The 10th marks the birthday of one of the most influential men to walk the wilderness. A man that has ascended from a humble beginning in Kentucky and into the pages of history with his roguish deeds and tales of adventure.
James Bowie, or Jim as he was more commonly called, was a man of many talents. Born in Kentucky and moved about across most of the Midwest in his developing years, Jim learned quick on how to handle the land, being used at a young age to help clear an area, then plant and maintain crops alongside becoming proficient in the knife, pistol and rifle. But there was more to the man than the physical. He was a clever sort, learning to be fluent in spoken and written in English, Spanish, and French.
His years away from home only further motivated Jim. He joined the Long Expedition, a group whose goals focused on the collection of Texas as an independent Republic. He left the group and returned to Louisiana before the group being repealed by Spanish soldiers.
A claim to fame came to him after a whirlwind of court affairs when Jim had gained the ire of Norris Wright, the sheriff of the town Bowie lived in. After Wright had shot at Bowie, Bowie decided that he needed to carry around his hunting knife for his own protection. The knife was a large thing with well over a nine inch blade length and housing a impressive blade width as well, the heft of the weapon instrumental in saving his life.
Bowie and Wright, one year after Bowie had started to carry his knife, were present and observing a duel, Bowie in favor of one man, Wright in the other. When the duel ended with two shots from both parties resulting in a miss and a draw, pandemonium broke out between the crowds, who seemed to take that moment as a perfect time to vent their frustrations.
Jim was shot at the hip and, after charging his attacker, was struck overhead with a pistol so hard the wooden stock cracked and shattered over his skull. Knocked prone, Wright took this opportunity to try and shoot Jim but missed. Wright then drew a sword cane and impaled Bowie, but, when the weapon was still embedded into Jim and Wright put a foot onto Jim’s body in an attempt to aid pulling the sword out, Jim struck, lunging upwards with his hefty knife and killing Wright instantly.
After he got stabbed once more time by one man and then shot by another, he apparently shrugged and went to the doctor that was on site for the original duel, the sword cane still stuck within him.
Naturally, you hear of a fight and a man like that and word spreads, and soon everyone and their mother wanted a Bowie knife. Schools were taught self-defense styles involving large knives, and word even returned to England at one point, prompting the British to manufacture Bowie knives for sale both there and back on the shores of the United States.
The life of Bowie continued to be a whirlwind of activity, between marriages, the death of his wife and children due to cholera not once but twice, mining, and a few more than questionable land titles, Jim finally took part in the Alamo, where he fell ill.
Numerous reports give conflicting accounts on Jim’s end. Some say he was too weak to fight and was shot, others say he had committed suicide. But, the one many historians claim to be accurate, was that Jim died, bedridden and sickly, but with a gun in each hand and several shot Spanish soldiers near.
His body ended in a pyre alongside William Travis and Davy Crockett, and the ashes were eventually buried, his final place of rest within a tomb at the San Fernando Cathedral.