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Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth
Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth
by Phillip Thomas Tucker
Edition: Hardcover
80 used & new from $0.01

83 of 97 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been much better if only..., May 16, 2010
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The 1836 battle of the Alamo is one of the most famous events of 19th-century America. It has grown into an international symbol of human courage and freedom. The actual events of that transpired during those 13 days in 1836 have admittedly been entangled in vines of misinformation, conflicting viewpoints, legend and myth. As a significant part of not only the Texas national birth saga and the westward expansion of the United States, the Alamo brings forth emotions from patriotic fervor to La Raza hostility.

It is easy to get emotional about Exodus from the Alamo because the book clearly was written to get the reader fired up-one way or another. Certainly the author himself is emotional about the subject, because it is all too apparent that he has written the work to not only expose the myth of the Alamo, but also to advance his own pre-determined conclusions. The result is a work that is considerably flawed as a true historical study. This is a pity, for the author does present some issues of the Alamo/Texas Revolution that need to be better explored.

Much has already been made about the prose, style, and editing of the work. The publishing firm did Dr. Tucker a great disservice by the lack of editing, and apparent lack of peer review, which would have, perhaps, allowed Tucker to make his points with more focus and direction. The narrative tends to wander, and is in fact, padded with material that may be of some sideline interest, but does not help clarify the central theme of the work.

Tucker writes a treatise claiming that all Alamo historians and writers have ignored the true story. The true story, according to Tucker, is that the Alamo and the Texas Revolution was fought to protect slavery and that the battle of the Alamo was, in fact, a rout, in which most of the Texans tried to make a run for it after Alamo commander William Barret Travis committed suicide. The basis for this treatise are "new" documents, primarily from the Mexican side of the conflict coupled with ill-placed faith in any Texan or American documents that can be used to support the theme.

That said, it should be pointed out that many would agree that the more complicated issues of the causes of the Texas revolution should be explored, including what was going on in Mexico during the period. Paul Lack and Randolph Campbell are two modern writers who have explored the slavery issue within the Texas Revolution and done a very commendable job in that pursuit. In fact, Tucker quotes from Campbell's Empire for Slavery quite liberally, but conveniently ignores Campbell's conclusion that "protecting slavery was not the primary cause of the Texas Revolution, but it certainly was a major result." Since the entire point of Tucker's book is apparently to prove his conclusion that everyone in the Alamo dreamed of owing a white mansion with hundreds of slaves, he tends to either ignore or fail to grasp what Randolph has to say which is that slavery was an underlying cause but not a major factor in the Texian revolt. Certainly, his exaggeration of how every member of the Alamo garrison either owns or dreams of owning slaves tends to forget that the Alamo's chief surgeon, Amos Pollard, was identified by no less than abolitionist leader Benjamin Lundy as "a decided friend of our cause."

In order to support his treatise that the "Anglo-Celtic" settlers of Texas were evil, and Mexico is to be admired for its anti-slavery stand, Tucker takes the writer through a brief but somewhat misleading look at attempts by Mexico to end slavery within its territories. Tucker introduces us to Mexican President Vicente Guerrero who issued the 1829 decree to end Mexican slavery. He further notes that it is Guerrero who insured that the Constitution of 1824 gave all Mexicans the opportunity to hold office. Here there is some confusion, as Turner then notes that the "Mexico's first president possessed a blend of African, Indian, and Spanish heritage" (pg.11). Unfortunately for Tucker's view, Guerrero was not the first president of Mexico: that was Jose Miguel Ramon Adaucto Fernandez y Felix who, under the name Guadalupe Victoria, became the first president of Mexico in 1824.

In comparing Mexico's abolition of slavery to that of the United States, Tucker quickly notes that Mexico's emancipation was not due to any pressing wartime reasons. What Tucker fails to note is that the political situation in Mexico at the time of Guerrero's decree was far from stable. Guerrero himself was not a legally elected president-he deposed Manuel Pedraza, the legally elected President, shortly after Pedraza's election in 1829, and then Guerrero himself was under attack from Antonio Bustamente and Santa Anna. Tucker dismisses one hundred years of abuse to the Mexican Indian and Mestizo classes from various Mexican administrations from 1821-1920 with the simple statement that Mexico "although tarnished by a caste system, consequently possessed a proud heritage of liberty for all people, regardless of color."(page 11). That is like saying the American Civil War ended all problems for African Americans in this country.

Neither is there any debate about members of the garrison making a run for it toward the end of the battle. Despite what his book jacket implies, the "breakouts" are not new information. Those of us in the Alamo community have been talking and writing about them for years, and making that information available to Alamo visitors. How extensive these breakouts were is a matter of some debate. Tucker implies that they represent the bulk of the garrison, and that the garrison was caught completely off guard and asleep in the Long Barracks when the attack commenced. As one reads and rereads the book, it is apparent that Tucker does some historic mind reading to fill in the gaps or to help bolster his conclusions. Most Alamo researchers do not have a problem with the majority of the Mexican accounts or that members of the garrison did make an effort to breakout. It is Tucker's interpretation of these accounts that merits their criticism. Apparently anyone who claimed to have been at the Alamo at any point in history automatically becomes one of those defenders to escape. Tucker takes these accounts at face value and without any critical consideration.

A few pages into the book Tucker starts using the term "Anglo-Celtic" without any real explanation. Later in the book, while discussing the new "Irish" colonies, he makes somewhat of an explanation by suggesting that the Anglo-Celtics are of the Scots -Irish decent. Anglo-Celtic is actually a term used to describe people whose culture is native to Britain and Ireland (including Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall) regardless of their religious background. A careful read of his use of Anglo-Celtic and the qualities he notes about their character, habits, and opinions (in Tucker's use, always negative) clearly shows that Tucker is using the work of the late Dr. Grady McWhiney, and in particular his book, Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South. Surprisingly, a look at the Bibliography does not list Cracker Culture, although McWhiney's earlier work (along with Perry Jameson) Attack of Die, Civil War Tactics and the Southern Heritage is.

Tucker seems to get the Anglo terms somewhat confused. In his discussion of Santa Anna's anti-Anglo Celtic sentiment, the author uses the defeat of the State of Zacatecas as an example. On page 72, Tucker duly notes that Santa Anna ordered the execution of every foreign fighter in the rebellious Zacatecas militia following its defeat in May 1835. As a example of one such foreigner, Tucker briefly notes Edward Harcourt, who he identifies as an Anglo while at the same time noting his German birth. Harcourt is actually Eduard Harkort, who had come to Mexico as a mining engineer, and ended up in support of Santa Anna in the 1832 revolt against Bustamante. When Santa Anna turned away from the Constitution of 1824, Harkort joined the Federalist Governor of Zacataces in his attempted revolt.

The "Harcourt" reference shows another interesting problem. Tucker, as noted, points out that Santa Anna decreed that all foreigners captured at Zacatecas were to be executed, but his footnote subsequently lists three secondary sources and one primary for this. The reader is not sure which source corresponds with the actual execution order. Oddly, Tucker does not use Louis Brister's translation of Harkort's own journal and letters. If he had, he would have noted that the actual source for the execution order is Albert Gillman's Travels Over the Table Lands and Cordilleras of Mexico During the Years of 1843 and 44 published in 1846. Tucker would have noted that the outcry from his officers was so great that Santa Anna rescinded the order and the prisoners, including Harkort, were sent to Mexico City. Eventually, Harkort ended up in Perote Prison before being expelled from Mexico in December 1835.
The selective use of sources plagues the work. A good example of this is the use of the accounts attributed to Joe, the slave of Colonel Travis. Tucker pretty much dismisses Joe's accounts, especially when they come into conflict with reports that the Alamo commander committed suicide at the North Wall. That Travis had a single wound to the head is no real issue, but Tucker champions the account of two area Tejanos who arrived at Gonzales to report to the Texas forces the fall of the Alamo. From them came the word that Travis had shot himself. Joe's account of Travis receiving the fatal wound from Mexican fire is dismissed by Tucker as simply a slave trying to please his master's friends. Turner furthers his suicide "facts" by noting that the Mexicans were firing large caliber weapons that would not have produced such a small "pistol" wound to the forehead. While earlier in the text Tucker notes the Mexicans muskets used buck and ball cartridges, he not even consider that small wound found on Travis may have been caused by a piece of buck (Joe's account notes that at the end of the battle, the slave was fired at by a Mexican soldier and was slightly wounded by buckshot). No, for Tucker it has to be a shot from that small caliber pistol that Tucker insists Travis carried that morning. The irony is that Tucker is championing the theory presented by Amelia Williams, author of A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo, a work Tucker bemoans any researcher for using. It is also sad that a writer who so passionately wants to show the Alamo as a fight for slavery so quickly dismisses one of the few African-American voices from that event.

Tucker's work is primarily founded on Mexican military accounts of the battle. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and perhaps the work would have been more refreshing if it only concerned itself with the Alamo battle as presented from the other side. It has been far too long since Carlos Castaneda edited and published The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution in 1928. Certainly the Mexican documents of the battle need to be translated, edited, and published with the original Spanish versions. Tucker, however, is not interested in just presenting the Mexican side, he is trying to dismantle the entire Alamo experience so most of the participants on the Texan side are dismissed as either prejudicial or inaccurate, while Tejano accounts are used selectively, and Mexican accounts are taken without question. Oddly enough, the one Mexican account Turner dismisses is that of Jose Enrique de la Pena because it praises the Alamo defenders and does not conform with an almost bloodless battle. At least the "Save Davy" crowd can find some comfort from Tucker. One important fact is that while Tucker refers to these Mexican documents as "rare," they are in fact held in the Mexican National or Military Archives. They have been copied on microfilm which is held at the Bancroft Library with a copy at the Palo Alto Battlefield/University of Texas at Brownsville. Some of the other "rare" documents, such as those in the Streeter Collection at Yale, are also on microfilm with a copy located at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library on the Alamo grounds.

Also confusing is Tucker's repeated statement that Walter Lord's 1962 book, A Time to Stand, is the most "highly regarded" book on the Alamo, and his implication that there has been no real Alamo research since then. Later, he will mention various writers such as Alan Huffines, William C. Davis, and Thomas Ricks Lindley but fails to mention that since 1962 there have been other well regarded Alamo books such as Stephen Hardin's Texian Iliad, Davis' Three Roads to the Alamo, Tim Matavina's The Alamo Remembered, Huffines' Blood of Noble Men , Lindley's Alamo Traces, and Ed Linenthal's excellent look at how we have come to memorialize the Alamo in Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields. Todd Hanson's The Alamo Reader should be added to the list-a book epic in scope, as it attempts to present all of the Alamo source documents in a single volume. Tucker's approach to the Alamo itself is nothing new, as Jeff Long in Duel of Eagles and Holly Brear in Inherit the Alamo both tried to dismantle the Alamo myth. There has been significant research on the subject since Lord, and Davis' book is currently the best regarded book on the subject.

Even the illustrations selected for the work have annoying flaws. The 1836 Map of Texas contains more modern communities in South Texas than it does period ones. A modern image of the present San Fernando Cathedral does little to represent the Spanish Colonial San Fernando Parish Church that was present in 1836. Two c1826 illustrations by the Italian Claude Linati of Mexican Army troops are like using plates of US Soldiers in the 1846-48 Mexican War to illustrate a history of the Army of the Cumberland in 1864. The captioning of the famous and well regarded Edward Everett drawing of the Alamo is designed to help advance the author's theory that Texans in 1836 knew the "truth" about the Alamo and therefore allowed the Alamo to fall into ruins. This of course ignores the history of the Alamo from after the battle until the time it was purchased as a museum (and the fact that the Alamo was the first building purchased for the purpose of historic preservation west of the Mississippi). And why Gary Zaboly's drawing of the breakouts is used without crediting it to the person who commissioned it (Alan Huffines) for his book, Blood of Noble Men, remains a complete mystery.

Is there a bottom line to Exodus from the Alamo? Yes. While there is merit to discussing the role of slavery in the Texas Revolution and the nature of the Alamo's final defense (including a number of defenders leaving the fortifications and fighting the Mexican cavalry), Tucker's attempt to do so is marred by pre-determined conclusions, selective use of documentation, inventive interpretation, and an apparent dislike of Southerners and 19th- Century Americans. Not only does he reject the concept of a historian not judging 19th-Century people by 21st Century standards, but he also wants to draw and quarter them.

Does Exodus have anything really to offer in the way of new Alamo scholarship? Yes, but one has to wade through the poorly written and edited prose to do so. That is unfortunate. What Tucker's book will be good for is use in a Historiography and Methods course as an example on how not to write, research or publish history.
Comment Comments (31) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2014 9:37 AM PDT

Spanish Colonial Fortifications in North America 1565-1822 (Fortress)
Spanish Colonial Fortifications in North America 1565-1822 (Fortress)
by A. M. De Quesada
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.62
46 used & new from $8.23

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But Still A Nice Job, May 3, 2010
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I would have to agree with the above review; with Osprey you sometimes never know what you are going to get. I would have to agree, in some ways this work is somewhat disappointing, especially when it comes to more detailed information on the frontier presidios. That said, and understanding how the limitations often placed on the author due to the Osprey format, I still found this book creditable, and a good general overview of Spanish Colonial Fortifications. While heavy on Spanish Florida, which I still found of interest, I was happy to see St. Louis covered in some detail as well as my old stomping grounds of Presidio La Bahia. I do wish the author had mentioned that the current restoration there is more to the 1836 period than the Spanish and Mexican periods. Yes, while the illustrations are somewhat flat, they do have a nice representation of the differences in the fortifications. I guess you can not have Gary Zaboly or George Nelson do all of the historical art work.

Perhaps the author would have been best served if Osprey had allowed him to do one book just on Spanish Colonial Coastal Fortifications (including San Juan de Ulua) and then another on those inland. Certainly, those on the fronteir and the Presidio line could be their own seperate volume.

Bottom line is while some constructive criticism can be made, this is a nice overview of the subject and I am pleased that the author moved beyond Florida to survey the rest of the related sites. While it will certainly not replaced Max Moorhead's The Presidio or Lancers for the King, it does fill a niche. I would look forward to talking Spanish fortifications with the author anytime.

David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man's Friend
David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man's Friend
by Allen J. Wiener
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $29.95
50 used & new from $3.04

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filling an important Gap-Crockett in Congress, November 11, 2009
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This is a well research, well written,and well organized volume that fills in magnificent detail a gap in the life of Crockett. Forget Fess Parker, Billy Bob Thornton, and even John Wayne for a while and enjoy reading a compelete picture of Crockett. The authors have done a fantastic job in not only presenting the "gentleman from the cane" as the complete individual he was, but also give us a indepth look at the issues that were important to him as a three term Congressman. They have done an excellent job at putting Crockett into his proper context. While so much time has been spent in print debating his death, this work gives us his life of a public servant who fought for rights of poor settlers against the removal of the Indians from their lands, and against the Jacksonian Political Machine. The addition of the known images of Crockett, the complete transcripts of his known correspondence and political ciculars makes the work a more than welcome addition to anyones collection.

Big Sky Press should be complemented for the excellent job they have done in the layout and presentation of this book. It's over all design is outstanding!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2013 11:01 AM PDT

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