The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #68626   Message #1157158
Posted By: GUEST,Ron Davies
07-Apr-04 - 10:56 PM
Thread Name: The Alamo--Needless Martyrs
Subject: BS: The Alamo--Needless Martyrs?
Due in large part to the movie coming out soon, Smithsonian had an article on the Alamo--great reading. Movie sounds worthwhile, but what really fascinated me was the complexity of the situation--way beyond the '189 heroes' we heard about in the 50s. The article didn't deal with this question but I did some more research and it seems evident that the Alamo slaughter was needless.

General Houston, in charge of the regulars, had in fact sent Jim Bowie to carry the word to destroy the Alamo and retreat to a more defensible position--as originally a mission, it was not a good place to be besieged. But what appears to have happened is that when Bowie got there he was so impressed with what had been done to improve the position, and possibly convinced it was essential as a forward post, so he decided to stay and help improve it further. Houston had sent a message to Governor Smith (governor of what I don't know, since Texas was neither a country nor a state at that point--he appears to have been the head of a governing committee a la the Continental Congresses). Houston told Smith that the Alamo should be abandoned if Smith saw fit. Gov. Smith did not see fit.

What a cast of characters!

Jim Bowie, former slave trader with Jean LaFitte of Battle of New Orleans fame, and current land swindler and definitely a fighter. Though he did not invent the famous knife (his brother did), he sure used it to good advantage before he got to Texas.

Former Congressman David Crockett--one of the US' first celebrities and a Jackson man who had turned against Jackson over some land bills. It appears that Jackson wanted a free hand for land speculators--profits to be used for education!--while Crockett felt the squatters who had actually cleared the land should get the land cheap. Also Crockett was one of the few prominent Westerners (meaning west of Pennsylvania) who opposed Jackson's Indian removal policy. He had lost his seat in Congress due to Jacksonian opposition. The famous quote was " Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas" Hope he really said it--it's a classic. In Texas Crockett planned to be a land agent -- maybe more.

Lt. Colonel Travis--27 at the time of his death--an attorney with military experience, who was not the choice of the volunteers at the Alamo--they finally agreed to let him lead the regulars while Bowie was elected leader of the volunteers--Bowie celebrated by getting smashed and letting out prisoners. Soon Bowie was down with pneumonia and Travis was in charge.

Santa Anna--nobody seems to know where the extra n came from--originally Santa Ana. The ultimate turncoat--first against the Spanish as an officer in the Spanish army. After switching allegiances an amazing number of times, he was let through a US blockade in 1846 to negotiate a diplomatic settlement, at which point he put himself ยท(again) at the head of the anti US forces in Mexico. In 1836 he did surprise the Alamo defenders by appearing sooner and with more troops than expected---many of them press-ganged Indians who didn't speak Spanish.

Houston--in a different way from the Alamo defenders a profile in courage--not only beating a larger Mexican army at San Jacinto soon after the Alamo, but much later, as governor, refusing to support secession of Texas and refusing to take the oath of loyalty to the newly formed Confederate States of America, for which he was removed as governor. (He did eventually verbally support the South).

General Cos--Mexican commander when the Americans besieged and took the Alamo themselves (December 1835)--he was given safe-conduct for him and his forces, on condition that he not fight against the Texans. When Santa Anna ordered him to rejoin, he did--a main leader in the besieging forces which slaughtered the Texans in March 1836.

None of the defenders had a death wish (though Bowie probably realized he was mortally ill). All they had to do was do what Houston suggested. They didn't. They called for reinforcements--very few came, due to their own problems, and the larger relief force would have been too late.

So the Alamo was considered a military assset after all. But after the slaughter, which Santa Anna had "legalized" by declaring all rebels to be outlaws, the Mexicans got it anyway. You can say the outrage caused by the Alamo and the Goliad massacre soon after raised volunteers and hence helped Texas get independence, guaranteed by Santa Anna as a prisoner after San Jacinto.   But the Alamo slaughter seems like a real waste of some great men--including some Spanish-speaking Mexican-born defenders.

I think Houston was right---any thoughts?