seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

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Birth of American Folk Hero Davy Crockett

david-crockettDavid “Davy” Crockett, 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician, is born in Limestone, Greene County, North Carolina on August 17, 1786. He is commonly referred to in popular culture by the epithet “King of the Wild Frontier.” He represents Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves in the Texas Revolution.

The Crockett family is of mostly FrenchHuguenot ancestry, although the family settles in Ireland before migrating to the Americas. Crockett is born in what is now Greene County, Tennessee (at the time part of North Carolina), close to the Nolichucky River and near the community of Limestone. He grows up in East Tennessee, where he gains a reputation for hunting and storytelling.

Crockett is made a colonel in the militia of Lawrence County, Tennessee and is elected to the Tennessee state legislature in 1821. In 1827, he is elected to the United States Congress where he vehemently opposes many of the policies of President Andrew Jackson, especially the Indian Removal Act. His opposition to Jackson’s policies leads to his defeat in the 1831 elections. He is re-elected in 1833, then narrowly loses in 1835, prompting his angry departure shortly thereafter to Texas, then the Mexican state of Tejas.

All that is certain about the fate of Crockett is that he dies fighting in the Battle of the Alamo in the Texas Revolution on the morning of March 6, 1836. According to many accounts, between five and seven Texans surrender during the battle, possibly to General Manuel Fernández Castrillón. General Antonio López de Santa Anna has ordered the Mexicans to take no prisoners, and he is incensed that those orders have been ignored. He demands the immediate execution of the survivors, but Castrillon and several other officers refuse to do so. Staff officers who had not participated in the fighting draw their swords and kill the unarmed Texians.

Crockett becomes famous during his lifetime for larger-than-life exploits popularized by stage plays and almanacs. After his death, he continues to be credited with acts of mythical proportion. In the 20th century these lead to television and movie portrayals, and he becomes one of the best-known American folk heroes.

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The Battle of the Alamo Ends

battle-of-the-alamoThe Battle of the Alamo, a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution, ends on March 6, 1836, near San Antonio de Béxar. Of the 189 men that die in the battle, twelve of the defenders are actually Irish-born, while twenty others including  Davy Crockett, William B. Travis, and Jim Bowie, are of Irish descent.

Several months before the battle, Texians drive all of the Mexican troops out of Mexican Texas. About 100 Texians, including a number of Irish, are garrisoned at the Alamo. The Texian force grows slightly with the arrival of reinforcements led by eventual Alamo co-commanders Jim Bowie and William B. Travis. On February 23, approximately 1,500 Mexicans under the leadership of President General Antonio López de Santa Anna march into San Antonio de Béxar as the first step in a campaign to retake Texas. For the following ten days the two armies engage in several skirmishes with minimal casualties. Aware that his garrison cannot withstand an attack by such a large force, Travis writes multiple letters pleading for more men and supplies, but fewer than 100 reinforcements arrive.

In the early morning hours of March 6, following a 13-day siege, the Mexican Army advances on the Alamo. After repulsing two attacks, the Texians are unable to fend off a third attack. As Mexican soldiers scale the walls, most of the Texian soldiers withdraw into interior buildings. Defenders who are unable to reach these points are slain by the Mexican cavalry as they attempt to escape. All but two of the defenders are killed. Most historians agree that around 600 Mexicans are killed or wounded.

Several noncombatants are sent to Gonzales to spread word of the Texian defeat. The news of Santa Anna’s cruelty during the battle sparks a strong rush of men to join the Texian army. Buoyed by a desire for revenge, the Texians defeat the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, ending the revolution.

The Irish-born defenders who die at the Alamo are Samuel Burns, Stephen Denison, Andrew Duvalt, Robert Evans, Joseph Mark Hawkins, William Daniel Jackson, James McGee, Robert McKinney, James Nowlin, Jackson J. Rusk, Burke Trammel, and William B. Ward.