"Born on a Mountaintop" is part history and part travelogue. Author Bob Thompson takes on the legends, myths and truths about the King of the Wild Frontier and weaves them into an enjoyable and informative book for any Crockett fan.
Davy Crockett's story is known to many. Born on a Mountaintop, well it was really along a river, he enlisted in the Creek War and the War of 1812 before beginning a political career that would take him to Congress. He went on a book tour, toyed with the idea of running for president and took some controversial stands before being defeated and telling his constituents that "You may go to Hell and I will go to Texas." You know how the story ends.
Thompson's method is different from that of many historians, or at least he admits to methods that others do not mention. He visited many sights of Davey's exploits and interviewed numerous Crockettoligists, from professors to local "experts." Some of the encounters are as entertaining as the stories they uncover.
This book tackles many issues about Crockett's career that historians debate. How good, or bad, of a husband and father was he? Was he a clever politician or an unwitting dupe manipulated by others? Did he oppose the Indian Relocation Bill out of respect for the Indian, or in support of the poor farmer? He is portrayed as an early version of the populist-progressive who would rise to prominence later in his century. Why did he go to Texas, to help the Texians' fight for freedom, or to look for a new land in which to find prosperity and, possibly, rebuild his political career? Finally, was Crockett killed in the assault on the Alamo, or was he taken prisoner and executed?
The biggest challenge that Bob Thompson takes on is to separate the Legend from the Man. The Tall Tales and Disney version have inculcated Americans, at least of a certain age, with a vision of Davy Crockett that neither he, nor anyone, lived up to. This book tries to peel away the layers of legend to get to the man who lived and died. In so doing he examines why the layers were added and by whom.
"Born on a Mountaintop" is well written. Author Thompson injects enough humor to keep the story moving along as he follows the Crockett legend from Tennessee, to Washington City, to New England and to San Antonio. His investigation of the facts engages an inquisitive mind. For any fan who still remembers Walt Disney's Davy, or who became acquainted in him some other way, this book is a must. For those interested in the politics of the Jacksonian era it is a valuable supplemental resource. For those who just like a good story with a cast of characters, pick it up.