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130 6   why does davy live? modernity and its heroics Since shortly before his death at the Alamo in 1836 and continuing to the present, David Crockett, former congressman fromTennessee,writer,andadventurer,hascapturedtheimagination of people across the United States. Not one to hide from controversy in life, the exact means of his death have been disputed since 1836. The details of this debate—whether he died fighting or was executed with a handful of others after the siege had ended—are addressed more fully below. Here I want to claim that the question, How did Davy die?—suggested by the title of Dan Kilgore’s (1978) book—provides only a partial understanding of the Crockett mystique. Any discussion of Crockett’s death must be informed not solely by the details of the 1836 battle but equally, even fundamentally, by uncovering the social and historical conditions that gave shape to this debate as it emerged over time. Here I am concerned with two critical issues. Debates over Crockett’s death already assume a heroic “Davy,” the enshrinement of an individual life that is itself the result of particular historical conjunctions . Restoring these conjunctions—the “raw materials” from which Davy and heroic figures like him are constructed— is my first concern. This query entails that we move beyond the legends and formalized features of the heroic into the realm of the social so as to understand the historical conditions of hero making itself. Once done, my second concern revolves around the specific meanings of the heroic Davy. I suggest that formalized projections such as the heroic Davy, re-created 06-T2008 2/25/02 11:45 AM Page 130 over time, serve to advance a number of disparate ideological positions that require critical attention. Thus any discussion concerning how Davy died must come to terms with why, after 1836, he continued to live. david crockett: the life Untangling the maze of facts concerning David Crockett the historical figure from Davy Crockett the legend is a task well beyond the scope of any single book chapter. Fortunately, there are several scholars who have carefully and critically attended to this work.1 The job of distinguishing fact from fiction is all the more difficult in this case because in many ways it was Crockett the man who created Davy the legend. If we accept that one definition of the modern individual is the ability to project oneself as “image,” as an already formalized self, then Crockett serves as an early, partial example of this process. In fact, Andrew Paul Hutton (1987:xxi) states that Crockett was one of the first Americans “to make a living off his celebrity status.” David Crockett was born on August 17, 1786, in Greene County, Tennessee , to John and Rebecca Hawkins Crockett. John Crockett was a poor man,havinglosthishomesteadtovariousdebtors,whocaredforhisfamily bytakingaseriesofoddjobs.YoungDavidbeganworking,likemanyofhis frontier compatriots, at an early age. At twelve, for example, he was hired out by his father to help drive cattle to Rockbridge County, Virginia. After completinghiscontractualobligations,hewasdetainedagainsthiswilland forced to work until he managed to escape and make his way back home. On August 14, 1806, David married Mary (Polly) Finley in Jefferson County, Tennessee. After moving several times, Crockett and his wife and sons, John Wesley and William, settled in Franklin County, Tennessee, and there he joined the local militia. During this time, Crockett served under Andrew Jackson, who was to become his political adversary in later years (Shackford 1994:27). Crockett took part in several skirmishes of the Creek Indian Wars, including the battle of Tallussahatchee, on November 3, 1813, and continued to serve in various capacities in the militia. Before Crockett was elected to the U.S. Congress and came to national prominence, he held several local offices. In 1817 he was justice of the peace in Lawrence County, Tennessee; in 1818 he was town commissioner of Lawrenceburg and continued to serve in the militia. In August 1821 he won a seat in the Tennessee state legislature. Crockett was reelected to this position in 1823 and completed his last term in October 1824. After an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1825, Crockett was elected to the House of Representatives in 1827 and reelected in 1829. He was an Why Does Davy Live? 131 06-T2008 2/25/02 11:45 AM Page 131 outspoken legislator, especially on issues related to public land policy in the West. It was on this issue that he broke ranks with his Tennessee delegation...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292796478
Related ISBN
9780292725393
MARC Record
OCLC
191662170
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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