Tag Archives: Alamo

Ersatz dignity at the Alamo

Took visiting Israeli friends to San Antonio on Friday to see the Alamo and was surprised to find the city has removed the parking meters on the side streets since the last time I was there. Now you’re at the mercy of the high-price lots—five to ten bucks to park.

Much as I like the place—a tiny island of history almost smothered by modern urban commercialism—I came away irritated. Years ago, they kept the trinket-sales in the back of the chapel. Now that they’ve been removed to a special gift-shop building, ersatz dignity is the rule.

One of the red-vest docents asked me to remove my hat in the chapel. Without the trinket cases, see, it’s a shrine to the dead heroes. No such thing in the adjacent Long Barracks museum, however, where far more of the defenders actually died than did in the chapel.

The Alamo falls

On this day in 1836, the chapel of San Antonio de Valero Mission,
under siege for thirteen days by the Mexican army under General Antonio
Lopez de Santa Anna, was subjected to an early morning assault. After
a fierce battle, lasting for perhaps some 90 minutes, the defenses
of the Alamo were overrun and all the defenders were killed. The slogan
“Remember the Alamo!” subsequently became a rallying cry for the Texas
Revolution, and the Alamo became a shrine to fallen Texas heroes.”

With contemporary similarities, albeit still disputed.

Happy Texas Independence Day

It’s happy now. Wasn’t on this day in 1836. The Alamo was under siege by the Mexican thousands and the Texians, despite today’s issuance of their proclamation of Texas independence, were about as disorganized and fractious as you might expect a fledgling government and its ad hoc military to be.

Four days from now, with the fall of the Alamo, and not long afterward with the horrific massacre at Goliad, the prospect of hanging would fix all their minds remarkably on their country-making goals. The victory at San Jacinto would follow and Texas would be a newly independent Republic.

A Moment In Time



Alamo illustrator Gary Zaboly’s concept of the dawn battle’s midpoint. More here.

The Alamo legend

Thirteen Days to Glory, originally published in 1958, is one of the better myth books of the Alamo. But having only recently read it, at A.C. Greene’s recommendation, I see that it’s shot through with questionable stuff. None is sillier than the "line in the dust" notion foisted on the legend in the late Nineteenth Century by W.P. Zuber. He was a Revolutionary war veteran who was apparently trying to make up for having sat out the battle of San Jacinto as a baggage guard.

So hardy is Zuber’s fable that the D.R.T. now has a brass rod affixed to the flagstones in front of the chapel shrine to commemorate the line. That it is a fraud is logically demonstrated in 2003’s Alamo Traces, New Evidence and New Conclusions. My other favorite Alamo books are the 2000 novel The Gates of the Alamo, with its portrayal of David–rather than Davy–Crockett and ignoring of Zuber’s line altogether, and the 1994 revolutionary military history Texian Iliad, which dismisses the line as without foundation.

San Jacinto Day…

…is Monday, actually, the anniversary of the defeat of the forces of Mexican dictator/Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at San Jacinto, in the bayous southeast of present-day Houston, practically in Galveston Bay. The Texian victory led to establishment of the Republic of Texas. The day is the last of what Texana author Mike Cox calls the High Holy Days of Texas history–Texas Independence Day on March 2, the fall of the Alamo on March 6, and the battle of San Jacinto on April 21. I would add March 27, Palm Sunday, the day of the Goliad massacre by Mexican troops–certainly the least defensible thing they did–which explains why some Texians wanted to hang Santa Anna after his capture.

A Dallas cousin and I, doing our Texas genealogies, recently rounded up a possible SJ combatant-ancestor cousin of ours, one John Matchett. We found a pay voucher for JM at the state archives dated in 1840 showing him to have been a member of Capt. Wyley’s Company in Sidney Sherman’s 2nd Regiment from April 1 to July 23, 1836. A few years ago, JM was listed on this unofficial roster but his name–along with all the other soldier names therein–has since been removed. Although he’s still on this, similar one. Still, he’s not on any of the official lists we can find, so we’re not sure what to think about it. 

Meanwhile, in a little irony, Mr. B.’s second grade class starts its "Mexico Week" this year on, wait for it, San Jacinto Day. Multiculturalism at work, I suppose. I wonder if the school system did it on purpose?

MORE:  Meanwhile, today is Patriot’s Day up north, commemoration of a time surely on Texan minds during the 1836 revolution. 

Fall of the Alamo

Today, at dawn, one hundred and seventy-two years ago, the Mexican army’s thirteen day seige of the Alamo ended with an attack that slew the Alamo defenders. Well, most of them, as the women and some of the children inside the walls were allowed to walk free, and a few went on to talk about what had happened. There were, however, some frauds.