Davy Crockett was a famous frontiersman and United States colonel. He is best remembered as the subject of the song “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.”
He was born on August 17, 1786, somewhere near the modern-day Tennessee–North Carolina border. He was the fifth of nine children born to John and Rebecca Hawkins Crockett. His father was a soldier who fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain in North Carolina during the Revolutionary War. In the 1790s, the Crocketts moved to Morristown, Tennessee, where Davy’s father built them a log cabin and started a tavern. According to legend, Davy began attending school in Morristown but was prone to getting into fights, and hence, was often beaten by his father. After one such fight, Davy decided to run away from home to avoid the impending beating. Davy joined up with a cattle drover who was heading to Front Royal, Virginia, and then spent at least two years roaming around from town to town in the southern frontier learning important skills such as camping, hunting, trapping, and building. At the age of sixteen, Davy returned home to Morristown, where he was surprisingly welcomed back into the family with open arms. At the age of seventeen or eighteen, Davy returned to school and finally learned to read!
On August 14, 1806, at the age of twenty, Davy Crockett married Mary (Polly) Finley. They had two boys: Congressman John Wesley Crockett was born July 10, 1807, followed by William Finley Crockett (born 1809). They also had a daughter, Margaret Finley (Polly) Crockett. Mary, however, died in 1816, and Davy remarried Elizabeth Patton the following year. The couple would have three children.
In 1813, Davy enlisted in the Second Regiment of Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Riflemen and served for three months in the Creek War, a war in which the United States government was trying to clear lands of Indians in Alabama to make room for settlers. In 1814, he served under future president Andrew Jackson in defeating the Indians at the bloody Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Several years later, he was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the Fifty-seventh Regiment of Tennessee Militia on March 27, 1818.
Davy’s political career began in 1821 when he was elected to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances. He quickly gained a reputation as a charismatic and charming speaker who used a backwoods-style oratory and vivid stories about frontier life to engage his audiences. In 1826 and 1828, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he advocated squatter’s rights (citizens who were not allowed to buy land in the West because they did not previously own property) and opposed Andrew Jackson’s aggressive Indian Removal Act of 1830. His opposition likely contributed to his failed bid for reelection in 1831. Following another defeat in 1835, Crockett decided to pack up his belongings and move to Texas. At the time, the Texans (mostly American frontiersmen) had declared independence from Mexico. Crockett signed an oath of loyalty and fought at the famous Battle of the Alamo in 1836, in modern-day San Antonio. In the battle, Mexican forces stormed the fortress after a long siege and massacred approximately 189 Texans, including Davy Crockett. The famous battle cry “Remember the Alamo” would inspire the Texans as they eventually fought their way to independence under Sam Houston.