thirty feet, and by climbing
it as far as the forks, and then sliding back to the ground, he managed
to keep his blood in circulation.

When McDaniel afterwards saw what Davy had done, he said he wouldn’t
have gone down into the place with the bear for all the bears in the
woods.

The two men worked and hunted all the next day, and at night were glad
to rest. They had gone to sleep as near the fire as they dared, when
something happened; as Davy says, “About ten o’clock there came a most
terrible earthquake, which shook the earth so that we were rocked about
like we had been in a cradle. We were very much alarmed; for though we
were accustomed to feel earthquakes, we were now right in the region
which had been torn to pieces by them in 1812, and we thought it might
take a notion and swallow us up, as the big fish did Jonah.”

When the hunt ended, and the meat had been packed to their homes, both
McDaniel and Davy had enough and to spare. Davy says that during the
fall and up to January, he killed fifty-eight bears, thus adding to his
already great renown as a bear-hunter.



XIV.

THE MISSISSIPPI FLOOD

The flat-boats start for New Orleans――All hands appalled by the
Mississippi’s flood――A good-for-nothing pilot――They try in vain to
make a landing――Passing the “Devil’s Elbow”――Uncle Julius is “mighty
scared”――The darky’s song――A sudden wreck, and a close call for
Davy――The crew sit all night on the flood-trash of an island in the
middle of the river――They are rescued by a steamboat and landed at
Memphis――Davy finds a friend in Major Winchester――His return home.


The bears having taken to their winter hiding places――at least, those
that Davy and his partners had not killed――there was nothing to keep
back the work of splitting staves and completing the two boats. The
latter were of the flat-bottom sort, strongly built of hewed timbers,
and planks sawed in pits or upon scaffolds. They were caulked and
pitched, and each had a well for the purpose of bailing water that
leaked in. The decks were flat, with a small hatchway house over the
entrance of the cabin below it. On board of a ship this would be
called the companionway. The steering was done with a long sweep, or
oar, at the stern, and sometimes with poles. Thirty thousand staves
were put on board the two boats, and as soon as everything was ready a
start was made.

The Deer and the Obion Rivers flow into the Mississippi at no great
distance apart. Near the mouth of the Obion, a lake or bayou joins
the channels, and this lake is thought by many to be the one upon
whose shores the boats were built. As Davy was but a short time in
getting his fleet out of the Obion and into the Mississippi, the lake
must have been near the latter river. When they floated out into the
Father of Waters, as the Indians call the great river, the venturous
woodsmen were appalled by the immensity of the flood upon which they
were borne swiftly along. Across the mile or more of yellow water that
reached from shore to shore, bordered with leafless sycamores and
cypress swamps, they saw new perils loom at every curve of the tortuous
stream. The river flows at the rate of two hundred feet per minute,
and as island after island, and bend after bend, had to be avoided or
navigated with all the strength and watchfulness that was in them, it
is not to be wondered at that, as Davy says, all the hands were “bad
scared.”

Davy’s motto had always been to “go ahead,” but now he seems to have
had no choice. He had never been down the river, probably never before
had seen it, and the man hired as pilot was found to be a fraud. As the
two boats were constantly either drifting apart or bumping into each
other, they were lashed together, in the hope that in that way they
might be more manageable.

Towards night they fell in with some boats from the Ohio, and when Davy
wanted to make a landing, and tried without success to stop at the
river’s banks, the Ohio boatmen shouted to him to keep on and run all
night. He didn’t want then to “go ahead,” but there was no other way.
The clumsy craft were always trying to butt into trouble. Sawyers, and
planters, and sand-bars, and right-about curves of the channel, were
forcing the crew to superhuman exertions, partly because they trusted
to main strength without skill. Soon after they gave up trying to land,
they came to a place called “The Devil’s Elbow.” Here Davy says he had
the hardest work of his life. He twice attempted to land at Wood-yards,
but could not. The people on shore tried to guide them with lights,
and shouted to direct their efforts, but the boats were too heavy to
manage, and finally the exhausted crew gave up the fight, and let the
river sweep them along at will.

Davy was sitting by the stove in the cabin of one of the boats,
thinking of what a “hobble” he had got himself into, and how much
better bear-hunting was than being on the water, where he had to go
ahead, whether he wanted to or not, when he heard some one walking
slowly back and forth on the deck above him, and he went up the
companionway to see who it was. The boats were sweeping along through
the dark, and, in spite of attempts to steer, the crew were really
trusting to a merciful Providence. The uneasy mortal for whom Davy was
looking proved to be Uncle Julius, the darky cook.

“What’s the matter, Uncle?” Davy said. “Can’t you sleep?”

“’Deed I can’t, Mars Davy,” was the doleful reply. “De squinch-owls
an’ de hoot-owls makin’ a heap er noise on de sho’, an’ de wolves is
howlin’ like de ha’nts bin after ’um. ’Pears like I’s so oneasy I
can’t keep still fer thinkin’ er de time w’en de crawfishes bo’ed de
holes in de groun’, en all de animiles an’ de folkses, ’ceppin Noer en
his critters, went down ter de bottom, kerblunkity-blink. I ain’ much
fer whimplin’ erroun’, but I’s mighty juberous ’bout dis yere kin’ er
sailin’, and wen you says I can’t sleep, Mars Dave, yo’ sho’s knockin’
at de back do’.”

Davy said a word to cheer up the old darky, then looked about him
before going below. The ripple of the water against the sides of the
boats was like the wash of waves on an unknown coast. From the tall
buttonwood and cottonwood trees upon the shore came the “Hoo! Hoo! Too
Whoo! Hoo! Hoo! Too Whoo!” that stirred the superstition of the darky’s
nature. The tremulous cry of the ’coon, the howling of a wolf, and the
bay of a hound, floated out across the muddy stream; then there came
a sudden splashing of the water ahead, and a flock of ducks flew away
with loud and angry clamor. From overhead the wild-geese call was like
the far-away blast of a trumpet blown by spirits of the air. The wind
was chill, and there was nothing a bear-hunter could do, so Davy went
below again, but not to sleep.

The darky was trying to keep up his spirits by singing, the words of
his ditty being somewhat similar to those made famous by Uncle Remus:

    “Oh, de fus’ news you know de day’ll be a-breakin’,
     An’ de fier be a-burnin’ en’ de ash-cake a-bakin’,
     An’ de hen’ll be a-hollerin’ en’ de boss’ll be a-wakin’――
     Better git up, nigger, en’ give yo’se’f a shakin’――
                   Hi O! Miss Sindy Ann!

    “Oh, honey, w’en you year dat tin horn a-tootin’,
     Oh, honey, w’en you year de squinch-owl a-hootin’,
     Oh, honey, w’en you year dem little pigs a-rootin’,
     Right den she’s a-comin’ a-skippin’ en’ a-scootin’――
                   Hi O! Miss Sindy Ann!”

Davy most profoundly wished for the daylight the old cook was praying
for. Suddenly there was a crash and the covering of the way to the
deck was crushed flat, perhaps from being struck by the limbs of a
tree. There was no chance to get out of the place where he was sitting.
The scurrying of feet sounded above, there was a sudden thump and a
tipping of the boat, as the clumsy craft struck the head of an island
and lodged against a pile of flood-trash and loose timbers.

Realizing his danger, Davy tried in vain to force his way up the
stairs. As the boat careened, the opening used for dipping water from
the river was exposed, the other boat having drifted away. He tried to
get out through this, but found it too small. In desperation he put his
arms through as far as he could, and as the water was not yet up to his
face, he says he “hollered as loud as he could roar,” telling the crew
to pull him out or pull him in two. It was a case of life or death,
with no time to wait. By a violent pull, they dragged him through. He
had been without a coat in the cabin, and now found himself without a
shirt, and so badly scratched up that he was “skinned like a rabbit.”
He says he was glad enough to escape alive, without shirt or hide.
The whole crew then left the boats to their fate and climbed onto the
timber, which seems to have been in the form of a raft, where they sat
without much on till morning. Davy had at this time a hope of success
in the next election, and as he sat, disconsolate and barefooted in the
middle of the Mississippi, two miles wide, he says:

“I reckon I looked like a pretty cracklin’ ever to get to Congress.”

In the midst of so many troubles, Davy showed his grit; and his
reflections at the time are worth recording:

“We had now lost all our loading, and every particle of our clothing,
except what we had on; but over all this, while I was setting there,
in the night, floating about on the drift, I felt happier and better
off than I had ever felt before in my life, for I had just made such a
marvelous escape that I had forgot almost everything but that; and so I
felt prime.”

About daylight a steamboat was seen coming down the river, and they
flew such signals of distress as the state of their wardrobes allowed.
It is traditional that one of the men stripped off his red shirt and
waved it on the end of a cane pole that had caught in the flood-trash.
A cheery blast from the boat’s whistle answered the signals, and as she
stopped above them, a skiff was seen leaving her side. In a short time
all were taken on board the rescuing craft, whose name is not known.
She landed them at Memphis, without shoes or hats or any other articles
of wearing apparel in sufficiency for half the crew. As they were
passing one of the gambling rooms with which Memphis abounded in those
days, some one hailed Davy, calling him Colonel Crockett. It proved
to be one of the men who had been at the Talladega fight. Davy’s old
comrade induced him to go with him to the store of Major Winchester,
a wealthy trader. Davy was as proud a mortal as ever drew breath, but
with a heart full of gratitude he accepted the Major’s offer of money
and clothing for himself and the destitute crew. For this the Major
would take nothing as security, not even a note or receipt, and his
kindness and his faith in the Colonel never were forgotten.

From Memphis Davy went down the river to Natchez by steamboat, hoping
to recover the boats in case they had held together. He heard of one
of them fifty miles below Memphis, where attempts had been made to
stop it, but, he says, “she was as hard-headed as ever.” Nothing was
afterwards known of the other. So ended another of Davy’s ventures, and
again he went home with empty hands to the little cabin at the end of
the trail through the Obion wilderness.

In this lone clearing, he was literally “the man from the cane,” but
he had no idea of staying there. He hunted bears, and planted his
crops, and waited his time. When this had come, he again “offered” for
Congress, and started upon an electioneering tour. His trip in which
the boats were lost was in the year 1826, probably late in the fall.
The Congressional campaign occurred in 1827, and the election was in
August of that year. Some of the incidents of the canvass by Davy will
be told in the next chapter.



XV.

CLAY AND WEBSTER

Davy runs for Congress――He plays the part of the little red fox――The
guinea-hens annoy Davy’s opponent――Davy’s coon-skin cap and his rifle
win the election in spite of Jackson’s opposition――He is now the Hon.
David Crockett, M.C., and a national character――Again crosses the
mountains on his way to the capital――Familiar scenes bring back old
memories――He repays the friend who lent him money for the campaign――In
the “straggling village of Washington”――Davy’s dream of future
greatness――He becomes acquainted with Clay, Webster, and other great
men.


It will be remembered that Davy was beaten by two votes in 1825,
Colonel Alexander being elected to Congress at a time when cotton was
twenty-five cents per pound. The Colonel took his part of the credit
for this advance in prices, and was a winner as a tariff supporter.
While he was in Congress, cotton tumbled to six and eight cents, and
the Colonel was out of political ammunition. The story of Colonel
Crockett’s bear-hunting on the Obion had been told in every cabin. His
wreck and escape from drowning on the river awakened the sympathy of
every poor man in his district, and they made up the greater part of
the population. As may be supposed, Davy had no money for a canvass of
so large a district; but a good friend gave him enough to start with,
and seems to have been at many of the meetings, always with a little
more to help along. In time this amounted to one hundred and fifty
dollars, not a great sum for a three months’ campaign.

Davy’s opponents were Colonel Alexander, for reëlection, and General
William Arnold, of the militia, who was also an advocate and a
brilliant speaker. The situation reminds us of the Æsopian fable:

“A Lion and a Tiger happened to come together over the dead body of
a Fawn that had recently been shot. A fierce battle ensued, and as
each animal was in the prime of his age and strength, the combat was
long and furious. At last they lay stretched on the ground, panting,
bleeding, and exhausted, each unable to lift a paw against the other.
An impudent Fox, coming by at the time, stepped in and carried off
before their eyes the prey for which they had suffered so much.”

It is a curious coincidence when Davy says that he was as cunning “as
a little red fox,” and would not risk his tail in a “committal trap,”
carefully avoiding any declaration of his rather vague political creed.
His competitors were so busy warring against each other, that they
lost sight of the little red fox whom they had not thought worthy of
attention.

In one of the eastern counties of the district an amusing incident
occurred. The three candidates were to speak at a meeting, and Davy’s
turn came first. He made a short talk in the style that he had found
always interested the men of his kind. The others followed with
tedious attacks upon each other’s platforms, but without honoring
Davy with a mention. In the midst of Colonel Alexander’s speech, some
guinea-hens raised their sharp, staccato cries that sounded like
“Crockett! Crockett! Crockett!” They so disturbed the Colonel that
he had them driven away before going on with the speech. As soon as
he had finished, Davy congratulated him upon being opposed to fowl
language in public. The Colonel was at a loss for a reply to something
of which he did not see the point, whereupon Davy went on to explain
that the guinea-hens had offended his opponent because they had called
for “Crockett! Crockett!” The whole crowd caught the joke and yelled
with fierce backwoods mirth, and Davy records that “the Colonel seemed
mighty bad plagued.” Party lines were not tightly drawn in those days,
but out of the confusion was slowly taking place a separation of the
elements that were to form the Republicans, under Jackson, and the
Whigs, who later elected General Harrison as President of the United
States. The Republicans later became the Democratic party, and about
1856, strange and confusing as it now seems, their opponents took the
name of “Republicans.”

Davy went into every nook and corner of his district, meeting and
making friends. If there was a barbecue, he was the first attraction;
at a shooting-match every one gloried in his skill. When the returns
were complete they showed that Colonel Crockett had a plurality
of 2,748 votes. This was so remarkable a victory over the men who
supported the tariff legislation of 1824, that Davy became known at
once all over the United States. The men who were urging the people
of the country to make Jackson President, and who elected him in
1828, were proud of his origin; they gloried in his lowly birth, and
proclaimed him a proof of the virtues that existed beneath the rough
garb of the backwoodsman. And as they glorified Andrew Jackson, they
exalted Davy Crockett. What Jackson had been, Davy Crockett was; he was
still “the man from the cane,” the bear-hunter, the Indian fighter,
the man who “went ahead.” In his little cabin on the Obion were his
wife and children, sons and daughters of the wilderness; his coon-skin
cap still hung upon the wall, his rifle stood by the open door; his
garments were spun beneath his humble roof, and with his own daily
labor he fed those who were dear to him. He was honest, fearless, and
could read and write only with difficulty. All these things endeared
him to the men of the Chickasaw Purchase, who also could read and write
only with infinite pains. Until now the Presidents of the United States
had been chosen from the ranks of the aristocrats. John Quincy Adams,
who was then President, was the coldest and most dignified of the long
line.

Congress convened in December, in regular session, and after a tearful
farewell to his family, the Honorable David Crockett, M.C. from
Tennessee, took the old trail across the mountains. Many of his boyhood
friends came to meet him after he left Nashville, and every day brought
back old memories as he saw the familiar scenes. The sumacs glowed
like fire upon the slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains, and among the
sombre forests of pine and hemlock were the gold and crimson glories
of the maple and the oak. The deer still watched the travellers from
its hiding-place, and the owl called solemnly through the twilight,
as of old; but the tom-tom no longer summoned the red men to council,
or stirred the quiet wilderness with a dread of the tomahawk and the
knife. The work of the pioneer was done. The farmer and the artisan
were building an empire upon the foundations he had laid, and Davy
Crockett, backwoodsman and scout, was about to take part with the
proudest in the land in the making of a nation’s laws.

Before he started for Washington, his rich friend advanced him a
hundred dollars more, to cover his expenses to that city. Regarding
this loan, he has said: “I came on to Washington, and drawed two
hundred and fifty dollars, and purchased with it a check on the bank
at Nashville, and enclosed it to my friend; and I may say, in truth,
I sent this money with a right good-will, for I reckon nobody in this
world loves a friend better than me, or remembers a kindness longer.”

As the early nights came on in Washington, which was then an unkempt
city of scarcely twenty thousand people, and which twelve years
afterwards the English traveller, George Combes, wrote of as a
“straggling village in a half-drained swamp,” Davy looked across the
marshes of the Potomac and the Anacostia, and pictured to himself
a far-away scene upon the Rutherford Fork: a little space in the
wilderness, where the corn-stalks rustled in the autumn wind; the
sturdy cabin, built of logs and chinked with clay, before whose door
his faithful hounds slept a fitful sleep, awaiting their master’s call;
the near-by “harricane,” where the bears ever grew fatter, undisturbed
by the crack of rifle or the baying of dogs; bright, loving faces
looking wistfully across the unnumbered miles on which he had followed
the flickering torch of Fame. He believed himself a great man. Against
the polished learning and the subtleties of the aristocrat, he measured
with a rather excusable complacency his own common-sense and his own
victories. As the days wore on and he became used to the daily grind at
the Capitol, he found himself known to every public man in the city,
and became more reconciled to political life. His idioms of speech were
watched for with an intentness that flattered his pride. He no longer
wore a coon-skin cap or homespun clothing, but there was something in
the way in which he traversed the quagmires of Pennsylvania Avenue,
that was different from the more mincing gait of the aristocratic
statesmen and diplomats who found relief from their official labors in
leading the minuet.

Davy entered into politics in dead earnest, and by the time he had
been sought out by such men as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, and
others eager to turn to account every factor in politics, he began to
dream. Andrew Jackson had come of lowly parentage, from a cabin in the
wilderness; he was sure to be elected President, if he lived, in two
years more. If Andrew Jackson, why not Davy Crockett?

Davy’s ambitious nature is revealed in his own story, written or
dictated during his career as a Congressman, and after his departure
from the Republican, or Jackson, fold. In this he makes these remarks,
as he tells one of the reasons for recounting his experiences in
book-form:

“I know that as obscure as I am, my name is making considerable of a
fuss in the world. I can’t tell why it is, nor in what it is to end.
Go where I will, everybody seems anxious to get a peep at me; and it
would be hard to tell which would have the advantage if I and the
‘Government’ [Jackson] and ‘Black Hawk’ [Adam Huntsman, his competitor
in the Congressional campaigns], and a great big eternal caravan of
wild varments were all to be showed at the same time in four different
parts of any of the big cities in the nation. I am not so sure that I
should not get the most custom of any of the crew. There must therefore
be something in me, or about me, that attracts attention, which is even
mysterious to myself.”

In one instance Davy uses the words, “Just as Clay and Webster and
myself are preparing to fix bank matters, on account of the scarcity
of money.” He also speaks of “a few such men as Clay and Webster and
myself.” His reflections at this time throw light upon the sudden
turning-point in his career, a few years later.

When Davy arrived at Washington, the news of the great naval battle of
Navarino had just arrived by the clipper ship _North Star_, twelve days
from London. When she rounded to in Baltimore harbor, stowing her sails
with trim precision almost before her anchor caught, the men of the
sea were more interested in the “cracker-jack” run than in the news
she brought. When Davy heard of the incidents connected with the naval
battle, he is said to have remarked that “when three kinds of wild
varments get to hunting together, Uncle Sam would better be looking
out for his sheep.” He referred to the fact that during four hours of
the afternoon of October 20, 1827, the combined squadrons of England,
Russia, and France, made up of ten ships of the line, ten frigates, and
nine smaller vessels, had shot to pieces or sunk under fire more than
one hundred war-vessels of the Turkish navy, under Moharem Bey, four
thousand Moslems being killed or drowned. The battle of Navarino failed
to wake Uncle Sam to his need of a navy, and until the wolves, in the
shape of the _Florida_ and the _Alabama_ and other ships quite as
daring, began to thin his flock, he remained asleep. The politicians of
1827 to 1840 were men who fought each other with any weapons they could
wield, and, in want of weapon, they used filth and mud. A merciful
oblivion has covered with the dust of many years their words and deeds.



XVI.

IN CONGRESS

Davy’s place in politics――He is elected for a second term――His
opposition to President Jackson――After two terms in Congress, he is
defeated by a contemptible trick――The influence of the Murrell gang is
felt――Two years in retirement――Writing his autobiography――The Middle
Fork camp-meeting――The wildcat hunter from the Wolf Creek Branch――At
a shooting-match――The generosity of Davy――He is elected by a large
majority.


During his first term in Congress, in 1828 and 1829, Davy seems to have
been lined up with the Jackson faction, which was opposed to the Adams
administration, then allied with the friends of Henry Clay. In 1828
Andrew Jackson was elected President by a remarkable percentage of the
electoral college, and Davy Crockett, one of his former scouts, watched
him as he rode to the Capitol, dismounted, and with lifted hand swore
loyalty to the nation that had chosen him for the highest place in its
power to give. How many have pictured the rude simplicity of such
a proceeding――the rugged soldier, the sorry steed! Their democratic
souls have been much deceived. Jackson’s horse was the finest that
could be found in Kentucky or Tennessee. He wore no uniform, but in
his broadcloth coat and ruffles he sat his saddle like a king, more
stately, more exemplary of power, than many of his successors who have
been seated upon the velvet cushions of landaus.

There was a rattling of dry bones in the Departments as Old Hickory
swept from power and position hundreds of the appointees of his
predecessors. The now familiar cry, “To the victors belong the spoils,”
became the slogan of his followers. Davy seems to have had no place in
the crowd that fawned about their master’s feet. He may have seen the
ill-mannered mob that thrust aside the doorkeepers of the White House
at the public receptions, invaded the parlors and dining-rooms, climbed
upon the satin upholsteries, and fell upon the refreshments like the
locusts of Egypt, “filling the houses, and eating the residue of that
which escaped”; but of his two years’ term he has written hardly
a hundred words. He went back to his cabin home, conducted another
campaign, and was again elected by an overwhelming majority of nearly
3,600 votes.

During Davy’s second term, in 1830 and 1831, Jackson urged the removal
of the Cherokees and other Indian tribes from the lands east of the
Mississippi. Davy did not see the relentless power of advancing
civilization behind the unquiet of the frontier, and the impossibility
of resisting the impulse towards the separation of the whites and the
aborigines, and voted against the removal, in spite of strenuous urging
by those who favored it. It was of this vote that he has said:

“I would rather be honestly and politically damned than to be
hypocritically immortalized.”

Returning again to his district, in 1831, he found, as he says, the
storm raised against him. He was accused of the unpardonable sin of
turning against Jackson.

“I was hunted down like a wild varment,” he has told us, “and in this
hunt every little paper in the district, and every little pin-hook
lawyer, was engaged.” He was accused of receiving pay for sessions
from which he was absent, and his wrath was kindled by these charges
of dishonesty in doing what every other Congressman had done. His
district was “gerrymandered,” and all the political weapons of his
opponents were set to work. In the language of the cowboy of a later
generation, “they wore their guns, and they wore ’em mighty low.” Davy
was beaten by a smart and entirely unscrupulous scheme. He says that
the “little four-pence-ha’penny limbs of the law” gave notice all over
the district of dates upon which Crockett would appear to explain his
actions in Congress and his reasons for his opposition to Jackson. When
crowd after crowd gathered at the time and place announced, the absence
of Crockett――entirely unaware of the trick that was being played――was
laid to his fear of facing the issues raised. He was afraid, the
“four-pence-ha’penny lawyers” cried, and the disappointed voters went
to their homes stirred with doubt and resentment. When the votes were
counted in August, Davy was in the majority in seventeen counties, but
in Madison County, the home of the Murrell outlaws and their allies,
his opponent had enough to overcome all that Davy had in the rest of
the district.

In Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi,” he has told a story of the
methods of the Murrell gang, a story too sickening for repetition.
The existence of such a fraternity of criminals had a great influence
upon the history of Texas and its neighbors, the United States and
Mexico. Under the great cottonwoods in the swamps of Madison County,
men met who had plundered and burned ships and cut throats all the way
from Curaçoa to the Bahama Banks and Barnegat; who had both filled
and emptied the unspeakable barracoons of the slave-trade on the
Guinea coast; who had been midnight assassins in Paris and Madrid,
brigands from the ruins of the Appian Way, pirates from every maritime
nation of the globe; and always besides, there was the more or less
gentlemanly gambler of the Mississippi river-boats, ready to lead or
follow where there was promise of plunder. There were secret signs,
passwords, and grips, relay stations on their highways of crime, and
everywhere confederates who ranked with the first citizens in unsullied
reputations and sober living. The gang sold slaves trained to run away,
to be sold again and then again, until led into the tangled pathways
of some reeking swamp, to die the death of a dog at the hands of men
who left no danger of detection overlooked. In 1835 their operations as
gamblers upon the great river, and as robbers and swindlers along its
shores, led to their being driven out of the jurisdiction of the courts
and vigilance committees of the frontier. They went to Texas, because
there was no other place to which they dared to go. Here their reckless
habits infused new life into the discontent already existing among the
colonists, and hastened the inevitable conflict that was so soon to
occur.

During the years 1832 and 1833, Davy was a private citizen, but he
was by no means an idle one. If he still hunted the bears of the
“harricane” at his back door, he tells nothing in regard to such
pursuits. His time was taken up in writing the story of his own life,
and in planning for the next election. That he wrote his autobiography
in the two years mentioned is shown by the work itself. His constant
reference to the removal of the “deposites” from the United States Bank
is good proof that much of the book was written after the date of the
removal.

In his canvass of his district for votes, while fighting his way back
to Washington, Davy found his lessons in history and national questions
of great assistance. His easy familiarity with the names of famous
statesmen, his crude painting of Eastern life and manners, and his new
self-possession in speaking before a crowd, all served to awaken the
admiration and win the support of a people who loved the spectacular
in politics. His readiness to pit himself against all comers, in
everything from oration to sharp-shooting, made him an attraction at
every public gathering. The story of the Middle Fork camp-meeting has
not yet faded from the memory of the men who lived upon its banks.

It was a splendid summer afternoon, when Davy rode into an open place
in the forest, twenty miles east of his cabin, where two or three
hundred men and women had come to listen to the exhortations of the
“rider,” a long, ungainly preacher.

He was about to lead in a hymn when a rough and red-nosed man with a
bottle of whisky in his pocket, leaped upon the rock and levelled his
rifle in the faces of the astonished people.

“The first man sings has got to fight!” he yelled. “I’m the wild-cat
hunter from the Wolf Creek branch of the Rutherford Fork. I’ve et up
all the Injuns, bears, an’ wildcats ez fur ez the Big Sandy, an’ I’m
dying hungry now fur hymn-books an’ preachers an’ folks thet sings.”

He stopped, glared at the astonished old “rider,” then took out the
bottle and drank a half-dozen swallows with a gurgling sound. Some one
spoke in the crowd. “Shut up!” he yelled, lifting his bottle and waving
it above the shrinking women and children below. “Shut up an’ git out
o’ sight before ye see the wildcat hunter eat the preacher, hide and
hair!”

There was the crack of a rifle, and the bottle was shattered into
fragments, dashing the raw liquor into the rowdy’s eyes and cutting
his face with bits of glass. When he could see, Davy Crockett’s gun was
almost touching his nose.

“Hand the preacher your gun,” said Davy, “stand where you are, and sing
like all possessed. If you don’t, we’ll make you eat a wildcat for
sure. All right, preacher, go ahead!”

After the singing was over, the wildcat hunter hung about, trying in
vain to recover his gun, and finally departed in discreet silence as
the daylight faded in the west.

Many of Davy’s admirers became acquainted with him at the barbecues
and shooting-matches that were frequent during his campaigns. With so
little diversion in their narrow lives, the frontiersmen flocked to
such meetings from far and near, bringing their wives and children, and
driving before them the cattle to be put up as prizes for the marksmen.
Davy was always ready for such a competition, and was never obliged to
content himself with the “hide and tallow.” The usual method in such
matches was to sell several chances on each animal. The best marksmen
took their choice of the several parts of the beef, the order of their
choosing to be fixed by the result of the match. The one making the
lowest score took the hide and tallow as a consolation.

The score of such a match was kept about as follows: each man handed
the judges a burnt board, rubbed down nearly to the sound part of the
wood. On this circles of one half-inch, one inch, and one and a half
inches, were made with a pair of dividers or the ruder compasses of the
carpenter. Each man shot the agreed number of times at his own board,
at from fifty to sixty yards’ distance, “toeing the mark” made by the
judges. Upon many an occasion Davy divided up his winnings with the men
who had been unsuccessful.

Davy won this election after much hard work on the stump.



XVII.

DAVY’S POPULARITY

Rejoicing in the East over Davy’s reëlection――One of his attacks
upon Jackson in Congress――He undertakes a journey to the Atlantic
cities――Starts for Baltimore by stage――The Steamboat _Carroll of
Carrollton_――Davy first sees a railway train――A grand welcome in
Philadelphia――Davy addresses five thousand people in front of the
Exchange――He visits Fairmount, the United States Mint, the Walnut
Street Theatre, and sees Jim Crow――His reflections upon Eastern
manners――He is dined by the young Whigs――Gives directions for making
the celebrated rifle “Betsy,” the gift of Philadelphia admirers.


The news of Davy Crockett’s reëlection, in spite of the opposition
of the Jackson party, was received in the Eastern States with joy,
and even the Southern States of the Atlantic coast, hugging to their
bosoms the fragments of the new idol of Nullification, heard of the
backwoodsman’s victory with grim satisfaction. Clay and Webster and
John Quincy Adams stood with such men as Albert Gallatin and the
Quaker statesmen of Philadelphia. The voters who had made the hero
of the treaty at Hickory Grove their President still had a kindly
feeling for the man who had dared to offer an honest opposition to
the irascible old General. The wily politicians cultivated the renown
of Davy Crockett as a plant of great promise, that might even make
Presidential timber.

Davy’s opposition to Andrew Jackson was outspoken and undisguised.
After his tour of the Eastern cities, to be hereinafter described, he
spoke in Congress upon the subject of the “Bill Making Appropriations
for Fortifications.” The records show that his words were in part as
follows:

“Sir, we have no Government but Andrew Jackson, without Secretaries;
and, sir, he is surrounded by a set of imps of famine that are as
hungry as the flies that we have read of in Æsop’s Fables, that came
after the fox and sucked his blood. Sir, they are a hungry swarm, and
will lick up every dollar of the public money.”

Mr. Dunlap, of Tennessee, replied to Crockett with heated language, and
Crockett again took the floor to reply, saying that he wished it to
be distinctly understood that he took back nothing that he had said,
but that he would reassert everything and go even further. Standing in
his place for almost the last time, he lifted his hand in passionate
protest against the proposed use of the public funds, and took his seat
with these words:

“We have no Government, no Government at all. God only knows what is
to become of the country in these days of misrule. Sir, I am done.”
Such attitude as this accounts for the infinite pains with which the
opposition fought him two years later in his campaign for a fourth
term. While he was attending to his Congressional duties, his political
fences were demolished by the stay-at-homes, and in their places were
set up what in these days of such unsightly nuisances might be called
the bill-boards of partisan defamation.

The comparatively inactive life of a Congressman had begun to tell
upon the scout and bear-hunter of the Mississippi cane. He decided to
take a trip through the Eastern States for the benefit of his health.
Although it was in the midst of the spring session of Congress, he
left Washington on the 25th of April, 1834, and did not return until
the latter part of June. He says of this proposed journey:

“During this session of Congress, I thought I would take a travel
through the Northern States. I had braved the lonely forests of the
West, I had shouldered the warrior’s rifle in the far South; but the
North and East I had never seen. I seemed to like members of Congress
who came from these parts, and wished to know what kind of constituents
they had.”

Up to this time his knowledge of the East was confined to Baltimore
and Washington. He had read and heard much of the wonders of the
greater cities of the Atlantic seaboard, but he had never felt free to
describe them to his fellow-citizens of western Tennessee. He has left
no word regarding his impressions of the nation’s capital. It would be
interesting to compare his views with those of Charles Dickens, who
visited many of the same cities a few years later. This is what Dickens
thought of Washington in 1842:

“Take the worst parts of the City Road and Pentonville, or the
straggling outskirts of Paris, where the houses are smallest,
preserving all their oddities, but especially the small shops and
dwellings, occupied in Pentonville (but not in Washington) by
furniture-brokers, keepers of poor eating-houses, and fanciers of
birds. Burn the whole down; build it up again in wood and plaster;
widen it a little; throw in part of St. John’s Wood; put green blinds
outside all the private houses, with a red curtain and a white one
in every window; plow up all the roads; plant a great deal of coarse
turf in every place where it ought _not_ to be; erect three handsome
buildings in stone and marble, anywhere, but the more entirely out of
everybody’s way the better; call one the Post Office, one the Patent
Office, and one the Treasury; make it scorching hot in the morning, and
freezing cold in the afternoon, with an occasional tornado of wind and
dust; leave a brick-field without the bricks, in all central places
where a street may naturally be expected; and that is Washington.”

From this sort of place, perhaps even less beautiful, Davy was whirled
away on the April morning before mentioned, viewing from his seat on
the top of a great coach the roadside scenes between Washington and
Baltimore. Upon arriving at the latter city, he put up at Barnum’s
Hotel, kept by “Uncle Davy,” whom he gladly hailed as a namesake.
He says that no one could find better quarters or a more hospitable
city. He was asked to dine with his friend Wilkes and other Baltimore
gentlemen, and spent the evening pleasantly in their company.

The next morning he was up early, in order to take the steamboat to
Philadelphia. At this time only seventeen miles of railroad existed
between the two cities, crossing the land in the vicinity of Wilmington
and Havre de Grace. It was called the Charlestown and Augusta Railway.
The departure from Baltimore seems to have given Davy a sense of
lonesomeness. He felt what so many others since have felt――poor human
mites among a swarm of busy ants!――that the loneliest place in all the
world is a great city. He realized, and tells us so, that the tens of
thousands who passed him by in the noisy streets neither knew nor
cared who he might be, and that at the best he might expect to be
valued at about the price of a coon-skin. This we have already seen to
be no more than a York shilling, or a quart of New England rum.

“The steamboat,” says Davy, “was the _Carroll of Carrollton_, a fine
craft, with the rum old Commodore Chaytor for head man. A good fellow
he is――all sorts of a man――bowing and scraping to the ladies, nodding
to the gentlemen, cursing the crew, and his right eye broadcast upon
the ‘opposition line,’ all at the same time. ‘Let go!’ says the old
one, and off we walked in prime style.”

They soon passed Fort McHenry, forever glorified by the stubborn
defense that has made “The Star-Spangled Banner” our national song of
victory, and North Point was pointed out to Davy as the spot where
the British had once planned to land their attacking forces. The run
to Charlestown was soon finished, and here Davy saw the sight of his
life: a train, on the seventeen-mile railroad between Delaware City and
Chesapeake Bay. As the first locomotive in the United States came from
England in 1825, it may be believed that what Davy saw in 1834 would
be almost as astonishing to people of to-day. A dozen vehicles that
resembled old-fashioned coaches stood in line on the flat rails that
formed the railroad, while an ungainly locomotive, with a smoke-stack
nearly as large as the boiler, and with a flat-car behind, loaded with
wood and barrels of water for use on the run, was blowing off steam and
showing every sign of a desire to make a start. The locomotive looked
much like the kind now used by threshing outfits.

Behold, then, Davy, seated upon the top of one of the coaches, as if on
a diligence in the days of Claude Duval, intent upon every move:

“After a good deal of fuss we all got seated and moved slowly off, the
engine wheezing as if she had the tizzick. By and by she began to take
short breaths, and away we went with a blue streak after us.”

Soon after starting a team was sighted in the gathering darkness of
the evening. When they saw the shower of sparks from the stack of the
infernal machine that was coming towards them, the horses ran away
with a right good will, upsetting the wagon, and scattering the freight
along the way.

Let us now follow Davy’s own story of his visit. After the dinner on
the boat, he went on deck, in time to see that a great display of
flags was taking place on board. When he asked the reason, the captain
told him that it was to be a signal that Crockett was coming, given on
account of the desire of the Philadelphia people to meet him at the
wharf.

“We went on till we came in sight of the city,” says Davy’s account,
“and as we drew near to the wharf I saw the whole face of the earth
covered with people, all anxiously looking on towards the boat. The
captain and myself were standing on the bow deck. He pointed his finger
at me, and people slung their hats and huzzaed for Colonel Crockett. It
struck me with astonishment to hear a strange people huzzaing for me,
and made me feel sort of queer. But I had to meet it, and so I stepped
on to the wharf, where the folks came crowding around me, saying, ‘Give
me the hand of an honest man.’ I did not know what all this meant; but
some gentlemen took hold of me, and, pressing through the crowd, put
me into an elegant barouche, drawn by four fine horses. They then told
me to bow to the people; I did so, and with much difficulty we moved
off. The streets were crowded to a great distance, and the windows full
of people, looking out, I supposed, to see the wild man. I thought I
would rather be in the wilderness, with my gun and my dogs, than to be
attracting all that fuss. I had never seen the like before, and did not
know exactly what to say or do. After some time we reached the United
States Hotel, in Chestnut Street.”

The crowd having followed his carriage to the hotel, Davy at last
showed himself upon the balcony front, bowing repeatedly with hat in
hand, as we have seen Taft and Roosevelt do upon so many occasions,
in these days of Presidential travel. At the last he was constrained
to speak a few words of thanks, in which he recognized the existence
of a state of high excitement in political affairs, which he wished
to make no worse. He promised to speak again at one o’clock the next
afternoon, and then withdrew. That night, as he lay restless in a
strange place, he looked forward to the promised speech with much doubt
and fear, but at last consoled himself by trusting to the good luck
that had already got him “through many a scrape before.”

The next morning Judge Baldwin, Judge Hemphill, John Sergeant, and
others, called upon Davy, and afterwards he was invited to visit
the Fairmount waterworks, then the pride of the whole State. He was
astonished at the volume of water lifted by a “few wheels,” but even
more so by the lavish use of the supply. He says that such scrubbing
of steps and even of pavements he had never seen, and he strongly
suspected the housemaids of having web feet. The next place visited
was the Mint, and the sight of real money, as he calls it, stirred him
to comment upon the flood of paper then in circulation. The statement
made to Davy that the workmen were too much accustomed to handling coin
ever to think of stealing it, was a “poser.” He had thought that such
constant temptation was the most powerful cause of crime. During the
forenoon a visit was made to the Asylum for the Insane, whereat Davy
thanked God for the bounty and humaneness of the city in thus providing
for the unfortunates within its walls. When the round of the city had
been made, the time for the promised speech had nearly arrived. He says
that he had made set speeches in Congress, when all his colleagues were
against him, and further:

“I had made stump speeches at home, in the face of all the little
office-yelpers who were opposed to me; but indeed, when I got in sight
of the Exchange, and saw the streets crowded, I ’most wished to take
back my promise, but I was brought up by hearing a youngster say, as
I passed, ‘Go ahead, Davy Crockett.’ I said to myself, ‘I have faced
the enemy; these are friends. I have fronted the savage red man of the
forest; these are civilized. I’ll keep cool, and let them have it.’”

Davy went to the Exchange, and in a few moments stood before that great
crowd, bowing in response to the continued cheering that delayed the
possibility of his being heard. He says there were five thousand people
in front of the building; it was Philadelphia exalting to the skies
the symbolism of its dislike and hatred of Andrew Jackson, personified
in “the wild man from the West.” For half an hour Davy spoke to the
immense audience, and for an hour afterwards stood upon the steps of
the Exchange, shaking hands with eager admirers.

Here is the spectacle of a man who had risen, as we have seen, from
the lowly log-house settlement of the Western slopes, unschooled,
unpolished, except by the rude processes of hardships and necessity,
yet who could rise to such self-command as this. Thousands of men
of the higher order of the educated fail when they try to think and
talk at the same time. The possibilities that were in Davy Crockett’s
pathway were without limit; a vision of political greatness hovered
about his pillow in the midnight hours, and beckoned him onward in
the glare of day. That he should thus be known by the people of the
seaboard filled his soul with pride and his heart with hope. He forgot
the bitter words he had spoken in honest wrath against what he believed
to be the misdeeds of the administration of Andrew Jackson. Like one
camping in the peaceful forest, unmindful of the stern and silent foe
upon his trail, he rested in a contentment that was undisturbed by
doubt. He looked forward to reëlection the next year, or to a gift
from the people of even greater power. There is no sign of his honest
nature being spoiled by so much attention. He was never blind to the
possibility of deception in the adulation of the public, but the loud
cheers of the men of the Quaker City rang true in his ears, and he
believed them as sincere as himself.

In the evening Davy visited the Walnut Street Theatre, where he saw Jim
Crow――“as good a nigger,” he says, “as if he was clean black, except
the bandy legs.” After the theatre, Davy said that he thought his own
people found quite as much pleasure in their own simple recreations as
did the city folks in their more expensive and showy ones, and against
anything the city could show he would put the fun of the all-night
country dance.

“It would do you good to see our boys and girls dancing,” said he.
“None of your straddling and mincing and sadying, but a regular
sifter, cut-the-buckle, chicken-flutter set-to.” It is well, sometimes,
to get another view of ourselves from such a standpoint as Davy’s.

The Philadelphia people, especially the politicians of the Whig party,
outdid themselves in entertaining the hero of the hour. The next
morning he was presented with a forty-dollar seal for his watch-chain.
The design showed a “match race,” as he styles it, with two horses at
full speed, and with the motto, “Go Ahead!” He thought it the finest
seal he had ever seen, and says that after his return to Washington in
June, the members of Congress almost wore it out in making impressions
to send all over the country.

The seal had hardly been presented before Mr. James Sanderson was
announced. He had come to ask Davy for his wishes and advice in
procuring a rifle that the Young Whigs of the city desired to present
to Colonel Crockett. Davy was perhaps more pleased with this gift
than by any other that could have been offered him. He gave the
specifications as to size, weight, and so on, and it was arranged that
the rifle should be given to him on his way back to Congress.

On Tuesday Davy visited the Navy Yard and saw on the stocks the largest
ship that had ever been laid down in the United States. He also visited
the Schuylkill bridge, and was shown the railroad that had been
extended a hundred miles into the State, “without making any fuss about
it.” Upon seeing Girard College, he remarked that blood is thicker than
water, and that he would have made his own kin rich first of all, and
afterwards might have given away the rest. His last evening was the
occasion for a “pick-knick” supper. He says this meant as much as he
and his friends could eat and drink, with nothing to pay.



XVIII.

TRAVELLING HARD

Davy visits New York City――His astonishment at the sight of the
shipping――Davy wants to run to every fire――He visits Peale’s
Museum――“Whole rows of little bugs and such-like varments”――Dined by
the Young Whigs of New York――The first of May was moving day――Meets
Albert Gallatin, whose house is being demolished to make room for the
Astor Tavern――Visits the Five Points, and sees an artillery parade at
the Battery――A rifle match at Jersey City――His journey is continued
to Boston by way of Hell Gate and Providence――Davy is welcomed at the
Tremont Tavern――Visits Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill, the Constitution, and
is the guest of the Young Whigs――Makes a speech to a meeting in front
of the State House, and visits Lowell――Davy is given a broadcloth suit
made from Mississippi wool――He returns to Washington――The news from
Texas in 1834.


The next day――the 29th of April, according to his story――Davy went
to New York, by steamboat up the Delaware, thence by rail to Perth
Amboy, and then again by boat. He says New York was certainly “a
bulger,” and especially was he astonished by the forest of masts at the
wharves. At the dock he was met by a committee and a crowd anxious to
see him. After three cheers had been given and repeated, a committee
representing the Young Whigs escorted him to the American Hotel, where
many New Yorkers had gathered to meet him.

That afternoon Davy was taken to see the new fire-engine, and then saw
Fanny Kemble play at the Park Theatre. He pays an honest tribute to
that charming actress, when he says, “She is like a handsome piece of
changeable silk: first one color and then another, but always the clean
thing.”

While here, a sudden alarm of fire was heard. Davy jumped for his hat,
and almost had to be held by his friends to keep him from rushing into
the street. He told them that many a time he had ridden bareback to
fires in his own neighborhood, and the city’s indifference to such
exciting happenings was hard for him to understand.

During the 31st Davy visited some of the newspaper offices, among them
those of the _Courier_, the _Enquirer_, and the _Star_. Then he saw
Pearl Street, making his way with much dodging about through the boxes
that covered the sidewalks. His party next took in the Stock Exchange,
and before he left he made a speech from the steps leading down to the
main floor. Returning to the hotel for dinner, he visited with friends
until they all decided to go to Peale’s Museum. This, says Davy, was
“over my head.” He makes no attempt to describe what he saw, but was
filled with wonder at seeing “whole rows of little bugs and such like
varments” set up in boxes, and could not see why they should be thought
worthy of exhibition.

From the Museum Davy went to the City Hall, where he met the Mayor, who
had once been a tanner, and Davy remarked to him that they “had both
clumb a long way up from where they started.” Before leaving the City
Hall he was invited to dine at Colonel Draper’s, where he met Major
Jack Downing, then a great celebrity.

Next came an invitation to sup with the Young Whigs. “Well, now,”
says Davy, “they had better keep some of these things for somebody
else to eat, thinks I, for I’m sure I’m as full as a young cub.”
But the invitation was accepted. After Judge Clayton, of Georgia,
had made a speech that “made the tumblers hop,” Colonel Crockett was
formally toasted as “the undeviating supporter of the Constitution and
the Laws.” He responded to the toast in a short speech, in which he
referred to the impossibility of plowing a straight furrow towards the
cow that kept moving about. If he had followed Jackson, he said, his
furrow would have been as crooked as the one made by the boy who had
plowed all the forenoon after that kind of a cow.

The next day was the 1st of May, and while driving about in a barouche
with Colonel S. D. Jackson, he was astonished at the number of loads
of furniture he saw in the streets. When told that it was moving-day,
he remarked that it would take a good deal to get him out of his own
log-house; such restlessness was beyond his understanding. They then
drove to the Five Points, which Dickens said could be backed, in
respect to wretchedness, against Seven Dials or any other part of St.
Giles’s. The sight of so much squalor and misery made Davy wonder what
could induce human beings to stay in such places, instead of “clearing
out for a new country, where every hide hangs by its own tail.”

As Davy walked back to the American Hotel, after leaving the Colonel,
he was introduced to Albert Gallatin, the celebrated scholar, volunteer
soldier, suppressor of the Whiskey Insurrection, and Jefferson’s
Secretary of the Treasury. The old veteran of seventy-three, straw hat
in hand, was also “moving,” Davy says. He pointed out to him the house
he was leaving, which was about to be torn down, with others, to be
replaced by a big tavern to be built by John Jacob Astor, and to cover
a whole square. Before Davy left, a day or so later, he saw the roofs
of the houses torn off by the workmen. The big tavern was the famous
Astor House.

Some time during the same day, a new flag was hoisted at the Battery,
then the favorite promenade of the fashionables of the city. Davy was
invited, and witnessed a parade of the artillery, under command of
General Morton, formerly of the Revolutionary army. An entertainment
followed, in which eating and drinking played the usual prominent part.
Davy seems to have been greatly pleased with the Battery and its views
of the bay and islands about. “It is a beautiful meadow of a place,” he
says, “all measured off, with nice walks of gravel between the grass
plats, full of big shade trees, and filled with people and a great many
children, that come there to get the fresh air that comes off the water
of the bay.”

Early the next morning Davy visited Thorburn’s renowned seed-store,
and from there went to a rifle match in Jersey City. There he hit a
quarter at forty yards, off-hand, with a strange gun, and made other
shots that sustained his reputation as a marksman. He was used up with
sight-seeing, and was glad to go to Boston at the invitation of another
new-made friend, Captain Comstock, in command of one of the Long Island
steamboats. On the way to the dock they drove around through South
and Front Streets. Here the queen clippers of the world lay moored,
with their bowsprits high above the pavements, and their rigged-in
jib-booms almost touching the buildings along the water-front.

At three o’clock the steamer _Providence_ sailed with Davy on board,
but not until a crowd of people had come to see him off. He responded
with many bows, and the ship slipped out of the dock amid the cheers
of the multitude. The passengers then gathered about him, and before
their curiosity was satisfied the city was out of sight. As they passed
through Hell Gate, a large, full-rigged British ship was seen coming in
from the other side. This sight was an object lesson as to the need of
coast defenses.

Davy was a good sailor, and walked the decks off Point Judith the next
morning, without being seasick in the least. The sun came up like a
ball of fire, and Davy says that it looked as it was brand-new. The
sight of many stone fences amused him greatly, and he remarked that one
of his cows would pitch over a dozen of that kind, “without flirting
her tail.”

At Providence, where they landed about noon, another crowd greeted him.
Refusing an invitation to stop at that city, Davy took his seat in
the fast stage for Boston. “The driver was ordered to go ahead,” says
Davy, “and sure enough he did. It was forty miles to Boston, and we run
it down in four hours.” The stony nature of the land was a source of
surprise to Davy, accustomed to the rich alluvium of Tennessee. He says
the stones covered the earth as thick as Kentucky land-titles, and he
wondered why the Lord hadn’t sent the Pilgrims better pilots.

Arrived in Boston, Davy landed at the Tremont House, which he calls a
tavern, kept by Mr. Boyden.

“Mr. Boyden did not know me,” says Davy, “nor me him; but when I told
him my name, where they put it on the bar-book, he treated me like an
old friend, and continued to do so all the time I was there. He gave
me a good room and a nice bed, and attended to me the kindest in the
world. I had seen a great many fine taverns; but take this in and out,
and Tremont House is a smart chance ahead.”

The first day in Boston was the occasion of a visit to Faneuil Hall,
where General Davis showed Davy the arms and cannon of the State
militia. The complete order, and the realization of the possibility of
sending out the troops at a few minutes’ notice, deeply impressed the
former scout.

“General Davis informed me,” he says, “that this was the house that was
called the Cradle of Liberty. I reckon that old King George thought
they were thundering fine children that was rocked in it, and a good
many of them; and that no wonder his red-coats were licked, when the
children came out with soldier clothes on and muskets in their hands.
God grant that the liberty bough on which this cradle rocks may never
break!”

At Roxbury, Davy was given a rubber hunting-coat, something entirely
novel to him. This coat he afterwards took with him when he went
to Texas. He next visited the good ship _Constitution_, and the
battleground of Bunker Hill, where the great monument was already begun.

“I felt like calling them up,” he said, “and asking them to tell me
how to help best to protect the liberty they bought for us with their
blood; but as I could not do so, I resolved on that holy ground to go
for my country, always and everywhere.” These were no idle words that
Davy spoke.

Out of many invitations to dinner offered by the hospitable citizens,
Davy chose that of the Young Whigs, at which a hundred were present.
This was perhaps the crowning festivity of his journey.

Another day was taken up in viewing The Commons, in climbing to the
dome of the State House, and in entertaining with one of the Western
speeches a great crowd in front of that building. He declined an
invitation to visit Harvard. In telling of this, he says that he would
run no risk of having LL.D. tacked on to his name. “There had been one
doctor made from Tennessee already, and I had no wish to put on the cap
and bells.” This is a reference to Jackson.

Everywhere he went Davy found new evidences of friendship and
hospitality. In Lowell, Mr. Lawrence presented to him a fine piece of
broadcloth made from Mississippi wool. There was also another dinner
here, as well attended as that given by the Young Whigs at Boston.

When Davy called for his score at the Tremont House, before leaving
for New York, he was told that he was an honored guest, and that there
was nothing to pay. He was warmed through and through with New England
hospitality, and left Boston with a heart full of gratitude. His return
to Washington, by way of Providence, New York, and Philadelphia, was
uneventful, except that his pocket-book was stolen at Camden, with
one hundred and sixty dollars in money, a sum of much importance in a
time when money was hard to get. Tired out with his continuous round
of pleasure, Davy was glad to get back to his seat in Congress, where
he was welcomed by his fellow-members as a man who had reaped special
honor and distinction from the exclusives of the older States. He was
in Washington but a few days before Congress adjourned.

The year 1834 is memorable for the election of Abraham Lincoln as a
member of the Illinois Legislature, and for the emancipation of all
slaves in the British colonies. The presence of General Sam Houston in
Texas had begun to lead to results. Already the Americans in that part
of Mexico had taken the bit in their teeth, and were running things as
if they recognized no other authority than their own. They could not go
back, nor did they wish to cross the great strip of sand and trickling
water called the Grand River of the North. They purposed to rule to the
Rio Grande’s banks, and every man who went to Texas from the States
carried a gun, lots of ammunition, and words of cheer.



XIX.

THE RIFLE “BETSY”

The adjournment of Congress――The rifle “Betsy” is presented to Davy
at Philadelphia――Meets Daniel Webster and others at the Fish-House
Club――He is given a supply of hunting powder by Mr. Dupont――The fast
line to Pittsburg, by rail and canal――Charles Dickens’ notes on the
same route――Davy foretells the greatness of the Smoky City and the
Keystone State――The voyage down the Ohio River――The greatest crowd that
Louisville had ever seen――Arrival at Mills’ Point, and the homeward
drive through the wilderness――The baying of the hounds at the sight
of their master――More news from Texas――The expulsion of the gamblers
from Mississippi――The adventurers flock to the Rio Grande――Another year
at Washington――Davy returns over the mountain trail――Begins another
campaign.


When Congress adjourned, about the 1st of July, 1834, Davy went to
Philadelphia, intending to return to the Obion by way of the “Fast
Line” of stages, canals, and steamboats between Harrisburg and
Louisville. After he arrived at the United States Hotel, a committee
waited upon him, and at an hour set for the event he was given the
rifle which had been made for him under John M. Sanderson’s direction.
In reply to the speech of presentation, Davy used these memorable words:

“If it should become necessary to use her in defense of liberty, in
my time, I will do as I have done before; and if in the struggle I am
buried in the dust, I will leave her in the hands of some one who will
honor your present, in standing for our country’s rights.”

The rifle was a fine specimen of the best Pennsylvania workmanship,
and accompanying it were a tomahawk, hunting-knife, and all the
accoutrements that went with a gun.

During the next few days Davy spoke at the Fourth of July performance
in the Chestnut Street Theatre, met Daniel Webster and other
celebrities at the Fish-House club on the Schuylkill, and received a
present of half a dozen canisters of the best brand of Dupont’s powder
from Mr. Dupont in person. He then started for Pittsburg. Arriving at
Harrisburg by rail, he took up his quarters upon the canal-boat which
Dickens has minutely described in the chapter ending with this mention
of the stuffy cabin of the best packet on the line:

“No doubt it would have been a thought more comfortable if the driving
rain, which now poured down more soakingly than ever, had admitted of
a window being opened, or if our number had been something less than
thirty; but there was scarcely time to think as much, when a train of
three horses was attached to the tow-rope, the boy upon the leader
cracked his whip, the rudder creaked and groaned complainingly, and we
had begun our journey.”

Two and a half days were used up in going to the foothills of the
Allegheny Mountains. Between the western end of the canal and the
other, or western, side of the mountains, there was then a railway,
over which the cars, or coaches, were hauled by stationary engines,
there being five inclines, or switch-backs, on each side. From this
railway the trip continued by another canal, and upon the evening of
the fourth day Davy found himself for the first time in the Smoky City.
He was enthusiastic over the future of the State. He saw in Pittsburg
a perfect workshop, increasing every year in extent, beauty, and
population.

His voyage down the Ohio was enlivened by salutes from the citizens
of various towns, by speaking at Cincinnati, and by the gathering of
the largest crowd that Louisville had ever known. Dickens gives this
description of the voyage down the Ohio:

“A fine broad river always, but in some parts much wider than in
others; and then there is usually a green island, covered with trees,
dividing it into two streams. Occasionally we stop for a few minutes,
maybe to take on wood, maybe for passengers, at some small town or
city (I ought to say city, every place is a city here), but the banks
are for the most part deep solitudes, overgrown with trees, already in
leaf and very green. For miles, and miles, and miles, these solitudes
are unbroken by any sign of human life or trace of human footstep;
nor is anything seen to move about them but the blue-jay, whose color
is so bright and yet so delicate, that it looks like a flying flower.
At long intervals, a log cabin, with its little space of cleared land
about it, nestles under a rising ground, and sends its thread of blue
smoke curling up into the sky. It stands in the corner of the poor
field of wheat, which is full of great unsightly stumps, like earthly
butchers’-blocks. Sometimes the ground is only just now cleared: the
felled trees lying yet upon the soil, and the log house only this
morning begun. As we pass this clearing, the settler leans upon his
ax or hammer, and looks wistfully at the people from the world. The
children creep out of their temporary hut, which is like a gipsy tent
upon the ground, and clap their hands and shout. The dog only glances
round at us, and then looks up into his master’s face again, as if he
were rendered uneasy by any suspension of the common business, and had
nothing more to do with pleasures. And there is still the same, eternal
foreground.”

From Louisville Davy left for Mills’ Point with his “trunk, gun-case,
old lady’s pitcher [a present for his wife], and all,” and on July
22d found his son William waiting for him with a team. After a rough
drive of thirty-five miles, a glimpse of waving corn gleamed through
the scattered pines, and like a voice from the other world rang the cry
of the bear-hunter through the wilderness. The scarred and sorrowful
hounds about the cabin leaped to their feet as they caught the welcome
sound, and with baying that gave the bears of the “harricane” an uneasy
quarter of an hour, the gaunt pack rushed to meet the master they loved
so well. At his own door there was the joyful reunion to which, in the
midst of civic honors and the luxuries of civilization, Davy had looked
forward with unsuppressed longing. As the family and the neighbors
crowded about him, he placed upon a rude mantel the china pitcher for
his wife, and took from its leather case the splendid rifle given him
in Philadelphia. There was joy and wonder in plenty for all. His suit
of broadcloth was touched with something like awe and reverence by
those who had worn homespun all their lives.

When the neighbors came together, from time to time, Davy heard the
stories of some who were just from the Texas border, or from that
unquiet land itself. There were twenty thousand Americans already
there, sullen with wrath against the officials of the dual government
of Texas and Coahuila who enforced harsh orders and arbitrary laws
by means of renegades and ignorant natives in gaudy uniforms. No man
like Stephen F. Austin could endure the sight of these rude and often
bloodthirsty creatures. The man in a hunting coat became the natural
enemy of the officer with gorgeous epaulets and dirty linen, who
relied upon the glitter of a clumsy blade to overawe the keen-eyed
riflemen from Kentucky and Tennessee. Such matters as these, frequently
discussed, awoke in the hunters of the Obion a longing to free their
friends and relatives from Mexican rule. The question of Mexico’s right
to rule was not considered. The thirteen colonies had grown too great
for the mother tree, and, taking new root in the land of their choice,
had severed in the whirlwind passions of rebellion the ligaments that
hampered both. There was at the bottom of the discontent in Texas the
working of the old, invincible law, the “simple plan,”

    “That they should take who have the power,
     And they should keep who can.”

In the summer of this year the people of Vicksburg rose against the
gamblers, thieves, and slave-stealers that had become as fierce and
daring as the fabled vampires of the Persian vales. Some they hanged,
some they told to “stand not upon the order of their going,” while
others without warning had taken a wise departure, heading toward the
unsettled frontiers, especially Texas, as havens of refuge and fields
for future operations. Side by side with sturdy settlers, seeking homes
on Texas soil in defiance of Santa Anna’s edict, went the wandering
pirates of Barataria Bay and Galveston Island, followers of Lafitte.
They scented battle afar off, and added fuel to the beacon-fires of
revolution that blazed along the Rio Grande.

When the time came for his return to Washington, Davy left for that
city with regret that he could not try the new rifle along the banks of
the Obion. He entrusted his political affairs to his friends, and went
back to oppose Jackson, regardless of the consequences, which he had
no idea would ever become serious.

Before Davy had left Nashville there came stirring news from Texas: a
meeting of men favoring open rebellion had taken place at San Antonio
in October, and Santa Anna had practically suspended the protection of
civil government. The message of the President to Congress made but
slight allusion to this state of affairs, but the interests of the
South, seeking more slave territory, were in line with the friends
of liberty, and the prospect of a war beyond the borders grew more
imminent every day. Davy kept his ear to the ground and watched the
progress of events with anxiety.

After the same old round of wasted time, bitter speeches, and scant
accomplishment, Congress adjourned, and Davy returned home by the old
trail over the mountains.

It was in June that he went down the western slopes of the range,
through a wild waste of trees and flowers. In the cold coves the laurel
still glowed; the lady’s slipper, least of all the orchid sisterhood,
swung beside the way; the Indian pine gleamed like a ghostly memory of
departed tribes:

    “The violets were past their prime,
       Yet their departing breath
       Was sweeter, in the blast of death,
     Than all the fragrance of the time.”

They were the same birds, it seemed, that flew like bits of flame
across his boyhood paths. The bluebird and the yellow warbler still
rivalled the scarlet tanager in their splendid liveries, while
the thrush, the cat-bird, and the riotous mocking-bird filled the
wilderness with a flood of melodies. Past the tumbling cabin at the
Limestone’s mouth, past the gentle confluence of the now tame Cove
Creek with the Nolichucky, standing at last near the shaky tavern from
which his father and mother had gone to their quiet graves, he longed
for the sweet perplexities of his childhood as one longs for a drink
from the far-away mossy spring where the luscious berries grew, and the
arbutus dropped fragrant petals to its edge. He would have rejoiced
if the dear ones who had gone to rest might have known of the honors
that had come to their barefoot boy. He was nearing fifty years, now,
and realized that all men wish to live long lives, yet would not grow
old. Already the contest for reëlection had begun in his district. He
was confident, with yet a trace of the doubt that always precedes the
unattained. He looked in mute farewell at the old scenes, and went his
way.

The political campaign was beginning to seethe with excitement. In
the Eastern States some considerations of decency prevented utter
recklessness in political warfare, but in a State which had not yet
outgrown the knife and pistol methods of meeting slander, the owner
of a paper had no idea of hanging for a lamb, when he might easily
take a sheep. The choicest billingsgate and the most ingenious lying,
emanating from all parts of a candidate’s district at once, made
fighting the slanderers almost too big a contract for one man. But
the rifle was always carried, or a pair of clumsy pistols ready,
and license of speech was thereby restricted in public. At one of
the meetings Davy was asked why all the Congressmen were not given
rifles like his. He answered that he got the gun for being honest
and supporting his country, instead of “bowing down and worshipping
an idol”――the idol, of course, being Andrew Jackson. The big fellow
who was thus answered replied with a rather incredulous air that the
statement was pretty strong. “No stronger than true,” was the quick
response, as each man went his way. In everything Davy seems to have
been certain that he was right. In his simple faith, he thought himself
sure of the support of all honest men, forgetting that even honest men
may “see through a glass darkly,” and differ much.



XX.

OFF FOR TEXAS

Davy is defeated for Congress――Another scalp for Old Hickory――Davy’s
defeat is a crushing blow――He decides to go to Texas――Takes a sad leave
of his family and sets forth in hunting suit with “Betsy” over his
shoulder――On board the _Mediterranean_ to Helena――The eighty thousand
dollar fund, of which Bowie, Fannin, Travis, and Crockett are named
as trustees――More about Texas affairs――Davy starts from Little Rock
for Fulton, on the way to San Antonio――The travelling parson and the
Washita――Davy’s faith in God――Meets with Thimblerig, the gambler――The
gambler enlists with Colonel Crockett.


“I begin this chapter,” says Davy’s account of the campaign, “at
home, in Weakley County. I have just returned from a two weeks’
electioneering canvass, and I have spoken every day to large concourses
of people, with my competitor. I have him badly plagued, for he does
not know as much about the ‘Government,’ the deposites [referring to
the United States Bank], and the Little Flying Dutchman [Van Buren],
as I can tell the people; and at times he is as much bothered as a fly
in a tar-pot to get out of the mess. His name is Adam Huntsman; he
lost a leg in an Indian fight, they say, during the last war, and the
Government run him on account of his military services. I tell him in
my speech that I have great hopes of writing one more book, and that
shall be the second fall of Adam, for he is on the Eve of an Almighty
thrashing. He relishes the joke about as much as a doctor does his own
physic. I handle the administration without gloves, and I do believe
I will double my competitor, if I have a fair shake, and he does not
work like a mole in the dark. Jacksonism is dying here faster than it
ever sprung up, and I predict that ‘The Government’ will be the most
unpopular man, in one year more, that ever had any pretensions to
the high place he now fills. Four weeks from to-morrow will end the
dispute in our elections, and if old Adam is not beaten out of his
hunting-shirt, my name isn’t Crockett.”

This was Davy’s state of mind in July, 1835. The election took place
about the 1st of August, and he had yet to learn that many of the fair
words received, and many of the promises, were of no more value, to use
his own words, “than a flash in the pan when you have a good shot at a
fat bear.”

Under the special directions of Andrew Jackson, every means of beating
Davy Crockett was put in practice. Copies of the _Globe_, franked by
his opponents, accused Davy of collecting excess mileage, of being a
traitor to the interests of his State, of fawning upon the aristocrats
of the Eastern States, of everything that could be urged against him.
When the die was cast, he writes, in the gloom of defeat, these words:

“August 11, 1835. I am now at home in Weakley County. My canvass is
over, and the result is known. Contrary to all expectations, I am
beaten two hundred and thirty votes, from the best information I can
get; and in this instance, I may say, bad is the best.... I have
been told by good men that some of the managers of the Union Bank
[at Jackson] were heard to say, on the day of election, that they
would give twenty-five dollars a vote for enough votes to elect Mr.
Huntsman. This is a pretty good price for a vote, and in ordinary times
a round dozen might be got for the money.

“As my country no longer requires my services, I have made up my mind
to go to Texas. My life has been one of danger, toil, and privation,
but these difficulties I had to encounter at a time when I considered
it nothing more than right good sport to surmount them. Now I start
anew upon my own hook, and God only grant that it may be strong enough
to support the weight hung upon it. I have a new row to hoe, a long and
rough one, but, come what will, I’ll _go ahead_!”

At a general meeting in his district Davy spoke for the last time to
the voters of western Tennessee. Recounting his services, and the
unfair methods by which he thought himself to have been beaten, he made
a pretty strong talk, and concluded by saying that he could not think
it a fair fight; but that he was done with politics for the present,
and that he was going to Texas.

In all stories of Davy’s life, the poem said to have been written by
himself, on the eve of his departure for Texas, is given a prominent
place. In his own story he says that it was as “zigzag as a worm fence”
when first written, but was overhauled by one Peleg Longfellow, who
could hardly have been a relative of H. W. Longfellow. After this and
much lopping of some lines and stretching out of others, Davy says
he wished he might be shot if wasn’t worse than ever. This is the
concluding verse of the poem:

    “Farewell to my country! I fought for thee well,
     When the savage rushed forth like the demons of hell.
     In peace or in war I have stood by thy side.
     My country, for thee I have lived――would have died!
     But I am cast off, my career is now run,
     And I wander abroad like a prodigal son.
     Where the wild savage roves, and the broad prairies spread,
     The fallen――despised――will again――Go Ahead!”

Having now determined to “cut out and quit the States until honest men
should have a chance to work their way to the head of the heap,” Davy
said good-by to his friends and his family, and started for Mills’
Point, to take a boat down the river.

“The thermometer stood somewhat below freezing point,” he says, “as
I left my wife and children; still there was some thawing about the
eyelids, a thing that had not happened since I ran away from my
father’s house when a thoughtless, vagabond boy. I dressed myself in a
clean hunting-shirt, put on a new fox-skin cap with the tail hanging
behind, took hold of my rifle ‘Betsy,’ which all the world knows was
presented to me by the patriots of Philadelphia, and, thus equipped,
started off to go ahead in a new world.”

It appears that up to this time Davy’s account of his life had been
taken down by the editor of his book or an assistant. From time to
time more was added, evidently from notes or messages sent from the
frontier. Manifestos signed by Davy Crockett bear no trace of his
style, nor do the concluding chapters of his book, which he never saw
completed. Whoever helped the rounding out of his narrative could
easily have followed Davy in his wanderings, and it must be taken for
granted that this was done. All through the book there is a random way
of telling the story, but in no case, after careful study, does there
appear any discrepancy.

When Davy boarded the steamer _Mediterranean_ at the Point, he was
welcomed by many prominent men on the way to Arkansas and Texas.
The steamboat was one of the finest on the river, and before her
gangway was aboard, and the slowly turning paddle-wheels had sent the
surging waves against the muddy banks, Davy was the centre of a group
of bankers, soldiers, Indian-fighters, gamblers, speculators, and
all that then made the river their highway. They were interested in
the future of Texas, and were determined to make it free of Mexican
rule. In the spectacular figure of the famous scout, bear-hunter, and
Congressman, they saw a new ideal. Such a history as his was rare to
their experiences. They knew he might be relied upon for courage and
honesty. When the _Mediterranean_ tied up at Helena, in a storm, a
subscription of eighty thousand dollars for the Texan cause was made up
on board. Davy Crockett, James Bowie, Colonel Hawkins, Captain Travis,
and Captain Fannin were made trustees of this fund. Every one of these
names is blazoned upon the Texan scroll of fame. The money was paid in,
put in charge of John Slidell, Governor White, and S. S. Prentiss, and
was all used in freeing Texas from Mexico.

Davy is said to have gone to New Orleans, and is known to have visited
Natchez, stirring up the more peaceable to active interest in the
affairs of the Americans threatened by the new attitude of the Mexican
Government. For three years all Mexican troops had been kept out
of Texas; the latest news told of the coming of General Cos with a
strong force, and the garrisoning of San Antonio by several hundred
Mexican soldiers, selected, by orders from Santa Anna, from the lowest
classes, men who were ever ready to cut throats, plunder, or insult the
colonists. With the money subscribed, the gathering of supplies for
the “inevitable conflict” went rapidly forward. The return of Stephen
F. Austin, after eight months’ captivity in Mexican prisons, brought a
new force into the field. The Americans cast bullets, looked to their
priming, and built adobe forts under pretense of building homes. The
slow ferment of racial hatred, the antipathies of men who worshipped
God in different ways or not at all, the cherishing of the memories of
murderous deeds on both sides, grew slowly into a flood of passion, fed
by every heart-throb day and night.

After various journeys along and about the Red River, Davy started for
the front, where the old city of San Antonio de Bejar stood forever the
centre of bloody tragedies and bitter strife. After being entertained
in true Western style at Little Rock, he set forth for Fulton, one
hundred and twenty miles across country. The citizens had given him
a horse and saddle, and the company of four or five men, bound for
Washita River, gave the party the appearance of a band of scouts. After
a ride of fifty miles they drew near the river, when sounds of music
were heard. “Hail Columbia” rolled across the fringe of alders along
the banks, but when they raised their voices in a cheer the playing
stopped, to again break into that old sad song of vanished hopes, “Over
the Water to Charlie.” Putting spurs to their tired horses, they came
to the river’s edge, to look upon the spectacle of a travelling parson
whom they had seen at Little Rock, sitting in a sulky in the middle
of the swirling stream. His horse could barely keep his feet, and yet
the parson played with a composure that told of his faith in a higher
power. He had fiddled for more than an hour, not daring to turn or
venture on, and when he was rescued by Davy’s company he was about used
up.

From this point Davy went on towards Fulton with the preacher, as far
as Greenville. As they rode along, the old parson spoke so warmly of
the bountiful works of Providence that his faith was imparted to his
companion. “We were alone in the wilderness,” wrote Davy, “but all
things told me that God was there. The thought renewed my strength and
courage. I had left my country; felt somewhat like an outcast; but now
I was conscious that there was One still watching over me. My soul
leaped with joy at the thought: I never felt so grateful in all my
life; I never before loved God so sincerely. I felt that I still had a
friend.”

There are some that will sneer at Davy’s confession of his faith and
love, forgetting that the wandering outcast, even the worst of men,
looks out sometimes from the darkest depths to the long-remembered
sweetness of a mother’s smile. “How sharp the point of this remembrance
is!” The careless or the hardened shrink from tender memories, but
sometimes, in the moment of evil impulse or of passion’s sway, their
hands by these are stayed from wickedness. In such a heart as Davy
Crockett’s there will always burn the reverential fires that keep the
soul alight.

At Fulton Davy took passage on a steamboat for Natchitoches, in
Louisiana. As the boat puffed its way down the writhing channel of
the Red River, he noticed a small cluster of passengers intent upon
something that seemed to be very amusing. “I drew nigh to the cluster,”
he says, “and, seated on a chest, was a tall, lank sea-sarpent-looking
blackleg, who was interesting the passengers by his skill at
thimble-rig [the shell game]; at the same time he was picking up their
shillings just as fast as a hungry gobbler would a pint of corn.”

Noticing Davy’s interest in his actions, the gambler finally urged him
to make a bet; whereupon Davy, knowing the trick, named the thimble
under which the pea was resting, but insisted upon lifting it himself.
The pea was there, and the gambler was obliged to treat the crowd
about him. After the laugh was over, “poor Thimblerig,” as Davy calls
him, had to forego his game, and soon came and started a conversation
with the man who had outwitted him. He seemed to be a good-natured,
intelligent sort of fellow, “with a keen eye to the main chance.” “He
belonged to that numerous class,” says Davy, “that you can trust as
far as you can sling a bull by the tail, and no farther. All the time
he was talking to me he was seated on a chest, playing mechanically
with his pea and thimbles, as if he was afraid he would lose his
sleight-of-hand.”

At Natchitoches, the gambler, deploring his past and the hopelessness
of his leading an honest life, was told by Davy that if he could not
really lead the life of an honest man, the next best thing was to die
like a brave one.

“Most men are remembered as they died,” said Davy “and not as they
lived.”

“You are right; but how is this to be done?”

“Come with me to Texas; cut aloof from your degrading habits and
associates, and in fighting for freedom, regain your own.”

The gambler started from the table at which he was sitting, seized
Davy’s hand, and exclaimed, with kindling eyes, “I will be a man again,
and live honestly or die bravely. I will go with you to Texas.” In this
way was Thimblerig enlisted. His real name is not known.



XXI.

THE BEE-HUNTER

At Natchitoches: forty bushels of frogs to the acre――The Bee-Hunter
casts his lot with Colonel Crockett and Thimblerig――The welcome at
Nacogdoches――Davy’s parting speech――The Bee-Hunter says farewell to
Kate――The journey to the Rio Trinidad――Encounter with the Pirate
and the Indian Hunter――They also enlist with the Colonel――Chasing
the buffalo, and separation of the party――Davy and the mountain
lion――The spectacle of Halley’s comet――A party of Comanches surround
Thimblerig――The party reunited――Encounter with Mexicans――In sight of
the Alamo――The welcome at San Antonio.


The next morning, after an early walk along the lowlands of the river,
which were said to produce each year forty bushels of frogs to the
acre, with alligators enough for fences, Davy was standing in front of
the village inn, when he heard a clear and musical voice break into
song. Drawing near to the singer, he saw him to be a young man of about
twenty-two, of light and graceful figure, indicating strength and
activity. He was dressed in a hunting-shirt, tastily ornamented with
fringe. A highly-finished rifle was in his hand, and a hunting-pouch,
covered with Indian ornaments, was slung across his shoulders. His
clean shirt-collar was open, secured only by a black riband around his
neck. The young man’s face was a handsome, bright, and manly one. From
his eyes to his breast he was sunburnt as dark as mahogany, while the
upper part of his high forehead was as white and as polished as marble.
Thick clusters of curly hair showed under his cap.

When the young man saw Davy, he called him by name, and said that he
had come to meet him, for the purpose of going with him to Texas. He
was a bee-hunter, and knew the trails that the Spanish had dignified
with the name of roads. As soon as they could get a horse for
Thimblerig, the three men started for Nacogdoches, in Texas, where the
first troubles had begun. The Bee-Hunter proved a cheerful companion
and an experienced guide, and after a journey of one hundred and twenty
miles they came in sight of Nacogdoches, then a straggling settlement
of one thousand people. From afar they saw the tri-color, two-starred
flag of Texas and Coahuila, at the top of a high pole, and when nearer
heard the sound of fife and drum, in honor of Crockett’s arrival. The
day was spent in hearing the news, procuring supplies, and writing
letters, and at a late hour they were ready for an early start for San
Antonio, two hundred miles distant.

What they had heard was enough to stir their blood. The capture of
General Cos and his Mexicans by General Burleson, the surrender of the
Alamo, and the clearing from Texas soil of the last Mexican soldier,
presaged an easy road to Texan freedom. But the danger of an invasion
by another and larger Mexican army was not unlikely.

Before going to bed, Crockett surprised Thimblerig, busy with his
thimbles and the elusive pea, in the midst of a dozen men. At the sight
of his new friend, the crestfallen gambler hustled his apparatus out of
sight.

The next morning Davy found the Bee-Hunter in the little parlor of
the inn, talking with a girl of about eighteen. Davy says she was as
lovely as the wild-flowers of the prairie, and when she courtesied to
Davy, and looked farewell into her lover’s face, the old scout and
hunter turned away with tears in his eyes. A gourd for water, a pocket
Bible, and some other little tokens of her thoughtfulness and love, she
gave to the handsome recruit and he was ready to go.

In front of the inn, Crockett made a short speech before mounting his
little mustang. Standing with head uncovered, he said at last:

“I will die, if I must, with my ‘Betsy’ in my arms. No! I will not die!
I’ll grin down the walls of the Alamo, and we’ll lick up the Mexicans
like fine salt!”

The Bee-Hunter then came out, followed by the weeping girl. He said
good-by to his friends who surrounded him, took Kate, his sweetheart,
to his heart, kissed her farewell, and leaped upon his horse. As he
rode away he sang in a clear, exultant voice, as if to cheer his
listeners:

    “Saddled and bridled and booted rode he――
     A plume in his helmet, a sword at his knee.”

A soft and tremulous strain, like an echo of his song, came to their
ears from Kate’s dear lips, as if in prophecy:

    “But hame came the saddle, all bluidy to see;
     And hame came the steed, but hame never came he!”

The three men travelled steadily through great forests of hardwood,
with occasional cane-brakes along the many streams. They saw much game,
but dared not do any hunting, for fear of losing their way. On the
second day the Trinity River was reached, seventy miles southwest, near
where the town of Crockett stands. The next night they took shelter
from a “norther” in the miserable cabin of a poor white woman, who
generously gave them part of her scanty store. Here they found two
recruits.

“While we were securing our horses for the night,” the story runs, “we
saw two men approaching on foot. They were both armed with rifles and
hunting-knives, and I must say they were about the roughest samples I
had ever seen. One was a man about fifty years old, tall and raw-boned.
He was dressed in a sailor’s round jacket, with a tarpaulin hat on
his head. His whiskers nearly covered his face, and there was a deep
scar across his forehead. His companion, considerably younger, was
bareheaded, and clad in a deer-skin dress made after our fashion.
Though he was not much darker than the old man, I perceived that he was
an Indian.”

These men were on the way to the front, and they agreed to accompany
Davy’s little party. The Indian surprised them by producing a brace
of rabbits from his bag, and a good supper was soon prepared,
consisting of fried bacon and rabbit, with onions. Thimblerig, for
some unaccountable reason, objected to eating with the bewhiskered
party, who had been, so the Bee-Hunter said, at one time a pirate.
Overhearing some of his talk to this effect, the old salt fixed his eye
on Thimblerig, drew his long hunting-knife from its sheath, and placed
it by his own plate, saying, “Stranger, I think you had better take a
seat and have some supper.” The gambler looked at the Pirate, then at
the knife, and his scruples were put aside.

The next day they saw a large drove of buffalo, and the whole party,
with the exception of the Pirate, followed them. At the end of two
hours Davy found himself alone on the prairies, his tiny mustang nearly
dead with exhaustion, and himself little better off. Too tired to think
of going on, Davy prepared to camp near a stream where a fallen tree
offered shelter from the wind. As he was inspecting the place, he saw
a great mountain lion about to spring upon him. A shot from “Betsy”
failed to settle the creature, and it was only after a desperate
fight that Davy succeeded in killing the savage animal with his
hunting-knife. By this time he wanted sleep, and it was just before the
first streak of dawn that he awoke, stiff with cold and sore from the
clawing he had received from the lion, that now lay near him upon the
ground. The night was clear and the stars bright, and over in the east
was the magnificent spectacle of Halley’s comet, sweeping the skies for
thirty degrees with its luminous train――a grand forerunner of the great
events to follow.

As the day came on, Davy shot a wild goose, upon the little river,
and made a hearty breakfast. He was now without his mustang, as the
cunning creature, after feigning more fatigue than it felt, had left
him in the lurch. As he plodded along, hoping that the stream would
lead him to some trail, there came all at once in sight a party of
about fifty Comanches, with lances that glittered in the sunlight. They
came like a whirlwind until almost upon him, and then, dividing to
each side as if by magic, surrounded him. Davy knew enough Spanish to
rejoice when the chief used the words, “_Mucho amigo, mucho amigo_,”
and showed a friendly countenance. When he saw the cougar that Davy had
killed with his knife, he was eager to adopt the hunter into the tribe,
and when the scout declined the honor, the chief insisted on escorting
him as far as the place where the San Antonio trail crossed the
Colorado. They reached this the second day, and just before they came
to the river a thin spiral of smoke was seen through the trees. Riding
ahead with the chief, Davy saw Thimblerig, practising his old game upon
the crown of his great white hat. As the whole party swooped down on
him with yells enough to scare the bravest, the gambler was only saved
from dropping dead by the sight of Davy’s face. By the gift of a Bowie
knife, Davy procured fresh horses from the Indians; and after a powwow
and a smoke, the Comanches left them, and he again took up the journey
to San Antonio with his single companion.

Within twenty-four hours they fell in with the Bee-Hunter, the Pirate,
and the Indian, making a party of five. When about twenty miles from
San Antonio they were met by a number of mounted Mexicans. Shots were
exchanged, whereupon the Mexicans disappeared in a cloud of dust.
As the scouts entered San Antonio, they saw with delight the Texan
flag upon the Alamo. General Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, had
surrendered the old chapel-fortress, with its four-foot walls, after
losing three hundred men. He had signed a parole, and his seventeen
hundred Mexican soldiers were prisoners, disarmed, and on their way
across the Rio Grande. As Crockett and his companions rode up to the
Alamo and made themselves known, the gates were opened, and they
entered amid the cheers of the victorious garrison.

For several weeks there was a state of doubt as to the intentions
of Santa Anna. Davy was kept busy writing to his friends regarding
supplies and future plans. The Bee-Hunter, the Pirate, the Indian, and
Thimblerig recognized him as their leader, and kept ready to answer his
call.



XXII.

THE ALAMO BESIEGED

The city of San Antonio de Bejar――The crumbling monuments of Spanish
supremacy――A place of surpassing interest to travellers――The spirit of
revenge――The morning of Washington’s Birthday, 1836――Davy, the scout
once more, watches the coming of Santa Anna and four thousand men――The
Alamo prepares for the last struggle――The Bee-Hunter salutes the Lone
Star flag――The Pirate goes for help to Goliad――But one man deserts
the garrison of the Alamo――The beginning of the siege on February
24th――Thimblerig is struck by a bullet, and takes revenge――The Pirate
is seen returning, pursued by Mexicans, and the Bee-Hunter leads a
party to his relief――The Pirate dies of a bullet wound at the gates
of the fort, and the Bee-Hunter is fatally injured――The Bee-Hunter’s
death――Farewell to Kate of Nacogdoches!――The Red Flag on the walls of
the San Fernando church――Orders to the Mexican Army for the assault.


It is not possible here to repeat the history of San Antonio de Bejar.
As the site of crumbling monuments of early American history, it has
no rival. The Alamo, last remnant of the Mission that was at one
time at San Ildefonso, near Santa Fé, is the restored chapel of its
Brotherhood. Its massive walls are the same that have met the many
shocks of battle for two hundred years. There the wild Apaches and
Comanches found a stronghold to check their ravages, and there the
equally savage men of fairer skins slaughtered each other with grim
delight. When the Missions of the Concepcion, of San José, of San Juan,
of San Francis of the Sword, now crumbling to inevitable decay, shall
be only mounds in the midst of stunted trees and matted vines, when the
exquisite carvings of their broad façades shall have turned to dust
again, the traveller will stand before the Alamo with reverence, and
enter, with uncovered head, the dim recesses of this altar-place of
liberty.

When Davy Crockett and his recruits first saw its walls, the spirit
of revenge was rife. The butchery at Tampico of thirty American
adventurers, captured in the schooner _Mary Jane_, in spite of the one
hundred thousand dollar ransom offered, and the murder of Governor
Salcedo, two other Mexican Governors, and a dozen officers and
hidalgos, by Gutierrez and Delgado, Mexican rebels who were allied with
a force of Americans camped about the Alamo, had wrought the racial
hatred to a frenzy. Every man longed for battle, and the extinction of
the last vestige of the power of the enemy. When news came that Santa
Anna and four thousand Mexicans were on the way, the cowards faded
from sight, knowing that war was to be under the Red Flag, and without
quarter.

On the morning of Washington’s Birthday, 1836, Davy and the Bee-Hunter,
with a dozen of the roughest riders that ever fought Apaches on the
plains, sat their saddles upon a mesquite-covered hill a few miles
south of the twin towers of the Mission de La Concepcion, watching a
blur of dust that lay upon the hills. Suddenly there flashed upon their
sight the glitter of bayonets and of silver eagles perched above waving
flags. As they stood intent, the roll of drums came to their ears, and
over the winding river rang the bugle calls of the hurrying hosts.
Santa Anna was within twenty miles of the Alamo, and the Americans’
horses were put to their utmost speed as they raced towards the town
with the long-expected tidings.

As the scouting party clattered through the crooked streets, hundreds
of the inhabitants followed to hear the news they brought. At the gates
of the fortress were Bowie, Travis, and more than one hundred and
fifty others whose names are on the roll of “the Battle Dead.” Every
preparation had been made for the struggle, but both ammunition and
food were scarce. Their hopes were placed upon the expected relief by
the forces under command of Colonel Fannin at Goliad.

In the bright morning light every man stood with uncovered head as the
flag bearing one great star with the name “TEXAS” between its points
went bravely to the top of the garrison staff. As its colors rippled in
beauty overhead, the voice of the Bee-Hunter broke into song, thrilling
with new courage the souls of the devoted band:

    “Up with your banner, Freedom!
       Thy champions cling to thee!
     They follow where you lead them――
       To death or victory.
     Through all the smoke and flame of war
     Forever shines the Single Star!”

During the afternoon of this day, or perhaps after dark, the Pirate,
the Indian Hunter, and two others volunteered to carry an urgent
appeal to Fannin, who was supposed to be about one hundred miles
away. They had scarcely made their way out of the fort when thirty
men from Gonzales came in, tired and dusty, after eluding the rapidly
concentrating forces of Santa Anna.

There were now in the garrison one hundred and eighty-seven men and a
few women and children, among them the wife of Lieutenant Dickinson.
When Davy and his party arrived with the news of Santa Anna’s approach,
there was not a man who could not have escaped; yet when Travis asked
who would stand by him to the last, only one man turned away. His name
is known, but it has been borne by braver men, so let us judge him with
what leniency we may. The others awaited the supreme hour of battle
with a courage that can only animate the defenders of their faith in a
righteous cause.

On the 24th, having invested the fortress, the Mexicans planted a
battery near the San Antonio River, three hundred and fifty yards
away, and began a cannonade. Occasionally a bit of the parapet would be
clipped, but most of the shots were stopped by the thick adobe walls.
The riflemen in the fort now began their deadly work, and one by one
the gunners fell beside their pieces. At one of the batteries, placed
where it commanded the gates of the Alamo, a score of Mexicans lay
dead and dying before the position was abandoned. The Americans wasted
little powder in working the fourteen small cannon about the fort. The
scanty supply could be used to better advantage in their long rifles.
The Mexicans fired continually from behind every house and tree, and it
was dangerous to be seen above the walls.

During the afternoon of the 24th, Thimblerig was struck by a
three-ounce leaden ball, after it had glanced from the parapet. It
was a painful but not dangerous wound, and Davy dressed it as best he
could. When he advised Thimblerig to keep the missile as a souvenir,
the latter said that he hoped to be shot again if he did. He proceeded
to cut it up into slugs, wherewith to pay his debts to the enemy.

Before daylight of the 25th two more batteries were planted about the
Alamo, and the situation grew serious. In spite of the deadly aim
with which the defenders killed or wounded the men who served the
pieces, their places were immediately filled by others, for there were
thousands at Santa Anna’s command. During the 25th, Thimblerig is said
to have paid his debts, with interest, by dropping four Mexicans with
the slugs he had made from the bullet which had struck him.

On the 26th Colonel Bowie fell ill with typhoid, and was unable to
leave his bed. He is said to have been badly injured from a fall just
before this, but even in his delirium he seems to have had no thought
but to direct and cheer the smoke-grimed garrison. The Bee-Hunter kept
every one in good heart with his jests and songs and his unfailing
spirits. If he thought of Kate, so far away, he gave no sign. During
the afternoon he led a sortie from the rear stockade about the fort,
for the purpose of obtaining wood and water. Before they could return
they were seen by some of General Sesma’s men, and a running fight
followed. The Bible in the Bee-Hunter’s pocket, which had been Kate’s
last gift, was struck by a bullet, but it glanced away without harming
him. As he fell asleep, Davy heard the girl’s name upon his lips.

The appeal to the inhabitants of San Antonio for assistance, issued
by Travis upon the 24th, had not brought any volunteers, but food and
other supplies were promised. To obtain these it was necessary to
send out picked men after dark, and considerable forage and grain was
brought in during the 28th and 29th. There took place among the enemy
about this time certain movements that might have been caused by the
approach of Colonel Fannin’s command. For awhile, the slightest hope
was enough to raise the spirits of the garrison. Every day gained made
the possibility of relief seem more probable. But as night after night
fell about the city, with the enemy’s lines drawing ever closer, it was
hard to fight with a cheerful faith.

On the 4th of March, when the sun was low, a man was seen to the
westward of the fort, running towards the gate of the stockade, and
pursued by several Mexicans. He was almost at once recognized as the
Pirate, who had been one of the men sent in search of relief from
Goliad. Crockett, Thimblerig, and the Indian were the first to rush to
his aid. As they opened the gate of the stockade a dozen men followed
them, and a fierce hand-to-hand fight took place. Another sortie was
made from the stockade, and with the help of the men in this party,
they were able at last to repulse the enemy. Eight Mexicans were
killed, but the Americans had also fared badly. The Pirate and the
Bee-Hunter were mortally wounded, and Davy had a terrible sabre-cut
across his forehead.

The old Pirate died without a word, just as they entered the gate. His
story was never known. Davy saw the young Bee-Hunter laid carefully
in his bed, and helped to dress the wound in his side. Until midnight
he lay without signs of the pain he endured, and then he called for
Colonel Crockett. Davy asked if there was anything he could do for him.
He shook his head with a sigh that was like a sob. “Poor Kate! Poor
Kate!” he exclaimed. “Her words were only too true.” For a moment he
was silent, and then in a low, clear voice he sang the last words he
had heard from her lips:

    “But hame cam’ the saddle, all bluidy to see,
     And hame cam’ the steed, but hame never cam’ he.”

He spoke no more, and a few minutes afterwards breathed his last.

In the morning light of the 5th of March the Red Flag fluttered in
silence above the old San Fernando church. No quarter was to be
expected, and there was little hope of relief, but there was still a
chance to escape. Travis again asked if there were any who wished to
go, but not a man showed the white feather. Every possible preparation
was made for the expected assault. During the afternoon a Comanche
arrow was sent into the fort by some friendly person in the city, with
a copy of the following proclamation attached. This proclamation had
just been issued to the army, and is a matter of record:

    OFFICIAL ORDER

    The reserves will be composed of the battalions of Sappers and
    Miners and five companies of the Grenadiers of the Matamoras,
    Jimenez, and Aldamas battalions of regulars, and of the Toluca
    and San Luis battalions of volunteers.

    The reserve will be commanded by the General-in-Chief (Santa
    Anna) in person, at the time of making the attack, but these
    forces will be organized by Colonel Don Agustin Amat, under
    whose control they will remain from this evening, and who will
    conduct them to the point which will be designated to him at
    the proper time.

    The first column will be provided with ten scaling-ladders,
    two crowbars, and two axes; the second will be provided with
    the same quantity; the third with six, and the fourth with
    two. The men carrying ladders will sling their guns over their
    shoulders, so as to leave them entirely free to place their
    ladders wherever directed.

    Grenadier and Cavalry companies will be supplied with six
    packages of cartridges to the man; the infantry company with
    four, with two extra flints. The latter will not be encumbered
    with overcoats, blankets, or anything which will prevent
    rapidity in their movements. All caps will be provided with
    chin-straps. Corps commanders will pay particular attention to
    this provision, and are also required to see that their men
    are provided with shoes or other covering for their feet. The
    men of the attacking column will retire to rest at sundown,
    preparatory to moving at midnight.

    Men not well drilled will remain at their quarters.

    All arms, particularly bayonets, must be put into the best
    condition.

    At the rising of the moon the riflemen of the San Luis reserve
    battalion of volunteers will retire to their quarters, leaving
    the points they cover along the line, and will thereupon put
    their equipage in readiness.

    The cavalry, under command of General Don Ramirez y Sesma,
    will occupy the Alameda, and saddle up at three o’clock in the
    morning. Their duty will be to prevent the escape of any of the
    enemy and to watch the camp.

    The honor of the nation and of the army being involved in
    the contest with the desperate foreigners in our front, His
    Excellency the Commander-in-Chief expects that each man
    will perform his duty and contribute his share in securing
    a day of glory for his country, and of honor to the Federal
    Government, which will be proud to honor the brave men who
    shall distinguish themselves by feats of valor.

                              By command:

                                           JUAN VALENTINE AMADOR.



XXIII.

THE MEXICANS’ CHARGE

The devoted little band makes ready to measure swords with their
enemies――The bugle blows as the Sabbath breaks――The Mexicans charge
the Alamo with two thousand five hundred men――A terrible slaughter
outside the walls――The death of Colonel Travis――The scaling of the
parapets, and the death struggles in the fort――Bayonets, bowie-knives,
and clubbed rifles――Where Davy Crockett fell fighting to the last――The
silver bugle blows again――The end has come――The slaughter of the
prisoners――The after scenes――“Thermopylæ had its messenger of defeat;
the Alamo had none.”


It was radiant spring-time when Davy leaned upon his rifle and looked
across the Texas plains and over the hills that rose to the north
and east of the valley. He had read the grim orders for the expected
assault as he might have read an unimportant order of the day. No
comments had been heard as the proclamation passed from hand to hand.
On the walls of the Alamo and the tops of the flanking stockades
were fourteen guns loaded with grape and slugs, ready to be fired
at a moment’s notice. Every man was supplied with bullets and a full
powder-horn.

Some of the garrison were Mexicans, fighting for the common cause.
These were armed with rifles carrying bayonets. They were not marksmen
or experts in rapid firing, but they knew their fate if defeated, and
were relied upon to resist to the last.

A hush fell over all the land as the sun went down, touching with
tender beauty the early verdure of the plains. In the cottonwoods
finches sung their vesper songs, and the redbirds piped their plaintive
calls. The melody of the thrushes came from the willows along the
river’s banks, so sweet and far-away that Davy seemed to stand once
more by the winding current of the Obion. The odor of cedar was in the
air as the people of the city prepared their evening meals over fires
of the fragrant wood. The softened tones of the vesper bells came from
the Mission towers, full of an infinite peace and calm, and the day
merged into night, and the stars came out, and the birds were still. So
ended the 5th of March at San Antonio de Bejar.

The fitful sleep of the garrison came to an end when word was passed
around that activity had begun in the camp of the Mexicans. The sound
of horses’ feet was heard as the men of Sesma’s cavalry command
turned out for service at three o’clock, before the first sign of day
appeared. By four o’clock the tramp of moving hosts had ceased, and in
the bright moonlight the glitter of bayonets showed that the forces
that were to make the assault had taken the positions assigned them.
Every American took his place upon the walls of fort or stockade, and
saw that the priming of his gun or rifle was renewed.

As the first glimmer of dawn came out of the east, the fateful winding
of a bugle broke the stillness of the Sabbath morn. Voices were faintly
heard in stern command, and then, like the sweep of a tidal wave,
mingled with the earthquake’s sullen roar, the unleashed hosts of Santa
Anna swarmed against the massive walls of the Alamo. When near the fort
they were met by a storm of grape and slugs and the bullets of the
riflemen. Two thousand five hundred Mexicans took part in the first
attack, advancing in three columns against the eastern, western, and
northern sides, but they recoiled in confusion before the withering
fire. Colonel Duque was killed as he approached the northern wall, and
his men were thrown into terrified confusion. Upon the other sides of
the fortress the attack was at first repelled; but behind the shrinking
men who faced the first fire came the forces in reserve, until they
outnumbered the defenders fifteen to one, and at last they reached
the walls. Finding it impossible to scale them, the whole assault was
directed against the stockade upon the northern side. Here the walls
were comparatively low, and the ladders could be used. In the meantime
the men within were loading and firing with desperate energy. The
slaughter was terrible, and two or three hundred Mexicans had fallen
before the partial shelter of the walls was gained. Here they were
safe from the fire of the cannon overhead, but at so close a range
almost every bullet found a victim. Only the knowledge that others were
hurrying to their support kept them from fleeing for their lives.

Travis had been killed at the northwestern angle of the parapet, while
working one of the cannon defending a small breach that had been made.
After repeated attempts, General Amador succeeded in scaling the walls
at this point, and a swarm of Mexicans followed him. Under Morales
and Miñon, the outer defenses of the stockades had been occupied, the
cannon captured, and the defenders forced to retire to the main part
of the Alamo and the long barracks attached. The Texans soon fired
their last shots, then swung their clubbed rifles against the mobs that
pressed upon them with bayonet and sword. As these drove the Americans
against the walls, their keen-edged knives were drawn for a moment of
desperate conflict before they fell dying one by one. Bowie was lying
in an almost helpless condition in an upper room of the barracks, but
when the enemy rushed in upon him he shot down several with his pistols
before he was despatched. Bonham, who had been one of the most active
of the garrison, had been killed while loading a cannon. Crockett had
retreated with the others into the plaza in which the long two-story
barracks opened. The last that is known about him is that his mutilated
body was seen near the main walls of the Alamo by Mrs. Dickinson, whose
life was spared by the Mexicans. The story of his capture behind a pile
of dead men, whom he had killed before being overpowered, is not true.
Like most of his companions, he died in his tracks, disdaining to ask
for quarter. A few of his comrades are known to have attempted escape
by hiding in the barracks, an act which was entirely justifiable, for
the fighting was over, and longer resistance was useless. The Mexicans
stood at last within the walls of the Alamo, surrounded by the dead,
with no hand raised against them.

The conflict had been terrible, but was soon over. It was yet an hour
before the rising of the sun upon the plains when the calm, sweet notes
of a bugle sounded from the midst of drifting smoke above the captured
fort. The bands without were hushed, and the fierce Degüello was no
longer needed to incite to fury and frantic assault. The Lone Star flag
that had been so proudly raised upon Washington’s Birthday lay trampled
in the dust, and in its stead the tri-color of Mexico flaunted in
the morning breeze. There was a rolling of drums as the victorious
Santa Anna appeared before the open gates of the Alamo. Five men who
had secreted themselves in the barracks were brought before him.
Their captors asked what disposition should be made of the prisoners.
For answer Santa Anna wheeled his horse until his back was turned.
Disregarding all the tenets of military discipline, the guard about him
broke ranks and fell upon the captives like a pack of wolves, and in
a moment’s time the last of the defenders of the fort had gone to his
final accounting.

It has been generally supposed that Crockett and a few others were
massacred by Santa Anna’s command; but the best evidence now disproves
this, though it confirms his savage cruelty in ordering the shooting of
Colonel Fannin and his men, afterwards captured at Goliad.

Five hundred dead and dying Mexicans met the gaze of the victorious
commander-in-chief as he rode into the fort; and the total losses of
the Mexican army were between fifteen hundred and sixteen hundred men.
Almost two hundred Americans lay among the ghastly harvest they had
reaped.

The bodies of all the Americans, with the possible exception of Bowie,
whose wife was a sister of the wife of Santa Anna, were at once laid
upon a pile of wood and brush and burned. The Mexicans’ own dead were
buried, and preparations were made for the extermination of the last
vestige of rebellion.

In February, 1837, Colonel Seguin removed the ashes and charred bones
of the funeral pile of the defenders of the Alamo, and buried them near
the fort. In after years a small monument was set up in the entrance to
the State House at Austin, built from fragments of the stockade against
which the tide of battle swept with such fury on that quiet Sabbath
morn. Upon this monument are the names of one hundred and sixty-six men
who met death before the bugle rang above the old church walls. Among
the first is the name of Davy Crockett.

The Alamo is now cared for by the Society of the Daughters of the
Republic of Texas. The patriotic ladies who compose this Society
have done everything possible to restore and preserve the historic
building. The four-foot walls are intact, and the roof has been
rebuilt. A custodian is always in charge, and many objects of interest
have been collected and placed on exhibition. Pictures of Crockett,
Travis, Milam, Burleson, and others are hung upon its walls. The most
characteristic of all the pictures of Davy Crockett is one painted by
John L. Chapman in 1834, while Crockett was in Congress. It shows him
as he looked as scout and hunter, and reveals in every feature a kindly
and sympathetic nature, liable to strong emotion and sensitive to every
slight. Another picture, now in the Alamo, is that of Crockett in more
fashionable attire. The two are by different artists, but are so alike
in almost every lineament that each is a guaranty for the other. For
the use of the first of these pictures, the publishers are indebted to
the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

The death of Davy Crockett and the other brave men who fell in the
Alamo could not be made the occasion for interference by the United
States, but thousands of Americans took up their cause, and it was not
long before the Stars and Stripes were lowered in salute before the
battle-scarred fortress, as our army passed by on its way to Mexico.

What visions came to Davy Crockett in the smoke and flame of his last
fight, we do not know; but the love of his own, like an attendant
angel, stood by him as he met his enemies one by one; and when the last
ray of light had faded from his soul, the glory of his sacrifice grew
out of the ghastly ending of a life unspoiled by false ideals, and
never unfaithful to those who shared his humble home. The soft airs of
the Southland play about his resting-place, and the thrush and robin
sing their plaintive songs above his dust. While the laurels glorify
the Limestone’s rugged hills, and the mayflowers scent the Nolichucky’s
wilderness, he sleeps unmindful of their fragrance and beauty, or the
singing of the birds. But his memory cannot die; his epitaph is upon
the walls of the Alamo――

                THERMOPYLÆ HAD ITS MESSENGER OF DEFEAT:
                          THE ALAMO HAD NONE!



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――The portrait of David Crockett referenced in the Preface and last
   chapter, was not included in this edition/printing of the book.

 ――Obvious punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 ――Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.





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