The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 261
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
The Little Book That Wasn't There: The Myth and
Mystery of the de la Penia Diary
JAMES E. CRISP*
FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY AND A HALF, THE DEATH OF DAVY CROCK-
ett at the Alamo has fascinated and inspired countless Americans. In
recent years, it has also become the subject of a sometimes heated his-
torical debate, in which the participants have often revealed more about
their own values and agendas than about the actual evidence and its im-
Contemporary published reports varied wildly as to the circumstances
of Crockett's death, ranging from glowing reports of his fighting like a
tiger to the bitter end, to descriptions of his summary execution along
with a handful of other prisoners on the express orders of General Santa
Anna. These inconsistencies notwithstanding, Crockett, who was already
a national celebrity at the time of his demise in 1836, instantly became
both a "martyr on the altar of manifest destiny" and a powerful symbol
of the exuberant innocence at the core of mid-nineteenth-century
Though his fame had dimmed considerably by the middle of the
twentieth century, folklorists had already begun to take a new interest in
the Crockett legend when the Cold War provided a splendid backdrop
for the reemergence of a hero who seemed to embody the cardinal
virtues of postwar America: physical strength, confident innocence ("Be
always sure you're right, THEN GO AHEAD!"), and a readiness to sacri-
fice life itself in defense of liberty against the assaults of a despotic foe.2
Of course, the pivotal moment in the rebirth of the legend came with
the television broadcast of the "Disney version" of Crockett's life and
* This article was completed with the assistance of a grant from the Research Fund of the Col-
lege of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State University, where James E. Crisp
is an associate professor of history.
' Paul Andrew Hutton, "Introduction," in A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of
Tennessee, Wntten by Himself (1834, reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987), xxxv
(quotation), xxxvil, Bill Groneman, Defense of a Legend: Crockett and the de la Peria Diary (Plano- Re-
public of Texas Press, 1994), 78-84, 155-
2 Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, [iil] (quotation); Hutton, "Introduction," in ibid.,
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/299/?rotate=90: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.