The Alamo, Fact or Legend?
The Alamo, Fact or Legend?
Died-in-the-wool Texans will rise up in righteous indignation if anyone should suggest the story of the Alamo is not true. But, are there some parts of the story more fiction than fact?
March 6, one hundred and seventy-two years ago, marks the fall of the Alamo in 1836 where 189 volunteers, having held a four thousand man Mexican army commandeered by Generalissimo Santa Anna at bay for thirteen days, finally was overwhelmed. That is a historical fact.
That one man, Louis Rose, left the Alamo is a fact.
That Santa Anna burned the defenders’ bodies is a fact.
That a handful of women and a Bowie’s slave, Joe, were permitted to live is a fact.
That Bowie, Crockett, and Travis died there is a fact.
From that point on, just about everything else is the stuff from which legends and myths are made.
Colonel William Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie are the three with whom most legends are associated.
Who has not heard the story that on March 5 when all seemed hopeless, Travis drew a line in the sand and asked all who were willing to die for Texas to step over it?
Did he draw the line? Remember, every man except one died.
Some say Louis Rose, a Napoleonic veteran who fled the Alamo told the story of the Line in the Sand, known by many as the Grand Canyon of Texas. Such is unlikely. He died around 1850, and the story did not see light until around 1873.
Now, Ben Milam, a few months earlier in the Texan siege of General Cos at San Antonio did draw a line. Perhaps this is where the line came from.
Juan Seguin was a sworn enemy of Santa Anna. He was one of the staunchest fighters for Texas, having formed his own band of Tejanos to fight for the cause.
Travis sent Seguin, despite the latter’s entreaties to remain, on a mission. While he was gone, the Alamo fell. The young man swore a proper burial for the fallen.
Legend recounts that Sequin collected the ashes of the fallen and placed them in a casket. Inside the lid, he engraved the names of Crockett, Travis, and Bowie. The interment site was kept secret.
Years later, just before he died, he revealed he had buried the casket outside the sanctuary railing, near the steps in the old San Fernando Church. In 1936, a box was unearthed there containing bones, rusty nails, shreds of uniforms, buttons, charcoal from the funeral pyre, and crushed skulls.
Were they indeed the remains of the Alamo defenders?
Did Sequin indeed follow through on his promise?
Whoever they were, today they are contained in a marble coffin enshrined at the two hundred and seventy-seven year old San Fernando Cathedral at 115 Main Plaza, San Antonio.
Probably the most discussed legend is that of the death of Davy Crockett. The most common myth is that he died a hero using his trusty flintlock ‘Old Betsy’ like a club. Another myth has it he survived the siege and was executed. Another story, told by General Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, was Crockett hid in the barracks and claimed he was there by accident. He was executed.
But, Bowie’s slave, Joe, said he was ordered by Santa Anna after the battle to point out the bodies of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis. Do we believe him or the Mexican version?
Another legend is that Bowie, too ill to stand on his feet, was carried on his cot by Mexican soldiers from the infirmary and thrown into the funeral pyre while still alive.
Would even Santa Anna be that cruel?
Well, Bowie knew Santa Anna; Bowie married into the Mexican aristocracy; Bowie had taken up Mexican citizenship; and now Bowie was fighting in the Texas army.
What do you think? Fact or fiction.