40 David “Davy” Crockett (1786-1836)

Coultan Nilles, Samantha Brooks, Cole Hopkins, Derek Tillotson, Fatima Zamarron, and De'Andre Innocent

“Davy Crockett” by William Henry Huddle, 1889

Introduction

David “Davy” Crockett (August 17, 1786-March 6, 1836) is known as king of the frontier, congressman for Tennessee, and a soldier during the Texas Revolution. Crockett began telling stories about hunting with his vivid imagination as a young kid while growing up in eastern Tennessee. One interesting fact about Crockett is that he ran away from home at just thirteen since his father made him attend school where Crockett was scared of the class bully and did not return home for at least two years. In those years Crockett spent time wondering in the woods surviving on his own, which is where most of his exceptional imagination started to form in his storytelling. From then Crockett returned home, worked with his father, and married Mary Finley. Together the couple had two sons and a daughter before Finley passed away. Following her death Crockett enlisted into the military in 1813 and was part of the massacre against the Creek Indians at Tallushatchee, and then returned home. Crockett was also a part of Congress for the state of Tennessee and was elected in 1827 and also in 1829 as a Democrat and then again in 1833 as part of the Whig party. In 1835 Crockett then ran for the congressional election and lost. After his defeat he decided to sign up with the military again. Crockett fought in the Texas Revolution and then on March 6, 1836 he was killed in the Battle of the Alamo. From being a runaway, fighting in multiple wars, and being in politics Crockett became famous mostly for his creative storytelling. Since his death the story of Davy Crockett and even some of his small stories have been made into television movies and stories. Crockett’s name is even now greatly known across the country as the great pioneer and hunter. During Crockett’s lifetime he only published one piece which was an autobiography titled “A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee.” Crockett used this piece of writing to tell his beloved stories and to share his beliefs behind politics. One of the best known writer also known in American literature that is similar to some of Crockett’s writings is Mark Twain. Twain also used his vivid imagination within his storytelling which is very similar to the way Crockett would create his stories. Overall David Crockett was a phenomenal part of creating American literature into what it is today, and an amazing icon for new generations to look up to and enjoy his stories.

Crockett’s writing will be what we are looking at more closely today. We feel in order to more accurately understand writing from a single author that some good pretext is very important. So we know that Davy Crockett was an American folk hero, frontiersmen, soldier, and politician. His stories also for the time period were somewhat oddly all fiction. So these stories tend to be fantastical in nature and pretty outlandish. Also we find that certain themes sort of arise of masculinity and what that meant for Americans at the time. But I think in order to understand his writing you have to understand what these stories are representing and who they were written by. Davy was the very definition of a patriotic explorer and wanted to represent the west as this sort of fantastical thing filled with adventure, opportunity and freedom. This is evident in his writing that can almost seem rhetorical at times. These sort of fantastical folk tales he wrote did a great job at painting this incredible picture of the west and this is important to understand when reading his work. 

“Sal Fink, The Mississippi Screamer, How She Cooked Injuns”

I dar say you’ve all on you, if not more, frequently heerd this great she human crittur boasted of, an’ pointed out as “one o’ the gals”-but I tell you what, stranger, you have never really set your eyes on “one of the gals,” till you have seen Sal Fink, the Mississippi screamer, whose miniature pictur I here give, about as nat’ral as life, but not half as handsome-an’ if thar ever was a gal that desarved to be christened “one o’ the gals,” then this gal was that gal-and no mistake.

She fought a duel once with a thunderbolt, an’ came off without a single, while at the fust fire she split the thunderbolt all to flinders, an’ gave the pieces to Uncle Sam’s artillerymen, to touch off their canon with. When a gal about six years old, she used to play sep-saw on the Mississippi snags, and arter she war done she would snap ’em off, an’ so cleared a large district of the river. She used to ride down the river on an alligator’s back, standen upright, an’ dancing Yankee Doodle, and could leave all the steamers behind. But the greatest feat she ever did, positively outdid anything that ever was did.

One day when she war out in the forest, making a collection o’ wild cat skins for her family’s winter beddin, she war captered in the most all-sneaken manner by about fifty Injuns, an’ carried by ’em to Roast flesh Hollow, whar the blood drinkin wild varmits detarmined to skin her alive, sprinkle a leetle salt over her, an’ devour her before her own eyes; so they took an’ tied her to a tree, to keep till mornin’ should bring the rest o’ thar ring-nosed sarpints to enjoy the fun. Arter that, they lit a _large fire in the Holler, turned the bottom o’ thar feet towards the blaze, Injun fashion, and went to sleep to dream o’ thar mornin’s feast; well, after the critturs got into a somniferous snore, Sal got into an all-lightnin’ of a temper, and burst all the ropes about her like an apron-string! She then found a pile o’ ropes, too, and tied all the Injun’s heels together all round the fire,-then fixin a cord to the shins of every two couple, she, with a suddenachous jerk, that made the intire woods tremble, pulled the intire lot o’ sleepin’ red-skins into that ar great fire, fast together, an’ then sloped like a panther out of her pen, in the midst o’ the tallest yellin, howlin, scramblin and singin’, that war ever seen or heerd on, since the great burnin’ o’ Buffalo prairie!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1: Why do you think Davy Crockett’s texts use hyperbole style writing? How would this engage modern readers with the author?

2: Based on the text provided, do you think Davy Crockett had any racial or sex-based biases that could be related to the time-frame or relate to other texts that we’ve read?

3: In terms of rhetoric, what do you make of Davy’s fantastical writing style? How do you think this was meant to impact an audience?

Resources

History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/davy-crockett.

Pullman Strikes Out Introductionxroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/sw/fink4.html.

License

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Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature by Coultan Nilles, Samantha Brooks, Cole Hopkins, Derek Tillotson, Fatima Zamarron, and De'Andre Innocent is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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