Historians often wish their undergraduates would learn and remember facts with the ease they recall myths. The siege of the Alamo is a wonderful story that is embedded in American minds. However, like many exciting stories, for example, the role of little boats in the evacuation of Dunkirk, it is full of myths. For instance,it would be hard to think of anyone less like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie than John Wayne (who directed) and Alan Ladd in the popular film about the Alamo.
In his latest well researched and easy to read book James Donovan correctly sets the record straight (as far as possible) in respect of William Barret Travis whose role in the siege has been demeaned by authors and film makers alike in favour of the folk heroes mentioned above. It was Travis, a 26 tear-old cavalry officer, who had to turn a rabble of very dubious characters into a fighting force to defend the fort against Mexico's military dictator Santa Anna. He succeeded to the extent that although out-gunned 2:1 the brave riff-raff held out for almost a fortnight. The result was yet another example of the losers becoming more famous than the winners.
The author is convinced that this courageous defence delayed Santa Anna's advance into Texas and in so doing gave Sam Houston time to train an army to confront Santa Anna (the so-called Napoleon of the West). The rest as they say is history. This, like Donovan's previous book 'A Terrible Glory' which dealt with another military disaster, the battle of Little Bighorn, is a very good account of an inspirational event. It can be recommended but readers should remember that all of Travis's men died in the battle. As a result, authors like Donovan have to rely on Mexican documents which, like all official documents, have to be treated with a degree of suspicion.
In 1845 Texas became the largest state in the Union. Today Alaska the 49th state is even bigger but say Texans 'wait until the ice melts'.