Jim bowie birth and death
Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis by William C. DavisI was born too late for the coonskin-cap craze that followed the release of the Disney television series about Davy Crockett (later repackaged in the magisterial Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier). That didnt keep me from following my own Crockett obsession. I had a coonskin cap, of course, along with a fringed shirt made by my mother, a pair of mocassins, a plastic knife from Halloween, and a long-rifle cap gun purchased on a trip to the Black Hills (which replaced a hockey stick, which Id been using for its faint resemblance to a Pennsylvania Rifle). In my basement, my brother and I, along with assorted friends, would push the couches together then relive, over and over, the desperate final moments of a few hundred Texas defenders in a small Spanish mission near San Antonio. We were all Crocketts at the end, swinging our hockey sticks and cap guns like clubs, just as Fess Parker did at the end of King of the Wild Frontier.
Though I no longer wear a coonskin cap in public, the drama of the Alamo still grips my imagination. Ive read a lot of the famous titles (though I havent gotten around to reviewing them, including A Time to Stand, Gates of the Alamo, Blood of Noble Men, A Line in the Sand, etc.). Ive seen all the movies. Ive watched with interest as generations of scholars and amateur historians have debated whether de la Penas diary is a historical gold mine or a Protocols of Zion-level hoax.
William Daviss Three Roads to the Alamo is not an Alamo book. Its more of an abbridged, triple biography, following the paths of William B. Travis, Jim Bowie, and David Crockett from birth to death. Their deaths are the least important facets of their lives, in Daviss telling. Indeed, the battle is presented in only a few short pages, with little analysis or reconstruction. If you want to get into the details of the siege and famous battle, look elsewhere. (Im eagerly awaiting Alamo Exodus which explores the attempted breakouts from the Alamo, which were spoiled by Ramirez y Sesmas lancers; Im sure that once a majority of Texans know that a majority - or at least substantial minority - of defenders tried to escape, the State will finally make good on Rick Perrys threat and leave the Union forever).
The book is fairly standard with regards to Crockett and Bowie. Both are given a healthy dose of revisionism that cuts their legends down to size. They are not only regiven their humanity, but their flaws are highlighted to a degree that wouldve infuriated my 12-year-old, coonskin-cap-wearing self. My 28 year-old self, though, didnt flinch. Im used to seeing once-gold plated icons of American reevaluated with a more objective eye. Theres nothing wrong with this approach, since God knows there have been enough Alamo hagiographies. Even so, Davis doesnt seem to relish stripping away the legend, which is refreshing in an age in which every historian seems to want to make his mark by telling us that everything we thought we knew is wrong.
Still, Davis doesnt add much to two of the members of the Texas Triumverate.
Crockett was a shameless self-promoter who was involved in only one battle against the Indians, at Horseshoe Bend. Contrary to Disney, he did not get the Creek chief, Red Stick, to surrender after a mano-a-mano tomahawk fight. Instead, he mostly shot bears to feed the troops. He ended up going to Texas after a humiliating political defeat at the hands of the Jackonsites.
Whereas Crockett played the fool, Bowie was more of a sociopath. He didnt invent the famous knife - that honor belonged to brother, Rezin - but he used it, most famously at the Sand Bar Fight, where he stabbed a man to death after having a lung pierced by a sword cane. He was a slave smuggler, and a land swindler, a petty thief with grand designs. He is more flawed than Crockett, and more interesting. He was a racist who married a Mexican woman for money and fell deep in love. He was a dreamer, who thought he could steal 1/4 of the United States with forged Spanish land grants, and who fought a desperate battle with Indians while trying to find the San Saba silver mines. Its a colorful life, but one that is well trod in other bios.
The revelation here, and the reason you should read this book, is William Travis. Travis, as portrayed by the likes of Laurence Harvey (!), Alec Baldwin, and Patric Wilson, has always come across as a straight-laced, pompous, aristocratic, arrogant blusterer, an uptight counterpoint to the easier-going, frontier-bred Bowie and Crockett. Davis rehabilitates Travis immensely. Here, Travis is as flawed as Bowie and Crockett: an adulterer and debtor who runs off from his wife and children in the dead of night to seek a new beginning in Texas. Unlike Bowie and Crockett, however, who stumble into the Alamo pursuing financial/political gain, Travis is a rarity these days: a true believer. He was one of those men who believed in liberty and freedom (however strained those definitions are to our nuanced, 21st century understanding of the Texas-Mexico relationship circa 1836) and was willing to fight and die for those principles. He was a firebrand, a rabble rouser, and a patriot. He was, simply, a young man on the verge of greatness. To paraphrase T.R. Fehrenbach, he had the great good fortune to have recognized a historical moment and rose to grasp it.
One more thing: if you decide to read this book, check out the endnotes. Most of the fascinating discussions occur there. No joke. If you read them, you will learn how its nigh impossible to kill a person by throwing a knife at them (since all the weight is in the handle). You will learn that Bowies brains stained the wall of his room for years after his death.
You will also gain a great deal of insight into Traviss sex life. He kept a diary, in Spanish, in which he tallied the number of women he slept with. Davis notes that, in translation, it is hard to be sure what Travis meant when he said I have f***** 49 women in my life. Travis might have meant hed had sex 49 times. Davis says its more likely he had sex with 49 different women.
I find myself hoping that the latter interpretation is correct. Travis was 28 years-old when he made his stand at the Alamo. He might have become a great man, but he must have known, shortly after the siege began, that he was never going to live long enough to achieve greatness. I like to think that late at night, awake at his desk, penning eloquent and desperate letters by the light of a flickering candle and listening to the Mexican bombardment, he was able to sit back in his chair and think back to 49 different lovers and be comforted for a moment.
When Santa Anna began his final assault at dawn on March 6, 1836, Travis leapt from his cot, grabbed his shotgun, and shouted Come on boys! The Mexicans are on us! He raced to the north wall, fired both barrels, then fell dead with a musket ball in the forehead.
He was among the first defenders to die.
Legends & Tales - Jim Bowie
Sitting up in his sick bed, he could hear the chaos in the courtyard outside—the roar of cannon, the crack of musket fire, the screams in Spanish and English of wounded and dying men. He knew it was only a matter of minutes before they smashed in the door to his chamber, but with a single-shot pistol in each hand and his fabled knife in his lap, he was as ready as fevered resolve and desperation could make him. Suddenly, the heavy door gave way with a crash as a horde of wild-eyed Mexican soldiers poured in. He fired the pistols, felling a man with each shot. Jim Bowie , Southern entrepreneur, Texas pioneer and fabled knife-fighter, was dead. At least, so goes the legend.
Jim Bowie was born in Logan County, Kentucky in He was known as a formidable knife fighter after a violent feud with local sheriff, Norris Wright.
Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox Sign me up! In Reason Bowie had moved his family from Tennessee to Logan County, where he farmed and operated a gristmill with the help of eight slaves. In February he moved to Madrid, in what is now Missouri. In October the families settled on farms in what is now Catahoula Parish. There Reason's sons, James, John J. Bowie , grew to manhood. The family took an active part in community affairs and the elder Bowie reportedly became the largest slaveowner in his locale, with twenty slaves.
He played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution. He died at the Battle of the Alamo. Stories of him as a fighter and frontiersman , both real and fictitious , have made him a legendary figure in Texas history. He is a folk hero of American history. The Bowie knife is named after Jim Bowie. Bowie was born in April in Logan County, Kentucky. There Reason and his brothers swore allegiance to the Spanish government.