No one is trying to topple the Alamo quite yet, but a new revisionist book on the foundational event of Texas history partakes of the iconoclastic spirit of our time.
The book, titled Forget the Alamo, is a harsh call for Texans, and Americans, to get over a battle deeply etched in our popular memory.
According to the authors, the Texans (then the Texians) were foolish to try to defend the indefensible. Some of the defenders tried to make a run for it. Santa Anna, the Mexican general central to the story, wasn’t so bad. And given the importance of slavery to the early history of Texas, the Alamo and the Texas Revolution are due an overall post–George Floyd reevaluation.
If there are legitimate disputes over the historical record, it’s really not hard to understand why a badly outnumbered garrison of men who fought ferociously against a government force almost to the last man and provided a rallying cry for a rebellion that quickly swept to success occupies an outsize place in our imagination.
Especially given that two of the most famous Americans of the time, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, died there.
Such an event is inevitably catnip for myth-making, but even when stripped down to its essence, the Alamo and the aftermath were truly extraordinary.
Santa Anna, president of Mexico eleven separate times, first took power as a federalist, then switched sides and became a centralizer. A new constitution squashed Mexican states that had been run largely autonomously. Santa Anna put down the ensuing revolt in the province of Zacatecas in horrifyingly brutal fashion, and then he came for Texas.
About 150 defenders holed up in the Alamo, and the rest is not just legend, but history.