Distinguished historian Davis ably probes the lives of three legendary figures, finding much to illuminate the nature of frontier life in early America. Davis (The Cause Lost, 1996, etc.) notes that all three were outsize characters. Crockett, schooled in the wilderness as a hunter and trailblazer, served as a soldier under ""Andy"" Jackson in the Creek War, and was a charming, restless, ambitious figure, literate, a great storyteller and wit, and a nationally prominent politician who saw himself as a champion of the poor. He actively collaborated in the creation of a colorful and somewhat ribald public persona, doing nothing to discourage the rowdy and outrageous tales attached to his name. Jim Bowie was a much darker figure, having been a shady land speculator and a smuggler of slaves. He fled to Texas to escape creditors and forge some new career for himself. While a man of distinctly mixed morals, Bowie was also a brave man in combat, a natural leader, and something of a frontier legend in his own right. And as the movement for Texan independence grew, Bowie became one of its most prominent supporters. Travis was an educated attorney and militia officer whose life had been haunted by failure: addicted to gambling, he foundered as a newspaper publisher and fled to Texas to escape debt. Davis finds him bright, immature, and ambitious, an irresponsible figure who was also undeniably brave in combat. Davis deftly traces their paths to the Alamo, using his exploration of their varied characters to illuminate much about the harsh realities of life on the American frontier and offering along the way a vivid description of the siege of the Alamo and the bloody creation of an independent Texas. A splendid narrative history, perceptive, authoritative, and moving.