Daniel Boone as an Icon
Daniel Boone as an Icon
Many Boones. One of the most popular frontier figures was Daniel Boone, famous backswoodsman, foe of Indians, and one of the first settlers of the state of Kentucky. Boone’s legend grew in the first half of the nineteenth century; he became the subject of many biographies, poems, adventure tales, paintings, and sculptures. Each of these works emphasized different elements of the Boone legend, and in doing so, affirmed different visions of the frontier. For Westerners, Boone was a hero, a solitary, courageous man of action. For some Easterners he became either a gentleman-hunter or an emblem of unrestrained, degenerate, radical democracy. In the South, Boone was a chivalric “knight-errant.”
Filson. Boone’s first literary appearance was in John Filson’s Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke (1784). Filson was a Pennsylvannia schoolteacher and speculator who traveled through the Kentucky frontier with Boone as his guide. His narrative blends elements of the Puritan “errand into the wilderness,” captivity narratives, and a romantic vision of man redeemed by nature. Filson’s Boone escapes the corrupt elements of Eastern and European civilization but never succumbs to the savage temptations of the wilderness. He is ever mindful of his role as the vanguard of civilization. In the conclusion to his narrative he admits that “my footsteps have often been marked with blood,” but he nevertheless gives thanks that the “all superintending providence” has “turned cruel war into peace” and “brought order out of confusion.” Filson’s narrative was followed by The Mountain Muse (1813), a Miltonic epic published by Boone’s nephew, Daniel Bryan. In Bryan’s vision a gentlemanly Boone is chosen by the Spirit of Enterprise to bring civilization, knowledge, and philanthropy to the heathen of the trans-Allegheny. Boone himself found this grand treatment distasteful; he is reported to have wished he could sue Bryan “for slander.”
Midcentury Boones. James Hall’s Letters from the West (1822–1828) suggested a more Western perspective. His Boone appears as a common man who rejects the riches of the East for the open wilderness. Similarly, in John McClung’s Sketches of Western Adventure (1832) Boone is a simple man of action, a hunter who enjoys the hardship, adventure, and danger of the frontier with little regard for the values of civilization. John Peck’s Life of Daniel Boone (1847), on the other hand, appearing in the Library of American Biography, a popular encyclopedia of famous American lives, presented Boone as a family man affirming American domestic and Christian values. The Southern writer William Gilmore Simms depicted Boone as a chivalrous and aristocratic rescuer of beautiful damsels in distress. The most popular Boone narrative was Timothy Flint’s Biographical Memoir of Daniel Boone (1833), which the historian Henry Nash Smith calls “perhaps the most widely read book about a Western character published during the first half of the nineteenth-century.” Flint’s Boone was a blend of Eastern and Western characteristics. He is an instinctive hunter, a lover of nature, and emulator of Indians fleeing “the tide of emigration.” He is also a gentlemanly agent of civilization; his patriotic heart swells “with joy” at the vision of a settled Kentucky. Still, not all writers saw Boone as a hero; C. Wilder, an Eastern publisher, critiqued Boone as a barbarian in an 1823 reprint of Filson’s chapter on Boone.
Boone and the Visual Arts. Visual representations of Boone are equally varied. In 1820, a few months before Boone’s death, Chester Harding sought out and met the backwoodsman more than a hundred miles outside of St. Louis. Harding is the only artist known to paint a portrait of Boone from life. From this original, Harding made two variants, a half-length and full-length portrait. The half-length, Boone in a Fur Collar (circa 1820), borrowed from familiar portraits of Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Such allusions placed Boone among the young country’s most revered statesmen and suggested that he was both a yeomanlike child of nature and an Enlightenment figure of progress and civilization. The full-length portrait, Col. Daniel Boone (1820), placed the aged Boone in a landscape setting, holding his rifle and accompanied by his hunting dog. This work follows in the tradition of eighteenth-century English hunting portraits, but Boone’s buckskin clothes and Kentucky rifle suggest a democratic frontiersman rather than an aristocratic man of leisure. In this painting Boone is the Jacksonian common man doing his part to open the West. Boone’s image was put to use by a number of other artists. Sometime after Texas applied for and was denied statehood in 1836, Boone’s image was incorporated into the design of Texan banknotes. Though Boone never actually set foot in Texas, his appearance on the state’s currency served to affirm Texans’ view of themselves as true American pioneers. The Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole suggested a different Boone in his Daniel Boone Seated Outside His Cabin (1826). Among a romantic American landscape of forest, rock formations, and lake, the aged Boone is seated on a rock outside his cabin, with his dog nearby. The inspiration for this portrait was Lord Bryon’s description of Boone in Don Juan (1819–1824), but Cole also drew upon Christian iconographic traditions. Immersed in an immense and sublime landscape, Cole’s Boone is a wilderness saint, epitomizing the romantic notion of moral enlightenment achieved in nature. Contemporary with, but in contrast to, Cole’s painting is Enrico Causcici’s relief sculpture for the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Titled The Conflict Between Daniel Boone and the Indians (1826–1827), Causcici’s sculpture depicts Boone defeating two Indians in hand-to-hand combat, an image celebrating the victory of American civilization and superiority over alleged savages.
Boone and Manifest Destiny. This vision of Boone as active conqueror became more popular as Americans began to believe it was their Manifest Destiny to occupy the entire North American continent. In 1840 the state of Kentucky purchased William Allen’s portrait of Boone as a replacement for Harding’s. Allen’s Boone is more active and dynamic than Harding’s; this Boone is a vigilant guardian, hand on his rifle and ready for action. By the time George Caleb Bingham painted The Emigration of Daniel Boone into Kentucky (1851), Boone had come to be regarded as a mythical figure in the Western history of the United States. Bingham’s Boone is, in one critic’s words, “a modern-day Moses leading the American Chosen People into the new Promised Land.” Perhaps the culmination of this canonization of Boone is Emanuel Leutze’s mural, Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (1861–1862). Painted during the Civil War and adorning the west wall of the House of Representatives in the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Leutze’s mural depicts “the grand-peaceful conquest of the great west.” In rondels on side panels, Boone’s portrait, along with that of the explorer William Clark, hangs near depictions of Moses, Hercules, the Argonauts, and the Magi.
Dawn Glanz, How the West Was Drawn: American Art and the Settling of the Frontier (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1978);
Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1950);
Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1973).
Born November 2, 1734
Exeter Township, Berks County, near
present-day Reading, Pennsylvania
Died September 26, 1820
Near St. Charles, Missouri
"Even in his own time the tale of Boone's role as the leader of colonists migrating through the Cumberland Gap into the Kentucky territories had begun to assume larger-than-life status. Boone came to be considered the consummate symbol of the American pioneer."
J. Gray Sweeney, in The Columbus of the Woods: Daniel Boone and the Typology of Manifest Destiny
Daniel Boone is considered the most famous American frontiersman in history. He guided settlers to establish the first American settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains in present-day Kentucky. At the time of Boone's early adventures, Native Americans vigorously defended their homeland west of the Appalachian Mountains against the encroaching waves of white settlers. Boone's efforts to carve out settlements in what he called "the dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky came to symbolize American efforts to tame the West, according to J. Gray Sweeney in The Columbus of the Woods.
Artist George Caleb Bingham captured Boone's legend in one of the most enduring images of the great man, Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers Through the Cumberland Gap. In the portrait, Boone is illustrated leading a group of settlers over a stormy mountain pass into a lush valley. Indeed, many early stories promoted the idea that, despite hostile Indians and wild animals, the frontier was safe as long as Boone was there. Though his real adventures were impressive, his sensational image in paintings, magazines, and novels obscured the facts of his life. His image was used to popularize the notion of westward expansion, and he was the first American hero promoted to the entire nation.
Born the sixth of eleven children to Squire and Sarah Boone near Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1734, Boone led an active childhood, trapping, fishing, and camping in the forest. Given a rifle at age twelve, he became a superb shot and an excellent hunter. He had little formal education, but he did learn how to read and write. As a young man, Boone moved with his family to Virginia and North Carolina, working on his father's farm and blacksmith shop. In 1755 he served as a teamster (a wagon driver) and blacksmith for General Edward Braddock during the French and Indian War (1754–63). After the war, Boone married Rebecca Bryan on August 14, 1756. The couple would eventually have ten children together. Rebecca also gave birth to one illegitimate daughter, whom Daniel loved and cared for as his own.
So many stories of Boone's adventures have been written that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Nevertheless, the following story highlights what is generally accepted as his real adventures. From his daring deeds, it is easy to understand how Boone became the most renowned American frontiersman.
During the French and Indian War, Boone became acquainted with John Findley, a friend who intrigued Boone with his stories of the wilds of Kentucky. In the winter of 1768–1769, Findley convinced Boone to join him on a hunting trip to Kentucky. Boone hoped to gather enough furs to repay his debts to Judge Richard Henderson (1735–1785). Some sources indicate that Henderson financed Boone's first trip to Kentucky. By 1770, Boone and his companions had accumulated enough hides to pay the debt.
Boone's first attempt to settle in Kentucky occurred in 1773. Describing the rich, fertile valleys, he persuaded five families to join him. He then led his small group along narrow buffalo and Indian trails in search of a place to settle. En route, Native Americans attacked the trespassers as they slept. Most of the settlers were murdered, including Boone's seventeen-year-old son.
Soon after that unsuccessful attempt, Boone began work as a land agent for Henderson's Transylvania Land Company. His main duty was securing land from the Shawnee tribe for white settlement. Eventually, Henderson succeeded in buying what is now Kentucky for about fifty thousand dollars. In 1775 Boone and a party of thirty men employed by Henderson began cutting a road across the Cumberland Gap and building a settlement they called Boonesborough. As work progressed, nearby Native Americans grew angry at the invasion and raided the workers, killing some. Although the attack would have driven others off in fright, it strengthened Boone's group's resolve. According to Sweeney in The Columbus of the Woods, Boone wrote the following to Henderson:
My brother and I went down and found two men killed and sculpted [scalped].... My advice to you, Sir, is to come or send [reinforcements] as soon as possible.... For the people are very uneasy, but are willing to stay and venture their lives with you; and now is the time to flusterate [frustrate] their [the Indians'] intentions and keep the country whilst we are in it. If we give way to them now, it will ever be the case.
Boone and his companions were determined to fight for their town and the surrounding territory. They defended Boonesborough against several devastating Indian raids between 1776 and 1778. During one raid, Boone's daughter was among the captured. Within two days, Boone and a small group had ambushed the abductors, killed two men, and saved the girl. The rescue became the stuff of legend. James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851; see entry) based his 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans, on a glorified version of the story.
In 1778 Boone was captured by Shawnee Indians. Some sources indicate he was captured by Indians four times, managing to escape unharmed each time. During this particular time in captivity, Boone's excellent marksmanship and natural curiosity about Indian culture endeared him to the tribe. In John Filson's "autobiography" of Boone's life, Boone describes his time with the tribe:
I was adopted, according to their custom, into a family, where I became a son, and had a great share of affection of my new parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. I was exceedingly familiar and friendly with them, always appearing as cheerful and satisfied as possible, and they put great confidence in me.
Return to civilization
Approximately one year after his capture, Boone learned of a planned attack on Boonesborough and escaped to warn the residents and lead them in a successful resistance to the Indians. Upon his return, he discovered that his wife had assumed that he was dead and had returned to her family in North Carolina. Although he eventually reunited with his family and brought them back to Boonesborough, he felt uneasy with the townspeople; he was suspected of being a "white-Indian," a man who lost his civilized ways and should be feared, according to Sweeney. Over the next few years, Boone settled in several spots in Kentucky. He operated a tavern and tried to profit from land speculations; both ended in financial failure. Though he did not fight with American soldiers during the Revolutionary War (1776–83), his efforts on the frontier helped to secure America's eventual claim to that land. His popularity as a strong leader helped him to be elected to the Virginia legislature in 1771 and 1791, but political life didn't suit him.
Boone's skill on the frontier contrasted greatly with his inability to manage his lands or money. After the Revolutionary War (1776–83) the Virginia legislature negated Henderson's agreement with the Native Americans, and Henderson and Boone lost legal claim to thousands of acres of land in 1784. When Kentucky became a state in 1792, Boone tried to reclaim his lost land, but the government denied his claim.
Boone's last move
Without money or land, Boone decided to leave Kentucky for the new frontier. In 1799 he settled in present-day Missouri in the Louisiana Territory (a vast expanse of land that stretched from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountains and from the Canadian border in the north to the Gulf of Mexico). Hoping to profit from Boone's fame, the Spanish government, which controlled the Louisiana Territory at that time, offered Boone a grant of land for encouraging others to settle the area. When the United States bought the land in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the United States initially denied Boone's right to the land. Congress reversed its decision in 1814, a year after Rebecca Boone's death. Supposedly, Boone sold the lands to repay previous debts. Without his wife, he continued to live on the frontier, taking his last hunting trip at the age of eighty-two in 1816. Boone died almost penniless on September 26, 1820, at the home of his son Nathan in Missouri.
Boone's popularity grew throughout his lifetime. After the 1784 publication of John Filson's book The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke, which devoted an entire chapter to "The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone," more and more accounts of Boone's life were repeated and embellished in magazines and novels. Filson even acted as ghostwriter on Boone's "autobiography." Moreover, artists soon began depicting Boone's adventures as well. Some of the most famous illustrate his role as a pathfinder, showing him directing settlers toward lush, wild landscapes. Monuments of Boone were erected in the Frankfort cemetery in Kentucky and in Tuque Creek, Missouri, to commemorate his important contributions.
For More Information
Bakeless, John. Master of Wilderness: Daniel Boone. 1939. Reprint. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Co., 1965.
Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer. New York: Holt, 1992.
Filson, John. The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke ...[and] The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boon. Wilmington, DE: John Adams, 1784.
Lofaro, Michael A. The Life and Adventures of Daniel Boone. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986.
Slotkin, Richard. Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973.
Sweeney, J. Gray. The Columbus of the Woods: Daniel Boone and the Typology of Manifest Destiny. St. Louis, MO: Washington University Gallery of Art, 1992.
Daniel Boone Court-Martial: 1778
Daniel Boone Court-Martial: 1778
Defendant: Daniel Boone
Crime Charged: Treason
Chief Defense Lawyer: No record
Chief Prosecutor: No record
Judges: A panel of Kentucky Militia officers, the names of whom were not recorded
Place: Fort Logan, Kentucky
Date of Trial: 1778 (the exact date is unknown)
Verdict: Not guilty
SIGNIFICANCE: The trial showed the fluid nature not only of the early American frontier, but the difficulty of drawing lines in the West between races, ideologies, and loyalties. It also showed that Americans were willing to forget, explain away, and even whitewash the reputation of its early popular heroes.
Daniel Boone is one of America's great frontier legends, remembered for being a frontiersman, a land agent, an Indian fighter, and one of Kentucky's earliest settlers. The legend often overshadows the man who stands behind it, and it has helped to obscure the darkest episode of his life—his court-martial for treason.
Neither Patriot nor Loyalist
As a backwoodsman, and a founder and citizen of the Kentucky Boonesborough settlement, Daniel Boone was not much concerned with politics. Like many other Westerners, he was no strong supporter of the Whigs or the American Revolution. He was no Loyalist either, but his wife's family, the Bryans, were. Boone himself was proud of the captain's commission he had received from Lord Dunmore, Virginia's royal governor, in 1774. His willingness to act sometimes with the Whigs while keeping a royal commission was the cause of some controversy, and it may have been partly responsible for what happened to him in 1778.
In 1774, Lord Dunmore's War against the Indians began on the Virginia frontier. For the next 20 years the Ohio River Valley, the "Dark and Bloody Ground," was a place of constant violence as white settlers challenged and fought the Shawnee, Wyandot, and other tribes for control of Indian lands. Boone was one of the ablest fighters, but sometimes he seemed to condemn white settlers' actions, describing them as a "war of intrusion" against the tribes designed to "dispossess them of their desirable habitations." Then the Revolutionary War moved west, and the British forces headquartered in Detroit began to supply and support Indian raids along the frontier. During this time Boone would act in ways that caused people to question his loyalty not only to the revolutionary cause, but to the white campaign.
In early 1777, Indians began to make attacks on Boonesborough. By the end of the year, supplies, especially salt stores, were running low. Boone agreed to head an expedition to the Blue Lakes, a salt-rich area several miles from the settlement, to replenish supplies, and in February of 1778, a group of about 30 men set out for the salt lick. Meanwhile an Indian offensive was underway. Winter campaigns were rare, but British governor Henry Hamilton of Detroit had recently dispatched more than a dozen war parties to demoralize white settlers. The Shawnee were especially militant at this point over the western whites' recent unjustified murder of three of their chiefs, whom the whites had taken captive at Fort Randolph.
Boone "Adopted" by the Shawnee
In February 1778, while Boone was out hunting to supply the salt expedition, a large Shawnee war party captured him. He recognized its leader as Chief Blackfish, whom he had met 20 years earlier while serving in General Braddock's army. Blackfish, although very friendly and hospitable towards Boone, told him that he intended to destroy Boonesborough to avenge the recent deaths of the Shawnee chiefs. Boone, who knew that the winter raid would catch Boonesborough by surprise, offered to go with the war party and order the settlement to surrender—if the Shawnee would wait until spring, when the whites would be able to march to the Shawnee lands to the North of the Ohio River. When Blackfish announced that he intended to kill everyone in the salt expedition, Boone offered to surrender all of those men immediately, and to let them go north with the Indians. The Shawnee agreed.
When Boone approached the salt licks, the men realized that he had Shawnee with him. As someone raised the alarm, Boone called out. "Don't fire!" he shouted. "If you do all will be massacred." He asked for his men to trust him, and he ordered them to stack arms and surrender, which they did. But a few men escaped and returned to warn Boonesborough.
Meanwhile Boone and the men marched north with their captors. At first the Shawnee debated whether or not to kill all the whites, but after an impassioned speech from Boone, they agreed to let them live, although they made Boone run the gauntlet. Afterward they complimented him on his skill as a warrior, and once they arrived at the Shawnee town of Chillicothe, they even adopted Boone and some of the others into the tribe, making Boone the son of Chief Blackfish himself.
Boone seemed content with his new life. Rumors later surfaced that he had taken a Shawnee wife, although he was already married to Rebecca Bryan. A month after Boone's capture, Blackfish took him to Detroit, where he met with Governor Hamilton. Boone reportedly showed Hamilton his captain's commission from Lord Dunmore, and Hamilton tried to ransom Boone from the Shawnee, but they refused.
Boone's Return Met with Suspicion
After four months in Shawnee captivity, Boone escaped suddenly during a wild turkey hunt. He covered the 160 miles to Boonesborough in four days. When he arrived at the settlement, he was met with suspicion. He looked like an Indian, and the men who had escaped from the Shawnee had told of his cooperation with the Shawnee. Nevertheless, he regained the settlers' trust, and he began to prepare Boonesborough for a siege. By August he suggested that the whites strike first by raiding a Shawnee town on Paint Creek just across the Ohio. Others pointed out that such a raid would draw off many of Boonesborough's defenders. But Boone convinced 30 men to come with him, although a third returned to Boonesborough the following day. After a brief skirmish with a small Shawnee war party, Boone and his group found the Indian town abandoned. This meant, they knew, that the Shawnee were all headed for Boonesborough, to which Boone and his men returned.
Facing nearly 500 warriors, Boone took a group beyond the settlement's walls and negotiated with Chief Blackfish. After a few days, Boone and his men agreed with the Shawnee that the Ohio River would be the boundary between white and Indian lands. Boone, suspecting treachery, had ordered sharpshooters to take aim secretly at the negotiators. As the Indians and whites began to shake hands on the deal, suddenly the Indians tried to grab the white leaders. The sharpshooters opened fire, the whites retreated into the settlement, and the Boonesborough siege began. After 11 days the Indians broke off the siege and retreated.
Boone Tried by Military Officers
Shortly after the siege, two militia officers, Richard Callaway and Benjamin Logan, charged Boone with treason. Callaway had earlier objected to Boone's plan to attack Paint Creek, and he saw treasonous designs in Boone's behavior. The charge consisted of four particulars: That Boone had voluntarily surrendered the salt lick expedition; that he had consorted with the British at Detroit, engaging with them to capture Boonesborough's population; that he had weakened Boonesborough's defenses by staging the raid on Paint Creek; and that he had taken Boonesborough leaders beyond range of the settlement's guns when negotiating with Chief Blackfish.
The trial took place at a fort named Logan's Station, and large numbers of people attended. Kentucky militia officers served as his judges and jurors, taking testimony from Callaway, some of the escaped captives, and Boone himself. "Boone was in favor of the British government," declared Callaway. "All of his conduct proved it.… He ought to be broak of his commission." In response Boone told the story he had told all along: outmanned and outgunned, he had decided to "use some stratagem" and deceive the Shawnee and the British, telling them "tales to fool them," and trying to stop the Shawnee from attacking a weakened Boonesborough. To his wife, Rebecca, Boone spoke more bluntly. "God damn them," he said of the British. "They had set the Indians on us."
The court-martial quickly acquitted Boone, and it even promoted him from captain to major to show its approval of him. Nevertheless, the accusations crushed Boone and clouded his reputation. The trial details are sketchy, since the Boone family rarely talked of it; the official records of the court-martial vanished; and the public chose to overlook the blemish on Boone's career.
—Buckner F. Melton, Jr.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Bakeless, John. Daniel Boone. Master of the Wilderness. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1939.
Eckert, Allan W. That Dark and Bloody River. New York: Bantam Books, 1995.
Lofaro, Michael A. The Life and Adventures of Daniel Boone. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky,
Few people reach legendary status in a society in their own lifetime. Daniel Boone (1734–1820) was one of them. In fact the legend of Daniel Boone has become difficult to separate from the real Daniel Boone. Many unauthorized biographies and books appeared trumpeting his accomplishments and promoting various causes and points of view. However, the truth about Boone is just as fascinating as the stories.
Daniel Boone was born on November 2, 1734, near what is known today as Reading, Pennsylvania. Boone was the sixth of eleven children. From their log cabin home his Quaker family ran a small farm, a blacksmith shop, and a weaving establishment. Daniel tended cows as a child and began hunting at the age of twelve. He had little formal schooling, but he did learn to read and write.
Boone excelled at skills required to survive in the woods. He developed a keen eye and an accurate shot with his long rifle, and with those skills he kept the family in meat. He traded animal skins for lead, gunpowder, salt, and other needed items. In 1750 the Boone family moved to North Carolina along the Yadkin River. In 1755 Boone volunteered to drive a supply wagon in a British military expedition to seize Fort Duquesne from the French. Another driver in the expedition was trader John Findley, who thrilled Boone with tales of a rich hunter's paradise beyond the Appalachian Mountains.
The military expedition was cut short by a surprise attack of French and Indians and the British troops fled. Boone returned home to marry neighbor Rebecca Bryan. Rebecca had ten children with Daniel and followed him through all his moves and exploring, a true pioneer woman.
Findley told Boone of the Cumberland Gap, a pass through the mountains, and of the Warriors' Path, a trail that led to Kentucky. Boone took his first trip through the Cumberland Gap in 1767 with his brother Squire and his friend William Hill. They reached what is now Floyd County in Kentucky before winter weather discouraged them. In the spring they returned home. A year later John Findley came to Boone and described a route to Kentucky along the Ohio River and the two made the journey in 1769. Boone's party was attacked by Indians and he was briefly captured. He spent two years exploring Kentucky and hunting. Years later he was to say of Kentucky, "I have never found but one Kentucky—a spot of earth where nature seems to have concentrated all her bounties."
After his return to his family in North Carolina, Boone led a group of friends and family to Kentucky in 1773 with the intention of staying. Indians attacked settler groups. Boone's oldest son, James, was captured, tortured, and killed. Against Boone's desires, the entire party returned to North Carolina. In 1775 Boone helped Judge Richard Henderson buy a huge tract of land from the Cherokee Indians. Boone led a group of thirty woodsmen into the heart of Kentucky to connect Indian trails and buffalo paths and prepare the region for settlement. The paths were to be known as the Wilderness Road. Boone built a fort, called Boonesborough, at a site by the Kentucky River, just south of present-day Lexington. Boone's wife and daughter, whom Boone brought when the building was finished, were the first white women to see the heart of Kentucky.
Life in the wilderness was hard. Boone's daughter and two female friends were captured by Indians in 1776 and held for several days until Boone rescued them. In 1778 Boone himself was captured by the Shawnee and held captive. Chief Blackfish adopted Boone and made him a Shawnee brave. When he learned of a planned attack on Boonesborough, Boone escaped and led the successful defense of his fort. Troubles with the Indians continued and Boone lost another son, Israel, to Indian attacks in 1782.
Boone became one of the wealthiest men in Kentucky in terms of land, but he was naive in the ways of business and never held clear title to the land. Eventually, he lost all his claims of land ownership in Kentucky. In 1789 Boone moved to Point Pleasant on the Ohio River, where he supplied meat and grain to the U.S. military. In 1799 Boone led a group of settlers into Missouri at the invitation of the Spanish governor, who granted Boone 850 acres of land near St. Louis. Boone lost this land when the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 brought the area under U.S. control. However, the U.S. Congress restored his 850 acres in 1814 as a reward for his services in opening the West.
Boone served as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia during the American Revolution (1775–1783). He was elected to the state legislature in 1781, 1787, and 1791. He ran several businesses, but he was always most at home hunting and exploring in the deep woods. Boone's business ventures usually failed and he was often in debt. His land ownership was normally based on unfiled claims. At one point in his late 1760s, Boone was even arrested for bad debts.
Boone died at his son Nathan's home on September 26, 1820, at the age of 85. The remains of Daniel and Rebecca Boone were moved to Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1845. Boone lived the life of explorer and hunter—a life extolled in print many times while Boone was still alive. Over 175 years after his death the legend has continued to grow.
Bakeless, John E. Daniel Boone: Master of the Wilderness. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1939.
Lofaro, Michael A. The Life and Adventures of Daniel Boone. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1986.
The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1998, s.v. "Boone, Daniel."
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen, Encyclopedia of Frontier Literature. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1997, s.v. "Boone, Daniel."
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen, Encyclopedia of Southern Literature. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1997, s.v. "Boone, Daniel."
boone lived the life of explorer and hunter—a life extolled in print many times while boone was still alive. over 175 years after his death the legend has continued to grow.
An American frontiersman and explorer, Daniel Boone was the greatest woodsman in United States history. He left behind many lands that he had discovered, protected, settled, and improved. He was the subject of many stories after his death that exaggerated both his accomplishments and his flaws.
An early interest in the outdoors
Daniel Boone was born near Reading, Pennsylvania, on November 2, 1734, the sixth of eleven children born to Squire Boone, a farmer and land speculator (a person who buys land hoping that it will increase in value and be sold for a profit), and Sarah Morgan. His formal education was limited; he was more interested in the outdoors. He and his family moved to North Carolina in 1751. After working for his father, Boone became a wagoner (a wagon driver) and a blacksmith.
In 1755 Boone joined General Edward Braddock (c. 1695–1755), commander in chief of British forces in North America, as a wagoner. Boone participated in Braddock's attempt to capture Fort Duquesne (doo-KANE; now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) during the French and Indian War (1754–63), a war fought between the British and the French for control over land in North America. While on march he met John Finley, a hunter, whose talk of the Kentucky wilderness greatly influenced Boone's career. When Braddock's command was destroyed by a French and Indian ambush, Boone fled for his life on horseback.
Boone married Rebecca Bryan on August 14, 1756, and settled down in North Carolina, believing that he had all he needed—"a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife." Finley's stories of Kentucky, though, never really left Boone's mind.
Expeditions and settlement
In 1767 Boone led his first expedition as far westward as the area of Floyd County, Kentucky. In 1769, with Finley and four others, he cleared a trail through the Cumberland Gap that soon became a highway to the frontier. As an agent for Richard Henderson (1735 –1785) and his Transylvania Company, Boone led the first group of colonists to Kentucky, reaching the site of Boonesborough in April 1775. Later that year he brought west another party, which included his family.
Boone became the leader of the Kentucky settlement, as hunter, surveyor (a person who measures and plots land), and Indian fighter. When Kentucky became a county of Virginia, he was given the rank of major in the militia. Boone's misfortunes began in July 1776, when his daughter was captured by Shawnee and Cherokee tribespeople. He was able to rescue her but two years later was himself captured by the Shawnee. Though he escaped and helped defend Boonesborough against Indian raiders, while on his way east he was robbed of money other settlers had given him to buy land. He was forced to repay the angry settlers. From this time on, Boone was followed by debts and lawsuits.
Boone held many government offices, including lieutenant colonel of Fayette County, legislative representative, and sheriff. In 1786 he moved to Maysville, Kentucky, and was elected to the legislature. Bad luck continued to follow him, however; he lost his land because of a mistake made in the records. In 1788 he abandoned Kentucky and moved to Point Pleasant in what is now West Virginia. He was appointed lieutenant colonel of Kanawha County in 1789 and its legislative delegate in 1791.
Boone and his family later moved west to Spain's Alta Luisiana (or Upper Louisiana, now Missouri). When asked why he had left Kentucky, he answered, "Too many people! Too crowded, too crowded! I want some elbow room." What he really wanted was to settle on land that would not be taken away from him later. The Spaniards were pleased to have him as a colonist, giving him a large land grant and a position of leadership in his district. However, when the United States took over the land, Boone's claim was denied once again, although Congress restored part of it in 1814.
Boone took great satisfaction from traveling back to his beloved Kentucky in about 1810 to pay off his outstanding debts, although he was left with only fifty cents. After his wife died three years later, Boone spent his remaining years in St. Charles, Missouri, at the home of his son. He died there on September 26, 1820.
Boone was moderately well known from several books about his wilderness adventures when Lord Byron (1788–1824) wrote about him in the 1823 poem Don Juan. This made the explorer world famous three years after his death and led people to tell many exaggerated stories about him. Love of adventure, skill in the outdoors, and dignity in the face of misfortune made Daniel Boone a symbol of early America.
For More Information
Draper, Lyman C. The Life of Daniel Boone. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998.
Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer. New York: Holt, 1992.
An American frontiersman and explorer, Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was the greatest woodsman in United States history. Hero of much farfetched fiction, Boone survived both legend making and debunking to emerge a genuine hero.
For all the myths about him, Daniel Boone was very much a real man born near Reading, Pa., on Nov. 2, 1734. At the age of 12 he became a hunter. He accompanied his family to North Carolina's Buffalo Lick on the Yadkin River in 1751 and, after working for his father, became a teamster and blacksmith. In 1755 he accompanied Brig. Gen. Edward Braddock as a wagoner on the ill-fated march to Ft. Duquesne. While on this march he met a teamster named John Finley, an old hunter, whose talk of the Kentucky wilderness eventually influenced Boone's career as a woodsman and explorer. When Braddock's command was destroyed at Turtle Creek (near modern Pittsburgh) by a French and Indian ambush, Boone fled for his life on horseback.
Daniel Boone married Rebecca Bryan on Aug. 14, 1756, and settled down in the Yadkin Valley, firmly believing that he had all the requisites of a good life—"a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife." But Finley's stories of fabled "Kentucke" never really vanished from his mind. In 1767 Boone led his first expedition as far westward as the area of Floyd County, Ky. On May 1, 1769, with Finley and four other companions, Boone opened the way to the Far West by blazing a trail through the Cumberland Gap. This trail soon became a highway to the frontier. As an agent for Richard Henderson and his Transylvania Company, Boone led the first detachment of colonists to Kentucky, reaching the site of Boonesborough on April Fool's Day 1775. There he began to build a fort to protect the settlement from the Indians, and that year he brought west another party, which included his own family.
Boone became the leader of the Kentucky settlement, as hunter, surveyor, and Indian fighter. He was a major of the Virginia militia when Kentucky was added to that state as an enormous county. The first of a series of misfortunes for Boone occurred in July 1776, when his daughter, Jemima, was captured by Shawnee and Cherokee tribespeople. He rescued her but 2 years later was himself captured by Shawnee tribespeople. Though he escaped and helped defend Boonesborough against Indian raiders, while on his way east with more than $20,000 in settlers' money (with which he was to buy land warrants) he was robbed of the entire sum. The settlers who angrily demanded satisfaction were repaid by Boone in land. But from this time on, Boone was dogged by debts, lawsuits, and land-record technicalities until, as one of his kin said—exaggerating slightly—at the time of his death he did not own enough land to make a decent grave.
Moving to Boone's Station, the scout held a succession of offices, including lieutenant colonel of Fayette County, legislative delegate, sheriff, county lieutenant, and deputy surveyor. In 1786 he moved to Maysville and was elected to the legislature. Misfortune continued to dog him, however: he lost his land because it had been improperly entered in the records. In 1788 he abandoned his beloved Kentucky and moved to Point Pleasant in what is now West Virginia. He was appointed lieutenant colonel of Kanawha County in 1789 and its legislative delegate in 1791.
When Boone lost the last of the Kentucky lands that he had discovered, protected, settled, and improved, he also lost faith. He moved all the way west to Spain's Alta Luisiana (or Upper Louisiana, now Missouri), where he obtained a land grant at the mouth of Femme Osage Creek. He had moved because the "Dark and Bloody Ground" of yore was filling up with settlers and he did not like to be crowded; when asked why he had left Kentucky, he answered, "Too many people! Too crowded, too crowded! I want some elbow room." Actually, however, he hoped to settle on some land that would not be taken away from him by legalistic trickery. The Spaniards were pleased to have the famous Kentuckian as a colonist and gave him a large land grant, making him magistrate of his district. He must have viewed the subsequent annexation of Louisiana Territory by the United States with mixed emotions, including apprehension. His fears were justified when, once again, U.S. land commissioners voided Boone's claim. However, in 1814 Congress confirmed a part of his Spanish grant.
Daniel Boone's greatest satisfaction was neither in opening up new territory to settlement nor in becoming the subject of laudatory books but simply in being able to journey back to Kentucky about 1810 to pay off his outstanding debts; he was left with only 50 cents. After his wife died 3 years later, the famous Kentuckian spent most of his remaining years in quiet obscurity in the Missouri home of his son, where he died on Sept. 26, 1820.
Boone was moderately well known for the wilderness exploits that had been described in several books when Lord Byron devoted seven stanzas of his poem Don Juan to him in 1823. The poet made the recently deceased woodsman world famous, with the result that Boone became a target for belittlers and debunkers as well as mythmakers. The latter sought to inflate his real-life adventures; the former tried to destroy his legend. All failed because the difference between legend and reality in Boone's case was so small. If he was not a dime-novel superman in buckskins, he was an unsurpassed woodsman; and he was strong, brave, loyal, and, above all, honest. Although he was hardly the "happiest of men" (as Byron described him) and had been forced to flee from American land sharks to Spanish territory, he shrugged off his shabby treatment and accepted his fate without rancor. In short, the rough woodsman was something of a stoic. He was also a true gentleman and a great figure of American history.
John Bakeless, Daniel Boone (1939), makes it unnecessary to consult such older works as Reuben G. Thwaites, Daniel Boone (1902), and Ella Hazel A. Spraker, The Boone Family (1922). Good background studies of the American frontier include Ray Allen Billington, Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier (1949; 3d ed. 1967) and America's Frontier Heritage (1966), and Thomas D. Clark, Frontier America: The Story of the Westward Movement (1959; 2d ed. 1969). □
Daniel Boone's life spanned the final days of the original thirteen colonies and the birth of the United States as a nation-state. His adventures included wartime service as a soldier, exploration west of the Appalachian Mountains, and political service with Americans such as Patrick Henry (1736–1799) and Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826).
Boone was born on November 2, 1734, in a rural township near Reading, Pennsylvania . He was the sixth child of eleven born to Squire and Sarah Boone. The Boone family farmed their homestead and operated a blacksmith shop. Boone learned reading, writing, and math at home.
Boone received his first rifle at age twelve. He spent much time learning to hunt and explore in his wooded surroundings. His family left Pennsylvania in 1747 when they were rejected from their Quaker church because Boone's older brother, Israel, married a woman who was not a Quaker. They settled in Virginia and then in western North Carolina .
War and love
From 1754 to 1763, the British colonies fought in the French and Indian War against France and its Native American allies. Boone served for the British as a teamster (wagon driver) and blacksmith in a campaign against Fort Duquesne led by General Edward Braddock (c. 1695–1755), who died in the attack. During the campaign, Boone met John Finley, with whom he would work as an explorer.
Boone was back in North Carolina when he wed Rebecca Bryan in August 1756. They had met in 1754 when Boone's sister Mary married William Bryan. Together, the Boones had ten children. Rebecca birthed another child whom she had with Daniel's brother, Edward, during Daniel's absence in another battle of the French and Indian War. Rebecca told Daniel that she thought he had died, and that Edward had comforted her through the difficult time.
Frontier hostilities between Britain and France ceased around 1760. In November of that year, Boone and other explorers crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains to explore what became Tennessee . Boone made land claims in his travels, but had trouble throughout his life enforcing them.
In 1769, a judge hired Boone to lead an expedition into Kentucky . Along with Finley and others, Boone traveled through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. Boone helped cut a trail that would be used for decades by pioneers headed west.
In 1775, Boone became head of a colony in Kentucky called Boonesborough. He was captured in 1778 by Shawnee Indians and lived with them for four months. When he learned of their plan to attack Boonesborough, he escaped to warn the colony. The colony survived the attack, but Boone, then a colonel in the American army's efforts to end British control of the colonies, was court-martialed for his time with the Shawnees, who were friends of the British. Boone won the trial and was promoted to the rank of major.
Politics, wanderlust, and final years
Boone was elected to the Virginia legislature twice in his life, in 1771 and 1781. He disliked politics, however, and moved his family a number of times in the ensuing years, including to Ohio and to what became West Virginia .
By 1799, Boone had lost most of his land holdings to lawsuits and creditors. At age sixty-five he moved his family to Alta Luisiana, or Upper Louisiana , which was still controlled by Spain. The Spanish gave Boone 850 acres of land plus more for family members to attract him to their colony. After the United States took control of the territory in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, U.S. land commissioners ruled that Boone's land claims were invalid. Congress, however, later confirmed some of the grant.
Boone's wife Rebecca died in 1813. Boone spent his remaining years wandering and living with some of his many children. He died at his son Nathan's house in Missouri on September 26, 1820. In 1845, the Kentucky legislature arranged to have his remains moved to a burial site in Kentucky in honor of his pioneer work there. The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a memorial at the original gravesite in Missouri in 1915.
Boone's legendary status took root while he was alive. In 1784, John Filson published a biography called The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone. Three years after Boone's death, Lord Byron wrote the poem “Don Juan” with seven stanzas on Boone.
BOONE, DANIEL. (1734–1820). Frontiersman. Born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on 2 November 1734, Daniel Boone moved with his family to Buffalo Lick, North Carolina, on the north fork of the Yadkin River, in 1751. Like Daniel Morgan, he accompanied Edward Braddock's expedition as a teamster; escaping from the disaster of 9 July 1755. On this expedition he met John Findley, a hunter whose stories of the Kentucky wilderness fired him with a desire to visit this country. After failing to persuade his wife, Rebecca Bryan, to move to Florida, Boone undertook an extensive exploration through the Cumberland Gap into the Kentucky territory starting in 1767. In 1773 he led a group of settlers west, but reluctantly turned back after two of his party, including his son James, were tortured and killed by Indians. In 1775, as an agent of the Transylvania Company, he led about thirty men to the site of what became Boonesborough, Kentucky, cutting the Wilderness Road as they went. After building a fort, Boone returned to North Carolina to get his family and twenty more men. This activity was in defiance of the Proclamation of 1763, and in their efforts to stop and drive back this invasion of settlers, the Cherokees and Shawnees started raids into what became known as the "dark and bloody ground."
On 14 July 1776, Boone's daughter, Jemima, and two other girls were captured by Indians. Boone led a group in pursuit, and three days later launched a surprise attack that killed an Indian and rescued the girls. Boone immediately became a famous figure on the frontier, and even drew attention in the east. When Kentucky became a county of Virginia in the fall of 1776, Boone was made a captain of the militia and was later promoted to major. In February 1778, he and thirty others were captured by Shawnees. The Shawnees needed new warriors to replace those lost in battle, and adopted Boone and sixteen other men, selling the remaining prisoners to the British in Detroit. When Boone learned of a planned attack on Boonesborough, he escaped, traveling the 150 miles back to Boonesborough in just four days.
One Indian leader, Blackfish, led 400 men against Boonesborough on 7 September 1778. With only forty men, Boone held the Indians off for eleven days, after which Blackfish finally gave up and retreated. Blackfish spent the first two days attempting to persuade Boone to negotiate the fort's surrender. After failing to trick Boone into leaving the fort when the Indians could seize him, Blackfish tried burning and tunneling into the settlement before giving up and leaving the area. The next month Boone went east for a stay that was to last a year, but in October 1779 he returned with a new party of settlers. The following spring he started back east with $20,000 collected from settlers for the purchase of land warrants, necessary because the state had repudiated the land titles that had been issued by the Transylvania Company, but he was robbed of the entire amount. He then moved to Boone's Station. The same year, 1780, Kentucky was divided into three counties, and he was made lieutenant colonel of the Fayette County militia. In August 1782 his son Israel was killed during the American defeat at Blue Licks.
After holding a number of public offices, including representative in the Virginia assembly, Boone became embroiled in a series of ejectment suits by which he was to lose his large land holdings of nearly 100,000 acres. All his titles had been improperly filed, and in around 1798 he lost his last holding in the region he had done so much to develop. Meanwhile he had moved from Boone's Station to Maysville in 1786, to Point Pleasant (in modern West Virginia) in 1788, and to what now is Missouri in 1798 or 1799. His son Daniel had preceded him to Missouri, and Boone was given a large Spanish land grant of nearly 10,000 acres at the mouth of Femme Osage Creek. When the United States assumed title to this region, Boone's land claims were declared void but, after many delays, Congress awarded him 850 acres for services rendered. Boone sold this land to pay off his debts. He died in Missouri on 26 September 1820.
Exaggeration of his exploits by early historians started with John Filson's The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke (1784). The seven stanzas that Lord Byron devoted to him in Don Juan (1823) further helped to create a legend that made Boone one of the most famous pioneers in U.S. history.
Elliott, Lawrence. The Long Hunter: A New Life of Daniel Boone. New York: Readers Digest Press, 1976.
Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer. New York: Holt, 1992.
Lofaro, Michael A. Davy Crockett: The Man, the Legend, the Legacy, 1786–1986. Knoxville, Tense.: University of Tennessee Press, 1985.
――――――― The Life and Adventures of Daniel Boone. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1986.
revised by Michael Bellesiles
Boone, Daniel (1734-1820)
Daniel Boone (1734-1820)
Birth of a Legend. Daniel Boone was born in Pennsylvania on 22 October 1734. His parents, Sarah and Squire, were Quakers, and Daniel was one of their eleven children. When Daniel was fifteen, the family immigrated to the North Carolina backcountry. Growing up on the frontier Boone learned to shoot and hunt at an early age. Although he had little formal schooling, he was able to read and write his name.
Kentucky. In 1760, at the age of twenty-six, he crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains for the first time on a winter hunt. As a “long hunter” he lived away from white settlements and civilization. Since he hunted in unsettled areas, his knowledge of the outdoors was essential to those who followed him into the western regions for permanent settlement. The pattern of Daniel Boone’s life kept him on the frontier and moved him further and further west, just ahead of American settlement. Boone reached Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap for the first time in 1767. The next year he went on a long hunt in the area and was captured briefly by the Shawnee. He was able to escape from them and return home. (In total, he was captured by Indians four times and was able to escape unharmed each time.) Between 1769 and 1771 he continued to explore Kentucky and worked as a guide leading families to settlements there. In 1775 he led an advance party of the Transylvania Company and helped cut the Wilderness Road from the upper Holston River via the Cumberland Gap in southwestern Virginia to the Kentucky River. He founded the town of Boonesbor-ough that same year and four years later founded Boone’s Station. He was elected to the Virginia legislature in 1771 and again in 1791.
Hero. Boone was the embodiment of the frontier and became a living legend. In 1784, the year of Boone’s fiftieth birthday, John Filson published The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone; the next year another Boone biography appeared. These books also brought Boone international fame through European editions. But this was the time that Boone began to have legal difficulties. In 1784 he entered a suit for his lands, but he did not win the claim. Along with hundreds of others Boone lost his lands because the titles issued by the Transylvania Company were not recognized by the Virginia legislature. When Kentucky became a state in 1792, Boone made another attempt to keep title to his lands, but the new state denied his request. As a result, when the Spanish government in 1797 invited him to immigrate to Missouri, Boone accepted the offer and moved there two years later. However, in 1806, after the United States had acquired the Louisiana Purchase, Boone went before a federal land commission seeking confirmation of his Spanish land grant. His petition was rejected in 1809, but in 1814 Congress agreed to recognize Boone’s claims.
Death. After the death of his wife, Rebecca, in 1813, Boone moved back and forth between the homes of his children, who had settled in Missouri. In the summer of 1820, while he was at his daughter Jemima’s home, he suffered recurring bouts of fever. As soon as he was well enough he traveled to his son Nathan’s house, where he died on 26 September 1820, a month short of his eighty-sixth birthday. He was buried next to his wife.
Monuments. By the 1840s Boone had become a national hero for his role in exploring the West. During these years the heroes of the past were being commemorated, and Boone was no exception. In April 1845 the Kentucky legislature passed a resolution authorizing the reinternment of Boone’s remains at the state capital in Kentucky. Obtaining the consent of his descendants before the Missouri legislature could react, his grave was dug up in July. On 13 September 1845 he was re-interned in the new Frankfort cemetery in Kentucky. The event was accompanied by “marching bands, state dignitaries, military companies, and fraternal organizations,” and thousands of onlookers. Boone’s fame helped sell many of the plots in the new cemetery, but it was not until 1860 that a monument to him was erected. In 1915 the Daughters of the American Revolution erected another monument at the original Boone grave site at Tuque Creek, Missouri.
John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer (New York: Holt, 1992).
Daniel Boone, 1734–1820, American frontiersman, b. Oley (now Exeter) township, near Reading, Pa.
The Boones, English Quakers, left Pennsylvania in 1750 and settled (1751 or 1752) in the Yadkin valley of North Carolina. Daniel served as a wagoner in Braddock's ill-fated expedition (1755) against Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) and almost certainly took part in Gen. John Forbes's successful march on the same place in 1758. He became interested in Florida, but his wife, the former Rebecca Bryan, whom he married in 1756, refused to accompany him. He explored (1769–71) the Kentucky region thoroughly, and its prospects delighted him.
Attacks by Native Americans turned back his first colonizing attempt (1773), but in Mar., 1775, as advance agent for Richard Henderson and the Transylvania Company and with an armed band of 30 men, he blazed the famous Wilderness Road and founded Boonesboro (or Boonesborough) on the Kentucky River. Henderson arrived in a few weeks with additional settlers, and later in the same season Boone guided a second party, including his family. When Kentucky was made a county of Virginia in 1776, he was elected a captain of militia.
In the American Revolution, while on an expedition to find salt in the Blue Licks on the Licking River, Boone and his party were captured (Feb., 1778) by Shawnee and taken to British headquarters at Detroit. Highly regarded by his captors, he was adopted as a member of the tribe. He led them to think that he would prevail on the other settlers to surrender, but, after four months of captivity, he escaped in time to prepare Boonesboro for an attack by the tribe, which then failed. A disgruntled element charged Boone with disloyalty, and although he was promptly acquitted and elected major, he left Boonesboro and, after collecting his family, which had returned to North Carolina after his capture, founded (1779) a new settlement, Boone's Station, near what is now Athens, Ky.
Boone served several terms as representative in the Virginia legislature. His titles to large tracts of land were adjudged imperfect, and despite his services to Kentucky he lost his best holdings through ejectment suits. Disgusted, he and Rebecca followed (1799) a son to Missouri, where the Spanish government granted him a large tract in the Femme Osage valley and made him district magistrate. When the United States assumed jurisdiction over this territory after the Louisiana Purchase (1803), his land titles were again found to be defective, but the direct intercession of Congress (1814) restored part of his acreage.
Boone's adventures became well known through the so-called autobiographical account that appeared in the widely read Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke (1784), by John Filson, and Lord Byron's verses on him in Don Juan gave his name international prominence. Historical scholarship has disproved many of the legends about him; nevertheless these still attest to those qualities of courage and determination that earned him enduring popularity.
See biographies by J. Bakeless (1965), R. G. Thwaites (1963, repr. 1971), and R. E. McDowell (1972).