Gutenberg Archives: Narrative of the Life of David Crockett

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Gutenberg Archives: Narrative of the Life of David Crockett

Postby Broomstick » 2015-09-07 03:08pm

This installment of the Gutenberg Archives is being posted in History instead of Science Fiction because it's an autobiography (with some assistance) of a US historical figure, one David "Davy" Crockett who became a Congressman, a legend in his own time, and a later on a TV show. In case you're not familar with Mr. Crockett, or a bit scanty on details, here's a wiki on him.

You can skip this paragraph if you don't care why I chose this book.
I had two reasons for selecting this book. First, my in-laws live in the town where Mr. Crockett's parents live and the tavern they founded is still in operation in that location. He is still a presence in that part of the US and for decades we've traveled down there to visit the in-laws, so I've been hearing about this guy for a long while. Also fully aware quite a bit of the local legends have been embellished over time. The other reason is the Sharing Knife Tetraology. The author of the series stated she used this book for reserach purposes regarding river traffic for her alternate world. And, indeed, an incident in the third book is very much lifted from something that happened to Crockett. It was not a flattering episode, either, being an example of what can happen to people who don't know what they're getting into.

OK, back to the book itself.
Although this book is written in American English it was at times a bit of a slog. Two reasons. First, it's not quite standard US dialect, although definitely related to Appalachian English, and occasionally I had to go WTF? and puzzle out his way of phrasing things. Spelling is at times creative (and that's after editing by others!). Mr. Crockett said he had near to no formal schooling. Based on his writing, I believe him. I will also warn you that he uses words at times that are now considered highly offensive ethnic slurs but which were in common use back in the day, while censoring other words we don't particularly worry about any more.

It's interesting that some of the crap that goes on these days in US politics were apparently in full swing back then as well. Crockett served a couple terms in Congress and to hear him tell it campaigning consisted mostly of him passing out whiskey and tobacco and telling jokes.

A big deal back then were the Indian Wars, mostly between whites and Creeks as far as Crockett was concerned. From his description it sounded a lot like a bunch of people wandering around the woods taking each other's stuff and burning down their buildings. He'd tell of the brutality of the enemy in taking scalps then turn around and describe his side burning 40 people alive in a building. For Crockett, though, it wasn't a matter of white vs. Indian, he clearly distinguished between allied Indians like the Cherokee and enemies such as the Creeks, and even among Creeks there were some on each side. At one point he moved out into Indian territory and his was the only non-Indian family on one side of a river. He was very much against Jackson's Indian Removal Act and has some harsh things to say about it.

Life as a soldier was pretty bad - a bunch of guys signed up for two months and wound up doing three, then were all going off back home to get winter clothing and more food and gear which their officer objected to. Lots of living on short rations and plundering of enemy outposts for food, hunting along the way, some cattle stealing (sometimes they paid for the cattle when they encountered the owner, sometimes not), and so forth.

As far as taking other peoples' stuff - at one point he encounters two black men who say they are slaves that were stolen off their master's plantation by the Creeks, who had decided they didn't like staying with the Indians and so had stolen horses and guns from their captors and were riding back to their master (or so they told the white man they encountered - who knows where they were really headed?). So basically some stolen slaves were stealing themselves. There were a lot of little colorful tales and details like that.

It did seem that the American tendency to move around a lot got started early, or maybe it's just that his family's tavern served a lot of travelers. Crockett did considerable traveling before he was a grown man.

He was also a "self-made man", in keeping with American memes - but he was also honest about the many, many failures in business ventures he made along the way, and the poverty and hard times he endured.

There was also a great deal of hunting that went on. No hunting seasons, no bag limits, lots of game. Some of it started sounding a bit improbable but I suppose if your survival depends on it you learn to get good at it. Also people and bears chasing each other off their kills, and people chasing each other off their kills, and all sorts of mayhem. Also danger from the environment.

I definitely found it an interesting read, although between the fact this guy wasn't much of an author (he pretty much admits that from the start) and references to politics and things that either have faded from the culture or are referred by different terms it's not always a simple read. It's a mix of self-aggrandizement, boasting, and self-effacing honesty. If you're interested in early America and the early frontier you would probably also find it interesting.

It does not cover the end of his life, seeing as after he was dead he wasn't around to write any more of it. Very soon after this book is when he set off for Texas and the Alamo, where he met his end.

Here is the link: A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

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