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Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America

Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America

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by Meredith Mason Brown

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The name Daniel Boone conjures up the image of an illiterate, coonskin cap-wearing patriot who settled Kentucky and killed countless Indians. The scarcity of surviving autobiographical material has allowed tellers of his story to fashion a Boone of their own liking, and his myth has evolved in countless stories, biographies, novels, poems, and paintings. In this


The name Daniel Boone conjures up the image of an illiterate, coonskin cap-wearing patriot who settled Kentucky and killed countless Indians. The scarcity of surviving autobiographical material has allowed tellers of his story to fashion a Boone of their own liking, and his myth has evolved in countless stories, biographies, novels, poems, and paintings. In this welcome book, Meredith Mason Brown separates the real Daniel Boone from the many fables that surround him, revealing a man far more complex -- and far more interesting -- than his legend.

Brown traces Boone's life from his Pennsylvania childhood to his experiences in the militia and his rise as an unexcelled woodsman, explorer, and backcountry leader. In the process, we meet the authentic Boone: he didn't wear coonskin caps; he read and wrote better than many frontiersmen; he was not the first to settle Kentucky; he took no pleasure in killing Indians. At once a loner and a leader, a Quaker who became a skilled frontier fighter, Boone is a study in contradictions. Devoted to his wife and children, he nevertheless embarked on long hunts that could keep him from home for two years or more. A captain in colonial Virginia's militia, Boone later fought against the British and their Indian allies in the Revolutionary War before he moved to Missouri when it was still Spanish territory and became a Spanish civil servant. Boone did indeed kill Indians during the bloody fighting for Kentucky, but he also respected Indians, became the adopted son of a Shawnee chief, and formed lasting friendships with many Shawnees who once held him captive.

During Boone's lifetime (1734--1820), America evolved from a group of colonies with fewer than a million inhabitants clustered along the Atlantic Coast to an independent nation of close to ten million reaching well beyond the Mississippi River. Frontiersman is the first biography to explore Boone's crucial role in that transformation. Hundreds of thousands of settlers entered Kentucky on the road that Boone and his axemen blazed from the Cumberland Gap to the Kentucky River. Boone's leadership in the defense of Boonesborough during a sustained Indian attack in 1778 was instrumental in preventing white settlers from fleeing Kentucky during the bloody years of the Revolution. And Boone's move to Missouri in 1799 and his exploration up the Missouri River helped encourage a flood of settlers into that region. Through his colorful chronicle of Boone's experiences, Brown paints a rich portrayal of colonial and Revolutionary America, the relations between whites and Indians, the opening and settling of the Old West, and the birth of the American national identity.

Supported with copious maps, illustrations, endnotes, and a detailed chronology of Boone's life, Frontiersman provides a fresh and accurate rendering of a man most people know only as a folk hero -- and of the nation that has mythologized him for over two centuries.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This is the fourth biography of Boone since 1992-it's the most readable and balanced, and, because it benefits from those earlier studies, also the most complete and satisfying. Every biographer of Boone has to contend with the idolatry that grew up around the man when he was alive. But Brown, in his first book, steers clear of hero worship. He sees Boone whole, praising him where praise is warranted while scrupulously recording his failings-risking his family's lives, losing sons in battles with Indians, never succeeding as a land speculator. Yet Boone emerges again as a truly remarkable figure. Caught up in the Revolutionary War, the unending Indian warfare that followed and westward expansion, he managed to remain a loyal American while moving among the tribes whose ways he knew and, unlike so many others, respected. His legendary marksmanship and daring protected him and his followers for decades. Brown's Boone remains a larger-than-life figure: heroic without posturing, steadfast without foolishness, patriotic without Indian hatred. This is a book for those who seek an accurate, not pietistic, history of a way of life long past. 25 illus., 8 maps. (Sept.)

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Library Journal

Good biographies of Daniel Boone abound, the recent ones being Michael Lofaro's Daniel Boone: An American Life and Robert Morgan's Boone: A Biography, so Brown, a lawyer whose ancestors knew Boone quite well, sees no need to tread familiar biographical territory. Instead, he explores Boone's role in transforming the United States from a collection of English Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard to a young republic that stretched to the Rocky Mountains and how Boone illustrates the fluidity and conflicting loyalties of the frontier. As part of this exploration, Brown examines Boone's complex relationships with American Indians and looks at Boone's work as a surveyor, pronouncing him competent, and showing how conflicting land claims and surveys made it almost impossible for Boone to realize anything but trouble from the land he acquired in Kentucky. By taking a different approach to Boone and carefully basing his judgments on primary sources, Brown has produced a well-written book that nicely complements the earlier biographies. Thus it belongs in most academic and public libraries.
—Stephen H. Peters

Product Details

Louisiana State University Press
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Southern Biography Series
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Barnes & Noble
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4 MB

Meet the Author

Meredith Mason Brown, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, is a lawyer who lives in Stonington, Connecticut. His ancestors in Virginia and Kentucky knew Boone well.

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Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading Frontiersman, a book about Daniel Boone's life. We are all worried about the economy and what the future will bring. With that on my mind as I read this book I realized that if our early settlers can survive the real hardships that they had to get through to build America, then we can get through our current difficulties.

The book is well written, and describes in graphic detail the difficulty we had in expanding to the frontier. It points out how poorly we treated the Indians, but it also does a great job of painting a picture of the filth that early settlers had to endure to make a life for themselves. There is no way we would survive that life if we were dropped into the world that Daniel Boone lived in. It was sad to learn that he hated Coonskin caps. If someone would have mentioned coonskin cap prior to my reading this book I would have replied Daniel Boone.

One other condition of those times that we still have today was the greed that was rampant. Daniel Boone did so much to open new territories but wound up with nothing to show for it in the long run, except for a reputation second to none.

The author doesn't soft pedal anything. The horific scalpings, horrible living conditions, and the difficult life in Daniel Boone's time is well told and left a lasting impression on me.

I recommend Frontiersman for anyone who enjoys American History.