The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957

THE SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. LX JANUARY, 1957 No. 3
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J. FRANK DOBIE
AMES BOWIE had the flavor, the mettle, the daring in gesture
and deed, and the generosity of spirit that make certain actors
on the stage of life go beyond themselves into other selves and
thus do more and say more than they actually said or did. People
used to name their horses, their oxen, their hounds after Bowie.
That is fame. Bowie's impact on human imagination, which is
to say on social history, was far stronger than on political or mili-
tary history.' His name is kept green on three counts, each en-
1The primary sources on Bowie's early life are two sketches by his brothers.
That by John J. is more extensive and detailed. It was contributed by "Dr. Kil-
patrick, of Trinity, Louisiana," who evidently rhetorized it somewhat, to De Bow's
Review (New Orleans), October, 1852, PP- 378-382. Rezin P. Bowie's letter, dated
from Iberville, Louisiana, August 24, 1838, reprinted from the Planters' Advocate,
appeared in Niles' National Register (Washington, D. C.), V, September, 1838-
March, 1839, p. 70. Both are fully quoted, with unclear references, by Raymond
W. Thorp, in Bowie Knife (Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1948). This work, though
lacking in orderly arrangement of materials, assembles much scattered and recon-
dite material bearing on the Bowie knife.
Walter Worthington Bowie, The Bowies and Their Kindred: A Genealogical and
Biographical History (Washington, D. C., 1899), is good on ancestry and on life
of the Bowies in Louisiana. A long sketch of Bowie by John Henry Brown (a
Texan) in The Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas, 1881), 433-438,
is laudatory in places and, therefore, false to reality, but contributes to a com-
prehension of the man.
The best assemblage of facts about the man in recent times is by Amelia Wil-
liams, in "A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo," Southwestern Historical
Quarterly, XXXVI and XXXVII. Pages 9o-lo3 of Vol. XXXVII are devoted to
Bowie. Yet in this superb work on the Alamo, certain facts detractive to the
character of Bowie, some of them apparently unknown to the historian, are
smoothed down.
More realistic, but skimpy on biographical facts in contrast to fullness on knife
lore, is Edward Gay Rohrbough, James Bowie and the Bowie Knife in Fact and
Fancy (Master's thesis, University of Texas, 1938). Mr. Rohrbough, of West Vir-
ginia, had read my essay, "Bowie and the Bowie Knife," in the Southwest Review
(1931), XVI, 351-368, or a slightly changed form of it entitled "The Knife That

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/. Accessed April 20, 2014.