"To Whom Was This Sacrifice Useful?":
The Texas Revolution and the Narrative of José Enrique de la Peña
"...the path that strong souls choose in crisis..."
William Barret Travis Diary entry, Austin, March 1834. Autograph document, William Barret Travis Papers.
Travis . . . chose the path that strong souls choose in crisis, that of dying with honor, and selected the Alamo for his grave. . . . My opinion is . . . that Travis could have managed to escape during the first nights, when vigilance was much less, but this he refused to do.
--José Enrique de la Peña Narrative
Travis's diary is the only extensive manuscript writings by the Texan commander at the Alamo. In it Travis recorded his daily activities, giving details on his personal finances, law practice, social life, and reading habits. In Travis's entry for March 9, he writes, "Started to Mill Creek waters all swimming and prairie so boggy—could not go—The first time I ever turned back in my life."
Portrait of David Crockett, by John Gadsby Chapman, oil on canvas [n. d.]. Art Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Some seven men had survived the general carnage. . . . Among them was one of great stature, well proportioned, with regular features, in whose face there was the imprint of adversity, but in whom one also noticed a degree of resignation and nobility that did him honor. He was the naturalist David Crockett, well known in North America for his unusual adventures. . . .
--José Enrique de la Peña Narrative
This painting is a copy of a life-sized portrait executed by Chapman in 1834 and since lost in a fire at the Texas Capitol. Crockett promoted his image as a frontiersman by posing in buckskin clothing with a rifle.
Portrait of David Crockett,after a painting by S. S. Osgood, Childs & Lehman Lithographers, Philadelphia [ca. 1830s]. Lithograph portrait, Prints and Photographs Collection.
The inscription on this lithograph suggests that it is "the only correct likeness" of the famous frontiersman and politician whose flamboyant career ended violently at the Alamo.
"O Kentucky: The Hunters f Kentucky!!!" [David Crockett, cover illustration], Davy Crockett's 1837 Almanack of Wild Sports in the West, Life in the Backwoods, & Sketches of Texas, Vol. I, No. 3, "Go Ahead." Nashville: 1836. CN 10458, Texas Collection Library.
This cover illustration is from one of a series of popular almanacs featuring David Crockett which continued to promote the frontier exploits of the adventurer well after his death at the Alamo. In it Crockett accounts for his going to Texas as follows: "At the last canvass for a Member of Congress, in our district, I told my constituents, if they did not re-elect me, they might go to hell, and I'd go to Texas. I was beaten. . . . And I am now about to cut out to that country to help give the Mexicans a licking."
"Fall of the Alamo--Death of Crockett," by an unknown artist, from Davy Crockett's 1837 Almanack, of Wild Sports in the West, Life in the Backwoods, & Sketches of Texas, Vol. I, No. 3, "Go Ahead." Nashville: 1836. CN 04904, Texas Collection Library.
This fanciful wood engraving is thought to be the first published illustration of Crockett's death at the Alamo.
"Crockett at the Alamo," from The Idle Hour Book, or Scrapiana; Being a Nerve-Worker, Care Destroyer, and Genuine Countenance Disturber . . . Containing all the Information Necessary to Raise a Laugh at the Shortest Notice. . . . New York: Turner & Fisher, ca. 1848. Texas Collection Library.
The Idle Hour Book is a joke book that contained an illustrated biography of David Crockett, including an image depicting Crockett's heroic death at the Alamo while swinging his musket.
Helen Chapman to My Dear Mother, May 1, 1834. Autograph letter signed, William W. Chapman Papers.
The William W. Chapman Family Papers contain a letter written by seventeen-year-old Helen Chapman to her mother in 1834, in which she tells of seeing David Crockett in New York City and gives the following vivid description of the "great man."
I went to Peale's Museum last evening and saw many wonderful things of course. . . . But what will interest you the most of all probably . . . is that I have seen a great man. No less of one than Col. Crockett. I . . . sat close by him so I had a good opportunity of observing his physiognomy. . . . He is wholly different from what I thought him. Tall in stature and large in frame, but quite thin, with black hair combed straight over the forehead, parted from the middle and his shirt collar turned negligently back over his coat. He has rather an indolent and careless appearance and looks not like a "go ahead" man. . . .