Daniel Boone (1734-1820) is one of those larger than life, almost mythic characters that looms in the background of frontier America. He has been portrayed in so many movies, tv shows, and semi-fictional works that a true sense of Boone’s character has been lost. His importance to the foundational days of our nation, however, cannot be exaggerated. The author of this excellent biography, Robert Morgan, actually compares Boone’s accomplishments with those of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, his contemporaries.
Boone’s accomplishments were incredible. From an early age, he was a hunter and outdoorsman. His hunting skills became legendary. In those days, you grew your own food or hunted it. Boone kept meat on the table and also made money trapping for furs. He was an avid hunter all his life. Even into his late 70’s Daniel enjoyed the thrill of the hunt.
The most well-known of the man’s accomplishments was his discovery, exploration, and settling of Kentucky. In 1775, Boone cut a road through the Cumberland Gap of the Appalachian Mountains which led to 200,000 others coming and settling the new territory. It was during this period in Kentucky that much of the Boone legend was born. He was in numerous scrapes with the local indians and was even kidnapped in 1778 and held for almost two years before he was able to escape. Two of Boone’s sons were even killed by the indians.
Earlier in his life, he had served with the British army during the French and Indian War in 1755. During the Revolutionary War, Boone served as a militia officer and saw some action on the Kentucky frontier fighting against the British and their indian allies. Boone was a natural leader who inspired his men to fight hard. He eventually attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Later, he was elected to three terms in the Virginian legislature. Kentucky was under Virginia’s jurisdiction. Boone was known to miss some legislative meetings, though, because he was out hunting.
Boone later moved to Missouri when he felt that Kentucky was “becoming too crowded.” In reality, Boone was restless by nature and was always looking for new frontiers. He may also have been trying to distance himself from some of his debtors and failed businesses. Boone never seemed to be able to get any traction in his business ventures. He left a string of failures behind him.
Boone: A Biography is an honest and readable look at the man. Morgan deals with some of the mythic aspects of Boone. In reality, Daniel Boone’s story is really one that needs no embellishment. This was a man who lived a full and exciting life. As with all men, Boone had his sure of character flaws. He also had more than his share of virtues. This is a fascinating book about a fascinating man.
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