Sun 11 Apr, 2004 08:29 am
I've been reading the Smithsonian again...the latest issue has an article about the Alamo, in conjunction with the new movie of the same name, which is supposed to be more accurate than John Wayne's version from the 60s. The defenders of the mission, as the article points out, were not all white guys from the United States. The rebel's forces included "free blacks, slaves, Indians from central Mexico who spoke no Spanish, Tejanos (Mexicans who sided with the Americans), and Europeons, including an Italian general".
Some things I didn't know:
Travis's first move was to attempt to surrender. Santa Anna would not allow conditions, as he was intent on wiping out the entire force, and Travis was smart enough not to surrender without them.
Even as the battle raged, various defenders tried to surrender, but were killed. Perhaps as many as 50 died tried to escape over the wall opposite the main assault. Those who were captured in the course of the battle were executed immediatly after the fighting ended. The bodies were heaped on piles inside and outside the fort and set on fire. The total casualty figure is usually given at 189.
A few weeks later a SECOND slaughter occured at Goliad, where 350[/b] rebels perished. When Houston defeated Santa Anna in the final decisive battle at San Jacinto, the Texan battle cry was "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!"
I'm wondering why it is popular accounts have all but obliterated the memory of Goliad, with its greater loss of life. Was it because it wasn't the first tragedy, or because the cast of characters lacked folk heroes on the order of Davy Crockett, or perhaps for other reasons? The leader of the forces at Goliad was a slave trader named Fannin, who had refused to march to the aid of the Alamo defenders...a decision that is generally not faulted, since his force would most certainly have been wiped out as well, but appears unheroic. It was said that he fought courageously and died valiently, however, when his moment came.
I don't know. Were Crockett, Bowie, and Travis really folk before the Alamo and Walt Disney?
I got quite a kick out of Gore Vidal's portrayal of Davey Crocket, right on the heels (so to speak) of John Wayne's boring movie.
As I understand it, Crockett at least was well-known. A former congressman, he was also a shameless self-promoter, a pioneer in the field of celebrity for celebrity's sake.
Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the frontier "hero" in the new movie version (which got off to a poor start at the box office this week) claims that many of the soldiers in Santa Anna's army had heard of him. Although I don't know why that would be so.
Crockett in congress stood up to Pres Jackson's Indian policies: one good point.
The Journals of David Crockett also promoted his image.