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Truth versus Myth at the Alamo

As with many historical events, myth begins to take over and the reality of what happened begins to fade into the glamor of legend. It is no different for the Alamo and the stories that swirl around the famous fight.

Most of us recount the events as follows: It was 1836 in the Alamo, and the Texans who were in the mission were demanding independence and a chance for a voice of their own. Across the desert appeared the notorious Santa Anna who was to destroy the mission and all those inside.

In the mission was the famous Jim Bowie, Davey Crocket, and Colonel Travis. Though Bowie was injured he was determined to fight to the end. Crocket took out his faithful rifle and died swinging it as he took down a few Mexicans with him. In the end the massacre was horrible as no one survived and the Mexicans destroyed all. The cry across Texas became, “Remember the Alamo!”

OK, let us get back to the strong foundation of history. In reality just a little bit of this legend is true. Yes, the Texans were fighting for independence. Basically it was a revolution that was just a small part of the troubles Mexico was having at the time.

The Alamo was no longer a religious building at this time and had been occupied by both sides over the preceding years. The fight that we know of as the Alamo was actually a military miscalculation.

Though the Texans and a few sympathetic Mexicans had been fortifying the mission, the appearance of the Mexican army was not expected so soon. Travis sent for help multiple times as they were vastly outnumbered. A small group of volunteers did appear but in the end that was not enough to keep the army at bay.

It took less than two weeks for the mission to fall. Bowie, Crocket, and Travis all died in the fight though how is debatable. Legend creates the great men as dying as heroically as tongues can describe it. There is no evidence to support much of it. All that is known is that the men did die in the battle and not willingly as martyrs. Travis was the one to force martyrdom as Bowie and Crocket had plans for an attack and then an escape.

Legend also has it that no one survived the fight. In reality more than a dozen of the original two hundred lived including a black slave and many women and children. Santa Anna did not put them all under the sword as many of the rumors across the land stated.

Usually the Alamo is looked at as the struggle to survive and stand against the “big dog”. But militarily it was a complete mistake and debacle. Travis refused to give up the mission for in his mind it was the key to winning the revolution. He had time to run for it and hole up somewhere stronger. But determination and pride was the ruler of the day.

Texas belonged to Mexico and the Alamo was the sacrifice to achieve independence. The death of the famous men and the fall of the mission along with exaggerated tales of Santa Anna’s cruelty inspired the Texans and gave them the energy to fight harder and eventually win their independence.

Was it a matter of good guys versus bad guys? Not really. It is in truth a story of men and women who were not quite the same as the ones who ruled and owned their land and wanted to rule themselves independently. In an effort to separate much blood was shed and the Alamo became a symbol to inspire a victory.

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