Myth of the Battle of Alamo

Battle of Alamo

Storytelling is common in most of the cultures round the globe. Many traditional aspects in the past used to flow from one generation to another through these stories. Myths are the stories about legends and traditions. They consist of certain false beliefs or ideas. The myths may not be completely false and have fragments of historical facts that are based on truth. Myths are majorly concerned with cultural or religious aspects of a nation. Myths are common in every single civilizations since the dawn of mankind.

In this discussion, we shall have a look into the myth about the famous “Battle of the Alamo.” It was a furious battle fought between group defenders of Texas and Mexican troops. The battle took place in 1836 at San Antonio, which was a part of Mexico at the time, now known as Alamo. At that time Texas was the part of Republic of Mexico but a large number of Texans wanted it to become an independent state. The dictator and the President of Mexico was Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The General Santa Anna organized his Army and reached the Alamo. He commanded his troops to execute the defenders. The defender Army was a handful of Texan volunteers led by William B. Travis. Some other important historical figures were James Bowie and Davy Crockett. The defenders basically consisted of a loose group of volunteers that could have left their leader at any possible opportunity.

The common perception of the “Battle of the Alamo” is that Texans were the good guys fighting for their rights and their own country whereas the Mexican troops were cruel as they crushed the revolt and executed handful of defenders using their huge army of 4000 soldiers. The ashes of the defenders killed in the battle of Alamo still reside in the Fernando Cathedral and reminds people of this war fought for independence. Many historians have expressed in their historical accounts that Travis was a valiant fighter and made a speech by drawing a line that whoever wants to support him and want to stay with him cross the line and soon they will mark the history of USA.

Mexican Army lay siege to the defenders and destructed the Mission using cannon shots. Then the battle led to a fierce fight causing death of all the defenders and 600 Mexicans. It is believed and clearly stated in many historical evidences that there were no survivors among the Texans. During the 13 days of the siege period, the Taxes Lone Star flag flew over the Alamo.   After the defeat, “Remember the Alamo” became a slogan and a Texan Army was organized under the command of General Sam Houston. This Army attacked Mexican troops and captured General Santa Anna. Finally Texas became independent. It is believed by many of the historians that the Battle of Alamo and the sacrifice made by the Texans in this battle gave enough time to Sam Houston to gather his army and make it strong enough to fight the Mexican Army. Therefore, Battle of Alamo was a significant milestone in the history of this revolution [1]

This rebellion was a significant turning point in the history of Mexico and America. Professor Frantz expressed his views that the battle of Alamo was a heroic effort of a handful of volunteers who defeated a brilliant leader and modified geographic shape of United States of America [2]

Facts and Realities in the battle of Alamo

The above mentioned account of the Alamo is enriched with a number of myths that exaggerate various important events of the war. The Texas Revolution was indeed a turning point in the history of America that expressed the unsuccessful struggle of USA to capture Texas. However historians have exaggerated the facts in the historical accounts hiding lot of factual information.

Now considering each of the Myth mentioned in the historical account above, it is expressed by the historians that Texans were brave people who were fighting to defend their homeland whereas the Mexicans were crushing a huge revolution. Mexicans were just fighting to keep their territory intact and Texans were fighting for certain freedom aspects. Not to mention, the Texans were living in another country while trying to rebel the government there. Good or bad cannot be identified with sheer accuracy in this regard. Another major aspect is that it is clearly stated by many of the historians that there were no survivors among the Texans. It is not the case in reality. All of the defenders in Alamo were killed except the twenty women and children who were allowed to return back to their homes. Among them the famous survivor was Susanna Dickinson. [3]

The belief is incorrect that the ashes of the defenders still reside in a single coffin in the San Fernando Cathedral because evidence states that the ashes were buried and the spot was marked with a stone. However later the stone was lost and exact location of the grave is not known. In addition to that the Speech of William B Travis and his action of drawing a line and asking his fellow volunteers to cross it if they support him, all appears to be an exaggerated account of the Historians to romanticize the series of events. There is no evidence of such speech by Travis. However history expresses the fact that the Alamos have prepared for the war with lack of energy and enthusiasm. [4] Apart from that the flag that flew during the battle was not the Texas Lone star flag but it was a tricolor Tejas y Coahuila flag. This is the fact revealed by the account of a number of historians.

It is also believed that the Battle of Alamo gave enough time to Sam Houston to organize his troops and in this way this battle was an important turning point that led to the independence of Texas in the years to come. Research clearly negates this information and suggests that at that time Houston was busy in other activities such as he was busy in his appointment as General of Texas Army and the battle of Alamo had nothing to do with the war later fought under the command of Sam Houston. [5] Now coming towards the words spoken by Frantz regarding this battle mentioned in the above account, the words expressed sheer exaggeration of the facts. First, the defenders were not merely a group of volunteers but they had a strong support from the Texas Mexicans. Second, Santa Anna cannot be considered a brilliant leader as his decisions at various events were clearly flawed. In addition to that Mexico or Texas can never be compared with United States on the basis of their size and power. [6]

The facts clearly express that the historical explanations of the battle of Alamo have been exaggerated in many ways. However, the battle of Alamo was clearly one the mile stones that tribute to the identity of the American West. The exaggerated descriptions romanticized the story and showed a great example of the American’s grit and bravery. As stated by the researchers identifying the myths from reality in this event, more ink than blood has been spilled.

Khanh Nguyen

Bibliography

Filisola, Jose Vicente. “Memoirs for the History of te War in Texas.” 1987: 157-159.

Frantz, Joe B. Texas: A Bicentennial History. WW Norton & Co, 1976.

Gray, William Fairfax. From Virginia to Texas1835: Diary of Col.W. F. Gray. Houston: Fletcher Young Publishing Co, 1965.

Wayne, Moquin, and Charles Van Doren. “A Documentary History of Mexican Americans(1971);Long, Jeff Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and US fight for the Alamo.” 1990.

Weber, David J. Myths and the History of the Hispanic Southwest. Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1987.

[1] Moquin Wayne and Charles Van Doren, A Documentary History of the Mexican Americans (1971); Long, Jeff Duel of Eagles: the Mexican and U.S. fight for the Alamo (1990).

[2] Frantz, Texas , p. 72

[3] José Vicente Filisola, Memoirs for the History of the War in Texas (Eakin Press, 1987), 157

[4] David J. Weber, Myth and the History of the Hispanic Southwest (University of New Mexico Press, 1987), 146

[5] William Fairfax Gray, From Virginia to Texas 1835: Diary of Col. W. F. Gray (Houston: Fletcher Young Publishing Co., 1965), 125.

[6] See note 4

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