Remembering the Alamo
Tomorrow marks the 163 anniversary of the beginning of the 13 day siege of the Alamo in the Texas War for Independence. I don’t know what the Alamo means to younger Texans, but when I was a kid it was bigger than just about any other historic fact (probably because it had been turned into an historic myth of gigantic proportions ) not only in Texas, but in all of America. This was because Walt Disney’s “Davey Crockett “ T.V. shows had immortalized it. Crocket, who died at the Alamo, either in battle or by firing squad, depending on whether you read Texas history or Mexican history, was quite possibly the first great myth created by television. Every boy worth his salt owned a coonskin cap and could sing the Davey Crockett theme song, “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee”, as well as the schoolyard parody, “Born in a pickle jar in Jones Café. “
My greatest memory of the Alamo is not from a childhood visit, but from a visit when I was in my twenties and already married. My wife and I were entering the Alamo when some lout attempted to walk in with a Stetson on his head. He was stopped by a large security guard who barred the front door and screamed out “Take off your hat boy, this place is a shrine !” I liked that. I liked that a lot. I doubt that you get yelled at for leaving a backwards baseball cap on in the Alamo these days, but you should.
Most people don’t realize, or have forgotten that there were actually two sieges of the Alamo. The first one was won by the Texans, then called “Texians”. General Cos, a brother in law of the dictator of Mexico, Antonio Lopez be Santa Ana, and his band of 150 soldiers were holed up in the Alamo during the first siege of Bexar by the Texians. The Texians seemed prepared to sit around all winter rather than storm the city when finally, one of the officers, Col. Ben Milam, rebelled, called a meeting and asked “Who will follow old Ben into Bexar ?” Most agreed to go and almost all came back except for “Old Ben” who was killed by a Mexican sharpshooter. But “Old Ben” had forced the Cos surrender and sent what was left of his little army back across the Rio Grande.
Upon the return of the Mexican Army the next year, things did not turn out so well for the Texians at the Alamo, although Walt Disney, and later John Wayne, made a lot of hay out of the slaughter. Disney even made a lot of money. The Texas Revolution was marked by three outright massacres. After all hands were killed at the Alamo, the Garrison at Goliad was captured and all of the Texans were executed. A few weeks later, the good guys came upon Santa Ana’s army during afternoon siesta time and despite being outnumbered, possibly by two to one, over ran the sleeping army in 18 minutes. During this battle, the Texians decided not to bother with too many surrendering Mexicans and killed many in what we would consider cold blood. “Remember the Alamo” being the battle cry. Documentary evidence from the time claims that many Mexicans soldiers through up their hands and cried “Me no Alamo”. An expression that is used to this day in Texas by anyone falsely accused of an act. Opinions differ as to whether it is politically correct today to use the phrase. I do notice that most everyone still using it has dropped the phony Spanish accent that used to go along with the saying when I was young.
Because the causes of the Texas Revolution were complicated, and because the result of the Texas Revolution was an unfair war against the Republic of Mexico that stole California, New Mexico and Arizona from the Mexicans, there will never be true agreement as to the righteousness of the Texan cause. Unless you live in Texas. Let me state that again, unless you are an Anglo in Texas who was taught Texas history in school prior to about 1975. For all of those, the cause will always be just, the memories everlasting and the righteousness of the victory will never die. I fall into that category, even though I know better. Remember the Alamo !