Study Guide

A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett

by David Crockett

A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Crockett claimed that he wrote his own story because a spurious autobiography had been circulated concerning his exploits. He had never had much schooling, and the writing was likely to be ungrammatical. But Crockett had become a figure by reason of his frontier life and his election to Congress. Those people who admired a real man who was no follower of Andrew Jackson were asked to take the narrative kindly.

John Crockett was born either in Ireland or on a ship bound for America. The earlier part of his life was spent in Pennsylvania. Rebecca Hawkins was born in Maryland. After John served in the Revolutionary War, he and Rebecca settled in Tennessee, a dangerous and troubled region. John’s parents were killed by the Creek Indians, one of his brothers was captured, and another was wounded.

David, son of John and Rebecca, was born on August 17, 1786. His earliest recollection was of a near tragedy. He was playing on the bank of a river with his four older brothers and an older friend of fifteen. The five bigger boys got into the Crockett canoe for a lark. All would have been well if any of the Crockett boys had been paddling, but the fifteen-year-old asserted his authority and took the paddle. David watched from the shore as the boy let the canoe drift closer to a rapids. Fortunately, a neighbor working nearby saw the danger and waded out just in time to keep the canoe out of the treacherous rapids.

The Crockett family, dirt poor in that border area, moved several times before David was twelve, each time seeking a better living. At last John established a tavern on the road to Knoxville. The customers were largely wagoners. One day a Dutchman driving a herd of cattle stopped by, and John bound David over to him. The boy made a trip of over four hundred miles on foot to help the Dutchman deliver cattle.

At the end of the trip David was paid five or six dollars. He wanted to go home then, but his master ordered him to stay. Not knowing any better, David thought himself forced to remain with the Dutchman. But the plucky boy watched his chance and told his story to some friendly wagoners. They agreed to take him home if he could escape the Dutchman. In the middle of the night David crept away, and by riding in the wagons and walking a great deal, he eventually got back home.

John thought David should get some book learning. A neighbor had opened a school nearby, and David attended classes for four days. Then he had a fight with a bigger boy and was afraid of the beating the teacher would administer. Each day he hid out in the woods when he was supposed to be in school. When John discovered what David had been doing, he took after the boy with a hickory stick. David ran away, determined to avoid a beating.

Finding work here and there, David lived somehow. For months he helped a wagoner who kept his meager pay in trust for him. When the wagoner made a trip to the neighborhood of Baltimore, David resolved to look over the city. He was enchanted by the large ships in the harbor. Screwing up...

(The entire section is 1248 words.)