Today is the anniversary of the Fall of the Alamo; March 6, 1836. When I was a child it was a date of importance, an occasion for all Texans to ponder their past. That’s what my memory tells me.
Or was it the fact that my mother was a historian? Maybe she was the one who made a big deal of the date. Then, after the beginning of WWII, the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor” imitated Sam Houston’s charge to the Texas Army at San Jacinto – “Remember the Alamo.” And we all did. And still do.
The Alamo chapel in Alamo Plaza in San Antonio stands there today, well cared for, a major tourist attraction for that city. The arched façade is high on the list of iconic symbols. The story of the brave defenders, giving their all for liberty, inspires us Texans. Travis, Bowie, Crockett and the others. Especially Crockett, thanks to the miracle of modern Television.
And we all know – the story of that fight has morphed into mythology. The legend began the day the battle was fought. What really happened on March 6? Who was left to tell the tale? The defenders all perished, didn't they? What are the facts?
There were a few survivors. Not only Suzanna Dickinson and her daughter, or Joe, Travis’s slave. Several women and children survived, and took up their lives in San Antonio or elsewhere in Texas. A half-century later, a newspaper reporter for the San Antonio Light interviewed the ones he could locate. Their stories are recounted in Bill Groneman’s book, “Eyewitness to the Alamo” (Republic of Texas Press, 2001). Fascinating!
Added to the mix are the diaries – stories – of Mexican Army Officers who fought in the battle. Notably, the de la Piña diary that reports that Davy Crockett was captured alive and then executed. That diary was red meat for Texas historians!
The eyewitness accounts prove again the old saw – that eyewitnesses are unreliable. In the retelling, some of them contradicted even themselves.
So, it’s your call. Did Davy Crockett surrender? Did Travis actually draw a line with his sword? Did some defenders break out of the Alamo and try to escape? Did Bowie die on his feet or in bed? Did Seguin gather bones of the defenders and take them to San Francisco Cathedral? Or do they lie, burned, beneath San Antonio’s streets?
All the eyewitnesses are gone, but the story isn’t over. There is more information to be mined from the vaults of old Army records, someplace in Mexico City. First-hand accounts, old family stories, keep surfacing. Bill Groneman remarks that “eyewitness accounts” may be in the process of being created right now!
And Yet. I’ll raise a glass to the Alamo defenders and the myth they created, March 6, 1936. And to the Mexican soldiers who overwhelmed them on that day. For all of them – I’ll Remember the Alamo!
March 6, 2014
Happy Birthday, Paige S. and Bruce W.
“We are all compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” – Hebrews 12:1.