Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier

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Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin is published by St. Martin’s Press

To put it quite simply, I was wrong about both Daniel Boone and this book. I opened it up, expecting a fairly interesting read about a man who is both legend and historical. What I didn’t know was how incredible and intertwined in historical events the man was.

This book was one of the most enjoyable, terrifying, and informative reads I have experienced in a long time. Enjoyable because the book was well written and the events were fast paced like a thriller or mystery novel. Terrifying because life on the American frontier was almost non-stop dangers, threats, and hardships, with death coming at the settlers every moment from every angle. Informative because the events in this book, which took place in the just-being-settled “dark and bloody ground” known as Kentucky were part of the American War for Independence.

I grew up with hearing bits and pieces of the story of Daniel Boone. I often got him confused with Davy Crockett. That was not surprising since actor Fess Parker played the part of Crockett for the Disney movie and the role of Boone for the television series. Both were supposedly coon skin cap wearing pre-western cowboy heroes. They lived by wits and weapons, battled Indians, bad guys, and elements, and made American history.

Boone preceded Crockett by a generation or so. Boone was a part of the Scotch-Irish folk who filled in the gaps between the coastal areas of the original colonies and the unsettled (by whites) regions of the country. While people moved to the frontier with the intention of clearing land and farming. But Boone was a restless spirit. Not for him were a team of oxen or mules pulling a plow and clearing a field for crops.

Daniel Boone was a hunter. Always in search of new ground, woodlands and clearing, he, along with a few companions, would kill, dress, and gather an immense amount of meat and hides. These adventures generally put him in Indian territory, and that often meant skirmishes.

Among the interesting facts I came across was this: Boone, and his distant cousin and future general Daniel Morgan, and later British General Thomas Gage, was on the ill-fated Braddock expedition. He was rubbing shoulders with another American legend, George Washington.

Along with seeing the sheer fight, grit, danger, and risks of settling the frontier, this book includes all manner of choice details, such as the following:

“Thirteen years had done little to dull the Irishman John Findley’s beaming countenance. ┬áHe wore the grin of a man who killed weasels with his teeth. “

I reckon that the history of American settlement of the frontier is chocked through with myths and exaggerations. But this book made me realize that the story itself is quite incredible.