The Mysterious Illness of Jim Bowie: How Did He Contribute to His Own Decline?


Directly or indirectly, Jim Bowie’s enigmatic illness during the siege of the Alamo resulted from his own actions. A hearty man of six feet in height, Bowie was a walking contradiction; a slave trader who fought for freedom, a generous and congenial man who called out his thunderous temper on a whim, and a commanding leader who was prone to binges of sloppy drunkenness. He was determined in his actions and proceeded through life with an indestructible will, yet found himself bed-ridden as he took his last breath.

Many suppositions have been made as to the cause of his infirm, including typhoid fever, pulmonary consumption, and traumatic injury. Other possibilities will be proposed in this text and will all lead to the conclusion that by indirect association or direct action, Jim Bowie contributed to his own demise.

James Bowie died on the morning of March 6, 1836 at the hands of the Mexican Army during the siege at the Alamo. His journey to San Antonio began in Kentucky, where he was born in 1796, and continued along the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers until he reached Louisiana with his family in the early 19th century.[1]The Bowie family owned a plantation in southern Louisiana in 1809, one year after the United States Constitution barred the international trade of slaves. Upon the death of his father in 1821, James and his brothers bought and sold slaves illegally through pirated slave ships in the Caribbean. Slaves and the ships that contained them had originated in Africa and were bound for the West Indies.


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