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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Alamo : The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth

I just finished reading Exodus From The Alamo by Phillip Thomas Tucker. Mrs. T had dropped it off at our small local library and was asked what I thought of the book. This is not an everyday occurrence. My red flag alert immediately went up.
Turns out this book has been quite controversial. I wasn’t surprised to find this out since the author basically attacks and vilifies the "story" or "myth" of the Alamo as it has been presented to generations of schoolchildren and movie goers. Think John Wayne and Fess Parker. According to Tucker, the whole thing was about the spread of slavery into the verdant land of another nation. The leadership of the Texas rebels was flawed from top to bottom. The people who were already living in Texas (both Anglo and Mexican)were divided about the nature and causes of the rebellion. Santa Anna was akin to Napoleon as a military genius. Huh?
I had tended to agree with the authors basic thesis about the importance of slavery. Some of the details were new and interesting to me, since my basic knowledge of the documented facts about this event (particularly the fight itself and the deaths of Travis, Crockett & Bowie was limited. And some of the analysis was quite laughable.... Santa Anna another Napoleon?
In any case, it was evident the author had several, not very well hidden, agendas. One was that an appraisal of this historical event could do much to improve mutual understanding between Anglo and Latino residents of the Lone Star State. Perhaps.  The other was, by indirection, to bring to light the mind set of people like George W Bush. Thus the controversial nature of the book is brought to focus.
In the end the brouhaha is about politics. This is not helped by the fact that the book is very poorly written. It needed some serious editing and didn’t get it. There are pages and pages of redundancy and much hectoring. The author must assume his audience are all idiots. For this reason alone, I would not recommend buying this book. I would recommend obtaining it at your local library because it is interesting, that is if your interested in historical mythology. Then when you get annoyed with the poor writing, you won’t be tempted to burn it.
As to the politics, well, if this is where George W Bush and "bring em on" (especially in regard to his failed war policies in the Middle East) came from, I wish the myths of the Alamo had been debunked a long time ago. Imagine, if you will, Dwight D. Eisenhower or Abraham Lincoln saying something like that with thousands of dead and maimed soldiers lying on the battlefield.


EcoRover said...

It's frustrating when historians, who have such great material to work with, are such lousy storytellers. While I like the fact that history is always contested ground and a matter of standpoint, a strongly biased political filter (worst case scenario: Glen Beck) makes it impossible to appreciate good arguments/explanations that might be embedded in the diatribe.

NCmountainwoman said...

"Poorly written" and "needing editing" are phrases that will turn me off any book, especially non-fiction. Like you, I would love to read a really good book debunking so many Alamo myths.

Shammickite said...

As I'm a transplanted English person now living in Canada, I really don't know much about US history, so I probably wouldn't read this book unless someone recommended it to me.

Arkansas Patti said...

Like NCMountainwoman, "Poorly written" and "needing editing" would turn me off also. Maybe some other author will pick up the flag and do a good job of it.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Thank you for doing the hard work of reading bad books so we do not have to. I have never understood the hysteria around The Alamo. But then I am not Texan, or even American.

Linda said...

Interesting review. I was not aware that slavery was an issue in that war. I share your impatience with lack of editing. Editors are not given nearly enough credit.