Part 4 out of 5
"'And who are you? said he. I replied:
"'I am that same David Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half
horse, half alligator, a little touched with the snapping-turtle. I
can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride upon a streak of
lightning, and slip without a scratch down a honey-locust. I can
whip my weight in wildcats, and, if any gentleman pleases, for a
ten-dollar bill he can throw in a panther. I can hug a bear too
close for comfort, and eat any man opposed to General Jackson.'"
All eyes were immediately turned toward this strange man, for all
had heard of him. A place was promptly made for him at the fire. He
was afterward asked if this wondrous outburst of slang was entirely
unpremeditated. He said that it was; that it had all popped into his
head at once; and that he should never have thought of it again, had
not the story gone the round of the newspapers.
"I came on to Washington," he says, "and drawed two hundred and
fifty dollars, and purchased with it a check on the bank in
Nashville, and enclosed it to my friend. And I may say, in truth, I
sent this money with a mighty good will, for I reckon nobody in this
world loves a friend better than me, or remembers a kindness
Soon after his arrival at Washington he was invited to dine with
President Adams, a man of the highest culture, whose manners had
been formed in the courts of Europe. Crockett, totally unacquainted
with the usages of society, did not know what the note of invitation
meant, and inquired of a friend, the Hon. Mr. Verplanck. He says:
"I was wild from the backwoods, and didn't know nothing about eating
dinner with the big folks of our country. And how should I, having
been a hunter all my life? I had eat most of my dinners on a log in
the woods, and sometimes no dinner at all. I knew, whether I ate
dinner with the President or not was a matter of no importance, for
my constituents were not to be benefited by it. I did not go to
court the President, for I was opposed to him in principle, and had
no favors to ask at his hands. I was afraid, however, I should be
awkward, as I was so entirely a stranger to fashion; and in going
along, I resolved to observe the conduct of my friend Mr. Verplanck,
and to do as he did. And I know that I did behave myself right
Some cruel wag wrote the following ludicrous account of this
dinner-party, which went the round of all the papers as veritable
history. The writer pretended to quote Crockett's own account of the
"The first thing I did," said Davy, "after I got to Washington, was
to go to the President's. I stepped into the President's house.
Thinks I, who's afeard. If I didn't, I wish I may be shot. Says I,
'Mr. Adams, I am Mr. Crockett, from Tennessee.' So, says he, 'How
d'ye do, Mr. Crockett?' And he shook me by the hand, although he
know'd I went the whole hog for Jackson. If he didn't, I wish I may
"Not only that, but he sent me a printed ticket to dine with him.
I've got it in my pocket yet. I went to dinner, and I walked all
around the long table, looking for something that I liked. At last I
took my seat beside a fat goose, and I helped myself to as much of
it as I wanted. But I hadn't took three bites, when I looked away up
the table at a man they called Tash (attache'). He was talking
French to a woman on t'other side of the table. He dodged his head
and she dodged hers, and then they got to drinking wine across the
"But when I looked back again my plate was gone, goose and all. So I
jist cast my eyes down to t'other end of the table, and sure enough
I seed a white man walking off with my plate. I says, 'Hello,
mister, bring back my plate.' He fetched it back in a hurry, as you
may think. And when he set it down before me, how do you think it
was? Licked as clean as my hand. If it wasn't, I wish I may be shot!
"Says he, 'What will you have, sir?' And says I, 'You may well say
that, after stealing my goose.' And he began to laugh. Then says I,
'Mister, laugh if you please; but I don't half-like sich tricks upon
travellers.' I then filled my plate with bacon and greens. And
whenever I looked up or down the table, I held on to my plate with
my left hand.
"When we were all done eating, they cleared everything off the
table, and took away the table-cloth. And what do you think? There
was another cloth under it. If there wasn't, I wish I may be shot!
Then I saw a man coming along carrying a great glass thing, with a
glass handle below, something like a candlestick. It was stuck full
of little glass cups, with something in them that looked good to
eat. Says I, 'Mister, bring that thing here.' Thinks I, let's taste
them first. They were mighty sweet and good, so I took six of them.
If I didn't, I wish I may be shot!"
This humorous fabrication was copied into almost every paper in the
Union. The more respectable portion of Crockett's constituents were
so annoyed that their representative should be thus held up to the
contempt of the nation, that Crockett felt constrained to present a
reliable refutation of the story. He therefore obtained and
published certificates from three gentlemen, testifying to his good
behavior at the table. Hon. Mr. Verplanck, of New York, testified as
"I dined at the President's, at the time alluded to, in company with
you, and I had, I recollect, a good deal of conversation with you.
Your behavior there was, I thought, perfectly becoming and proper.
And I do not recollect, or believe, that you said or did anything
resembling the newspaper-account."
Two other members of Congress were equally explicit in their
During Crockett's first two sessions in Congress he got along very
smoothly, cooperating generally with what was called the Jackson
party. In 1829 he was again reelected by an overwhelming majority.
On the 4th of March of this year, Andrew Jackson was inaugurated
President of the United States. It may be doubted whether there ever
was a more honest, conscientious man in Congress than David
Crockett. His celebrated motto, "Be sure that you are right, and
then go ahead," seemed ever to animate him. He could neither be
menaced or bribed to support any measure which he thought to be
wrong. Ere long he found it necessary to oppose some of Jackson's
measures. We will let him tell the story in his own truthful words:
"Soon after the commencement of this second term, I saw, or thought
I did, that it was expected of me that I would bow to the name of
Andrew Jackson, and follow him in all his motions, and windings, and
turnings, even at the expense of my conscience and judgment. Such a
thing was new to me, and a total stranger to my principles. I know'd
well enough, though, that if I didn't 'hurrah' for his name, the hue
and cry was to be raised against me, and I was to be sacrificed, if
possible. His famous, or rather I should say his infamous Indian
bill was brought forward, and I opposed it from the purest motives
in the world. Several of my colleagues got around me, and told me
how well they loved me, and that I was ruining myself. They said
this was a favorite measure of the President, and I ought to go for
it. I told them I believed it was a wicked, unjust measure, and that
I should go against it, let the cost to myself be what it might;
that I was willing to go with General Jackson in everything that I
believed was honest and right; but, further than this, I wouldn't go
for him or any other man in the whole creation.
"I had been elected by a majority of three thousand five hundred and
eighty-five votes, and I believed they were honest men, and wouldn't
want me to vote for any unjust notion, to please Jackson or any one
else; at any rate, I was of age, and determined to trust them. I
voted against this Indian bill, and my conscience yet tells me that
I gave a good, honest vote, and one that I believe will not make me
ashamed in the day of judgment. I served out my term, and though
many amusing, things happened, I am not disposed to swell my
narrative by inserting them.
"When it closed, and I returned home, I found the storm had raised
against me sure enough; and it was echoed from side to side, and
from end to end of my district, that I had turned against Jackson.
This was considered the unpardonable sin. I was hunted down like a
wild varment, and in this hunt every little newspaper in the
district, and every little pinhook lawyer was engaged. Indeed, they
were ready to print anything and everything that the ingenuity of
man could invent against me."
In consequence of this opposition, Crockett lost his next election,
and yet by a majority of but seventy votes. For two years he
remained at home hunting bears. But having once tasted the pleasures
of political life, and the excitements of Washington, his silent
rambles in the woods had lost much of their ancient charms. He was
again a candidate at the ensuing election, and, after a very warm
contest gained the day by a majority of two hundred and two votes.
Crockett's Tour to the North and the East.
His Reelection to Congress.--The Northern Tour.--First Sight of a
Railroad.--Reception in Philadelphia.--His First Speech.--Arrival in
New York.--The Ovation there.--Visit to Boston.--Cambridge and
Lowell.--Specimens of his Speeches.--Expansion of his Ideas.--Rapid
Colonel Crockett, having been reelected again repaired to
Washington. During the session, to complete his education, and the
better to prepare himself as a legislator for the whole nation, he
decided to take a short trip to the North and the East. His health
had also begun to fail, and his physicians advised him to go. He was
thoroughly acquainted with the Great West. With his rifle upon his
shoulder, in the Creek War, he had made wide explorations through
the South. But the North and the East were regions as yet unknown to
On the 25th of April, 1834, he left Washington for this Northern
tour. He reached Baltimore that evening, where he was invited to a
supper by some of the leading gentlemen. He writes:
"Early next morning. I started for Philadelphia, a place where I had
never been. I sort of felt lonesome as I went down to the steamboat.
The idea of going among a new people, where there are tens of
thousands who would pass me by without knowing or caring who I was,
who are all taken up with their own pleasures or their own business,
made me feel small; and, indeed, if any one who reads this book has
a grand idea of his own importance, let him go to a big city, and he
will find that he is not higher valued than a coonskin.
"The steamboat was the Carroll of Carrollton, a fine craft, with the
rum old Commodore Chaytor for head man. A good fellow he is--all
sorts of a man--bowing and scraping to the ladies, nodding to the
gentlemen, cursing the crew, and his right eye broad-cast upon the
'opposition line,' all at the same time. 'Let go!' said the old one,
and off we walked in prime style.
"Our passage down Chesapeake Bay was very pleasant. In a very short
run we came to a place where we were to get on board the rail-cars.
This was a clean new sight to me. About a dozen big stages hung on
to one machine. After a good deal of fuss we all got seated and
moved slowly off; the engine wheezing as though she had the tizzic.
By-and-by, she began to take short breaths, and away we went, with a
blue streak after us. The whole distance is seventeen miles. It was
run in fifty-five minutes.
"At Delaware City, I again embarked on board of a splendid
steamboat. When dinner was ready, I set down with the rest of the
passengers. Among them was Rev. O. B. Brown, of the Post-Office
Department, who sat near me. During dinner he ordered a bottle of
wine, and called upon me for a toast. Not knowing whether he
intended to compliment me, or abash me among so many strangers, or
have some fun at my expense, I concluded to go ahead, and give him
and his like a blizzard. So our glasses being filled, the word went
round, 'A toast from Colonel Crockett.' I give it as follows:
'Here's wishing the bones of tyrant kings may answer in hell, in
place of gridirons, to roast the souls of Tories on.' At this the
parson appeared as if he was stumpt. I said, 'Never heed; it was
meant for where it belonged.' He did not repeat his invitation, and
I eat my dinner quietly.
"After dinner I went up on the deck, and saw the captain hoisting
three flags. Says I, 'What does that mean?' He replied, that he was
under promise to the citizens of Philadelphia, if I was on board, to
hoist his flags, as a friend of mine had said he expected I would be
"We went on till we came in sight of the city and as we advanced
towards the wharf, I saw the whole face of the earth covered with
people, all anxiously looking on towards the boat. The captain and
myself were standing on the bow-deck; he pointed his finger at me,
and people slung their hats, and huzzaed for Colonel Crockett. It
struck me with astonishment to hear a strange people huzzaing for
me, and made me feel sort of queer. It took me so uncommon
unexpected, as I had no idea of attracting attention. But I had to
meet it, and so I stepped on to the wharf, where the folks came
crowding around me, saying, 'Give me the hand of an honest man.' I
did not know what all this meant: but some gentleman took hold of
me, and pressing through the crowd, put me into an elegant barouche,
drawn by four fine horses; they then told me to bow to the people: I
did so, and with much difficulty we moved off. The streets were
crowded to a great distance, and the windows full of people, looking
out, I suppose, to see the wild man. I thought I had rather be in
the wilderness with my gun and dogs, than to be attracting all that
fuss. I had never seen the like before, and did not know exactly
what to say or do. After some time we reached the United States
Hotel, in Chesnut Street."
' The crowd had followed me filling up the street, and pressing into
the house to shake hands. I was conducted up stairs, and walked out
on a platform, drew off my hat, and bowed round to the people. They
cried out from all quarters, 'A speech, a speech, Colonel Crockett.'
"After the noise had quit, so I could be heard, I said to them the
"'GENTLEMEN OF PHILADELPHIA:
"'My visit to your city is rather accidental. I had no expectation
of attracting any uncommon attention. I am travelling for my health,
without the least wish of exciting the people in such times of high
political feeling. I do not wish to encourage it. I am unable at
this time to find language suitable to return my gratitude to the
citizens of Philadelphia. However, I am almost induced to believe it
flattery--perhaps a burlesque. This is new to me, yet I see nothing
but friendship in your faces; and if your curiosity is to hear the
backwoodsman, I will assure you I am illy prepared to address this
most enlightened people. However, gentlemen, if this is a curiosity
to you, if you will meet me to-morrow, at one o'clock, I will
endeavor to address you, in my plain manner.'
"So I made my obeisance to them, and retired into the house."
It is true that there was much of mere curiosity in the desire to
see Colonel Crockett. He was a strange and an incomprehensible man.
His manly, honest course in Congress had secured much respect. But
such developments of character as were shown in his rude and vulgar
toast, before a party of gentlemen and ladies, excited astonishment.
His notoriety preceded him, wherever he went; and all were alike
curious to see so strange a specimen of a man.
The next morning, several gentlemen called upon him, and took him in
a carriage to see the various objects of interest in the city. The
gentlemen made him a present of a rich seal, representing two horses
at full speed, with the words, "Go Ahead." The young men also made
him a present of a truly magnificent rifle. From Philadelphia he
went to New York. The shipping astonished him. "They beat me all
hollow," he says, "and looked for all the world like a big clearing
in the West, with the dead trees all standing."
There was a great crowd upon the wharf to greet him. And when the
captain of the boat led him conspicuously forward, and pointed him
out to the multitude, the cheering was tremendous. A committee
conducted him to the American Hotel, and treated him with the
greatest distinction. Again he was feted, and loaded with the
greatest attentions. He was invited to a very splendid supper, got
up in his honor, at which there were a hundred guests. The Hon.
Judge Clayton, of Georgia, was present, and make a speech which, as
Crockett says, fairly made the tumblers hop.
Crockett was then called up, as the "undeviating supporter of the
Constitution and the laws." In response to this toast, he says,
"I made a short speech, and concluded with the story of the red cow,
which was, that as long as General Jackson went straight, I followed
him; but when he began to go this way, and that way, and every way,
I wouldn't go after him; like the boy whose master ordered him to
plough across the field to the red cow. Well, he began to plough,
and she began to walk; and he ploughed all forenoon after her. So
when the master came, he swore at him for going so crooked. 'Why,
sir,' said the boy, 'you told me to plough to the red cow, and I
kept after her, but she always kept moving.'"
His trip to New York was concluded by his visiting Jersey City to
witness a shooting-match with rifles. He was invited to try his
hand. Standing, at the distance of one hundred and twenty feet, he
fired twice, striking very near the centre of the mark. Some one
then put up a quarter of a dollar in the midst of a black spot, and
requested him to shoot at it. The bullet struck the coin, and as
Crockett says made slight-of-hand work with it.
From New York he went to Boston. There, an the opponent of some of
President Jackson's measures which were most offensive to the New
England people, he was feted with extraordinary enthusiasm. He dined
and supped, made speeches, which generally consisted of but one
short anecdote, and visited nearly all the public institutions.
Just before this, Andrew Jackson had received from Harvard
University the honorary title of LL.D. Jackson was no longer a
favorite of Crockett. The new distinguished guest, the renowned
bear-hunter, was in his turn invited to visit Harvard. He writes:
"There were some gentlemen that invited me to go to Cambridge, where
the big college or university is, where they keep ready-made titles
or nick-names to give people. I would not go, for I did not know but
they might stick an LL.D. on me before they let me go; and I had no
idea of changing 'Member of the House of Representatives of the
United States,' for what stands for 'lazy, lounging dunce,' which I
am sure my constituents would have translated my new title to be.
Knowing that I had never taken any degree, and did not own to
any--except a small degree of good sense not to pass for what I was
not--I would not go it. There had been one doctor made from
Tennessee already, and I had no wish to put on the cap and bells.
"I told them that I did not go to this branding school; I did not
want to be tarred with the same stick; one dignitary was enough from
Tennessee; that as far as my learning went, I would stand over it,
and spell a strive or two with any of them, from a-b-ab to crucifix,
which was where I left off at school."
A gentleman, at a dinner-party, very earnestly invited Crockett to
visit him. He returned the compliment by saying:
"If you ever come to my part of the country, I hope you will call
and see me."
"And how shall I find where you live?" the gentleman inquired.
"Why, sir," Crockett answered, "run down the Mississippi till you
come to the Oberon River. Run a small streak up that; jump ashore
anywhere, and inquire for me."
From Boston, he went to Lowell. The hospitality he had enjoyed in
Boston won his warmest commendation. At Lowell, he was quite charmed
by the aspect of wealth, industry, and comfort which met his eye.
Upon his return to Boston, he spent the evening, with several
gentlemen and ladies at the pleasant residence of
Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong. In reference to this visit, he
"This was my last night in Boston, and I am sure, if I never see the
place again, I never can forget the kind and friendly manner in
which I was treated by them. It appeared to me that everybody was
anxious to serve me, and make my time agreeable. And as a proof that
comes home--when I called for my bill next morning, I was told there
was no charge to be paid by me, and that he was very much delighted
that I had made his house my home. I forgot to mention that they
treated me so in Lowell--but it is true. This was, to me, at all
events, proof enough of Yankee liberality; and more than they
generally get credit for. In fact, from the time I entered New
England, I was treated with the greatest friendship; and, I hope,
never shall forget it; and I wish all who read this book, and who
never were there, would take a trip among them. If they don't learn
how to make money, they will know how to use it; and if they don't
learn industry, they will see how comfortable everybody can be that
turns his hands to some employment."
Crockett was not a mere joker. He was an honest man, and an earnest
man; and under the tuition of Congress had formed some very decided
political principles, which he vigorously enforced with his rude
When he first went to Congress he was merely a big boy, of very
strong mind, but totally uninformed, and uncultivated. He very
rapidly improved under the tuition of Congress; and in some degree
awoke to the consciousness of his great intellectual imperfections.
Still he was never diffident. He closed one of his off-hand
after-dinner speeches in Boston, by saying:
"Gentlemen of Boston, I come here as a private citizen, to see you,
and not to show myself. I had no idea of attracting attention. But I
feel it my duty to thank you, with my gratitude to you, and with a
gratitude to all who have given a plain man, like me, so kind a
reception. I come from a great way off. But I shall never repent of
having been persuaded to come here, and get a knowledge of your
ways, which I can carry home with me. We only want to do away
prejudice and give the people information.
"I hope, gentlemen, you will excuse my plain, unvarnished ways,
which may seem strange to you here. I never had but six months'
schooling in all my life. And I confess, I consider myself a poor
tyke to be here addressing the most intelligent people in the world.
But I think it the duty of every representative of the people, when
he is called upon, to give his opinions. And I have tried to give
you a little touch of mine."
Every reader will be interested in the perusal of the following
serious speech, which he made in Boston. It is a fair specimen of
his best efforts, and will give one a very correct idea of his
trains of thought, and modes of expression. It also clearly shows
the great questions which agitated the country at that time. It can
easily be perceived that, as a stump orator in the far West,
Crockett might have exercised very considerable power. This phase of
his peculiar character is as worthy of consideration as any other.
"By the entire friendship of the citizens of Boston, as well as the
particular friendship with which you have received me this evening,
I have been brought to reflect on times that have gone by, and
review a prejudice that has grown up with me, as well as thousands
of my Western and Southern friends. We have always been taught to
look upon the people of New England as a selfish, cunning set of
fellows, that was fed on fox-ears and thistle-tops; that cut their
wisdom-teeth as soon as they were born; that made money by their
wits, and held on to it by nature; that called cheatery mother-wit;
that hung on to political power because they had numbers; that
raised up manufactures to keep down the South and West; and, in
fact, had so much of the devil in all their machinery, that they
would neither lead nor drive, unless the load was going into their
own cribs. But I assure you, gentlemen, I begin to think different
of you, and I think I see a good many good reasons for so doing.
"I don't mean that because I eat your bread and drink your liquor,
that I feel so. No; that don't make me see clearer than I did. It is
your habits, and manners, and customs; your industry; your proud,
independent spirits; your hanging on to the eternal principles of
right and wrong; your liberality in prosperity, and your patience
when you are ground down by legislation, which, instead of crushing
you, whets your invention to strike a path without a blaze on a tree
to guide you; and above all, your never-dying, deathless grip to our
glorious Constitution. These are the things that make me think that
you are a mighty good people."
Here the speaker was interrupted by great applause.
"Gentlemen, I believe I have spoke the truth, and not flattery; I
ain't used to oily words; I am used to speak what I think, of men,
and to men. I am, perhaps, more of a come-by-chance than any of you
ever saw; I have made my way to the place I now fill, without
wealth, and against education; I was raised from obscurity, and
placed in the high councils of the nation, by the kindness and
liberality of the good people of my district--a people whom I will
never be unfaithful to, here or elsewhere; I love them, and they
have honored me; and according as God has given me judgment, I'll
use it for them, come of me what may.
"These people once passed sentence upon me of a two years'
stay-at-home, for exercising that which I contend belongs to every
freeman in this nation: that was, for differing in opinion with the
chief magistrate of this nation. I was well acquainted with him. He
was but a man; and, if I was not before, my constituents had made a
man of me. I had marched and counter-marched with him: I had stood
by him in the wars, and fought under his flag at the polls: I helped
to heap the measure of glory that has crushed and smashed everything
that has come in contact with it: I helped to give him the name of
'Hero,' which, like the lightning from heaven, has scorched and
blasted everything that stood in its way--a name which, like the
prairie fire, you have to burn against, or you are gone--a name
which ought to be the first in war, and the last in peace--a name
which, like 'Jack-o'-the lantern, blinds your eyes while you follow
it through mud and mire.
"Gentlemen, I never opposed Andrew Jackson for the sake of
popularity. I knew it was a hard row to hoe; but I stood up to the
rack, considering it a duty I owed to the country that governed me.
I had reviewed the course of other Presidents, and came to the
conclusion that he did not of right possess any more power than
those that had gone before him. When he transcended that power, I
put down my foot. I knew his popularity; that he had come into place
with the largest majority of any one that had gone before him, who
had opposition: but still, I did not consider this as giving him the
right to do as he pleased, and construe our Constitution to meet his
"We had lived the happiest people under the sun for fifty years,
governed by the Constitution and laws, on well-established
constructions: and when I saw the Government administered on new
principles, I objected, and was politically sacrificed: I persisted
in my sins, having a clear conscience, that before God and my
country, I had done my duty.
"My constituents began to look at both sides; and finally, at the
end of two years, approving of my course, they sent me back to
Congress--a circumstance which was truly gratifying to me.
"Gentlemen, I opposed Andrew Jackson in his famous Indian bill,
where five hundred thousand dollars were voted for expenses, no part
of which has yet been accounted for, as I have seen. I thought it
extravagant as well as impolitic. I thought the rights reserved to
the Indians were about to be frittered away; and events prove that I
"I had considered a treaty as the sovereign law of the land; but now
saw it considered as a matter of expedience, or not, as it pleased
the powers that be. Georgia bid defiance to the treaty-making power,
and set at nought the Intercourse Act of 1802; she trampled it under
foot; she nullified it: and for this, she received the smiles and
approbation of Andrew Jackson. And this induced South Carolina to
nullify the Tariff. She had a right to expect that the President was
favorable to the principle: but he took up the rod of correction,
and shook it over South Carolina, and said at the same time to
Georgia, 'You may nullify, but South Carolina shall not.'
"This was like his consistency in many other matters. When he was a
Senator in Congress, he was a friend to internal improvements, and
voted for them. Everything then that could cement the States
together, by giving them access the one to the other, was right.
When he got into power, some of his friends had hard work to dodge,
and follow, and shout. I called off my dogs, and quit the hunt. Yes,
gentlemen, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Tennessee, and other States,
voted for him, as a supporter of internal improvements.
"Was he not a Tariff man? Who dare deny it! When did we first hear
of his opposition? Certainly not in his expression that he was in
favor of a judicious tariff. That was supposed to be a clincher,
even in New England, until after power lifted him above the
opposition of the supporters of a tariff.
"He was for putting down the monster 'party,' and being the
President of the people. Well, in one sense, this he tried to do: he
put down every one he could who was opposed to him, either by reward
or punishment; and could all have come into his notions, and bowed
the knee to his image, I suppose it might have done very well, so
far as he was concerned. Whether it would have been a fair reading
of his famous letter to Mr. Monroe, is rather questionable. "He was
to reform the Government. Now, if reformation consists in turning
out and putting in, he did it with a vengeance.
"He was, last of all, to retrench the expenditures. Well, in time, I
have no doubt, this must be done; but it will not consist in the
abolishing useless expenditures of former Administrations. No,
gentlemen; the spoils belonged to the victor; and it would never do
to lessen the teats when the litter was doubled. The treasury trough
had to be extended, and the pap thickened; kin were to be provided
for; and if all things keep on as they are, his own extravagances
will have to be retrenched, or you will get your tariff up again as
high as you please.
"I recollect a boy once, who was told to turn the pigs out of the
corn-field. Well, he made a great noise, hallooing and calling the
dogs--and came back. By-and-by his master said, 'Jim, you rascal!
you didn't turn out the pigs.' 'Sir,' said he, 'I called the dogs,
and set them a-barking.'
"So it was with that big Retrenchment Report, in 1828. Major
Hamilton got Chilton's place as chairman--and called the dogs.
Ingham worked honestly, like a beaver; Wickliff was as keen as a
cutworm: all of them worked hard; and they did really, I suppose,
convince themselves that they had found out a great deal of
iniquity; or, what was more desirable, convinced the people that
Andrew Jackson and his boys were the only fellows to mend shoes for
nothing, and find their own candles. Everett and Sargeant, who made
the minority report, were scouted at. What has come of all this?
Nothing--worse than nothing. Jackson used these very men like dogs:
they knew too much, and must be got rid off, or they would stop his
profligacy too. They were greased and swallowed: and he gave them up
to the torments of an anti-Jackson conscience.
"Yes, gentlemen, as long as you think with him, very well; but if
not--clear out; make way for some fellow who has saved his wind; and
because he has just begun to huzza, has more wind to spare. General
Jackson has turned out more men for opinion's sake, than all other
Presidents put together, five times over: and the broom sweeps so
low that it reaches the humblest officer who happens to have a mean
neighbor to retail any little story which he may pick up.
"I voted for Andrew Jackson because I believed he possessed certain
principles, and not because his name was Andrew Jackson, or the
Hero, or Old Hickory. And when he left those principles which
induced me to support him, I considered myself justified in opposing
him. This thing of man-worship I am a stranger to; I don't like it;
it taints every action of life; it is like a skunk getting into a
house--long after he has cleared out, you smell him in every room
and closet, from the cellar to the garret.
"I know nothing, by experience, of party discipline. I would rather
be a raccoon-dog, and belong to a negro in the forest, than to
belong to any party, further than to do justice to all, and to
promote the interests of my country. The time will and must come,
when honesty will receive its reward, and when the people of this
nation will be brought to a sense of their duty, and will pause and
reflect how much it cost us to redeem ourselves from the government
of one man. It cost the lives and fortunes of thousands of the best
patriots that ever lived. Yes, gentlemen, hundreds of them fell in
sight of your own city.
"I this day walked over the great battle-ground of Bunker's Hill,
and thought whether it was possible that it was moistened with the
sacred blood of our heroes in vain, and that we should forget what
they fought for.
"I hope to see our once happy country restored to its former peace
and happiness, and once more redeemed from tyranny and despotism,
which, I fear, we are on the very brink of. We see the whole country
in commotion: and for what? Because, gentlemen, the true friends of
liberty see the laws and Constitution blotted out from the heads and
hearts of the people's leaders: and their requests for relief are
treated with scorn and contempt. They meet the same fate that they
did before King George and his parliament. It has been decided by a
majority of Congress, that Andrew Jackson shall be the Government,
and that his will shall be the law of the land. He takes the
responsibility, and vetoes any bill that does not meet his
approbation. He takes the responsibility, and seizes the treasury,
and removes it from where the laws had placed it; and now, holding
purse and sword, has bid defiance to Congress and to the nation. 1
"Gentlemen, if it is for opposing those high-handed measures that
you compliment me, I say I have done so, and will do so, now and
forever. I will be no man's man, and no party's man, other than to
be the people's faithful representative: and I am delighted to see
the noble spirit of liberty retained so boldly here, where the first
spark was kindled; and I hope to see it shine and spread over our
"Gentlemen, I have detained you much longer than I intended: allow
me to conclude by thanking you for your attention and kindness to
the stranger from the far West."
The following extract also shows the candor of his mind, his anxiety
to learn, and the progress his mind was making in the science of
"I come to your country to get a knowledge of things, which I could
get in no other way but by seeing with my own eyes, and hearing with
my awful ears--information I can't get, and nobody else, from book
knowledge. I come, fellow-citizens, to get a knowledge of the
manufacturing interest of New England. I was over-persuaded to come
by a gentleman who had been to Lowell and seen the manufactories of
your State--by General Thomas, of Louisiana. He persuaded me to come
"When I was first chose to Congress, I was opposed to the protecting
system. They told me it would help the rich, and hurt the poor; and
that we in the West was to be taxed by it for the benefit of New
England. I supposed it was so; but when I come to hear it argued in
the Congress of the nation, I begun to have a different opinion of
it. I saw I was opposing the best interest of the country:
especially for the industrious poor man. I told my people who sent
me to Congress, that I should oppose it no longer: that without it,
we should be obliged to pay a tax to the British Government, and
support them, instead of our own labor. And I am satisfied of it the
more since I have visited New England. Only let the Southern
gentlemen come here and examine the manufactories, and see how it
is, and it would make more peace than all the legislation in
Congress can do. It would give different ideas to them who have been
deluded, and spoke in strong terms of dissolving the Union."
Crockett returned to Washington just in time to be present at the
closing scenes, and then set out for home. So much had been said of
him in the public journals, of his speeches and his peculiarities,
that his renown now filled the land.
The Disappointed Politician.--Off for Texas.
Triumphal Return.--Home Charms Vanish.--Loses His Election.--Bitter
Disappointment.--Crockett's Poetry.--Sets out for Texas.--Incidents
of the Journey.--Reception at Little Rock.--The Shooting
Match.--Meeting a Clergyman.--The Juggler.--Crockett a
Reformer.--The Bee Hunter.--The Rough Strangers.--Scene on the
Crockett's return to his home was a signal triumph all the way. At
Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, crowds
gathered to greet him. He was feasted, received presents, was
complimented, and was incessantly called upon for a speech. He was
an earnest student as he journeyed along. A new world of wonders
were opening before him. Thoughts which he never before had dreamed
of were rushing into his mind. His eyes were ever watchful to see
all that was worthy of note. His ear was ever listening for every
new idea. He scarcely ever looked at the printed page, but perused
with the utmost diligence the book of nature. His comments upon what
he saw indicate much sagacity.
At Cincinnatti and Louisville, immense crowds assembled to hear him.
In both places he spoke quite at length. And all who heard him were
surprised at the power he displayed. Though his speech was rude and
unpolished, the clearness of his views, and the intelligence he
manifested, caused the journals generally to speak of him in quite a
different strain from that which they had been accustomed to use.
Probably never did a man make so much intellectual progress, in the
course of a few months, as David Crockett had made in that time. His
wonderful memory of names, dates, facts, all the intricacies of
statistics, was such, that almost any statesman might be instructed
by his addresses, and not many men could safely encounter him in
argument. The views he presented upon the subject of the
Constitution, finance, internal improvements, etc., were very
surprising, when one considers the limited education he had enjoyed.
At the close of these agitating scenes he touchingly writes:
"In a short time I set out for my own home; yes, my own home, my own
soil, my humble dwelling, my own family, my own hearts, my ocean of
love and affection, which neither circumstances nor time can dry up.
Here, like the wearied bird, let me settle down for a while, and
shut out the world."
But hunting bears had lost its charms for Crockett. He had been so
flattered that it is probable that he fully expected to be chosen
President of the United States. There were two great parties then
dividing the country, the Democrats and the Whigs. The great object
of each was to find an available candidate, no matter how unfit for
the office. The leaders wished to elect a President who would be,
like the Queen of England, merely the ornamental figure-head of the
ship of state, while their energies should propel and guide the
majestic fabric. For a time some few thought it possible that in the
popularity of the great bear-hunter such a candidate might be found.
Crockett, upon his return home, resumed his deerskin leggins, his
fringed hunting-shirt, his fox-skin cap, and shouldering his rifle,
plunged, as he thought, with his original zest, into the cheerless,
tangled, marshy forest which surrounded him. But the excitements of
Washington, the splendid entertainments of Philadelphia, New York,
and Boston, the flattery, the speech-making, which to him, with his
marvellous memory and his wonderful fluency of speech, was as easy
as breathing, the applause showered upon him, and the gorgeous
vision of the Presidency looming up before him, engrossed his mind.
He sauntered listlessly through the forest, his bear-hunting
energies all paralyzed. He soon grew very weary of home and of all
its employments, and was eager to return to the infinitely higher
excitements of political life.
General Jackson was then almost idolized by his party. All through
the South and West his name was a tower of strength. Crockett had
originally been elected as a Jackson-man. He had abandoned the
Administration, and was now one of the most inveterate opponents of
Jackson. The majority in Crockett's district were in favor of
Jackson. The time came for a new election of a representative.
Crockett made every effort, in his old style, to secure the vote. He
appeared at the gatherings in his garb as a bear-hunter, with his
rifle on his shoulder. He brought 'coonskins to buy whiskey to treat
his friends. A 'coonskin in the currency of that country was
considered the equivalent for twenty-five cents. He made funny
speeches. But it was all in vain.
Greatly to his surprise, and still more to his chagrin, he lost his
election. He was beaten by two hundred and thirty votes. The whole
powerful influence of the Government was exerted against Crockett
and in favor of his competitor. It is said that large bribes were
paid for votes. Crockett wrote, in a strain which reveals the
bitterness of his disappointment:
"I am gratified that I have spoken the truth to the people of my
district, regardless of the consequences. I would not be compelled
to bow down to the idol for a seat in Congress during life. I have
never known what it was to sacrifice my own judgment to gratify any
party; and I have no doubt of the time being close at hand when I
shall be rewarded for letting my tongue speak what my heart thinks.
I have suffered myself to be politically sacrificed to save my
country from ruin and disgrace; and if I am never again elected, I
will have the gratification to know that I have done my duty. I may
add, in the words of the man in the play, 'Crockett's occupation's
Two weeks after this he writes, "I confess the thorn still rankles,
not so much on my own account as the nation's. As my country no
longer requires my services, I have made up my mind to go to Texas.
My life has been one of danger, toil, and privation. But these
difficulties I had to encounter at a time when I considered it
nothing more than right good sport to surmount them. But now I start
upon my own hook, and God only grant that it may be strong enough to
support the weight that may be hung upon it. I have a new row to
hoe, a long and rough one; but come what will, I will go ahead."
Just before leaving for Texas, he attended a political meeting of
his constituents. The following extract from his autobiography will
give the reader a very vivid idea of his feelings at the time, and
of the very peculiar character which circumstances had developed in
"A few days ago I went to a meeting of my constituents. My appetite
for politics was at one time just about as sharp set as a saw-mill,
but late events have given me something of a surfeit, more than I
could well digest; still, habit, they say, is second natur, and so I
went, and gave them a piece of my mind touching 'the Government' and
the succession, by way of a codicil to what I have often said
"I told them, moreover, of my services, pretty straight up and down,
for a man may be allowed to speak on such subjects when others are
about to forget them; and I also told them of the manner in which I
had been knocked down and dragged out, and that I did not consider
it a fair fight anyhow they could fix it. I put the ingredients in
the cup pretty strong I tell you, and I concluded my speech by
telling them that I was done with politics for the present, and that
they might all go to hell, and I would go to Texas.
"When I returned home I felt a sort of cast down at the change that
had taken place in my fortunes, and sorrow, it is said, will make
even an oyster feel poetical. I never tried my hand at that sort of
writing but on this particular occasion such was my state of
feeling, that I began to fancy myself inspired; so I took pen in
hand, and as usual I went ahead. When I had got fairly through, my
poetry looked as zigzag as a worm-fence; the lines wouldn't tally no
how; so I showed them to Peleg Longfellow, who has a first-rate
reputation with us for that sort of writing, having some years ago
made a carrier's address for the Nashville Banner; and Peleg lopped
of some lines, and stretched out others; but I wish I may be shot if
I don't rather think he has made it worse than it was when I placed
it in his hands. It being my first, and, no doubt, last piece of
poetry, I will print it in this place, as it will serve to express
my feelings on leaving my home, my neighbors, and friends and
country, for a strange land, as fully as I could in plain prose.
"Farewell to the mountains whose mazes to me
Were more beautiful far than Eden could be;
No fruit was forbidden, but Nature had spread
Her bountiful board, and her children were fed.
The hills were our garners--our herds wildly grew
And Nature was shepherd and husbandman too.
I felt like a monarch, yet thought like a man,
As I thanked the Great Giver, and worshipped his plan.
"The home I forsake where my offspring arose;
The graves I forsake where my children repose.
The home I redeemed from the savage and wild;
The home I have loved as a father his child;
The corn that I planted, the fields that I cleared,
The flocks that I raised, and the cabin I reared;
The wife of my bosom--Farewell to ye all!
In the land of the stranger I rise or I fall.
"Farewell to my country! I fought for thee well,
When the savage rushed forth like the demons from hell
In peace or in war I have stood by thy side--
My country, for thee I have lived, would have died!
But I am cast off, my career now is run,
And I wander abroad like the prodigal son--
Where the wild savage roves, and the broad prairies spread,
The fallen--despised--will again go ahead."
A party of American adventurers, then called filibusters, had gone
into Texas, in the endeavor to wrest that immense and beautiful
territory, larger than the whole Empire of France, from feeble,
distracted, miserable Mexico, to which it belonged. These
filibusters were generally the most worthless and desperate
vagabonds to be found in all the Southern States. Many Southern
gentlemen of wealth and ability, but strong advocates of slavery,
were in cordial sympathy with this movement, and aided it with their
purses, and in many other ways. It was thought that if Texas could
be wrested from Mexico and annexed to the United States, it might be
divided into several slaveholding States, and thus check the rapidly
increasing preponderance of the free States of the North.
To join in this enterprise, Crockett now left his home, his wife,
his children. There could be no doubt of the eventual success of the
undertaking. And in that success Crockett saw visions of political
glory opening before him. I determined, he said, "to quit the States
until such time as honest and independent men should again work
their way to the head of the heap. And as I should probably have
some idle time on hand before that state of affairs would be brought
about, I promised to give the Texans a helping hand on the high road
He dressed himself in a new deerskin hunting-shirt, put on a foxskin
cap with the tail hanging behind, shouldered his famous rifle, and
cruelly leaving in the dreary cabin his wife and children whom he
cherished with an "ocean of love and affection," set out on foot
upon his perilous adventure. A days' journey through the forest
brought him to the Mississippi River. Here he took a steamer down
that majestic stream to the mouth of the Arkansas River, which rolls
its vast flood from regions then quite unexplored in the far West.
The stream was navigable fourteen hundred miles from its mouth.
Arkansas was then but a Territory, two hundred and forty miles long
and two hundred and twenty-eight broad. The sparsely scattered
population of the Territory amounted to but about thirty thousand.
Following up the windings of the river three hundred miles, one came
to a cluster of a few straggling huts, called Little Rock, which
constitutes now the capital of the State.
Crockett ascended the river in the steamer, and, unencumbered with
baggage, save his rifle, hastened to a tavern which he saw at a
little distance from the shore, around which there was assembled
quite a crowd of men. He had been so accustomed to public triumphs
that he supposed that they had assembled in honor of his arrival.
"Strange as it may seem," he says, "they took no more notice of me
than if I had been Dick Johnson, the wool-grower. This took me
somewhat aback;" and he inquired what was the meaning of the
He found that the people had been called together to witness the
feats of a celebrated juggler and gambler. The name of Colonel
Crockett had gone through the nation; and gradually it became noised
abroad that Colonel Crockett was in the crowd. "I wish I may be
shot," Crockett says, "if I wasn't looked upon as almost as great a
sight as Punch and Judy."
He was invited to a public dinner that very day. As it took some
time to cook the dinner, the whole company went to a little distance
to shoot at a mark. All had heard of Crockett's skill. After several
of the best sharpshooters had fired, with remarkable accuracy, it
came to Crockett's turn. Assuming an air of great carelessness, he
raised his beautiful rifle, which he called Betsey, to his shoulder,
fired, and it so happened that the bullet struck exactly in the
centre of the bull's-eye. All were astonished, and so was Crockett
himself. But with an air of much indifference he turned upon his
heel, saying, "There's no mistake in Betsey."
One of the best marksmen in those parts, chagrined at being so
beaten, said, "Colonel, that must have been a chance shot."
"I can do it," Crockett replied, "five times out of six, any day in
"I knew," he adds, in his autobiography, "it was not altogether as
correct as it might be; but when a man sets about going the big
figure, halfway measures won't answer no how."
It was now proposed that there should be a second trial. Crockett
was very reluctant to consent to this, for he had nothing to gain,
and everything to lose. But they insisted so vehemently that he had
to yield. As what ensued does not redound much to his credit, we
will let him tell the story in his own language.
"So to it again we went. They were now put upon their mettle, and
they fired much better than the first time; and it was what might be
called pretty sharp shooting. When it came to my turn, I squared
myself, and turning to the prime shot, I gave him a knowing nod, by
way of showing my confidence; and says I, 'Look out for the
bull's-eye, stranger.' I blazed away, and I wish I may be shot if I
didn't miss the target. They examined it all over, and could find
neither hair nor hide of my bullet, and pronounced it a dead miss;
when says I, 'Stand aside and let me look, and I warrant you I get
on the right trail of the critter,' They stood aside, and I examined
the bull's-eye pretty particular, and at length cried out, 'Here it
is; there is no snakes if it ha'n't followed the very track of the
other.' They said it was utterly impossible, but I insisted on their
searching the hole, and I agreed to be stuck up as a mark myself, if
they did not find two bullets there. They searched for my
satisfaction, and sure enough it all come out just as I had told
them; for I had picked up a bullet that had been fired, and stuck it
deep into the hole, without any one perceiving it. They were all
perfectly satisfied that fame had not made too great a flourish of
trumpets when speaking of me as a marksman: and they all said they
had enough of shooting for that day, and they moved that we adjourn
to the tavern and liquor."
The dinner consisted of bear's meat, venison, and wild turkey. They
had an "uproarious" time over their whiskey. Crockett made a coarse
and vulgar speech, which was neither creditable to his head nor his
heart. But it was received with great applause.
The next morning Crockett decided to set out to cross the country in
a southwest direction, to Fulton, on the upper waters of the Red
River. The gentlemen furnished Crockett with a fine horse, and five
of them decided to accompany him, as a mark of respect, to the River
Washita, fifty miles from Little Rock. Crockett endeavored to raise
some recruits for Texas, but was unsuccessful. When they reached the
Washita, they found a clergyman, one of those bold, hardy pioneers
of the wilderness, who through the wildest adventures were
distributing tracts and preaching the gospel in the remotest
He was in a condition of great peril. He had attempted to ford the
river in the wrong place, and had reached a spot where he could not
advance any farther, and yet could not turn his horse round. With
much difficulty they succeeded in extricating him, and in bringing
him safe to the shore. Having bid adieu to his kind friends, who had
escorted him thus far, Crockett crossed the river, and in company
with the clergyman continued his journey, about twenty miles farther
west toward a little settlement called Greenville. He found his new
friend to be a very charming companion. In describing the ride,
"We talked about politics, religion, and nature, farming, and
bear-hunting, and the many blessings that an all-bountiful
Providence has bestowed upon our happy country. He continued to talk
upon this subject, travelling over the whole ground as it were,
until his imagination glowed, and his soul became full to
overflowing; and he checked his horse, and I stopped mine also, and
a stream of eloquence burst forth from his aged lips, such as I have
seldom listened to: it came from the overflowing fountain of a pure
and grateful heart. We were alone in the wilderness, but as he
proceeded, it seemed to me as if the tall trees bent their tops to
listen; that the mountain stream laughed out joyfully as it bounded
on like some living thing that the fading flowers of autumn smiled,
and sent forth fresher fragrance, as if conscious that they would
revive in spring; and even the sterile rocks seemed to be endued
with some mysterious influence. We were alone in the wilderness, but
all things told me that God was there. The thought renewed my
strength and courage. I had left my country, felt somewhat like an
outcast, believed that I had been neglected and lost sight of. But I
was now conscious that there was still one watchful Eye over me; no
matter whether I dwelt in the populous cities, or threaded the
pathless forest alone; no matter whether I stood in the high places
among men, or made my solitary lair in the untrodden wild, that Eye
was still upon me. My very soul leaped joyfully at the thought. I
never felt so grateful in all my life. I never loved my God so
sincerely in all my life. I felt that I still had a friend.
"When the old man finished, I found that my eyes were wet with
tears. I approached and pressed his hand, and thanked him, and says
I, 'Now let us take a drink.' I set him the example, and he followed
it, and in a style too that satisfied me, that if he had ever
belonged to the temperance society, he had either renounced
membership, or obtained a dispensation. Having liquored, we
proceeded on our journey, keeping a sharp lookout for mill-seats and
plantations as we rode along.
"I left the worthy old man at Greenville, and sorry enough I was to
part with him, for he talked a great deal, and he seemed to know a
little about everything. He knew all about the history of the
country; was well acquainted with all the leading men; knew where
all the good lands lay in most of Western States.
"He was very cheerful and happy, though to all appearances very
poor. I thought that he would make a first-rate agent for taking up
lands, and mentioned it to him. He smiled, and pointing above, said,
'My wealth lies not in this world.'"
From Greenville, Crockett pressed on about fifty or sixty miles
through a country interspersed withe forests and treeless prairies,
until he reached Fulton. He had a letter of introduction to one of
the prominent gentlemen here, and was received with marked
distinction. After a short visit he disposed of his horse; he took a
steamer to descend the river several hundred miles to Natchitoches,
pronounced Nakitosh, a small straggling village of eight hundred
inhabitants, on the right bank of the Red River, about two hundred
miles from its entrance into the Mississippi.
In descending the river there was a juggler on board, who performed
many skilful juggling tricks. and by various feats of gambling won
much money from his dupes. Crockett was opposed to gambling in all
its forms. Becoming acquainted with the juggler and, finding him at
heart a well-meaning, good-natured fellow, he endeavored to
remonstrate with him upon his evil practices.
"I told him," says Crockett, "that it was a burlesque on human
nature, that an able-bodied man, possessed of his full share of good
sense, should voluntarily debase himself, and be indebted for
subsistence to such a pitiful artifice.
"'But what's to be done, Colonel?' says he. 'I'm in the slough of
despond, up to the very chin. A miry and slippery path to travel.'
"'Then hold your head up,' says I, 'before the slough reaches your
"'But what's the use?' says he: 'it's utterly impossible for me to
wade through; and even if I could, I should be in such a dirty
plight, that it would defy all the waters in the Mississippi to wash
me clean again. No,' he added in a desponding tone, 'I should be
like a live eel in a frying-pan, Colonel, sort of out of my element,
if I attempted to live like an honest man at this time o' day.'
"'That I deny. It is never too late to become honest,' said I. 'But
even admit what you say to be true--that you cannot live like an
honest man--you have at least the next best thing in your power, and
no one can say nay to it.'
"'And what is that?'
"'Die like a brave one. And I know not whether, in the eyes of the
world, a brilliant death is not preferred to an obscure life of
rectitude. Most men are remembered as they died, and not as they
lived. We gaze with admiration upon the glories of the setting sun,
yet scarcely bestow a passing glance upon its noonday splendor.'
"'You are right; but how is this to be done?'
"'Accompany me to Texas. Cut aloof from your degrading habits and
associates here, and, in fighting for the freedom of the Texans,
regain your own.'
"The man seemed much moved. He caught up his gambling instruments,
thrust them into his pocket, with hasty strides traversed the floor
two or three times, and then exclaimed:
"'By heaven, I will try to be a man again. I will live honestly, or
die bravely. I will go with you to Texas.'"
To confirm him in his good resolution, Crockett "asked him to
liquor." At Natchitoches, Crockett encountered another very singular
character. He was a remarkably handsome young man, of poetic
imagination, a sweet singer, and with innumerable scraps of poetry
and of song ever at his tongue's end. Honey-trees, as they were
called, were very abundant in Texas The prairies were almost
boundless parterres of the richest flowers, from which the bees made
large quantities of the most delicious honey. This they deposited in
the hollows of trees. Not only was the honey valuable, but the wax
constituted a very important article of commerce in Mexico, and
brought a high price, being used for the immense candles which they
burned in their churches. The bee-hunter, by practice, acquired much
skill in coursing the bees to their hives.
This man decided to join Crockett and the juggler in their journey
over the vast prairies of Texas. Small, but very strong and tough
Mexican ponies, called mustangs, were very cheap. They were found
wild, in droves of thousands, grazing on the prairies. The three
adventurers mounted their ponies, and set out on their journey due
west, a distance of one hundred and twenty miles, to Nacogdoches.
Their route was along a mere trail, which was called the old Spanish
road. It led over vast prairies, where there was no path, and where
the bee-hunter was their guide, and through forests where their
course was marked only by blazed trees.
The bee-hunter, speaking of the state of society in Texas, said that
at San Felipe he had sat down with a small party at the
breakfast-table, where eleven of the company had fled from the
States charged with the crime of murder. So accustomed were the
inhabitants to the appearance of fugitives from justice, that
whenever a stranger came among them, they took it for granted that
he had committed some crime which rendered it necessary for him to
take refuge beyond the grasp of his country's laws.
They reached Nacogdoches without any special adventure. It was a
flourishing little Mexican town of about one thousand inhabitants,
situated in a romantic dell, about sixty miles west of the River
Sabine. The Mexicans and the Indians were very nearly on an
intellectual and social equality. Groups of Indians, harmless and
friendly, were ever sauntering through the streets of the little
Colonel Crockett's horse had become lame on the journey. He obtained
another, and, with his feet nearly touching the ground as he
bestrode the little animal, the party resumed its long and weary
journey, directing their course two or three hundred miles farther
southwest through the very heart of Texas to San Antonio. They
frequently encountered vast expanses of canebrakes; such canes as
Northern boys use for fishing-poles. There is one on the banks of
Caney Creek, seventy miles in length, with scarcely a tree to be
seen for the whole distance. There was generally a trail cut through
these, barely wide enough for a single mustang to pass. The reeds
were twenty or thirty feet high, and so slender that, having no
support over the path, they drooped a little inward and intermingled
their tops. Thus a very singular and beautiful canopy was formed,
beneath which the travellers moved along sheltered from the rays of
a Texan sun.
As they were emerging from one of these arched avenues, they saw
three black wolves jogging along very leisurely in front of them,
but at too great a distance to be reached by a rifle-bullet. Wild
turkeys were very abundant, and vast droves of wild horses were
cropping the herbage of the most beautiful and richest pastures to
be found on earth. Immense herds of buffaloes were also seen.
"These sights," says Crockett, "awakened the ruling passion strong
within me, and I longed to have a hunt on a large scale. For though
I had killed many bears and deer in my time, I had never brought
down a buffalo, and so I told my friends. But they tried to dissuade
me from it, telling me that I would certainly lose my way, and
perhaps perish; for though it appeared a garden to the eye, it was
still a wilderness. I said little more upon the subject until we
crossed the Trinidad River. But every mile we travelled, I found the
temptation grew stronger and stronger."
The night after crossing the Trinidad River they were so fortunate
as to come across the hut of a poor woman, where they took shelter
until the next morning. They were here joined by two other chance
travellers, who must indeed have been rough specimens of humanity.
Crockett says that though he had often seen men who had not advanced
far over the line of civilization, these were the coarsest samples
he had ever met.
One proved to be an old pirate, about fifty years of age. He was
tall, bony, and in aspect seemed scarcely human. The shaggy hair of
his whiskers and beard covered nearly his whole face. He had on a
sailor's round jacket and tarpaulin hat. The deep scar, apparently
of a sword cut, deformed his forehead, and another similar scar was
on the back of one of his hands. His companion was a young Indian,
wild as the wolves, bareheaded, and with scanty deerskin dress.
Early the next morning they all resumed their journey, the two
strangers following on foot. Their path led over the smooth and
treeless prairie, as beautiful in its verdure and its flowers as the
most cultivated park could possibly be. About noon they stopped to
refresh their horses and dine beneath a cluster of trees in the open
prairie. They had built their fire, were cooking their game, and
were all seated upon the grass, chatting very sociably, when the
bee-hunter saw a bee, which indicated that a hive of honey might be
found not far distant. He leaped upon his mustang, and without
saying a word, "started off like mad," and scoured along the
prairie. "We watched him," says Crockett, "until he seemed no larger
than a rat, and finally disappeared in the distance."
Adventures on the Prairie.
Disappearance of the Bee Hunter.--The Herd of Buffalo Crockett
lost.--The Fight with the Cougar.--Approach of Savages.--Their
Friendliness.--Picnic on the Prairie.--Picturesque Scene.--The Lost
Mustang recovered.--Unexpected Reunion.--Departure of the
Savages.--Skirmish with the Mexicans.--Arrival at the Alamo.
Soon after the bee-hunter had disappeared, all were startled by a
strange sound, as of distant thunder. It was one of the most
beautiful of summer days. There was not a cloud to be seen. The
undulating prairie, waving with flowers, lay spread out before them,
more beautiful under nature's bountiful adornings than the most
artistic parterre, park or lawn which the hand of man ever reared. A
gentle, cool breeze swept through the grove, fragrant and refreshing
as if from Araby the blest. It was just one of those scenes and one
of those hours in which all vestiges of the Fall seemed to have been
obliterated, and Eden itself again appeared blooming in its pristine
Still those sounds, growing more and more distinct, were not sounds
of peace, were not eolian warblings; they were mutterings as of a
rising tempest, and inspired awe and a sense of peril. Straining
their eyes toward the far-distant west, whence the sounds came, they
soon saw an immense black cloud just emerging from the horizon and
apparently very low down, sweeping the very surface of the prairie.
This strange, menacing cloud was approaching with manifestly great
rapidity. It was coming directly toward the grove where the
travellers were sheltered. A cloud of dust accompanied the
phenomenon, ever growing thicker and rising higher in the air.
"What can that all mean?" exclaimed Crockett, in evident alarm.
The juggler sprang to his feet, saying, "Burn my old shoes if I
Even the mustangs, which were grazing near by, were frightened They
stopped eating, pricked up their ears, and gazed in terror upon the
approaching danger. It was then supposed that the black cloud, with
its muttered thunderings, must be one of those terrible tornadoes
which occasionally swept the region, bearing down everything before
it. The men all rushed for the protection of the mustangs. In the
greatest haste they struck off their hobbles and led them into the
grove for shelter.
The noise grew louder and louder, and they had scarcely brought the
horses beneath the protection of the trees, when they perceived that
it was an immense herd of buffaloes, of countless hundreds, dishing
along with the speed of the wind, and bellowing and roaring in tones
as appalling as if a band of demons were flying and shrieking in
terror before some avenging arm.
The herd seemed to fill the horizon. Their numbers could not be
counted. They were all driven by some common impulse of terror. In
their head-long plunge, those in front pressed on by the innumerable
throng behind, it was manifest that no ordinary obstacle would in
the slightest degree retard their rush. The spectacle was sublime
and terrible. Had the travellers been upon the open plain, it seemed
inevitable that they must have been trampled down and crushed out of
every semblance of humanity by these thousands of hard hoofs.
But it so chanced that they were upon what is called a rolling
prairie, with its graceful undulations and gentle eminences. It was
one of these beautiful swells which the grove crowned with its
As the enormous herd came along with its rush and roar, like the
bursting forth of a pent-up flood, the terrified mustangs were too
much frightened to attempt to escape. They shivered in every nerve
as if stricken by an ague.
An immense black bull led the band. He was a few feet in advance of
all the rest. He came roaring along, his tail erect in the air as a
javelin, his head near the ground, and his stout, bony horns
projected as if he were just ready to plunge upon his foe. Crockett
"I never felt such a desire to have a crack at anything in all my
life. He drew nigh the place where I was standing. I raised my
beautiful Betsey to my shoulder and blazed away. He roared, and
suddenly stopped. Those that were near him did so likewise. The
commotion occasioned by the impetus of those in the rear was such
that it was a miracle that some of them did not break their heads or
necks. The black bull stood for a few moments pawing the ground
after he was shot, then darted off around the cluster of trees, and
made for the uplands of the prairies. The whole herd followed,
sweeping by like a tornado. And I do say I never witnessed a sight
more beautiful to the eye of a hunter in all my life."
The temptation to pursue them was too strong for Crockett to resist.
For a moment he was himself bewildered, and stood gazing with
astonishment upon the wondrous spectacle. Speedily he reloaded his
rifle, sprung upon his horse, and set out in pursuit over the green
and boundless prairie. There was something now quite ludicrous in
the scene. There was spread out an ocean expanse of verdure. A herd
of countless hundreds of majestic buffaloes, every animal very
ferocious in aspect, was clattering along, and a few rods behind
them in eager pursuit was one man, mounted on a little,
insignificant Mexican pony, not much larger than a donkey. It would
seem that but a score of this innumerable army need but turn round
and face their foe, and they could toss horse and rider into the
air, and then contemptuously trample them into the dust.
Crockett was almost beside himself with excitement. Looking neither
to the right nor the left, unconscious in what direction he was
going, he urged forward, with whip and spur, the little mustang, to
the utmost speed of the animal, and yet scarcely in the least
diminished the distance between him and the swift-footed buffaloes.
Ere long, it was evident that he was losing in the chase. But the
hunter, thinking that the buffaloes could not long continue their
flight at such a speed, and that they would soon, in weariness,
loiter and stop to graze, vigorously pressed on, though his jaded
beast was rapidly being distance by the herd.
At length the enormous moving mass appeared but as a cloud in the
distant horizon. Still, Crockett, his mind entirely absorbed in the
excitement of the chase, urged his weary steed on, until the
buffalos entirely disappeared from view in the distance. Crrickett
"I now paused to allow my mustang to breathe, who did not altogether
fancy the rapidity of my movements; and to consider which course I
would have to take to regain the path I had abandoned. I might have
retraced my steps by following the trail of the buffaloes, but it
had always been my principle to go ahead, and so I turned to the
west and pushed forward.
"I had not rode more than an hour before I found, I was completely
bewildered. I looked around, and there was, as far as the eye could
reach, spread before me a country apparently in the highest state of
cultivation--extended fields, beautiful and productive, groves of
trees cleared from the underwood, and whose margins were as regular
as if the art and taste of man had been employed upon them. But
there was no other evidence that the sound of the axe, or the voice
of man, had ever here disturbed the solitude of nature. My eyes
would have cheated my senses into the belief that I was in an
earthly paradise, but my fears told me that I was in a wilderness.
"I pushed along, following the sun, for I had no compass to guide
me, and there was no other path than that which my mustang made.
Indeed, if I had found a beaten tract, I should have been almost
afraid to have followed it; for my friend the bee-hunter had told
me, that once, when he had been lost in the prairies, he had
accidentally struck into his own path, and had travelled around and
around for a whole day before he discovered his error. This I
thought was a poor way of going ahead; so I determined to make for
the first large stream, and follow its course."
For several hours Crockett rode through these vast and lonely
solitudes, the Eden of nature, without meeting with the slightest
trace of a human being. Evening was approaching, still, calm, and
bright. The most singular and even oppressive silence prevailed, for
neither voice of bird nor insect was to be heard. Crockett began to
feel very uneasy. The fact that he was lost himself did not trouble
him much, but he felt anxious for his simple-minded, good-natured
friend, the juggler, who was left entirely alone and quite unable to
take care of himself under such circumstances.
As he rode along, much disturbed by these unpleasant reflections,
another novelty, characteristic of the Great West, arrested his
attention and elicited his admiration. He was just emerging from a
very lovely grove, carpeted with grass, which grew thick and green
beneath the leafy canopy which overarched it. There was not a
particle of underbrush to obstruct one's movement through this
natural park. Just beyond the grove there was another expanse of
treeless prairie, so rich, so beautiful, so brilliant with flowers,
that even Colonel Crockett, all unaccustomed as he was to the
devotional mood, reined in his horse, and gazing entranced upon the
"O God, what a world of beauty hast thou made for man! And yet how
poorly does he requite thee for it! He does not even repay thee with
The attractiveness of the scene was enhanced by a drove of more than
a hundred wild horses, really beautiful animals, quietly pasturing.
It seemed impossible but that the hand of man must have been
employed in embellishing this fair creation. It was all God's work.
"When I looked around and fully realized it all," writes Crockett,
"I thought of the clergyman who had preached to me in the wilds of
Colonel Crockett rode out upon the prairie. The horses no sooner
espied him than, excited, but not alarmed, the whole drove, with
neighings, aud tails uplifted like banners, commenced coursing
around him in an extended circle, which gradually became smaller and
smaller, until they came in close contact; and the Colonel, not a
little alarmed, found himself completely surrounded, and apparently
the prisoner of these powerful steeds.
The little mustang upon which the Colonel was mounted seemed very
happy in its new companionship. It turned its head to one side, and
then to the other, and pranced and neighed, playfully biting at the
mane of one horse, rubbing his nose against that of another, and in
joyous gambols kicking up its heels. The Colonel was anxious to get
out of the mess. But his little mustang was not at all disposed to
move in that direction; neither did the other horses seem disposed
to acquiesce in such a plan.
Crockett's heels were armed with very formidable Spanish spurs, with
prongs sharp and long. The hunter writes:
"To escape from the annoyance, I beat the devil's tattoo on his
ribs, that he might have some music to dance to, and we went ahead
right merrily, the whole drove following in our wake, head up, and
tail and mane streaming. My little critter, who was both blood and
bottom, seemed delighted at being at the head of the heap; and
having once fairly got started, I wish I may be shot if I did not
find it impossible to stop him. He kept along, tossing his head
proudly, and occasionally neighing, as much as to say, "Come on, my
hearties, you see I ha'n't forgot our old amusement yet." And they
did come on with a vengeance, clatter, clatter, clatter, as if so
many fiends had broke loose. The prairie lay extended before me as
far as the eye could reach, and I began to think that there would be
no end to the race.
"My little animal was full of fire and mettle, and as it was the
first bit of genuine sport that he had had for some time, he
appeared determined to make the most of it. He kept the lead for
full half an hour, frequently neighing as if in triumph and
derision. I thought of John Gilpin's celebrated ride, but that was
child's play to this. The proverb says, 'The race is not always to
the swift, nor the battle to the strong,' and so it proved in the
present instance. My mustang was obliged to carry weight, while his
competitors were as free as nature had made them. A beautiful bay,
who had trod close upon my heels the whole way, now came side by
side with my mustang, and we had it hip and thigh for about ten
minutes, in such style as would have delighted the heart of a true
lover of the turf. I now felt an interest in the race myself, and,
for the credit of my bit of blood, determined to win it if it was at
all in the nature of things. I plied the lash and spur, and the
little critter took it quite kindly, and tossed his head, and
neighed, as much as to say, 'Colonel, I know what you're after--go
ahead!'--and he cut dirt in beautiful style, I tell you."
This could not last long. The wild steed of the prairie soon
outstripped the heavily burdened mustang, and shooting ahead, kicked
up his heels as in derision. The rest of the herd followed, in the
same disrespectful manner. Crockett jogged quietly on in the rear,
glad to be rid of such troublesome and dangerous companions. The
horses soon reached a stream, which Crockett afterward learned was
called the Navasola River. The whole herd, following an adventurous
leader, rushed pell-mell into the stream and swam to the other side.
It was a beautiful sight to behold these splendid animals, in such a
dense throng, crossing the stream, and then, refreshed by their
bath, sweeping like a whirlwind over the plain beyond.
Crockett's exhausted pony could go no further. He fairly threw
himself upon the ground as if in despair. Crockett took from the
exhausted animal the saddle, and left the poor creature to roll upon
the grass and graze at pleasure. He thought it not possible that the
mustang could wander to any considerable distance. Indeed, he fully
expected to find the utterly exhausted beast, who could no longer
stand upon his legs, dead before morning.
Night was fast closing around him. He began to look around for
shelter. There was a large tree blown down by the side of the
stream, its top branching out very thick and bushy. Crockett thought
that with his knife, in the midst of that dense foliage with its
interlacing branches, he could make himself a snug arbor, where,
wrapped in his blanket, he could enjoy refreshing sleep. He
approached the tree, and began to work among the almost impervious
branches, when he heard a low growl, which he says he interpreted to
mean, "Stranger, these apartments are already taken."
Looking about to see what kind of an animal he had disturbed, and
whose displeasure he had manifestly encountered, he saw the
brilliant eyes glaring through the leaves of a large Mexican cougar,
sometimes called the panther or American lion. This animal, endowed
with marvellous agility and strength, will pounce from his lair on a
deer, and even a buffalo, and easily with tooth and claw tear him to
"He was not more than five or six paces from me," writes Crockett,
"and was eying me as an epicure surveys the table before he selects
his dish, I have no doubt the cougar looked upon me as the subject
of a future supper. Rays of light darted from his large eyes, he
showed his teeth like a negro in hysterics, and he was crouching on
his haunches ready for a spring; all of which convinced me that
unless I was pretty quick upon the trigger, posterity would know
little of the termination of my eventful career, and it would be far
less glorious and useful than I intend to make it."
The conflict which ensued cannot be more graphically described than
in Crocket's own words:
"One glance satisfied me that there was no time to be lost. There
was no retreat either for me or the cougar. So I levelled my Betsey
and blazed away. The report was followed by a furious growl, and the
next moment, when I expected to find the tarnal critter struggling
with death, I beheld him shaking his head, as if nothing more than a
bee had stung him. The ball had struck him on the forehead and
glanced off, doing no other injury than stunning him for an instant,
and tearing off the skin, which tended to infuriate him the more.
The cougar wasn't long in making up his mind what to do, nor was I
neither; but he would have it all his own way, and vetoed my motion
to back out. I had not retreated three steps before he sprang at me
like a steamboat; I stepped aside and as he lit upon the ground, I
struck him violently with the barrel of my rifle, but he didn't mind
that, but wheeled around and made at me again. The gun was now of no
use, so I threw it away, and drew my hunting-knife, for I knew we
should come to close quarters before the fight would be over. This
time he succeeded in fastening on my left arm, and was just
beginning to amuse himself by tearing the flesh off with his fangs,
when I ripped my knife into his side, and he let go his hold, much
to my satisfaction.
"He wheeled about and came at me with increased fury, occasioned by
the smarting of his wounds. I now tried to blind him, knowing that
if I succeeded he would become an easy prey; so as he approached me
I watched my opportunity, and aimed a blow at his eyes with my
knife; but unfortunately it struck him on the nose, and he paid no
other attention to it than by a shake of the head and a low growl.
He pressed me close, and as I was stepping backward my foot tripped
in a vine, and I fell to the ground. He was down upon me like a
night-hawk upon a June-bug. He seized hold of the outer part of my
right thigh, which afforded him considerable amusement; the hinder
part of his body was towards my face; I grasped his tail with my
left hand, and tickled his ribs with my haunting-knife, which I held
in my right. Still the critter wouldn't let go his hold; and as I
found that he would lacerate my leg dreadfully unless he was
speedily shaken off, I tried to hurl him down the bank into the
river, for our scuffle had already brought us to the edge of the
bank. I stuck my knife into his side, and summoned all my strength
to throw him over. He resisted, was desperate heavy; but at last I
got him so far down the declivity that he lost his balance, and he
rolled over and over till he landed on the margin of the river; but
in his fall he dragged me along with him. Fortunately, I fell
uppermost, and his neck presented a fair mark for my hunting-knife.
Without allowing myself time even to draw breath, I aimed one
desperate blow at his neck, and the knife entered his gullet up to
the handle, and reached his heart. He struggled for a few moments
and died. I have had many fights with bears, but that was mere
child's play. This was the first fight ever I had with a cougar, and
I hope it may be the last."
Crockett, breathless and bleeding, but signally a victor, took quiet
possession of the treetop, the conquest of which he had so valiantly
achieved. He parted some of the branches, cut away others, and
intertwining the softer twigs, something like a bird's nest, made
for himself a very comfortable bed. There was an abundance of moss,
dry, pliant, and crispy, hanging in festoons from the trees. This,
spread in thick folds over his litter, made as luxuriant a mattress
as one could desire. His horse-blanket being laid down upon this,
the weary traveller, with serene skies above him and a gentle breeze
breathing through his bower, had no cause to envy the occupant of
the most luxurious chamber wealth can furnish.
He speedily prepared for himself a frugal supper, carried his saddle
into the treetop, and, though oppressed with anxiety in view of the
prospect before him, fell asleep, and in blissful unconsciousness
the hours passed away until the sun was rising in the morning. Upon
awaking, he felt very stiff and sore from the wounds he had received
in his conflict with the cougar. Looking over the bank, he saw the
dead body of the cougar lying there, and felt that he had much cause
of gratitude that he had escaped so great a danger.
He then began to look around for his horse. But the animal was
nowhere to be seen. He ascended one of the gentle swells of land,
whence he could look far and wide over the unobstructed prairie. To
his surprise, and not a little to his costernation, the animal had
disappeared, "without leaving trace of hair or hide." At first he
thought the mustang must have been devoured by wolves or some other
beasts of prey. But then it was manifest they could not have eaten
his bones, and something would have remained to indicate the fate of
the poor creature. While thus perplexed, Crockett reflected sadly
that he was lost, alone and on foot, on the boundless prairie. He
was, however, too much accustomed to scenes of the wildest adventure
to allow himself to be much cast down. His appetite was not
disturbed, and he began to feel the cravings of hunger.
He took his rifle and stepped out in search of his breakfast. He had
gone but a short distance ere he saw a large flock of wild geese, on
the bank of the river. Selecting a large fat gander, he shot him,
soon stripped him of his feathers, built a fire, ran a stick through
the goose for a spit, and then, supporting it on two sticks with
prongs, roasted his savory viand in the most approved style. He had
a little tin cup with him, and a paper of ground coffee, with which
he made a cup of that most refreshing beverage. Thus he breakfasted
He was just preparing to depart, with his saddle upon his shoulder,
much perplexed as to the course he should pursue, when he was again
alarmed by one of those wild scenes ever occurring in the West.
First faintly, then louder and louder came the sound as of the
trampling of many horses on the full gallop. His first thought was
that another enormous herd of buffaloes was sweeping down upon him.
But soon he saw, in the distance, a band of about fifty Comanche
Indians, well mounted, painted, plumed, and bannered, the horse and
rider apparently one animal, coming down upon him, their horses
being urged to the utmost speed. It was a sublime and yet an
appalling spectacle, as this band of half-naked savages, their
spears glittering in the morning sun, and their long hair streaming
behind, came rushing on.
Crockett was standing in full view upon the banks of the stream. The
column swept on, and, with military precision, as it approached,
divided into two semicircles, and in an instant the two ends of the
circle reached the river, and Crockett was surrounded. Three of the
savages performed the part of trumpeters, and with wonderful
resemblance, from their lips, emitted the pealing notes of the
bugle. Almost by instinct he grasped his rifle, but a flash of
thought taught him that, under the circumstances, any attempt at
resistance would be worse than unavailing.
The chief sprang from his horse, and advancing with proud strides
toward Crockett, was struck with admiration at sight of his
magnificent rifle. Such a weapon, with such rich ornamentation, had
never before been seen on the prairies. The eagerness with which the
savage regarded the gun led Crockett to apprehend that he intended
to appropriate it to himself.
The Comanches, though a very warlike tribe, had held much
intercourse with the Americans, and friendly relations then existed
between them and our Government. Crockett, addressing the chief,
"Is your nation at war with the Americans?"
"No," was the reply; "they are our friends."
"And where," Crockett added, "do your get your spear-heads, your
rifles, your blankets, and your knives?"
"We get them from our friends the Americans," the chief replied.
"Well," said Crockett, "do you think that if you were passing
through their country, as I am passing through yours, they would
attempt to rob you of your property?"
"No," answered the savage; "they would feed me and protect me. And
the Comanche will do the same by his white brother."
Crockett then inquired of the chief what had guided him and his
party to the spot where they had found him? The chief said that they
were at a great distance, but had seen the smoke from his fire, and
had come to ascertain the cause of it.
"He inquired," writes Crockett, "what had brought me there alone. I
told him I had come to hunt, and that my mustang had become
exhausted, and, though I thought he was about to die, that he had
escaped from me. At this the chief gave a low chuckling laugh, and
said that it was all a trick of the mustang, which is the most wily
and cunning of all animals. But he said that as I was a brave
hunter, he would furnish me with another. He gave orders, and a fine
young horse was immediately brought forward."
The savages speedily discovered the dead body of the cougar, and
commenced skinning him. They were greatly surprised on seeing the
number of the stabs, and inquired into the cause. When Crockett
explained to them the conflict, the proof of which was manifest in
his own lacerated skin, and in the wounds inflicted upon the cougar,
they were greatly impressed with the valor he had displayed. The
chief exclaimed several times. in tones of commingled admiration and
astonishment, "Brave hunter! brave man!" He also expressed the
earnest wish that Crockett would consent to be adopted as a son of
the tribe. But this offer was respectfully declined.
This friendly chief kindly consented to escort Crockett as far as
the Colorado River. Crockett put his saddle on a fresh horse, and
having mounted, the chief, with Crockett at his side, took the lead,
and off the whole band went, scouring over the pathless prairie at a
rapid speed. Several of the band were squaws. They were the
trumpeters. They made the prairie echo with their bugle-blasts, or,
as Crockett irreverently, but perhaps more correctly says, "The old
squaws, at the head of the troop, were braying like young jackasses
the whole way."
After thus riding over the green and treeless expanse for about
three hours, they came upon a drove of wild horses, quietly
pasturing on the rich herbage. One of the Indians immediately
prepared his lasso, and darted out toward the herd to make a
capture. The horses did not seem to be alarmed by his approach, but
when he got pretty nigh them they began to circle around him,
keeping at a cautious distance, with their heads elevated and with
loud neighings. They then, following the leadership of a splendid
stallion, set off on a brisk canter, and soon disappeared beyond the
undulations of the prairie.
One of the mustangs remained quietly grazing. The Indian rode to
within a few yards of him, and very skilfully threw his lasso. The
mustang seemed to be upon the watch, for he adroitly dodged his head
between his forefeet and thus escaped the fatal noose. The Indian
rode up to him, and the horse patiently submitted to be bridled and
"When I approached," writes Crockett," I immediately recognized, in
the captive, the pestilent little animal that had shammed sickness
and escaped from me the day before. And when he caught my eye he
cast down his head and looked rather sheepish, as if he were
sensible and ashamed of the dirty trick he had played me. I
expressed my astonishment, to the Indian chief, at the mustang's
allowing himself to be captured without any effort to escape. He
told me that they were generally hurled to the ground with such
violence, when first taken with the lasso, that they remembered it
ever after; and that the sight of the lasso will subdue them to
submission, though they may have run wild for years."
All the day long, Crockett, with his convoy of friendly savages,
travelled over the beautiful prairie. Toward evening they came
across a drove of fat buffaloes grazing in the richest of earthly
pastures. It was a beautiful sight to witness the skill with which
the Indians pursued and hunted down the noble game. Crockett was
quite charmed with the spectacle. It is said that the Comanche
Indians are the finest horsemen in the world. Always wandering about
over the boundless prairies, where wild horses are found in
countless numbers, they are ever on horseback, men, women, and
children. Even infants, almost in their earliest years, are taught
to cling to the mane of the horse. Thus the Comanche obtains the
absolute control of the animal; and when scouring over the plain,
bareheaded and with scanty dress, the horse and rider seem veritably
like one person.
The Comanches were armed only with bows and arrows. The herd early
took fright, and fled with such speed that the somewhat exhausted
horses of the Comanches could not get within arrow-shot of them.
Crockett, however, being well mounted and unsurpassed by any Indian
in the arts of hunting, selected a fat young heifer, which he knew
would furnish tender steaks, and with his deadly bullet struck it
down. This was the only beef that was killed. All the rest of the
The Indians gathered around the slain animal for their feast. With
their sharp knives the heifer was soon skinned and cut up into
savory steaks and roasting-pieces. Two or three fires were built.
The horses were hobbled and turned loose to graze. Every one of the
Indians selected his own portion, and all were soon merrily and even
affectionately engaged in this picnic feast, beneath skies which
Italy never rivalled, and surrounded with the loveliness of a park
surpassing the highest creations of art in London, Paris, or New
The Indians were quite delighted with their guest. He told them
stories of his wild hunting excursions, and of his encounters with
panthers and bears. They were charmed by his narratives, and they
sat eager listeners until late into the night, beneath the stars and
around the glowing camp-fires. Then, wrapped in their blankets, they
threw themselves down on the thick green grass and slept. Such are
the joys of peace and friendship.
They resumed their journey in the morning, and pressed along, with
nothing of special interest occurring until they reached the
Colorado River. As they were following down this stream, to strike
the road which leads to Bexar, they saw in the distance a single
column of smoke ascending the clear sky. Hastening toward it, they
found that it rose from the centre of a small grove near the river.
When within a few hundred yards the warriors extended their line, so
as nearly to encircle the grove, while the chief and Crockett
advanced cautiously to reconnoitre. To their surprise they saw a
solitary man seated upon the ground near the fire, so entirely
absorbed in some occupation that he did not observe their approach.
In a moment, Crockett, much to his joy, perceived that it was his
lost friend the juggler. He was all engaged in practising his game
of thimbles on the crown of his hat. Crockett was now restored to
his companion, and was near the plain road to Bexar. In describing
this scene and the departure of his kind Indian friends, the hunter
"The chief shouted the war-whoop, and suddenly the warriors came
rushing in from all quarters, preceded by the old squaw trumpeters
squalling like mad. The conjurer sprang to his feet, and was ready
to sink into the earth when he beheld the ferocious-looking fellows
that surrounded him. I stepped up, took him by the hand, and quieted
his fears. I told the chief that he was a friend of mine, and I was
very glad to have found him, for I was afraid that he had perished.
I now thanked him for his kindness in guiding me over the prairies,
and gave him a large bowie-knife, which he said he would keep for
the sake of the brave hunter. The whole squadron then wheeled off
and I saw them no more. I have met with many polite men in my time,
but no one who possessed in a greater degree what may be called true
spontaneous politeness than this Comanche chief, always excepting
Philip Hone, Esq. of New York, whom I look upon as the politest man
I ever did see; for when he asked me to take a drink at his own
sideboard, he turned his back upon me, that I mightn't be ashamed to
fill as much as I wanted. That was what I call doing the fair
The poor juggler was quite overjoyed in meeting his friend again,
whom he evidently regarded with much reverence. He said that he was
very much alarmed when he found himself alone on the pathless
prairie. After waiting two hours in much anxiety, he mounted his
mustang, and was slowly retracing his steps, when he spied the
bee-hunter returning. He was laden with honey. They had then
journeyed on together to the present spot. The hunter had just gone
out in search of game. He soon returned with a plump turkey upon his
shoulders. They built their fire, and were joyously cooking their
supper, when the neighing of a horse near by startled them. Looking
up, they saw two men approaching on horseback. They proved to be the
old pirate and the young Indian with whom they had lodged a few
nights before. Upon being hailed they alighted, and politely
requested permission to join their party. This was gladly assented
to, as they were now entering a region desolated by the war between
the Texans and the Mexicans, and where many small bands of robbers
were wandering, ready to plunder any weaker party they might
The next morning they crossed the river and pushed on for the
fortress of Alamo. When within about twenty miles of San Antonio,
they beheld about fifteen mounted men, well armed, approaching them
at full speed. Crockett's party numbered five. They immediately
dismounted, made a rampart of their horses, and with the muzzles of
their rifles pointed toward the approaching foe, were prepared for
It was a party of Mexicans. When within a few hundred yards they
reined in their horses, and the leader, advancing a little, called
out to them in Spanish to surrender.
"We must have a brush with those blackguards," said the pirate. "Let
each one single out his man for the first fire. They are greater
fools than I take them for if they give us a chance for a second
shot. Colonel, just settle the business with that talking fellow
with the red feather. He's worth any three of the party."
"Surrender, or we fire!" shouted the fellow with the red feather.
The pirate replied, with a piratic oath, "Fire away."
"And sure enough," writes Crockett, "they took his advice, for the
next minute we were saluted with a discharge of musketry, the report
of which was so loud that we were convinced they all had fired.
Before the smoke had cleared away we had each selected our man,
fired, and I never did see such a scattering among their ranks as
followed. We beheld several mustangs running wild without their
riders over the prairie, and the balance of the company were already
retreating at a more rapid gait than they approached. We hastily
mounted and commenced pursuit, which we kept up until we beheld the
independent flag flying from the battlements of the fortress of
Alamo, our place of destination. The fugitives succeeded in evading
our pursuit, and we rode up to the gates of the fortress, announced
to the sentinel who we were, and the gates were thrown open; and we
entered amid shouts of welcome bestowed upon us by the patriots."
The Fortress of Alamo.--Colonel Bowie.--Bombardment of the
Fort.--Crockett's Journal.--Sharpshooting.--Fight outside of the
Fort.--Death of the Bee Hunter.--Kate of Nacogdoches.--Assault on
the Citadel.--Crockett a Prisoner.--His Death.
The fortress of Alamo is just outside of the town of Bexar, on the
San Antonio River. The town is about one hundred and forty miles
from the coast, and contained, at that time, about twelve hundred
inhabitants. Nearly all were Mexicans, though there were a few
American families. In the year 1718, the Spanish Government had
established a military outpost here; and in the year 1721, a few
emigrants from Spain commenced a flourishing settlement at this
spot. Its site is beautiful, the air salubrious, the soil highly
fertile, and the water of crystal purity.
The town of Bexar subsequently received the name of San Antonio. On
the tenth of December, 1835, the Texans captured the town and
citadel from the Mexicans. These Texan Rangers were rude men, who
had but little regard for the refinements or humanities of
civilization. When Crockett with his companions arrived, Colonel
Bowie, of Louisiana, one of the most desperate of Western
adventurers, was in the fortress. The celebrated bowie-knife was
named after this man. There was but a feeble garrison, and it was
threatened with an attack by an overwhelming force of Mexicans under
Santa Anna. Colonel Travis was in command. He was very glad to
receive even so small a reinforcement. The fame of Colonel Crockett,
as one of the bravest of men, had already reached his ears.
"While we were conversing," writes Crockett, "Colonel Bowie had
occasion to draw his famous knife, and I wish I may be shot if the
bare sight of it wasn't enough to give a man of a squeamish stomach
the colic. He saw I was admiring it, and said he, 'Colonel, you
might tickle a fellow's ribs a long time with this little instrument
before you'd make make him laugh.'"
According to Crockett's account, many shameful orgies took place in
the little garrison. They were evidently in considerable
trepidation, for a large force was gathering against them, and they
could not look for any considerable reinforcements from any quarter.
Rumors were continually reaching them of the formidable preparations
Santa Anna was making to attack the place. Scouts ere long brought
in the tidings that Santa Anna, President of the Mexican Republic,
at the head of sixteen hundred soldiers, and accompanied by several
of his ablest generals, was within six miles of Bexar. It was said
that he was doing everything in his power to enlist the warlike
Comanches in his favor, but that they remained faithful in their
friendship to the United States.
Early in the month of February, 1836, the army of Santa Anna
appeared before the town, with infantry, artillery, and cavalry.
With military precision they approached, their banners waving, and
their bugle-notes bearing defiance to the feeble little garrison.
The Texan invaders, seeing that they would soon be surrounded,
abandoned the town to the enemy, and fled to the protection of the
citadel. They were but one hundred and fifty in number. Almost
without exception they were hardy adventurers, and the most fearless
and desperate of men. They had previously stored away in the
fortress all the provisions, arms, and ammunition, of which they
could avail themselves. Over the battlements they unfurled an
immense flag of thirteen stripes, and with a large white star of
five points, surrounded by the letters "Texas." As they raised their
flag, they gave three cheers, while with drums and trumpets they
hurled back their challenge to the foe.
The Mexicans raised over the town a blood-red banner. It was their
significant intimation to the garrison that no quarter was be
expected. Santa Anna, having advantageously posted his troops, in
the afternoon sent a summons to Colonel Travis, demanding an
unconditional surrender, threatening, in case of refusal, to put
every man to the sword. The only reply Colonel Travis made was to
throw a cannon-shot into the town. The Mexicans then opened fire
from their batteries, but without doing much harm.
In the night, Colonel Travis sent the old pirate on an express to
Colonel Fanning, who, with a small military force, was at Goliad, to
entreat him to come to his aid. Goliad was about four days' march
from Bexar. The next morning the Mexicans renewed their fire from a
battery about three hundred and fifty yards from the fort. A
three-ounce ball struck the juggler on the breast, inflicting a
painful but not a dangerous wound.
Day after day this storm of war continued. The walls of the citadel
were strong, and the bombardment inflicted but little injury. The
sharpshooters within the fortress struck down many of the assailants
at great distances.
"The bee-hunter," writes Crockett, "is about the quickest on the
trigger, and the best rifle-shot we have in the fort. I have already
seen him bring down eleven of the enemy, and at such a distance that
we all thought that it would be a waste of ammunition to attempt
it." Provisions were beginning to become scarce, and the citadel was
so surrounded that it was impossible for the garrison to cut its way
through the lines and escape.
Under date of February 28th, Crockett writes in his Journal:
"Last night our hunters brought in some corn, and had a brush with a
scout from the enemy beyond gunshot of the fort. They put the scout
to flight, and got in without injury. They bring accounts that the
settlers are flying in all quarters, in dismay, leaving their
possessions to the mercy of the ruthless invader, who is literally
engaged in a war of extermination more brutal than the untutored
savage of the desert could be guilty of. Slaughter is
indiscriminate, sparing neither sex, age, nor condition. Buildings
have been burnt down, farms laid waste, and Santa Anna appears
determined to verify his threat, and convert the blooming paradise
into a howling wilderness. For just one fair crack at that rascal,
even at a hundred yards' distance, I would bargain to break my
Betsey, and never pull trigger again. My name's not Crockett if I
wouldn't get glory enough to appease my stomach for the remainder of
"The scouts report that a settler by the name of Johnson, flying
with his wife and three little children, when they reached the
Colorado, left his family on the shore, and waded into the river to
see whether it would be safe to ford with his wagon. When about the
middle of the river he was seized by an alligator, and after a
struggle was dragged under the water, and perished. The helpless
woman and her babes were discovered, gazing in agony on the spot, by
other fugitives, who happily passed that way, and relieved them.