by Dan Kilgore & James E. Crisp,
College Station: TAMU Press, 2010. Pp. 120.
Illus., notes. $18.95 paper. ISBN: 1603441948
How Did Davy Die? consists of two parts, a reprint of the late Dan Kilgore’s 1978 essay of that name, based on his 1977 presidential address to the Texas State Historical Association and a commemorative essay entitled " . . . And Why do We Care So Much?" by Prof. Crisp (North Carolina), that together addresses one of the smaller of the many contentious issues in American history, the death of David Crockett at the Alamo.
Kilgore's speech reviewed the question of whether Crockett died at the Alamo in 1836, as popular culture has it, beating off overwhelming numbers of Mexican troops or, as most historians had begun to conclude, based on new evidence, was he one of several men captured, and later murdered on the orders of Santa Anna. Crisp’s essay reviews the evidence, including material that has surfaced since 1977, and discusses the curious political and pseudo-scholarly furor that has arisen about Crockett's death. This small scholarly conclusion has become a highly contentious issue in some circles, due far more to its importance in the shaping of American -- and specifically Texas -- identity than to any doubts about historical accuracy; arguments that the manner of Crockett’s death somehow "discredits" the heroes of the Alamo hardly holds water when the Mexican witnesses to their murder tell us that he and his comrades died courageously, while the "scholars" in the contrary camp have been known to respond to new evidence by saying "So what?"
An important read for those with an interest in Texas history, American popular culture, and the process of Americanization.