Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis

William C. Davis, Author HarperCollins Publishers $35 (688p) ISBN 978-0-06-017334-0
In 1836, Bowie and Travis, who would lead the 200 doomed Texas rebels at the Alamo, met for the first time at the walled adobe buildings that were largely comprised of the church of San Jose y Santiago del Alamo de Parras. A few days later, David Crockett wandered in from Tennessee, where he had lost his bid for reelection to Congress and vowed never to return. In the siege of the compound, all three would die violently in the predawn hours of March 6. Crockett had long been a legend in his own time when he turned up in San Antonio to join Bowie and Travis in the pantheon of frontier gallants. Davis, a much-published historian of 19th-century America, contends that we ""part reluctantly with our myths, and the more so when by removing the fable, we leave a hole in the story that we cannot fill with fact."" In weaving the three strands of his narrative, which come together only in the last pages as the frontiersman, con man and entrepreneur join forces in the Alamo, Davis evokes boisterous Jacksonian America. His 187 pages of notes attest to the thoroughness of his research. Of the three, Crockett comes off the best, as inventive, yet not immoral like the other two. Bowie, a forger of land claims, and Travis, an unscrupulous country lawyer, hardly fit our prescription for heroes after Davis is done with them. His relentless search for facts sometimes bogs down the reader in excessive detail, yet that may be the best way to reduce romantic myths to reality. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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