“On two occasions, I have written about the Álamo…, but there
was nothing in print when I worked to equal Jeff Long’s detailed
study of the facts. His book is a remarkable contribution to Texas
history, both a captivating account of what happened and a well-
footnoted summary of the historical documents on which the story
is based. This is a most entertaining and useful book.” (James A. Michener).
With those words, Texas historian James A. Michener welcomed “Duel of Eagles”, a book that counters mainstream Texas history’s very flawed rendition of the 1836 Battle of the Álamo.
In truth, Jeff Long is yet another objective-minded historian who has carefully fact-checked the Anglicized Álamo story we were all taught in school. Additionally, here are two other enlightening books: “Exodus from the Álamo”, by Philip Thomas Tucker, and “Forget the Álamo”, by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford.
In my view, these writers superbly separate fact from fiction. That is, for every point they make, they cite original documents supporting the facts. Albeit, it begs the question. Why do mainstream historians intentionally overlook these sources, reject the truth, and perpetuate the movie-based, legend-filled narrative now used in Texas classrooms?
The answer: It contradicts the mandated Anglo Saxon storyline that erroneously proclaims Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston as the fathers of Texas.
Before going any further, if you’re expecting to read that these writers take Mexico’s side, you are mistaken. On the contrary, they use the same standard to judge both sides.
In view of time and space, this article focuses only briefly on some of the major characters involved. If you wish to learn more, the books have vast amounts of details you will appreciate.
Let’s begin with the two leaders. As for General Santa Anna, today he is greatly maligned in Texas and the U.S. and remembered as an overly pretentious drug user. Yet, shortly after the battle, major U.S. newspaper editorials praised Santa Anna for defeating aggressive armed U.S. trespassers in his sovereign land.
In truth, Santa Anna’s bad U.S. press took root in 1936, the centennial of the Battle of the Álamo. Bear in mind that by then, many leadership positions in Texas were filled by KKK-affiliated white supremacists. Thus, they set out to whitewash the famous battle by rewriting the official historical record. It’s also the time they erected the overstated cenotaph in Álamo Plaza. Quite honestly, it’s an inglorious symbol of illegal Anglo immigration from the U.S.
For all his faults, Santa Anna possessed some positive attributes. He regained his national popularity and returned to govern his country several times. He died in 1876, age 82.
As regards Sam Houston, the war-tested warrior is today presented as the no-nonsense leader of the Anglo immigrant insurgents. By the same token, strong evidence shows that he had some character weaknesses (alcohol & drug addiction, delusions of grandeur, etc.). As for managing the revolution, he found it difficult to supervise insubordinate officers (Travis, Bowie, and Fannin) who often challenged him. For instance, most Anglo immigrants’ lives under their command could have been saved if both Travis and Fannin had obeyed General Houston’s orders to retreat and regroup.
Something that will surprise readers in Jeff Long’s book is that Sam Houston was more ostentatious than Santa Anna. He once sat for a portrait dressed as a toga-clad Roman Senator and enjoyed wearing Turkish royalty robes.
Most disappointing, Houston often boasted about his anti-Mexican views. That helps to explain the overt racism toward Tejanos within the new government. In the end, many of his former allies shunned him in later life for various reasons. Sam Houston died in 1863, age 70.
As to hero-worship elevation of James Bowie and William Travis, both were of disgusting disposition. Scoundrel is the one single word that describes these two. Not surprising, because it also describes most illegal Anglo immigrants at that time.
Clearly, the U.S. wasn’t sending its best to Mexico. For example, it was customary for immigrants already here to ask newcomers a basic question. “What serious trouble are you running from in the U.S. that made you immigrate to Texas?”
Another over-rated individual is James Fannin of Goliad fame. His weaknesses greatly offset his strengths. He and his fellow Anglo immigrants were duly executed for raising arms against the sovereign country of the Republic of Mexico.
David Crockett had only been in Texas for a few weeks and hadn’t displayed any particular heroism. He surrendered without a fight and executed in accordance with the rules of war. He is quoted as saying that he came to Texas looking for free Mexican land and not revolution. Here was a man who admitted when he was captured that he was caught at the wrong place at the wrong time and paid the price. That doesn’t matter; Anglos have given him a complete mythical make-over, and elevated him to larger-than-life worship status.
Last but not least, Jeff Long reminds us that the 1836 Revolution produced two tragic figures. One of them was Juan Seguin. Besides Lorenzo de Zavala, no other Tejano gave his all to the Anglo revolt. He came to believe that the promise of the 1810 independence movement would be realized with help from the U.S. Anglo immigrants.
Yet, no sooner had he and his Tejanos begin to provide his newfound allies with timely reconnaissance reports, his bigoted Anglo superiors refused to believe him. Had the Anglos heeded the Tejano scouts’ reports, many lives would’ve been saved.
Later, the Tejanos’ superb horse-riding skills in San Jacinto proved to be key to winning the battle. Tejanos were, as Mr. Long recognizes, the first Texas Rangers. Yet, Seguín’s undignified initial treatment ominously signaled what was to come. That is, after the war, he was falsely accused of being a Mexican agent and hounded out of Texas. Sadly, the hero of San Jacinto died in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Lorenzo de Zavala was the other betrayed Tejano. As Juan Seguin, Lorenzo truly believed that the Anglos’ revolution could create an independent Texas where both native-born Tejanos and Anglo immigrants would live in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, his dream was also shattered.
Because of his early key role in helping Sam Houston, de Zavala had enough acceptance among Anglo leadership that he was elected vice president of the new Texas Republic.
Still, his tenure didn’t last. The reason? He complained that Mexican-descent Tejano patriots were being overlooked in filling key positions in the new government. Anglo leaders showed him the same discourtesy they had shown Juan Seguin.
Deeply disappointed, he resigned his position. Shortly after returning to his east Texas home, he was out boating in a nearby river. The boat capsized and he fell into the frigid water. He never regained his strength and died shortly afterwards. Of consolation is the fact that Mexican-born Lorenzo de Zavala put the star on the Texas Lone Star Flag (he designed it). Sweet revenge.
Make no mistake. The Anglo Texas historians who rewrote the 1836 Álamo battle story knew the real details. However, they didn’t allow facts to get in the way, and drew their make-believe legends, hoping no one would notice. Although it took longer than it should have, mainstream Texas history is now fully exposed for what it is — a big lie.
Note: The “big lie” definition: An intentional gross distortion of the facts, especially when used as propaganda by politicians and groups. If repeated often, weak-minded people begin to believe it.
In closing, I know that we live in difficult times in our country, where the most basic common-sense issues are questioned by some, who will no doubt deny the above details. Thus, if you value history as it truly happened, please remember Mr. Michener’s use of the phrase “…, Jeff Long’s detailed study of the facts.”, and the following words in “Duel of Eagles” that summarize the real reasons for the 1836 Anglo invasion of Texas:
“In order to rationalize, if not sanction, the Anglo-American seizure of Texas, Anglo-Americans… needed an artificial history that would present piracy as heroism, wrong as right, aggression as defense. … Manifest Destiny had not yet been uttered, not those words anyway. … What the U.S. required was a sanctifying epic, a propaganda … Texas provided. By plucking heroes and martyrs from the still smoking ash of its battlefields, by copying the colors of Old Glory, the Lone Star … declared itself worthy. By dressing itself in tales of glory, Anglo-Saxonism could redeem itself of all sins of trespass…”
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Texas-based author and historian José Antonio López. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. López can be reached by email via: [email protected]
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