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Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis Paperback – April 7, 1999
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Ever since the day in March 1836 when an obscure Spanish mission in Texas fell to Mexican forces led by President Santa Anna, Americans have been exhorted to "remember the Alamo." And remember it we do--primarily as the place where American folk legends Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis met their end fighting for Texas independence. Though it is primarily the Alamo we remember today, the battle itself takes up just a few pages of William C. Davis's Three Roads to the Alamo; Davis is far more interested in what brought three such disparate men as Crockett, Bowie, and Travis to Texas in the first place than in how they died there. As any schoolchild knows, Davy Crockett was the "king of the wild frontier," a bona fide folk hero in his own time who rode his legend to political office first in Tennessee and then as a United States congressman. Bowie was both less well known and less heroic--a land speculator not above resorting to fraud and forgery to get what he wanted, while William Travis, the youngest of the three, brought little but potential with him to Texas.
Davis does a good job of illuminating both the personalities of his subjects and the situation in which they found themselves in Texas. He thoroughly explores the lives of these three men--their successes, their failures, their hopes for the future--and lays out the arguments for and against Texan independence from Mexico in which they found themselves embroiled. By the time Crockett, Bowie, and Travis finally arrive at the Alamo, it seems the inevitable conclusion to the roads they each have been traveling over the course of their lifetimes. Three Roads to the Alamo is a fine piece of historical research and an entertaining read, as well. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In 1836, Bowie and Travis, who would lead the 200 doomed Texas rebels at the Alamo, met for the first time at the walled adobe buildings that were largely comprised of the church of San Jose y Santiago del Alamo de Parras. A few days later, David Crockett wandered in from Tennessee, where he had lost his bid for reelection to Congress and vowed never to return. In the siege of the compound, all three would die violently in the predawn hours of March 6. Crockett had long been a legend in his own time when he turned up in San Antonio to join Bowie and Travis in the pantheon of frontier gallants. Davis, a much-published historian of 19th-century America, contends that we "part reluctantly with our myths, and the more so when by removing the fable, we leave a hole in the story that we cannot fill with fact." In weaving the three strands of his narrative, which come together only in the last pages as the frontiersman, con man and entrepreneur join forces in the Alamo, Davis evokes boisterous Jacksonian America. His 187 pages of notes attest to the thoroughness of his research. Of the three, Crockett comes off the best, as inventive, yet not immoral like the other two. Bowie, a forger of land claims, and Travis, an unscrupulous country lawyer, hardly fit our prescription for heroes after Davis is done with them. His relentless search for facts sometimes bogs down the reader in excessive detail, yet that may be the best way to reduce romantic myths to reality. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The bios of Bowie, Travis and Crockett are connected via a time line, and he moves effortlessly back and forth deftly connecting them. As an aging historian I appreciate a work this accomplished. And the story telling is spell binding. Prior to this read I had thought that my understanding of the three principals was adequate, but I cheerfully admit to being absolutely wrong. Those that would place these three men on a pedestal may not be as willing to accept the portraits of these men, flaws and all. But they were men and flawed. Also, the issue of slavery is not avoided which is essential to understanding future events in the mid1800's.
If you are remotely interested in the forming of the Texas Republic, buy this book. Davis is a good historian this read should not be missed. His work will be around for a long time.
The legends surrounding two of these men (Bowie and Crockett) were extraordinary as displayed by Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett) and Disney studios. Jim Bowie was larger than life in a not much watch TV series, but in the movies “Iron Mistress” and “Man’s Last Command” he became a big hero. Certainly Sterling Hayden was a more impressive Jim Bowie than Alan Ladd. Of course, John Wayne went broke making his epic “The Alamo” movie. How could I not be drawn in by this?
Certainly as an adult I had some understanding that these three me had short falls in their lives, as do all men. But this book is the full picture of these three men, with all their short comings. I very much enjoyed experiencing these three as human beings, not just legends.
The Alamo is an event, in my mind, on par with the Greeks at Troy and the Spartans at Thermopylea. The men who participated were dynamic American personalities unique to the globe and intertwined to their respective era; to an original America relegated now to mythos and antiquity. Davis's book brings complexity and depth that well encompasses the detail, nuances, and larger themes that erupted at this seemingly insignificant Texas mission. Books like this one insure that the Alamo will always be remembered.
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