The Blood of Legends: Crockett, Bowie, Travis, and the Alamo (Chauncey Lecture 2016)

Time Period
1825 to 1860
Media Type
Military History
William C. Davis

On May 10, 2016, William C. Davis delivered the Hazel and Fulton Chauncey Lecture, entitled "The Blood of Legends: Crockett, Bowie, Travis, and the Alamo."

In the 1830s, Texas (or Tejas as they called it) was synonymous with new beginnings, fresh opportunities, and a seemingly unlimited horizon for those daring enough to reach out for it. It became a virtual template for American westward expansion for the rest of the century. When Mexico realized what it had welcomed into the province it was too late to stop it, and revolution ensued. The three greatest heroes of that revolt represented the three strands of immigration that come to Tejas to make their try for opportunity: David Crockett, failed farmer, failed politician, failed husband, the forever itinerant poor white seeking a new start and free land on the fringes of settlement; James Bowie, broadcloth businessman who thrived at the edge of settlement where laws were little more than suggestions and a shrewd operator could hope to make a fortune in phony land deals before moving on; William Barret Travis, impulsive, irresponsible failure as lawyer, newspaperman, husband and father, who fled prosecution for debt to come to Tejas, where he grew up, became the man he never was before, and set out to stay to build a career and a new nation together. Combined, it was men like these who settled the continent. None of them came expecting apotheosis at the Alamo, but their deaths there—along with at least a dozen Virginians, including James Madison's nephew—made them heroes whose stature has placed them to an international pantheon.

William C. Davis recently retired as professor of history and director of programs for the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech. He is the author or editor of more than fifty books, including Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis, and numerous documentary screenplays in the fields of Civil War and southern history.

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

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