‘Blood and Treasure’ Review: A Boone for the Frontier
Daniel Boone despised his reputation as an Indian ﬁghter. He was vastly more proud of his ability to endure the burdens of the huntsman’s life.
Daniel Boone leading settlers through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. Mural by David Wright. Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Bob Drury and Tom Clavin together have given us a half-dozen elegantly written narratives of exhilarating episodes in American history, ranging from events in the Indian Wars of the American West to the Korean War. Among their outstanding co-authored works are “The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U. S. Marines in Combat” (2009) and “The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud” (2013).
For their latest collaboration, Messrs. Drury and Clavin have interwoven the life of the iconic pioneer Daniel Boone with the bloody and brutal early decades of the trans-Appalachian frontier to produce “Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier.” This may be the authors’ finest work to date. Unquestionably, “Blood and Treasure” is among the most redolent of time and place. I felt myself immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of frontier life, as well as the lurking dangers and gruesome deep-forest clashes between grasping frontiersmen and Native Americans defending their country—such are the authors’ keen descriptive powers. Numerous excellent maps enhance the text.
Boone was far more complex than most frontiersmen. Unlike many of the thousands of settlers for whom he carved the eponymous Boone’s Trace through the Cumberland Gap and into Kanta-ke—the future Bluegrass State—Boone genuinely admired, and often emulated, the American Indians with whom he clashed, even living among them for a time as an adopted Shawnee. Messrs. Drury and Clavin excel not only in superb portrayals of Boone and his white frontier contemporaries, but also in the evocation of the Eastern Woodland Indians, their way of life and their heart-wrenching efforts to protect their land from white encroachment.
A self-aware Boone “had always despised, and would for the rest of his life, his outsize reputation as an Indian fighter,” the authors tell us. “He maintained that dealing with belligerent Native Americans, whether via combat or negotiation, was for the most part a matter of luck and instinct. . . . He was vastly more proud of his ability to endure the burdens of a huntsman’s life with a seemingly preternatural stoicism.”
- By Peter Cozzens, Wall Street Journal
Clavin and Drury return (after Valley Forge) with an enlightening biography of Daniel Boone set against the backdrop of 18th-century America’s conflicts with England and Native tribes. Born in 1734 to English immigrants in Pennsylvania, Boone was drawn “to the backcountry’s contours and creatures,” and became a proficient hunter at a young age. As a husband and father, Boone’s restlessness and need for adventure caused him to relocate his family several times, and in 1773 he led a group of colonists in the first attempt to establish a British settlement in present-day Kentucky. The immigrants met with fierce resistance from the Shawnee and other local tribes; Boone’s 16-year-old son, James, was killed in an ambush. Clavin and Drury detail numerous atrocities committed by colonists and Natives during the settling of Kentucky and describe how Boone rescued his kidnapped daughter and her two friends from a Shawnee camp in 1776. The authors also pay close attention to Boone’s June 1778 escape from the Shawnee after months of captivity; his four-day, 160-mile journey to warn his namesake settlement, Boonesborough, of an impending attack; and successful leadership of the outpost’s defenses during the siege. Clavin and Drury successfully separate fact from fiction while keeping the pages turning. History buffs will be entertained.