“Forget the coonskin cap; he never wore one. Daniel Boone thought coonskin caps uncouth, heavy, and uncomfortable. He always wore a beaver felt hat to protect him from sun and rain. The coonskin-topped Boone is the image from Hollywood and television. In fact, much that the public thinks it knows about Boone is fiction.”
A couple of months ago I was reading a collection of pioneer stories from The Salem Democrat compiled in a book called Pioneer Pickings. In the book, were stories of Micajah Callaway, a companion of Daniel Boone, including the story of the Shawnee taking them prisoner in 1798 while their party was manufacturing salt. It intrigued me to read more about Daniel Boone and I picked up this book by Robert Morgan.
First, I have to say I got more out of this book than I bargained for. The fact that Daniel Boone’s family were Scots-Irish Quakers that settled in the same areas of the United States that my husband’s family did, really intrigued me. Morgan is a thorough historian, an excellent writer, and he made a valiant effort to uncover the real Daniel Boone.
“Daniel told the story of being awakened one winter night in his camp near later Jonesborough, Tennessee, to find himself surrounded by Cherokees, as one lifted the snow-covered blanket off him. ‘Ah, Widemouth, have I got you now,’ the brave exclaimed. The Cherokees had given him that name, perhaps because he was prone to laughter and storytelling, and to them that’s how Boone was always known. The exclamation shows how elusive they had found Boone, though he was ranging in the heart of their hunting grounds. Not showing surprise, Boone sat up and smiled and shook hands with his captors.”
Morgan portrays Boone as a man who had a deep connection with nature. In fact, the author weaves the poetry of Whitman and Thoreau throughout the book in a effort to set the backdrop for a person like Daniel Boone. He is soft-spoken, but deliberate. Honest and skilled in the ways of the wild. Yet, he chooses to ignore the bad side of humanity, often to his detriment. Boone is often taken advantage of by his fellow “Yankees” and proves to be as lacking in business sense as he is knowledgeable in the ways of the forest. I got the distinct impression that Boone was extremely likable and those that didn’t like him were probably just jealous, or felt wronged by Boone’s surveying in their land deals.
I thoroughly enjoyed this intimate portrait of the American legend. I was also impressed with Morgan’s thoroughness in background information. From life on the frontier, to the Revolutionary War, to horses and watercraft – Robert Morgan strives to make the reader understand Boone’s world. It’s high time someone makes a good movie about the real Daniel Boone. I just hope they don’t screw it up!
4 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Published in 2007
Amazon Book Preview of “Boone: A Biography”