Gateway to the Classics: Davy Crockett by Frank Lee beals
Davy Crockett by  Frank Lee beals

Davy Crockett's Honesty

C OLONEL COFFEE and his men rode out of camp. Davy Crockett and his scouts went ahead and were already well out in front.

Colonel Coffee watched Davy as he rode away. "That man," said the colonel to an officer who was riding beside him, "is certainly very sure of himself."

The officer laughed and said, "Crockett is the most popular man in camp."

"I have been watching him the past few days," said the colonel, "and I think what you say is true."

When Colonel Coffee and his command reached the Tennessee River, Davy was waiting for them. "We must cross here, Colonel," said Davy, "this is Muscle Shoals."

"The river is almost two miles wide at this point!" exclaimed the colonel. "Can't we cross at a place where the river is not so wide?"

"The river is wide but it can be forded here," replied Davy. "This is about the shallowest place we shall find."

Orders were given to ford the river. The men plunged their horses into the water. Those who did not follow the leaders got into deep water and lost their horses. They had to be rescued. Thereafter these men had to march on foot.

After the troops had forded the river Davy and his scouts went on ahead. Later they returned to the main body and Davy reported to Colonel Coffee:

"There is a Creek Indian village a few miles ahead. We could see only a few Indians about. I thought, however, that I had better let you know."

"Very well," said the colonel. "You go on ahead again. We will take the village if it is defended. If it is not defended we may find some food there."

The troops moved forward, and when they reached the village Davy and his scouts had scoured the surrounding country. He reported to Colonel Coffee: "There are no Indians in the village."

Colonel Coffee then called his officers to him and said, "We will take all of the food that we can find in this Indian village. If we find any corn it must be saved for the horses. The other food will be used by the men. When you are ready, report to me and we will burn the village."

Within an hour the officers had reported to Colonel Coffee that all of the food had been taken. The men had found some corn and beans. The colonel ordered that the village be burned and that the march be resumed.

From this time on Davy was always on the alert for game. One day he came upon a deer that had been shot and killed with an arrow. He stopped and examined the deer. It was still warm. He said to himself, "This deer was killed by an Indian, and within the last few minutes. He must have heard me coming. He can't be far away. I must be careful. Our men need food badly. I must take this deer. Hunters do not take game unless they have killed it. This is the first time I have broken the hunter's unwritten law. But I must because the soldiers are hungry."

He threw the deer across his saddle. Quickly he mounted his horse and rode back toward the main body of troops. When camp was made for the night the men roasted the deer over an open fire.

"Crockett," said one soldier, "this deer tastes better than anything I have ever eaten. You could have sold the deer for yOur own price. Why didn't you do it?"

"What would I do with the money?" asked Davy. "I have no place to spend it." He laughed and walked away.

One of the men spoke up and said, "Crockett didn't mean that. He is the most generous man living. He is always ready to help anyone who needs help. He knew that we needed food so he gave us the deer."

Food had become a serious problem for the soldiers. All of the beans that they had taken from the Indian village had been eaten. The men killed whatever game they came upon.

At last Colonel Coffee's column was joined by General Andrew Jackson and his troops. The general and Colonel Coffee discussed the problem of food for the soldiers. "We do need food supplies. I will send another order to headquarters for food," said General Jackson. "But in the meantime we must go on."

The general sent for Davy.

"Crockett," the general asked, "do you know how far we are from Ten Islands?"

"Yes, General," answered Davy. "We can reach it in about a day and a half by fast marching."

"Can you guide us to the place?" asked the general.

"I can," answered Davy.

"Then select some men to go with you as scouts. Start at once. I shall follow with my troops."

After Davy and his scouts were under way he explained to them, "On my first scouting trip I passed Radcliff's lodge. I did not secure any information from him. We will pass his lodge again today. I want to see if I can secure any information from him this time."

The scouts moved on, and late in the afternoon they came to Radcliff's lodge. Radcliff and his two sons pretended that they did not see Davy coming toward them. Davy was not successful in securing information from Radcliff. He took the Indian by the shoulders and shook him roughly.

"Radcliff," he said, "you sent a runner to a Cherokee village where I was camped a few nights ago. You had him give us a false report."

"No! No!" said the Indian.

"You sent that runner to tell us lies. Tell me the truth!" Davy raised his clenched right hand.

"Don't hit me," pleaded Radcliff. "I'll tell you the truth."

"All right, but be quick," said Davy giving him a shake.

"I sent the runner to the camp. I had him say that a thousand Creek Indians were marching that way. I did it to scare you and your men away."

"Scare us away!" said Davy. "Look back there! There comes the United States Army!"

Radcliff tried to break away. His two sons ran off into the brush. Davy turned Radcliff over to two of his scouts and instructed them to hold him prisoner. He then rode back to General Jackson.

"General," said Davy, "my report to Colonel Coffee about the thousand Creek Indians marching to attack was false. An Indian runner came to our camp and said that there were a thousand Creek Indians on the warpath. Without checking the report I went back and told Colonel Coffee. The report was false."

General Jackson did not say a word for a moment. He looked straight at Davy and then said, "I would never have known that the report was false if you hadn't told me, Crockett. Why did you tell me?"

"Because it was the honest thing to do," answered Davy.

"I am glad you told me this, Crockett," said General Jackson. "I have heard that you were both brave and honest. Now I know it. It takes a man who is both brave and honest to admit his mistakes."

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