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Truth Versus Myth at the Alamo

Updated on October 7, 2017
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

As with many historical events, myth begins to take over and the reality of what happened begins to fade into the glamor of legend. It is no different for the Alamo and the stories that swirl around the famous fight. The truth has become woven within myth with only those determined to find it able to see it for what it truly is.

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What We Know

Most of us recount the events as follows: It was 1836. The Texans who lived in the area were demanding independence and a chance for a voice of their own. They wanted to seperate from Mexico especially since so many of them were American. Across the desert appeared the notorious General Santa Anna who was to destroy the rebellion. Several leaders of the rebellion entrenched themselves in the mission. Santa Anna was going to make an example of them.

In the mission was the famous Jim Bowie, Davey Crocket, and Colonel Travis. Though Bowie was injured he was determined to fight to the end. Crocket took out his faithful rifle and died swinging it as he took down a few Mexicans with him. In the end, the massacre was horrible as no one survived, and the Mexicans destroyed all. The cry across Texas became, “Remember the Alamo!”

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Let's Look At This Again

OK, let us get back to the strong foundation of history. In reality, just a little bit of this legend is true. Yes, the Texans were fighting for independence. Basically it was a revolution that was just a small part of the troubles Mexico was having at the time.

The Alamo was no longer a religious building at this time and had been occupied by both sides over the preceding years. The fight that we know of as the Alamo was actually a military miscalculation.

Though the Texans and a few sympathetic Mexicans had been fortifying the mission, the appearance of the Mexican army was not expected so soon. Travis sent for help multiple times as they were vastly outnumbered with little chance of survival. A small group of volunteers did appear but in the end that was not enough to keep the army at bay.

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The Fall

It took less than two weeks for the mission to fall. Bowie, Crocket, and Travis all died in the fight though how is debatable. Legend creates the great men as dying as heroically fighting to the end. There is no evidence to support much of it. All that is known is that the men did die in the battle and not willingly as martyrs. Travis was the one to force martyrdom as Bowie and Crocket had plans for an attack and then an escape.

Legend also has it that no one survived the fight. In reality more than a dozen of the original two hundred lived including a black slave and many women and children. Santa Anna did not put them all under the sword as many of the rumors across the land stated. That was built up to help the Texans win their independence.

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What Was the Incident?

Usually the Alamo is looked at as the struggle to survive and stand against the “big dog”. It is seen as the defenseless being beaten up by the big, bad bully. But militarily it was a complete mistake and debacle. Travis refused to give up the mission for in his mind it was the key to winning the revolution. If they could hold their own and defeat Santa Anna, then a huge victory would be on their side. He had time to run for it and hole up somewhere stronger as they had gotten word of Santa Anna's advance from scouts. But determination and pride was the ruler of the day and kept them in the mission for longer than they needed to be.

Texas belonged to Mexico, and the Alamo was the sacrifice to achieve independence. The deaths of the famous men and the fall of the mission along with exaggerated tales of Santa Anna’s cruelty inspired the Texans and gave them the energy to fight harder and eventually win their independence.

Was it a matter of good guys versus bad guys? Not really. It is in truth a story of men and women who were not quite the same as the ones who ruled and owned their land and wanted to rule themselves independently. In an effort to separate much blood was shed and the Alamo became a symbol to inspire a victory.


The Alamo Today

Today you can visit the Alamo in San Antonio. When you first see it, you very well might feel disappointment. It is pretty small, but what we have today is just a portion of the mission. It is the main building with all the outer ones destroyed. The large wall that surrounded it is not there. Instead, city streets criss-cross around it. It is a piece of Texas past nestled within the present and future.

Sources:

True West - https://truewestmagazine.com/alamo-myths/

The Institute of American History - https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/age-jackson/essays/when-myth-and-meaning-overshadow-history-remembering-alamo

My San Antonio - http://www.mysanantonio.com/alamo/article/Myths-surround-Alamo-history-1039374.php

Sons of DeWitt Colony - http://www.sonsofdewittcolony.org//adp/archives/newsarch/myths.html

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