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David Crockett: The Lion of the West

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His name was David Crockett. He never signed his name any other way, but popular culture transformed his memory into "Davy Crockett," and Hollywood gave him a raccoon hat he hardly ever wore. Best-selling historian Michael Wallis casts a fresh look at the frontiersman, storyteller, and politician behind these legendary stories. Born into a humble Tennessee family in 1786, His name was David Crockett. He never signed his name any other way, but popular culture transformed his memory into "Davy Crockett," and Hollywood gave him a raccoon hat he hardly ever wore. Best-selling historian Michael Wallis casts a fresh look at the frontiersman, storyteller, and politician behind these legendary stories. Born into a humble Tennessee family in 1786, Crockett never "killed him a b'ar" when he was only three. But he did cut a huge swath across early-nineteenth-century America—as a bear hunter, a frontier explorer, a soldier serving under Andrew Jackson, an unlikely congressman, and, finally, a martyr in his now-controversial death at the Alamo. Wallis's David Crockett is more than a riveting story. It is a revelatory, authoritative biography that separates fact from fiction, providing us with an extraordinary evocation of a true American hero and the rough-and-tumble times in which he lived.


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His name was David Crockett. He never signed his name any other way, but popular culture transformed his memory into "Davy Crockett," and Hollywood gave him a raccoon hat he hardly ever wore. Best-selling historian Michael Wallis casts a fresh look at the frontiersman, storyteller, and politician behind these legendary stories. Born into a humble Tennessee family in 1786, His name was David Crockett. He never signed his name any other way, but popular culture transformed his memory into "Davy Crockett," and Hollywood gave him a raccoon hat he hardly ever wore. Best-selling historian Michael Wallis casts a fresh look at the frontiersman, storyteller, and politician behind these legendary stories. Born into a humble Tennessee family in 1786, Crockett never "killed him a b'ar" when he was only three. But he did cut a huge swath across early-nineteenth-century America—as a bear hunter, a frontier explorer, a soldier serving under Andrew Jackson, an unlikely congressman, and, finally, a martyr in his now-controversial death at the Alamo. Wallis's David Crockett is more than a riveting story. It is a revelatory, authoritative biography that separates fact from fiction, providing us with an extraordinary evocation of a true American hero and the rough-and-tumble times in which he lived.

30 review for David Crockett: The Lion of the West

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    “As a man, he was both authentic and contrived. He was wise in the ways of the wilderness and most comfortable when deep in the woods on a hunt, yet he could also hold his own in the halls of Congress…Remarkably, he enjoyed fraternizing with men of power and prestige in the fancy parlors of Philadelphia and New York. Crockett was, like none other, a nineteenth-century enigma. He fought under Andrew Jackson in the ruinous Indian Wars, only later to become Jackson’s bitter foe on the issue of remo “As a man, he was both authentic and contrived. He was wise in the ways of the wilderness and most comfortable when deep in the woods on a hunt, yet he could also hold his own in the halls of Congress…Remarkably, he enjoyed fraternizing with men of power and prestige in the fancy parlors of Philadelphia and New York. Crockett was, like none other, a nineteenth-century enigma. He fought under Andrew Jackson in the ruinous Indian Wars, only later to become Jackson’s bitter foe on the issue of removal of Indian tribes from their homelands…He had only a few months formal education, yet he read Ovid and the Bard. He was neither a buffoon nor a great intellect but a man who was always evolving on the stage of a nation in its adolescence, a pioneer whose inchoate dreams aptly reflected a restless nation with a gaze firmly pointed toward the West.” - Michael Wallis, David Crockett: The Lion of the West When he was growing up, my dad watched Davy Crockett, the five part serial that aired as part of the Disneyland series. Like many other kids of that period, he fell in love with the character. Later, he had me. When I was young, he showed me Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, a feature film edited together from the television series. Like him, I fell in love with the character. I had a coonskin cap. I had a long-rifle cap gun. I was Crockett on several Halloweens, and many random days in between. Whenever my brother and I built a fort out of pillows and cushions, that fort was the Alamo. And I was always Crockett, swinging an empty rifle at invisible enemies, sometimes dying but never for long, because Crockett was eternal. Recently, I tried to pass on Crockett to the next generation. I fired up the DVD player and invited my eldest daughter Emilia to strap herself in for 90 minutes of Technicolor adventure. Of the many fatherly ploys I've devised to interest my children in the things that interest me, this one felt like a sure thing. Emilia has so far shown herself to have very good taste. A list of things she enjoys includes pirates, sharks, the Titanic, and any television show where hillbillies head to the backwoods to catch Sasquatch. To my surprise, she took a soft pass on it. After about ten minutes, she slid off the couch and drifted away. “Where are you going?” I asked. “I think I want to draw for a little while,” she replied. “Don’t you want to finish?” “Maybe later,” she said. Maybe later. The words of every distracted parent thrown right back in my face. Cue Cats in the Cradle. And cue it again. I meditated on this turn of events. I also finished watching the movie, because it is pretty sweet. Is Davy Crockett relevant anymore? I asked myself. Roughly 60 years after his 20th century revival, do people outside a certain age-cohort still care? Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly, he’s not forgotten. At this point, considering the legend surrounding his death, he never will be. Whether he is worth remembering, though, is a separate question, and one that Michael Wallis’s David Crockett: Lion of the West never convincingly answers. Crockett was born in 1786, in what is now Tennessee. His rise to prominence was circuitous and, in a way, quintessentially American. He was a backwoods hunter and served in the militia during the Creek Indian Wars. He got involved in Texas politics, and used a populist mixture of homespun stories, jokes, and liquor to win three terms in the U.S. Congress. In most things, he was an utter failure. Every business he ever involved himself in turned to dust. He had enough debt to choke a bear. His second wife left him because he never stayed home long enough to act as either husband or parent. In Congress, he never passed a single piece of legislation. He managed to capitalize on his flickering fame by publishing A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, Written by Himself. But this did not bring him financial solvency. Overall, this constitutes a unique and adventurous life, but we would not still celebrate this man, or write songs about him, or make movies about him, if he had not saved the best, most dramatic act for last. At the age of 49, he rode into Texas hoping to restart his political career in the midst of a revolution. Instead, he blundered into a blind corner called the Alamo, where he achieved a kind of transfiguration that is almost religious in nature. Wallis’s retelling of this wild and rollicking story is solid and unspectacular. It is not a bad book by any means. It is, however, far too muted for such an outsize figure. I mean, come on! Let’s get some pizzazz up in here. Crockett was an insta-celebrity who died in a vaunted last stand. He’s like a Kardashian, except if one of the Kardashians had gone to Afghanistan and died heroically defending a doomed outpost. It’s almost impossible to deliver a non-riveting story with this material; here, though, Wallis mostly provides dry facts while ignoring Crockett’s essence. On the positive side, Wallis has certainly unearthed every scrap of Crockett minutiae he could find. He digs deep into the Crockett family genealogy by corresponding with his descendants. He tracked down a marriage license that Crockett never got around to using, because the girl left him to marry someone else (based on Crockett’s eagerness to abandon his family for long hunts, this was probably a wise decision). Wallis even looked over a deed of a slave that Crockett sold, noting that Crockett’s famous motto – “be sure you are right; then go ahead” – was for some reason written on the document. (When I told my dad, over a couple beers, that Crockett owned slaves, he went from zero to denial in just over 0.01 seconds. I hasten to add, for the record, that I did not know this aspect of Crockett’s history while dressing up as him during my childhood). There is no denying that Wallis delivers up everything he learned about Crockett. That’s not the problem. The problem is that at 304 pages, this biography feels utterly barebones, even with all these facts. I really sensed that Wallis was giving us a minimal effort, which stood in contrast to his excellent and thorough book on the Donner Party, The Best Land Under Heaven. Wallis’s narrative is tethered so closely to Crockett – to the extent that his autobiography is the chief source – that you lose sight of the world in which he lived. Without that context, the tales about Crockett often feel like they are occurring in a vacuum. For example, only the barest outlines of the Creek Indian War are provided. In describing Crockett’s role, Wallis sticks mainly with what Crockett said in his (oft-exaggerated) memoir. It becomes impossible to judge Crockett’s role in the conflict because we are only given slivers of it. The same goes for Crockett’s time in Congress. We never get a good explanation for why the populist hero from Tennessee (Crockett) became such a bitter enemy of the populist hero from Tennessee (Jackson). A more generous book might have devoted an entire chapter to the Creek War, another chapter on Jackson, and so on. Yes, I recognize that I am asking for the Robert Caro treatment. But that’s the effort it takes to make a truly great biography. There are a lot of blank spaces in Crockett’s life; by illuminating more of what we know of his times, I think it would have shed indirect light on his character. We would have had a better handle on the milieu in which he made his choices and took his actions. The best example of this book’s shortcomings is in the final chapter on the Alamo. Without the Alamo, there is no Crockett. Without the Alamo, Crockett would be a marginal figure, lost in the Congressional Record. To paraphrase Wallis himself, Crockett would have been a footnote of regional Tennessee politics in the 19th century. I doubt Disney would have bankrolled a series about regional Tennessee politics in the 19th century. Nevertheless, Wallis’s presentation of the Alamo is rushed, almost to the point of being negligible. He doesn’t bother with Travis or Bowie or the siege or the battle. He doesn’t bother asking why Davy might have stayed. There is a brief discussion about how Crockett might have died – Wallis believes he was executed – but that’s about the extent of things. (Side note: this is not Wallis’s fault, but the copy-editor promised never-before-published material relating to Crockett’s death. I don’t know what that was. In describing Crockett’s demise, Wallis relies on the controversial De La Pena “Diary”. Whatever else may be said about this document, it is not newly published material. It came out in Spanish in 1955, was translated and published in 1975, and was used in English-language books as early as Walter Lord’s A Time to Stand in 1961). I didn't hate this. I just didn't learn anything new. Or at least, not anything that drastically changes my perception of Crockett. As I’ve said before, when I grade history books, I do so looking at both research and writing. The writing part is important. I can get raw data anywhere. When I’m purchasing that data between two hard covers, I require an entertaining presentation and fresh insights. The term “revisionist history” has taken on unfortunate political connotations, but at least a work of revisionism gives you something more to think about. A gleeful stripping away of Crockett’s legend and folklore status would have angered a lot of people, but at least it would have taken an energetic viewpoint. This biography just sort of sits there. It tells you what Crockett did and what he didn't do, all while neglecting to say why it matters or what it means. In other words, this is not going to get David Crockett’s legacy to the next generation. Indeed, he might need a new television series, and fast.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lost Planet Airman

    Debunks, gently, many of the myths perpetrated around Crockett, including some of his own. Nice to know a few of the things about the Lion of the West, but the book itself was... so-so. A little too pedantic some times, a little to vague at others. In addition to reading this for my Strenuous Life (non-GR) Biographies challenge, I believe I can count it against my 2020 TBR Challenge, item #1, "inspired by a meme" -- the author cites in the introduction his discoveries that the man David Crockett Debunks, gently, many of the myths perpetrated around Crockett, including some of his own. Nice to know a few of the things about the Lion of the West, but the book itself was... so-so. A little too pedantic some times, a little to vague at others. In addition to reading this for my Strenuous Life (non-GR) Biographies challenge, I believe I can count it against my 2020 TBR Challenge, item #1, "inspired by a meme" -- the author cites in the introduction his discoveries that the man David Crockett was far, far different than the Disney "meme" Davy Crockett of song and show.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jay Connor

    Though "my" Fess Parker experience was the 1960's TV series "Daniel Boone," Wallis' youth was framed by the mid-50's Walt Disney "Davy Crockett." In his prologue, Wallis goes into great detail about the series and his family's subsequent 1955 summer pilgrimage to all things Crockett throughout Tennessee. I can envision a coon-skin cap hanging from his monitor as he wrote this only passable history. Wallis accomplishes part of his stated objective. He strips away the legend -- "killed him a b'ar Though "my" Fess Parker experience was the 1960's TV series "Daniel Boone," Wallis' youth was framed by the mid-50's Walt Disney "Davy Crockett." In his prologue, Wallis goes into great detail about the series and his family's subsequent 1955 summer pilgrimage to all things Crockett throughout Tennessee. I can envision a coon-skin cap hanging from his monitor as he wrote this only passable history. Wallis accomplishes part of his stated objective. He strips away the legend -- "killed him a b'ar when he was only three" -- but in so doing, he implicitly engages in another type of whitewash. In trying to reveal the man who was actually larger in life than his legend permitted, Wallis fails to truly examine several core inconsistencies. Here was a man who loved the embrace of nature and personal responsibility, yet, for all intents and purposes, abandoned his family. Here was a man of courage who opposed Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal policy, yet he died in the Alamo fighting for the right to retain the institution of slavery in the Texas territory. Here was a man, who as an unlikely Congressman defined his core goal as opening up the West Tennessee wilderness for the common man, yet, he could never apply the discipline nor skill to even come close to achieving that legislative outcome. By failing to fully address these flaws, Wallis pulls back the curtain on one set of inaccuracies only to refuse to shine the light in a way that would prevent another set of enigmas from being effectively examined. Though he may have outgrown is boyhood infatuation, Wallis as historian, has only revised his infatuation for a different time. In truth, the real David Crockett seems to be a man slightly behind his time, best left to puff and legend. An example of how a strong historian can grapple with a legend and leave you more informed about the man and his times, I would recommend Hampton Sides' "Blood and Thunder" about another legend of the American West - Kit Carson.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terry Cornell

    I wasn't part of the original Disney inspired David Crockett craze of the 1950s, but in the 1960s Crockett mania had a resurgence during my generation. The Crockett serial was re-run on 'The Wonderful World of Color'. I also remember going to Disneyland and visiting Frontierland, where coonskin caps were quite the souvenir item. Somewhere in this time-frame my talented mom sewed my own Davy Crockett costume, including a faux coonskin cap for Halloween. The little boy I was would have been disapp I wasn't part of the original Disney inspired David Crockett craze of the 1950s, but in the 1960s Crockett mania had a resurgence during my generation. The Crockett serial was re-run on 'The Wonderful World of Color'. I also remember going to Disneyland and visiting Frontierland, where coonskin caps were quite the souvenir item. Somewhere in this time-frame my talented mom sewed my own Davy Crockett costume, including a faux coonskin cap for Halloween. The little boy I was would have been disappointed to learn that Crockett did not wear one of these hats, a character in a popular stage play based on Crockett started this myth. Author Michael Wallis was one of first wave Crockett fans, and does a great job of researching the real Crockett (David, not Davy) and separating the myth from the man. The only reason I didn't give the book four stars, is it seemed a little slow at the beginning, and until Crockett's later life Wallis seemed to have a hard time capturing the essence of Crockett. Besides being an accomplished author Wallis is also the voice of the Sheriff car in the animated feature 'Cars'. One of my favorite Crockett quotes from his time in Congress was: "There's too much talk. Many men seem to be proud they can say so much about nothing. Their tongues keep working, whether they've any grist to grind or not. " Not only is this a great bio on Crockett, but also an interesting slice of American history during his lifetime. From the settling of present day Tennessee, through the war of 1812 and finally the early days of the Republic of Texas. If you're interested in the man, the myth, or the time-frame a good book to start with.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura Jean

    Fascinating look at the man behind the legend of Davy Crockett.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bob Costello

    Interesting view of the settlement of the trans-Appalachians from 1800 to 1830s. Crockett a perfect example of a tough and independent character of the Scotch-Irish who were the vanguard of settlement in the early west of American.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Bond

    More than all the myths.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Wallis has written a unique and perhaps more accurate account of David (not Davy) Crockett's life. Not being very well-read in the general Biography genre, I don't feel terribly qualified to judge it among other biographies, but as a straightforward account of the life of a man generally mythologized as larger-than-life, it was very entertaining. Wallis pulls no punches describing Crockett's talents, charms, flaws, and vices, backed up by multiple original, first-hand accounts. There's no doubt Wallis has written a unique and perhaps more accurate account of David (not Davy) Crockett's life. Not being very well-read in the general Biography genre, I don't feel terribly qualified to judge it among other biographies, but as a straightforward account of the life of a man generally mythologized as larger-than-life, it was very entertaining. Wallis pulls no punches describing Crockett's talents, charms, flaws, and vices, backed up by multiple original, first-hand accounts. There's no doubt that Crockett's charm and affable nature made him the perfect character to symbolize the wild frontier of the American West of the early 19th Century, which at that time only extended to the Mississippi River. The book begins by describing Crockett's ancestral roots in Scotland and Ireland, tracing his grandfather to Pennsylvania and eventually to Western North Carolina in what would eventually become Tennessee in and among the American Revolution. He then describes Crockett's difficult childhood, marked by a debt-riddled, insecure father and solitary adventures worthy of a Mark Twain novel, and eventually his homesteading and military career as a young adult. Where the book really takes off, however, is in the second half where Wallis writes about Crockett's how political machinations and his abdication of familial responsibilities, noth financial and emotional, belied his reputation as a noble sage of the frontier. Although he made mostly genuine efforts to work for his constituants, Wallis pulls no punches in describing how his ego and personal feelings often affected his judgement. Moreover, I loved reading about the political climate of the 1820s and 1830s. The political rivalries between the Jacksonian Democrats and the Whigs parallelled many of the rivalries of today between Republicans and Democrats, with much of the same contemptuous rhetoric and underhanded tactics. As Crockett eventually left Congress and moved west to Texas, Wallis also places Texas's struggle for independence from Mexico in new context. (As a Texan who had no choice but to learn about the mythological beginnings of Texas early and often in school, I found this particularly fascinating.) Crockett is portrayed less as a revolutionary hero, and more as a land speculator, hoping to make his often elusive fortune. He seems to have fallen into the revolution as he was building the foundation for what he undoubtedly hoped would be a revived political career in Texas. The fight for independence, amidst the struggle over slavery and the transplanted battles between Jacksonians and Whigs, provides a less than flattering impression of the early Texan Anglos, rather than the noble, peaceful settlers as they are typically portrayed. As the book draws to a close, Wallis describes many of those immortalized through death at the Alamo as brave but very flawed men, such as Bowie's alcohol-aided depression and Travis's illegal immigration to Texas after abandoning a wife and son. Coming into this book, I expected to be told that the Crockett theme song created by Walt Disney was not truly accurate. I understand that the historical figures we revere only grow more outlandishly heroic with time. What I didn't expect, however, was for that demythologizing to force me to rethink myunderstanding of the zeitgeist of early 19th Century pioneering America. The Manifest Destiny that we even still often hold as noble and justified caused great harm to millions, harm that is still felt today. Given the context of the time, it's easy to forgive them, especially after seeing that world through the eyes of arguably its most famous figure. But we would be missing an essential lesson if we did not acknowledge the moral and relational mistakes. Crockett serves as the quintessential figure in that regard. At his heart, he was a good man, but his flaws were strong. He helped shape uniquely American image of the West, and that image served as the inspiration for much of American culture today. Whether that's good or bad, it's a legacy that cannot be denied.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tony Taylor

    A very interesting and well researched book on the life of David (Davy) Crockett. It explains away much of the myth about this man that not only crept into the American culture in the 1950s at the height of the Walt Disney Davy Crockett craze, but which also existed even during his own lifetime. David Crockett was a legend in his own time, but he did not go around with a coonskin cap or did he live the life of the popular Disney song. Fortunately he did take it upon himself to write his own auto A very interesting and well researched book on the life of David (Davy) Crockett. It explains away much of the myth about this man that not only crept into the American culture in the 1950s at the height of the Walt Disney Davy Crockett craze, but which also existed even during his own lifetime. David Crockett was a legend in his own time, but he did not go around with a coonskin cap or did he live the life of the popular Disney song. Fortunately he did take it upon himself to write his own autobiography and other books about himself that have been substantiated by other writings and records of his day. It was interesting to note that much of his life was driven by his need to earn or acquire money to pay his never-ending debts to his friends and lenders... he was a poor manager of his own money, but yet lived by the rule that he would always pay off a debt no matter how small. Few realize that David Crockett became a politician in his later life and severed several terms in Congress as well as being urged to run for President by the Whigs against Andrew Jackson. In fact it was primarily politics that was behind his decision to move to Texas, which at the time belonged to Mexico. David Crockett did not like the politics of Andrew Jackson although he had once admired the man as a soldier and leader, and it was that he did not want to remain in the United States any longer under his presidency or of his successor, Martin Van Buren. For the most part, it was only by the circumstance of timing that he happened to be in San Antonio, Texas, during the the seige of the Alamo where he was killed in 1836.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Before this book, knew very little about David beyond the TV song and the Alamo. Mr. Wallis does a nice job of filling in the history that enveloped David, as well as some of his exploits and antics. I had not heard of Fort Mims though I did know that tribes and farmers fought. Also did not know of David's political life. Not meant to provide copious detail about the 1812 war, Indian wars, and conflicts with Mexico, this book provides enough to be familiar with the events, as well as Halley's Co Before this book, knew very little about David beyond the TV song and the Alamo. Mr. Wallis does a nice job of filling in the history that enveloped David, as well as some of his exploits and antics. I had not heard of Fort Mims though I did know that tribes and farmers fought. Also did not know of David's political life. Not meant to provide copious detail about the 1812 war, Indian wars, and conflicts with Mexico, this book provides enough to be familiar with the events, as well as Halley's Comet. Somewhere on my biological mother's side of the family there is talk of native American family. Unfortunately, finding the information isn't easy. It is possible my blond blue eyed children tan easier than burn, despite a heavily Irish and German background, because of native genetic heritage. About the only thing I know is that the tribe was southern -likely Missouri area. Reading about Crockett, Jackson, Red Sticks, and more during the early to mid 1800s leaves me wondering where my American roots were and how they lived. Were they among the farm owners that owned slaves, were they slaves, did they adapt to European influence right away, or were they stuck on Reservations during the 1800s? (my Irish and German contributors were living in Ireland and Austria)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Michael Wallis has written a great biography of David Crockett, that is as much a pleasure to read as it is informative. The biography gives even coverage of Crockett's life and does not favor one time period over another. (For those looking for a bit more on the events concerning the fall of the Alamo, reading this book in conjunction with James Donovan's The Blood of Heroes and Osprey's Essential History: The Texas War of Independence, 1835-1836 is recommended by this reader.) Wallis' book is Michael Wallis has written a great biography of David Crockett, that is as much a pleasure to read as it is informative. The biography gives even coverage of Crockett's life and does not favor one time period over another. (For those looking for a bit more on the events concerning the fall of the Alamo, reading this book in conjunction with James Donovan's The Blood of Heroes and Osprey's Essential History: The Texas War of Independence, 1835-1836 is recommended by this reader.) Wallis' book is of equal value to Baby Boomers who know Crockett primarily through Disney's entertaining but not very factual Davy Crockett TV show and for Gen X-ers (and later) who have seen their history texts consistently watered down by know-it-all but really know-nothing Educrats who have taken all of the History out of the Social Studies through Orwellian blather about thematics and knowing less is really knowing more. (Try to find a mention of Crockett in a high school history textbook today; if you're lucky he might garner a sentence concerning the Alamo but chances are he's not in there at all despite being one of the most well-known men of his time.) Highly recommended for the history and being a great read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    Does a nice job of scraping away the 'Legend of Davy Crockett' and showing there was a pretty interesting guy underneath anyway. Yeah, he was deeply flawed and his own worst enemy in many ways, but still a fascinating look at the man and the times he lived in. Crockett was there through a lot of the post-founding fathers time when the USA was expanding and finding its way. Brutal reminder that this country was pretty much built on a foundation of blood and there isn't a bit of our history that doe Does a nice job of scraping away the 'Legend of Davy Crockett' and showing there was a pretty interesting guy underneath anyway. Yeah, he was deeply flawed and his own worst enemy in many ways, but still a fascinating look at the man and the times he lived in. Crockett was there through a lot of the post-founding fathers time when the USA was expanding and finding its way. Brutal reminder that this country was pretty much built on a foundation of blood and there isn't a bit of our history that doesn't involve somebody getting killed. That and Texas was pretty much founded and run by criminals and illegal aliens. so not much has changed there. Bit disappointed in the final chapter, as I was hoping to learn more about the Alamo, and Wallis pretty much skimmed through that. Wether due to him not having gotten any more information then anyone else or because he figured it was the part of Crockett's history everyone was familiar with. Bit disappointing after all the build up to have the ending be so brief and underwelming.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    This biography was just okay. The problem was that Crockett's life was not all that interesting. Yes he was a famous person in his day, but mainly because as a U.S. Representative he was known for his hunting ability, folksy stories, and his backwoods demeanor, and was the subject of books and plays. In reality his life was filled with moving from farm to farm to find some financial security, trying to stay ahead of his creditors, and long stretches away from his family because he was happiest w This biography was just okay. The problem was that Crockett's life was not all that interesting. Yes he was a famous person in his day, but mainly because as a U.S. Representative he was known for his hunting ability, folksy stories, and his backwoods demeanor, and was the subject of books and plays. In reality his life was filled with moving from farm to farm to find some financial security, trying to stay ahead of his creditors, and long stretches away from his family because he was happiest when hunting in the forests. He was a soldier and adventurer and unluckily found himself at the Alamo while searching for a new home in Texas. It was interesting to read the real story, because most of my generation only know of Davey Crockett from the iconic Disney series.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ilean

    I decided to read this book after finding out that David Crockett was in my fathers ancestry line. My husband said that he had this book-so I read it. It is not an easy flowing book to read but it is full of facts, and dates and resources. I grew up watching the television Disney show about Davy Crockett, not even my father knew that we were possibly related. But in looking up family members on ancestry. com I discovered that on my father's side of the family that David Crockett was a distant re I decided to read this book after finding out that David Crockett was in my fathers ancestry line. My husband said that he had this book-so I read it. It is not an easy flowing book to read but it is full of facts, and dates and resources. I grew up watching the television Disney show about Davy Crockett, not even my father knew that we were possibly related. But in looking up family members on ancestry. com I discovered that on my father's side of the family that David Crockett was a distant relative, 8 generations back-an uncle!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rick Hautala

    History the way it should be written (other than saying the American Revolution ended with the Battle of Saratoga) ... clear, concise, and one-hundred percent interesting ... Good stuff that dispels myths and makes the real human being even more interesting than the myths ...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rob Roy

    We think we know the man, but really we know the man that Fess Parker portrayed. Here is the real Col David Crockett, warts and all. The reality behind the American Myth. This is not a hatchet job, but rather a balanced story of a man’s life, albeit, a man known as the “Lion of the West.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    Crockett is the biography of poorly educated frontiersman who built a reputation as a story teller and hunter that carried him into Congress and ultimately to Texas during its revolution. There is a very short section on his Texas sojourn.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Don LaFountaine

    Having watched the 1950's Disney Davy Crockett movie over and over, along with the John Wayne portrayal in 1960 movie The Alamo, I knew that my view of this larger than life historical figure was skewed through viewing him through rose colored glasses. I was not sure what to expect with this biography, but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of character Michael Wallis brought out in his subject. David Crockett, (he never signed his name as Davy) was a complex person who had his strengths and f Having watched the 1950's Disney Davy Crockett movie over and over, along with the John Wayne portrayal in 1960 movie The Alamo, I knew that my view of this larger than life historical figure was skewed through viewing him through rose colored glasses. I was not sure what to expect with this biography, but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of character Michael Wallis brought out in his subject. David Crockett, (he never signed his name as Davy) was a complex person who had his strengths and faults like the rest of us. Raised by a father who was often in debt and had to move on to escape the collectors, Crockett found himself doing much the same as an adult. Though he was a fabled marksman and often claimed if his prowess in killing bears, he did not start at the age of 3. He did fight in the Creek Wars under Andrew Jackson, he was more of a scout and food hunter than a hunter of Native Americans. He did go home to take care of his family, but he had 2 sons and a daughter at the time. Though his wife Polly did die, the kids did not go to live with his brother and sister-in-law. Actually, he shortly remarried to a local widow as he recognized that the kids needed a mother. He was not as successful in business or politics as movies, especially Disney, led people to believe, and it was the people of Tennessee that voted him out of office for his opposition to President Andrew Jackson's policies. He headed out to Texas to try to get land and get back into politics, and ended up at the Alamo. And he arrived before the settlers took refuge in the Alamo. Then there is the question of how he died there. Did he die heroically? Did he surrender and was executed by Santa Anna? Or did he escape wearing a woman's dress? All in all this was a well written book about the life of Davy Crockett. It does punch holes into the myth that surrounds him, but makes him a more well rounded character. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in early American history, as well as those who are interested in Davy Crockett.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brenden Gallagher

    In "David Crockett: The Lion of the West," the author quotes Richard Slotkin, who once wrote, "men like Davy Crockett became national heroes by defining national aspiration in terms of so many bears destroyed, so much land preempted, so many trees hacked down, so many Indians and Mexicans dead in the dust." Michael Wallis, the author of this book adds, "Yet at the same time, Crockett also symbolized the poor and downtrodden whom he had always stood up for throughout his life." This tension is cent In "David Crockett: The Lion of the West," the author quotes Richard Slotkin, who once wrote, "men like Davy Crockett became national heroes by defining national aspiration in terms of so many bears destroyed, so much land preempted, so many trees hacked down, so many Indians and Mexicans dead in the dust." Michael Wallis, the author of this book adds, "Yet at the same time, Crockett also symbolized the poor and downtrodden whom he had always stood up for throughout his life." This tension is central to "David Crockett: Lion of the West." Davy Crockett killed a number of Creek Indians. Davy Crockett killed hundreds of black bears. Davy Crockett all but abandoned his wife and children. He was debtor and an alcoholic. At the same time, Crockett was the lone Tennessee politician to stand against the Indian Removal Act. He served three terms in Congress, standing up to the power of real estate interests, crony capitalists, and the burgeoning American aristocracy. He is the symbol of the lost beauty of the American frontier. Crockett blazed the frontier trail, and then found himself stampeded by those who came after him. It's poetic that he died in Texas, where there were no more mountains, no more forests, and no more trails left to blaze. Crockett embodies a peculiar early American contradiction, in which one can be both the settler and the settled. In Michael Wallis's brisk biography of Crockett, you are left with a keen sense of these contradictions. You also understand the the aspects of the man, good and bad, that combined to make him a legend. If there is a flaw to the book, it is that you wish you left it understanding Crockett a little better. But, Wallis gives you the sense that this issue is not with the author but with the subject.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    I was one of those kids that was captivated with Davy Crockett when I was a little kid. I'm not a 'boomer', I came along just as that era ended, but I saw the Disney movie when I was in the second grade and wanted to read as much as I could about the Alamo and Davy. And I did have a coonskin hat, I even remember getting it at a trading post in Raton New Mexico on my way to Denver. As an adult I was more curious about his early life and his time in Congress. This book filled me in on everything, I was one of those kids that was captivated with Davy Crockett when I was a little kid. I'm not a 'boomer', I came along just as that era ended, but I saw the Disney movie when I was in the second grade and wanted to read as much as I could about the Alamo and Davy. And I did have a coonskin hat, I even remember getting it at a trading post in Raton New Mexico on my way to Denver. As an adult I was more curious about his early life and his time in Congress. This book filled me in on everything, dispelling the myths and citing the reliable sources that reveal a real person and not a comic book character. It's a wonderful book, not dry at all. It reads like a compelling novel.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    A slow moving biography of David "Davy" Crockett considering the tumultuous events of his life. The author focuses closely on Crockett's genealogy, political career in Tennessee and role in crafting his own public image through commissioning an autobiography and portraits. The Battle of the Alamo is summarized in a few sentences in the final chapter and more historical context should have been included there. The author mentions Crockett's place in 20th century popular culture in the introductio A slow moving biography of David "Davy" Crockett considering the tumultuous events of his life. The author focuses closely on Crockett's genealogy, political career in Tennessee and role in crafting his own public image through commissioning an autobiography and portraits. The Battle of the Alamo is summarized in a few sentences in the final chapter and more historical context should have been included there. The author mentions Crockett's place in 20th century popular culture in the introduction but does not return to this theme at the end of the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    In the preface, the author advises the reader that this isn't just another chronological biography of Davy Crockett. He then tells a middle-aged Crockett hunting story before rewinding to Crockett's grandparents' history and proceeding to give a straightforward chronological biography of Davy Crockett, ending with his death at the Alamo and his legacy. Once you get over that bit of disappointment it's a good but not great account of a great American life and the nuance of that life. In the preface, the author advises the reader that this isn't just another chronological biography of Davy Crockett. He then tells a middle-aged Crockett hunting story before rewinding to Crockett's grandparents' history and proceeding to give a straightforward chronological biography of Davy Crockett, ending with his death at the Alamo and his legacy. Once you get over that bit of disappointment it's a good but not great account of a great American life and the nuance of that life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    BigHeadWalt

    A fine book that outlines the hardscrabble life of David Crockett and his "itchy foot" lifestyle, from Virginia to Tennessee to Washington,DC and ultimately his death in the Alamo. Speculates whether he ran into Alexis de Tocquville, mentions his brief encounter with Daniel Boone's relatives, his difficulties with Andrew Jackson and Jackson's acolytes, and Sam Houston. Spends only the final chapter on the Alamo. More 3.5 than 4 stars. A fine book that outlines the hardscrabble life of David Crockett and his "itchy foot" lifestyle, from Virginia to Tennessee to Washington,DC and ultimately his death in the Alamo. Speculates whether he ran into Alexis de Tocquville, mentions his brief encounter with Daniel Boone's relatives, his difficulties with Andrew Jackson and Jackson's acolytes, and Sam Houston. Spends only the final chapter on the Alamo. More 3.5 than 4 stars.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christina Bond

    This is a well researched book about a larger than life figure whose popularity through The Wonderful World of Disney fueled his legend further. Mr. Wallis goes into detail about David Crockett's life from his parents meeting to his death at the Alamo which is great. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the famous figures who were larger than life when they were alive but want to separate the truth from the legend. This is a well researched book about a larger than life figure whose popularity through The Wonderful World of Disney fueled his legend further. Mr. Wallis goes into detail about David Crockett's life from his parents meeting to his death at the Alamo which is great. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the famous figures who were larger than life when they were alive but want to separate the truth from the legend.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leonard

    My not finishing the book had nothing to do with the author, or his writing. It turns out that I was just much less interested in Davy Crockett than I assumed. My curiosity, like most people I think, surrounded his death more than anything. I am currently reading Michael Wallis' other book about Billy the Kid, who I have had a lifetime fascination with. My not finishing the book had nothing to do with the author, or his writing. It turns out that I was just much less interested in Davy Crockett than I assumed. My curiosity, like most people I think, surrounded his death more than anything. I am currently reading Michael Wallis' other book about Billy the Kid, who I have had a lifetime fascination with.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Really enjoyed much of this book, but it ended very abruptly (perhaps fitting, considering). It was as if the author just got tired of writing, and said, "Oh, that's enough - gonna end this book now." Really enjoyed much of this book, but it ended very abruptly (perhaps fitting, considering). It was as if the author just got tired of writing, and said, "Oh, that's enough - gonna end this book now."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sanchez

    This title made me want to read more on the topic of Crockett especially about his experience in the Red Stick War. I enjoyed how it covered his death at the Alamo by presenting both points of view about what could have happened to him at the very end.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    This is the story of David Crockett, not Davey Crockett. There is no hype here, and the myths are revealed and disposed of. The author uses what papers are available and paints a picture of the very capable frontiersman and the outsider politician.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lane Mcdaniel

    I listened to the audiobook. Wallis paints a vivid picture of Crockett showing him for the legend he is, but also the flawed human side. I thought I knew a lot about his life. I never realized how little I knew. A great book for anyone who wants to go beyond the coonskin cap.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Toby Kriwiel

    I enjoyed listening to this book on Audible. Crockett has an incredible story. He wasn’t perfect or super-human, he was a man who impacted many (and still does). I appreciate the focus on the truth in the telling of Crockett’s life.

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