REVIEW: ‘Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier’

• April 18, 2021 4:59 am

Daniel Boone lived to bury his teenage son, horrified by his mangled body.

It was October 1773—two years before a distant war would rock the 13 colonies—when America’s first frontiersman lost his firstborn son in a skirmish with Delaware, Cherokee, and Shawnee tribes. The Native Americans tore out his fingernails one by one, then his toenails. Eventually the teenager succumbed to a gunshot wound, but not before tribesmen slit his throat and bashed his head in with a war club.

Boone would bury another battle-slain son nine years later.

This is not the story you were told as a child. It’s true that Daniel Boone, the son of Pennsylvania Quakers, led droves of migrants through mountain gaps in search of opportunity, freedom, and land for tilling. But what happened to the settlers when Boone led them there is often left out.

Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier recounts this long and violent history of westward expansion. Its authors, the popular historians Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, challenge conventional wisdom about an American origin story and, in the process, weave a tale fit for the big screen.

A failed gentleman farmer, land speculator, and fur trader, Boone had a restless constitution. He led far-ranging expeditions throughout America’s easternmost breadbaskets, leaving his family for months at a time. Clavin and Drury treat the reader to these fascinating if not often gruesome adventures led by Boone and his associates battling disease and famine, not to mention Native Americans and redcoats.

The authors point out that “savagery” was often reciprocal: There are at least a dozen scalpings committed by both frontiersmen and Native Americans—the story of the kidnapping of one frontiersman’s daughter is particularly riveting.

The book’s cast of characters also should ring familiar to students of American history—throughout his adventures, Boone encounters George Washington, Founding Father Patrick Henry, and others. Blood and Treasure also includes an array of maps to

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