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on 8 December 2011
The siege of the Alamo, like the sinking of the Titanic, is one of those incidents which exert a fascination out of all proportion to their actual historical importance. For many, interest was first aroused by the depiction of the battle in the closing scenes of the 1950s Disney movie about Davy Crockett. This was followed in 1960 by the spectacular John Wayne version. The 2004 movie, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett, did attempt to achieve more historical accuracy than the previous ones, but basically the story, in numerous books as well as the movies, remains the same: a small group of brave Americans, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, fight for the freedom of Texas against the tyrant Santa Anna, by holding out against a large Mexican army for several days, before finally being overwhelmed and slaughtered, fighting to the last man, and taking hundreds of Mexicans with them. By their sacrifice, they buy time for Sam Houston to raise a Texan army and defeat Santa Anna.
Having had a lifelong interest in the Alamo, and having actually been there and stood in front of that iconic church front, I bought this book as soon as the UK paperback was available.
This book sets about "myth busting" in earnest. It uses a lot of contemporary evidence provided by Mexicans, which has apparently been ignored by previous American historians. The main points it makes are
1) The "fight for freedom" was fundamentally a fight to preserve the institution of slavery, which had been abolished in Mexico. Most the instigators of the Texas rebellion were big slave owners.
2) The Alamo defenders allowed themselves to get trapped because of their military inexperience, and because they seriously underestimated the Mexicans, who they regarded as inferiors. Most Mexican civilians resented the Americans, and failed to warn them of the approaching army.
3) The pre-dawn Mexican attack took them by surprise; most of the defenders were asleep, and they actually put up little resistance. Many attempted to escape, and were caught fleeing outside the Alamo and cut down by Mexican cavalry. There were very few Mexican casualties.
Predictably, these conclusions have been met by a certain amount of hostility amongst modern Texans who revere the Alamo defenders as founding martyrs. However, Tucker's sources seem to be fairly reliable, and to me, his conclusions aren't all that controversial. He's not implying that the defenders were cowards, or that Santa Anna was really a nice guy.
I do have a few issues with Tucker's writing style. He seems uncertain about whether he's writing up academic research, in which case there are too many unattributed quotations, or popular history, in which case he could have avoided a lot of repetition and halved the length of the book. He also assumes that the reader is already familiar with the story and the main participants.
In conclusion, if you are an Alamo buff like me, this is essential reading. If the story is unfamiliar to you, better to start elsewhere, such as "A Time to Stand" by Walter Lord, who, coincidentally, also wrote a very good book about the Titanic.
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on 23 August 2010
The story that Phillip Tucker is an intriguing one - a rewriting of one of America's great myths, using forensic evidence and access to primary sources but ... it does takes a long time to make its point and seems (to me) a bit repetitious towards the end. I feel that the 'extra pages' could of concentrated on the fate of the Mexicans who aided the rebellion and how they were pushed aside by the new nation, would of been of greater use. That said I found the book most informative. An excellent piece of detective work and research,well worth the read.
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on 29 October 2011
Few legends stand up to critical examination.The author provides enough food food for thought to knock a few holes in the Alamo myth without completely destroying it.
He attacks the accepted story on two levels.The deeper and more unprovable doubts are raised about the political and racial goings-on at the time.All the main characters,Travis,Houston,Bowie,Crockett,Neil,Fannin were just as flawed as any group of men fighting for power and this in-fighting possibly dicatated that the men in the garrision were sacrificed to clear the pitch for others to prosper.
The questionable decision to defend the Alamo appears to have been so much at odds with simple common sense, that the motives of the men who made it,can not stand scrutiny.
Having said this, the secret plotting and attitudes hinted at would be difficult to understand today,if infact they figured to the extent mentioned in the text.
The simpler part of the story concerns the fight itself.The huge compound of the Alamo could not possibly be defended by the ragtag garrison of 175-250 volunteers.They were far from the veteran backwoodsmen usually portrayed,they were riddled with disease and had little powder capable of use in their weapons.The numerous artillery pieces took half of their numbers,they were untrained in its correct use and they lacked even the most basic ideas of mililtary sense,eg. not sleeping on sentry-go! The authors contention that many of the defenders jumped the wall and tried to escape seems very believable and entirely in keeping with general shambles of the affair. The distance from the compound of the funeral pyres makes the escape idea likely,if not probable.
As I said initally,this volume offers food for thought,some of it credible.
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on 7 November 2011
The actual Exodus is well dealt with in the last chapter, but the preceding chapters are somewhat laboured and disjointed.He keeps continually coming back to the issue of slavery and free land as if to show that the multi ethnic Mexicans are so much better than what he describes as the Anglo Celts, you get the feeling a bit of a 'chip on the shoulder attitude' It becomes repetitive and the style some what flowery mainly because the book if kept to the facts would have been much shorter.

However it is a must for any serious Alamo scholar.
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on 27 July 2015
I really wanted to like this book due to having an interest in the Alamo story. The author has unearthed previously unknown or little used Mexican sources which turn the whole Alamo story on its head. Far from being a heroic fight for freedom it was a futile, ill planned affair with most of the defenders being killed while trying to flee the Alamo. Everyone seems to come in for a pasting, Crockett, Travis, Houston, they all seem to have been incompetent or fighting out of self interest to preserve slavery, you get the impression that the author dosn`t approve of the Texans fight for independence and the repeated references to "Anglo-Celts" seems almost to be used as a derogatory term. The same points are also made several times, e.g about slavery so it feels like you are re-reading sections from earlier in the book.
There are commendable aspects to the book and the author makes the point that in some ways his version of the battle makes the actions of the defenders actually more heroic than the accepted version, I cant help but feel that I prefer the "standard" version of events though. At the very least it`s thought provoking but the style is laboured and it`s frankly not very enjoyable.
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on 23 May 2013
This well researched and interesting work at last answers a number of outstanding questions re the Alamo. I doubt the conclusion will sit easy with the myth but perhps at last, devoid of all the jingoism, is the true story.
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on 1 December 2011
Having never written a review before I feel I must vent my spleen! This is the most appallingly edited book I have ever read. I work in publishing and have read hundreds of historical books before this one. I am only half way through this and I feel utter frustration at the constant repeating of the same pieces of information. The author has an almost palpable hatred of anyone descended from white European settlers. He uses the term Anglo-Celts as a derogatory phrase in nearly every page of the book. All the main characters are portrayed as selfish, egotistical fools whilst the Mexicans seem as saintly warriors fighting the noble cause!

I was hoping to find a well balanced factual read, giving me new historical view points and expanding my knowledge of what for me were heroic figures. Boy have my dreams been shattered, it is akin to being told that Santa Claus does not exist! I have loved the Alamo Legend since I was a small child and the John Wayne epic is one of my all time favourite films. Of course I know it wasn't factual and the more recent Disney version to me was closer, but this book describes a group of selfish, Slave-owning drunkards whose only desire was to grab as much land as they could while sleeping with all the women in San Antonio! This is one mans bigoted view of people that died 175 years ago. A good book lets the reader decide on the merits of the people described, gives balanced facts from at least three different sources. The historical content in this book could have been printed in less than 100 pages.

To me the author has a deep seated bigoted view of all White Americans especially those of English, Irish, Scottish descent. Don't waste your money on this rubbish.

And as an antidote to this awful book I will watch the wonderful Billy Bob Thornton's portrayal of Davy Crockett again playing his fiddle on the wall of the Alamo.
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on 13 July 2014
A dreary book, riddled with errors and repetition. Tucker has such an obvious agenda and he rams it home over and over again, and in the process misses several key aspects of the event. Dont waste your money!
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