Three Roads to the Alamo is the definitive book about the lives of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis ' the legendary frontiersmen and fighters who met their destiny at the Alamo in one of the most famous and tragic battles in American history ' and about what really happened in that battle.
"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. ... 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."
"A readable, stimulating, and exceptionally well-researched narrative history of Crockett, Travis, Bowie, and the westward expansion they helped lead.... Highly recommended."
"Davis provides full and exhaustive portraits of [Crockett, Bowie, and Travis].... Because Davis has explored the three men's lives so thoughtfully and extensively, there is new resonance in each of their deaths.... His interwoven accounts create a vivid picture of new worlds being shaped and of the kinds of men who did the shaping."
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"Distinguished historian Davis ably probes the lives of three legendary figures, finding much to illuminate the nature of frontier life in early America.... Davis deftly traces their paths to the Alamo, using his exploration of their varied characters to illuminate much about the harsh realities of life on the American frontier and offering along the way a vivid description of the siege of the Alamo and the bloody creation of an independent Texas. A splendid narrative history, perceptive, authoritative, and moving."
"Davis has provided a fresh and challenging look not only at the icons of Texas independence but at the March 6, 1836, battle at the old San Antonio mission in which the three heroes died, as did all the other 180 defenders. From the opening pages, in which the three heroes first meet in New Orleans in 1827, to the post-mortem assessment of them, Three Roads to the Alamo is an illuminating, exhaustive but never exhausting book."
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS (Denver)
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April 07, 1999
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Excerpt from Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis
I never had six months education in my life I was raised in obs[c]urity without either wealth or education I have made myself to every station in life that I ever filled through my own exertions...
DAVID CROCKETT, AUGUST 18, 1831
When he wrote his autobiography in the winter of 1833-34, David Crockett insisted that it should run at least 200 pages. That, to him, was a real book. As he wrote he studied other books, counted the words on their pages, and compared the tally with his own growing manuscript. As a result, when published his narrative spanned 211 pages, and he was content. By that time in his life he had been a state legislator, three times elected to Congress, the subject of a book, the thinly disguised hero of an acclaimed play, a popular phenomenon in the eastern press, and touted for the presidency. Yet he devoted more than one-fourth of his own work to his youth: a time when his "own exertions" availed him nothing. He remembered youthful pranks, a few adventures, and vicissitudes that should have made him wise but only left him gullible. Repeatedly he returned to three things he remembered from his first eighteen years: that the father whom he loved was a stern disciplinarian and could be violent; that he wept easily as a child and as a young man; and that he was poor. Certainly it took no stretch of memory to recall the last in particular. For David Crockett poverty was never yesterday.
His was the story of a whole population of the poor who started moving from the British Isles in the 1700s and simply never stopped. Despite the misnomer "Scots-Irish," they were almost all Scots, as surely were Crockett's ancestors. Like so many who grew up ignorant and illiterate on the fringes of young America, he knew little of his forebears, and some of what he believed was erroneous. Indeed, that father whom he loved yet feared knew little himself, or else chose not to speak of it. Perhaps the child David did not listen or kept his distance, especially when John Crockett had been at the drink and felt ill-tempered and prone to reach for the birch.
The man David did not even know where his own father had been born, and believed it was either in Ireland or during the ocean passage to the colonies. More likely it was his grandfather, for whom he was named, who first set foot on American soil. When he came is lost among the thousands of anonymous arrivals in the generations before the Revolution, but he probably landed in Pennsylvania and migrated west to the Susquehanna before turning southwest through the Cumberland Valley along with the rest of the tide of Scottish immigrants, reaching Virginia's lower Shenandoah Valley by 1755. The first David Crockett farmed there near Berryville, by then a married man with a new son, Robert, born there that August, and another son, John, probably already a few years old and perhaps born in Pennsylvania.
The tide of migration did not willingly yield any of the flotsam that rode its crest. The immigrants who first reached a new region took up the best land, and those like David Crockett who came after often had to keep moving until it seemingly became a habit. By 1771 he had moved his family, now including two boys in their later teens, to Tryon County, North Carolina, settling on the south side of the Catawba River. It was to be a brief stop, for by 1776 the Crocketts were over the western mountains into the valley of the Holston River.