“Where is Davy Crockett buried?” A good question. He wasn’t exactly buried. As with the other Texian defenders of the Alamo, Crockett’s body was mutilated, burned in a funeral pyre and the ashes were scattered somewhere. The problem is, this question is posed by two of my grandsons. How do I explain Davy’s rather gruesome demise to 8 year olds? So I reply, “Nobody knows.” Actually, no one had ever asked me where Crockett was buried, but this question does give us a chance to re-visit Crockett’s much-debated final minutes, his death, who cares and why. All agree that he died in the Alamo about 6 a.m. on March 6, 1836, but just how is still good for an argument. There are two schools of thought. One is that Davy, as played by John Wayne in “The Alamo,” went down swinging Old Betsy, killing scores of Mexican soldiers before he was killed. The second version, as played by Billy Bob Thornton in the latest version of “The Alamo,” is that Crockett was captured with a few other defenders, and executed. The subtle but distinct difference in the two stories is whether Davy was a hero to the last or allowed himself to surrender and be taken captive, which is a less macho story. The version you embrace, in turn, might reveal a lot about your take on Texas. Let’s start with the surrender-and-executed version. Shortly after the battle, stories circulated that some defenders were captured, but none mentioned Crockett by name. Sam Houston wrote to James Fannin that seven men survived but were murdered on Santa Anna’s order, but again, Davy is not mentioned by name. After San Jacinto, a physician with the Texas Army, Dr. D.N. Labadie, was treating Col. Fernando Urissa, Santa Anna’s aide, who told of a man called “Coket” being captured at the Alamo. The strongest source for the surrender version comes from a diary written by another officer on Santa Anna’s staff named Jose Enrique de la Pena, who wrote, “Some seven men survived the general carnage and, under the protection of General Castrillon, they were brought before Santa Anna. Among them. . . was the naturalist David Crockett, well-known in North America for his unusual adventures.” Santa Anna was furious and berated Castrillon, saying that he, Santa Anna, had ordered there be no prisoners taken. He demanded they be killed. Several of his officers and men refused, but others jumped to the job “. . . and with swords in hand, fell upon these unfortunate, defenseless men just as a tiger leaps upon his prey. Though tortured before they were killed, these unfortunates died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers.” There is enough evidence to lead many historians to conclude that Davy was taken alive and executed. Dan Kilgore wrote an entire book on the subject, “How Did Davy Die?” and believes that is what happened. The other side questions the authenticity of de la Pena’s diary – forged Texana is a cottage industry -- and cite other eyewitness accounts: “He fought hand to hand. He clubbed his rifle when they closed in on him and knocked them down with its stock until he was overwhelmed by numbers and slain. He fought to his last breath.” That comes from Enrique Esparza, whose father, Gregorio, was an artilleryman with the defending Texians. Enrique was 12 when he and his family joined their father inside the Alamo, and he lived to a ripe old age in San Antonio. No one has ever disputed his version of the other events during the battle. (Incidentally, I interviewed Enrique’s grandson on this matter, who became a pediatrician in Austin.) After the battle, Santa Anna ordered Francisco Ruiz, the alcalde of San Antonio, to point out the bodies of Travis, Bowie and Crockett. That makes no sense if Santa Anna had just ordered Crockett’s execution, unless, of course, the general didn’t know who Davy was when the command was given. In later testimony, both Mrs. Susannah Dickinson and Joe, Bowie’s slave, who were inside the compound during the fray, said Davy had died while fighting. No documentation in the archives of the Mexican government, nor any of the personal records of others present at the Battle of the Alamo, give any hint of survivors among the defenders, much less any claiming Crockett was a survivor. Yet this story is probably not over because new evidence about the Alamo keeps popping up. The Alamo flag wasn’t found until 1934. Proof that Moses Rose was the only defender to flee the fight wasn’t found until about the same time. (No, Moses was not the yellow Rose of Texas.) Did Travis really draw a line in the sand? Somewhere, in an attic, there is probably a crumpled letter about Davy’s last days that will pop up and the whole debate will resume. But does it matter? James Shackford, Crockett’s biographer, sums it up best: “Too much has been made over the details of how David died at the Alamo. Such details are not important. What is important is that he died as he had lived. His life was one of indomitable bravery; his death was a death of intrepid courage.” In one of his last interviews, John Wayne was asked if he would liked to have actually been any of the many characters he played. Wayne, suffering from lung cancer, looked out to the Pacific Ocean from his beachfront home, thought for a moment and said softly, “Davy Crockett.” We are free to sift through the same set of facts, quotes and guesswork and come up with any answer we wish as to how Davy Crockett died. But right now I can’t answer my grandsons’ question, “Where is Davy Crockett buried?” There is no cemetery at the Alamo. Come to think of it, there isn’t a cemetery at San Jacinto, either. Ashby is buried at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location