Historic Markers Across Tennessee



The Real Likeness of David Crockett



Marker ID:  
Location: 1247 Davy Crockett Park Road, Limestone, TN
County: Washington
Coordinates: N 36° 12.368    W 082° 39.554
  36.20613333    -82.65923333
Waymark: None
 



Text:

Even his contemporaries, close friends and relatives outside the artist’s circle, were not always consistent in describing the famous frontiersman. However, almost all agree that he carried an impressive frame, stood erect, and was quite muscular. We also know that he preferred to wear his dark brown hair on the longer side, parted down the middle, and was a bit of a stranger to a comb. His face was surprisingly gentle, had a light complexion with rosy cheeks, a long nose, and an “Irish” chin, complete with a noticeable cleft. His eyes always seemed to have a piercing quality with a light shade of blue or gray.

David Crockett’s physical carriage made him look taller than he probably was. Standing about two or three inches higher than the five foot, eight inch Daniel Boone, his muscular physique was honed from so many backbreaking jobs and his masculinity was accentuated by good posture. This gave him the appearance of standing six feet tall to some whom described him from either at close distance or from afar. Perhaps it was Chester Harding, the same artist who painted the only true portrait of Daniel Boone – 14 years earlier, who captured the best and most accurate likeness of David Crockett in 1834.

Colonel Crockett is perhaps the most illiterate man that you ever met in Congress Hall. He is rough and uncouth, talks much and loudly, and is by far more in his proper place when hunting a bear in the canebrake, then he will be in the capital. Yet he is independent and fearless and has popularity at home that is unconquerable. He is the only man that I know in Tennessee that could openly oppose General Jackson in his district and be elected to Congress.
- James Erwin, Relative to Secretary of State Henry Clay


Congressman Crockett:
The Gentleman from the Cane
Most historians will whole-heartedly agree that when it comes to uniqueness and eccentricity, very few American politicians have ever matched the genuine style and courage that David Crockett possessed throughout his public career. His primary obsession was to give the squatters and other poor settlers on the frontier a national voice for opportunity and fairness in settling the western lands. Although mostly ineffectual in Washington, his outlandish style, language, and independence towards President Andrew Jackson’s policies created the first real American celebrity from the frontier.

One of those qualities that became a trademark of Crockett’s character and legend – even more so than his keen marksmanship with the longrifle, was his commanding use of, and contribution to, the backwoods vernacular. A vital part of survival, Crockett employed his unique style of humor to proclaim his victories and to explain away his defeats.

Here’s a small sampling of Crockett’s language:

• Describing his challenge in keeping legal records as Justice of the Peace: “This was a hard business on me, for I could just barely write my own name; but to do this, and write the warrants, too, was at least a huckleberry over my persimmon.”

• Crockett’s anxiety in making a speech in his early campaigning years: “The thought of having to make a speech made my knees feel might weak, and set my heart to fluttering almost as bad as my first love scrape with the Quaker’s niece. But as good luck would have it, these big candidates spoke nearly all day, and when they quit, the people were worn out with fatigue, which afforded me a good apology for not discussing the government.”

• Describing the long-winded, empty speeches in Washington that constantly irritated him: “There’s too much talk. Many men seem to be proud they can say so much about nothing. Their tongues keep working, whether they’ve got any grist to grind or not.”

• Revealing the exchange of false accusations with his political opponent to his constituents: “Fellow citizens, I did lie. They told stories on me, and I to show them, if it came down to that, that I could tell a bigger lie than they could. Yes, fellow citizens, I can run faster, walk longer, leap higher, speak better, and tell more and bigger lies than my competitor, and all his friends, any day of his life.”

During his life, David Crockett embodied the spirit of the true pioneer. Indeed, a man well acquainted with adversity, he suffered great losses and terrible setbacks while attempting to capture the elusive dream of a better life for all.

Historian Richard B. Hauck, is one of many scholars who eloquently reminds us that “the biography of Crockett is not the history of an institution builder, conqueror, king, or president. Instead, this is a story of a common man who fought with uncommon style. In his role as a lone dissenter taking large personal risks, Crockett displayed the qualities Americans identify as those values, which distinguish the frontier individualist. These values are the seeds of his legend and it is Crockett’s legend which is the epic that engaged his audience.