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Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth

de Bryan Burrough, Jason Stanford, Chris Tomlinson

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
20810113,895 (3.79)8
A New York Times bestseller! "Lively and absorbing. . ." -- The New York Times Book Review "Engrossing." --Wall Street Journal "Entertaining and well-researched . . . " --Houston Chronicle Three noted Texan writers combine forces to tell the real story of the Alamo, dispelling the myths, exploring why they had their day for so long, and explaining why the ugly fight about its meaning is now coming to a head. Every nation needs its creation myth, and since Texas was a nation before it was a state, it's no surprise that its myths bite deep. There's no piece of history more important to Texans than the Battle of the Alamo, when Davy Crockett and a band of rebels went down in a blaze of glory fighting for independence from Mexico, losing the battle but setting Texas up to win the war. However, that version of events, as Forget the Alamo definitively shows, owes more to fantasy than reality. Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos--Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels--scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico's push to abolish slavery papered over. Forget the Alamo provocatively explains the true story of the battle against the backdrop of Texas's struggle for independence, then shows how the sausage of myth got made in the Jim Crow South of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As uncomfortable as it may be to hear for some, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness. In the past forty-some years, waves of revisionists have come at this topic, and at times have made real progress toward a more nuanced and inclusive story that doesn't alienate anyone. But we are not living in one of those times; the fight over the Alamo's meaning has become more pitched than ever in the past few years, even violent, as Texas's future begins to look more and more different from its past. It's the perfect time for a wise and generous-spirited book that shines the bright light of the truth into a place that's gotten awfully dark.… (més)
  1. 00
    What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 de Daniel Walker Howe (M_Clark)
    M_Clark: This excellent history of the years 1815-1848 includes a very good description of the Texas revolt and the war with Mexico. It puts the events in Texas inside a much wider perspective.
History (13)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 8 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Very interesting, but mediocre writing and Inside Baseball-like comments ruined the latter half of the book. What could have been a fine contribution, especially on the interplay of scholarship, memory and politics, remained a bit workaday, with many open parentheses never unclosed, bios not rounded out, and site history and public engagement never really explored. Enjoyable, but David Blight these authors are not. ( )
  threegirldad | Sep 25, 2022 |
Forget the Alamo
Author: Burrough, Tomlinson, Stanford
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publishing Date: 2021
Pgs: 386 pages
Dewey: 976.403 BUR
Disposition: Irving Public Library - South Campus - Irving, TX
=======================================
REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Summary:
Three noted Texan writers combine forces to tell the real story of the Alamo, dispelling the myths, exploring why they had their day for so long, and explaining why the ugly fight about its meaning is now coming to a head.

Every nation needs its creation myth, and since Texas was a nation before it was a state, it's no surprise that its myths bite deep. There's no piece of history more important to Texans than the Battle of the Alamo, when Davy Crockett and a band of rebels went down in a blaze of glory fighting for independence from Mexico, losing the battle but setting Texas up to win the war. However, that version of events, as Forget the Alamo definitively shows, owes more to fantasy than reality. Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos--Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels--scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico's push to abolish slavery papered over. Forget the Alamo provocatively explains the true story of the battle against the backdrop of Texas's struggle for independence, then shows how the sausage of myth got made in the Jim Crow South of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As uncomfortable as it may be to hear for some, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness.

In the past forty-some years, waves of revisionists have come at this topic, and at times have made real progress toward a more nuanced and inclusive story that doesn't alienate anyone. But we are not living in one of those times; the fight over the Alamo's meaning has become more pitched than ever in the past few years, even violent, as Texas's future begins to look more and more different from its past. It's the perfect time for a wise and generous-spirited book that shines the bright light of the truth into a place that's gotten awfully dark.
_________________________________________
Genre:
History
American History
North American History
Mexico History
War
Slavery and Emancipation History
US History & Local History
_________________________________________
Favorite Quote:
No, history doesn't really change. But the way we view it does. In Texas, the history written by generations of white people is now being challenged by those who see the same events very differently. And man oh man does that piss a lot of people off. - I say that history should piss you off. If it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, make you pissed off, and just fills you with pride, there is a pretty good chance that you aren’t reading history but propaganda.

"Hint: If you are a Mexican general who wants to arrest a loudmouthed Texan, don't bring an army."

Tropes:
Rough and ready frontiersmen. cough,...gentleman planters, cough cough,...myths. Some part of me wants to just put this book away before they get around to destroying the myth of Davy Crockett.

Hmm Moments:
The Battle of Medina in the revolt before the Revolution found people fighting against Spain in Texas with the putative backing of Monroe and the governor of Louisiana. Spanish General Jose Joaquin de Arredondo y Miono unleashed a biblical plague depopulating Texas to a large extent. He chased people away and executed many. A young officer in his army was learning how to deal with Texas colonists, that officer, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Many were dragged back to San Antonio in chain gangs, executing the men, putting the women to work, and turning the children out into the streets. The Texas Revolt is a largely untaught portion of Texas history because it doesn't fit the Heroic Anglo Narrative of the later Texas Revolution. Texas schoolchildren aren't taught about this to the same extent that they are fed the myths of the Texas Revolution.

Bowie leaving Austin's army in a huff at the first siege of San Antonio is another thing left out of the myth because it doesn't fit the narrative.

The regular army of Texas when it was called into being by the Consultation was funded by New Orleans cotton merchants, promised tracts of cotton-growing land. Texans didn't want to leave their farms and livelihoods to fight. Effectively, Sam Houston ends up at the head of a mercenary army. An army propped up by US Army, hint-hint, nudge-nudge, deserters, many of whom mysteriously returned to the US Army with no harm, no foul and continued their military careers after taking part in the Texas Revolution.

Benjamin Lundy writing before, during, and after the Texas Revolution points out that there was a conspiracy between cotton merchants, Northern land speculators, and Texas slaveholders to bring Texas into the US with the aim of chopping it into as many as 15 states and thereby upset the balance between slave and free states. Just imagine, if they had succeeded we’d be living in an Apartheid-ish America today. And yes, I look at that statement with a jaundiced eye as I watch the news.

President John Quincy Adams intimated that the Texas Revolution was about slavery and emancipation.

Considering Sam Houston lived amidst a veritable sea of swindlers and cheats in Texas, his calling out President Andrew Jackson's handpicked diplomat to Mexico, Anthony Butler who was also Jackson's ward, as a swindler and cheat, must mean that he was a gigantic one, and largely unsuccessful, Keystone Cops-like unsuccessful. Butler's mission was to get Mexico to sell Texas to the US, by any means necessary. His job wasn't made any easier by his antecessor's decade-long failure to achieve the same goal. That predecessor, Poinsett, was a racist elitist who saw the entire Mexican government as children, and the job he was sent to do was beneath him.

The Mayo Conspiracy that involves a letter that was erroneously sent to Dr. Mayo from President Andrew Jackson's desk when his White House desk was being cleaned out at the end of his administration seems a non-starter. It depended on Sam Houston's ability to get the Cherokee to invade Texas in army strength. Whether that was to give the US Army the ability to sweep in as saviors or to use the Cherokee to drive the Mexicans out, shrug. What is a fact is that after the Trail of Tears, there isn't any damned way the Cherokee were going to trust Andrew Jackson for shit.

The Alamo and Texas as Sparta, I see the analogy and the value of rubbing it in. Travis, Bowie, Crockett, and their compatriots as The 300, enshrining their martyrdom in the golden veneer of myth.

So US troops crossed the Louisiana border and didn't just take part in the Battle of San Jacinto, but trained and commanded Texas troops in that battle. So we can lay the rebellious Texans victorious all on their own myth to rest as well.

WTF Moments:
I was raised and inculcated in the religion of Texas, Texas as an article of faith. The Alamo as a Jesus on the Cross martyrdom object. The feet of clay of those "heroes" has cast a shadow on those icons. The slavery question being included in the "rights" of those Texan settlers who wanted to throw off the yoke of Mexican "tyranny" was left out of the fog of myth that was weaved around and through Texas History as it was taught in Middle School throughout Texas.

Meh / PFFT Moments:
The paragraph about Andrew Jackson getting tired of fighting Seminoles along the border of Spanish Florida is partly true. He also engineered a false flag that allowed him to justify the invasion and occupation of Florida. And Monroe agreeing to recognize Spanish claims on Texas in exchange for the US keeping Florida is a joke when Monroe before he got to the Presidency was knee-deep in intrigue and supporting insurgents in Texas and beyond.

The idea that slavery only truly became an issue in American history at the Civil War is a disservice both to the memory of the enslaved, to the higher ideals that ALL Americans should aspire to, and to history that doesn't stop at the border. ... Even though the reverse of all that is what is basically taught to school kids.

The Sigh:
In middle school in Texas, you are taught Texas History. It's is very whitewashed and very much mythological.

Texas history becomes more and more difficult as you pull away the tarp.

Texan documents leading to Revolution invariably refer to "natural rights and property". Which was a semantical way to refer to slavery which was the main sticking point between Santa Anna's government and the Texians. Scholars of the era point out that the leash on Texas was extremely loose between 1821 and 1835. The only sticking point was Texan fear that the central government was going to follow the liberal idea spreading around the world of abolition.

Travis seems drunk on the idea of dying for a quixotic ideal, bathed in the evil of slavery, Bowie is just drunk, Houston is drunk as well, but playing politics, and Fannin if anyone would've listened to his letters would've resigned his commission and went back to a slave traders life. These aren't the "heroes" we were taught about in Texas History school books.

DeZavalla was largely robbed of his place in Texas history by racism back then, racism when the history books were written, and racism today.

So, Pennybacker writing her own Texas History textbook used Travis's Line in the Sand speech as a centerpiece, even though she seemed to doubt its veracity. And her defense was that students who doubted it should "do their own research." [headache] They've always existed, haven't they?

Wisdom:
The Texas Colony's economy was based on cotton. The cotton plantations and the products were economic drivers and tax producers. The Mexican government didn't want to stop or take away either. The third leg of the Texas economy in colonial times was slavery. The Mexican government made a number of attempts to free the slaves in all of their territories. When Texas history mentions property, they aren't talking about the land that the plantations stood on. This book just took a rock to the brittle glass of my Texas historical myth school upbringing.

The depopulation left behind in Texas following Arredondo's vengeance created the very situation that brought the Anglo settlers into East Texas and eventually settling further and further westward. Again, depopulated countryside, emigre families, cotton, family, and slaves.

Juxtaposition:
The evolution of perception: Jim Bowie was a hero and a rough and ready cowboy, Jim Bowie was a drunk but still a hero of the Revolution, Jim Bowie was a swindler, slave trader, and failed insurgent, before coming to the Alamo. The last draws a clearer picture of the man.

Stephen F. Austin’s opposition to slavery wasn’t based on a moral obligation. He feared a slave revolt like what happened in Haiti. The man actually wrote to his cousin a horribly racist commentary that I won’t quote here. Suffice it to say that it involved the violation of their daughters and the destruction of the white race. Yeah…some hero.

…consider the irony of a Mexican government determined to stop the flow of illegal American immigrants…The only thing missing is a Mexican president promising to build a wall.

So, Sam Houston had the oratorical and glad-handing skills that people believed could have led him to the White House. Instead, he ended up a blackout drunk exile living among the Cherokee in Oklahoma. So, of course, he hopped on a too-small pony and made the ride to join Austin's army as they approached San Antonio. Or was he Andrew Jackson’s insurgent espionage agent provocateur tasked with bringing Texas into the US.

Considering the Trail of Tears, it's surprising that Houston, being Jackson's man and spy, if conspiracy theories of the day are to be believed, ever found succor among the Cherokee. Rumor is that Houston was always Jackson's man in Texas with the aim of getting Texas into the United States. His later Presidency of Texas seemed solely aimed at planting Texas inside the US and giving up the "freedom" that they had won from Mexico.

Yes, Fannin "chickened out" on the relief of the Alamo, but what was he supposed to do, ride up himself, drag the cannon and ammunition, and singlehandedly save the day. He should've been cashiered when he asked to be.

The illusions and delusions of Texas History are ingrained deeply in today's Texas culture. Part of the problem is that Texas history is treated like the Bible. People learn what they learn in school and then ignore the truths of that history. They become belligerent when told anything that doesn't agree with their view of the Texas myth, similar to anyone who has their biblical understanding challenged. They accept the dogma and don't look for the deeper meanings of that "history." It is taught to children around the same age as when religious indoctrinations are inculcated.

The Unexpected:
Many Tejano survivors of the Revolt disappeared into Comanche country. They couldn't go back into Mexico for fear Arredondo would find them. They weren't welcome into Louisiana. But they found refuge and allies. Some of their leaders encouraged the Comanche to raid Spanish settlements, farms, and territory. This is a largely untaught, at least to school children, chapter in Texas History.

Wow. Texas children, we were lied to. The reason it took Stephen F Austin a year in Mexico City to secure the land grants promised to his father before Mexico's separation from Spain wasn't just bureaucracy, wasn't Anti-Anglo institutionalism, it was because Mexico wanted abolition of slavery.

Child soldiers, Anglo illegal immigrants, the Jekyll and Hyde-ing of Santa Anna, and slavery coiled around every aspect of the Texian relationship with Mexico. There's a lot to digest there.

Texas fools itself with its western motif. It was settled by antebellum Southerners who brought their slaves with them. As much as they want to be the Texas of John Wayne, they’re more the Texas of the Secession. The Texas Revolution was effectively a battle of the Civil War, the Slavery Wars.

Missed Opportunity:
"Inside two years the Comanche and their allies had stolen seemingly every horse in Texas not protected within a settlement and sold them into Louisiana. With Texas stripped bare, they forged an alliance with the Apache and began raiding below the Rio Grande. Thanks to the thousands of new guns they were receiving as payment, the tribes were able to mount ever larger and more ambitious raids: in 1817, a force of a thousand Comanche and Apache stole ten thousand horses around the town of Refugio in a single raid. A year later, a Tejano trader testified that the Comanche were pushing three thousand horses into Lousiana every month." - Doesn't that sound like an incredible movie if told from the Comanche POV?

If Santa Anna would have accepted that surrender the day or so before the final siege, it would have changed history. I still think that the American Manifest Destiny would have resulted in a Texas in the US, but I imagine that San Antonio would be a border town in that alternate universe.
_________________________________________
Last Page Sound:
Sigh. This book challenged many of the myths that I’ve grown up indoctrinated in. I’m glad I read it.

Conclusions I’ve Drawn:
Texans…What in the seven hells are you so proud about?

Considering the kind of guys that real history has shown Bowie and Travis to be, they would have gotten into and caused so much trouble both for Texas and the United States if they had survived the Alamo.

Texas politics, the way they deal with immigrants from the border, and pretty much all of the actions of current Governor Greg Abbott can all be traced to the mythical Alamo.

Author Assessment:
I would check out other things written by this team.
======================================= ( )
  texascheeseman | Feb 11, 2022 |
As one of thousands of seventh-grade Texas history alums in the mid-2000s, reading this book was a whirlwind of emotions for me. I was immediately taken back to the classroom with my middle school history teacher, remembering how she'd made us repeat multiple times back to her that "the Civil War was fought over states' rights, not slavery." (The nuance of states' rights to practice slavery apparently was lost on her.) As you can probably imagine, her take on the Alamo was absolutely that of the Heroic Anglo Narrative referenced in the book, with only passing mention of Tejanos as folks who just happened to help out The Trio.

I was alternately angry and frustrated while reading this book - not with the book itself, but with the actual education I missed out on that I am only coming to realize as an adult. It shouldn't be such a shock - of course the legend of Travis, Crockett, and Bowie has been embellished over time, and Texans love nothing more than a good story. I feel foolish, somewhat, for not second-guessing much of the Alamo myth, for not realizing the traumatizing impact on my fellow classmates who did not view the Anglos as the "good guys" but nonetheless has to be quiet.

As you can probably tell, this book left a lot for me to think about, and I'm still mulling a lot of it over. I'd recommend it to anyone who was subjected to Texas history class as a child, or anyone who has an interest in Texas history - that is, actual Texas history. ( )
  bumblybee | Jan 17, 2022 |
I never studied Texas history, so my knowledge of the Alamo came from two sources: the Walt Disney movie about Davy Crocket and The John Wayne movie about the battle of the Alamo. The first time I went to San Antonio on business in 1985 was the first time I saw the Alamo. I pestered my business colleague (who was a Texas native) to take me there and when I finally saw it was astounded that it was in the middle of downtown an across the street from a tack Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum

Since then I have come to know more about Texas history and have learned that things weren’t quite as straight forward as those 1950’s movies portrayed. But Texas loves its legends, and has not taken kindly to this book which exposes the “Heroic Anglo” interpretation of events for what it is – largely a myth

Burrough relates the real history of both the Texian’s revolution against Mexico, the battle itself, and the myth-making that followed including the present day controversy of Phil Collins’ collection of “memorabilia.”

There should be an addendum to cover the stir this book has caused in conservative circles in Texas. A scheduled appearance to discuss the book at the Bullock Texas State history Museum in Austin, that had 300 RSVP’s was cancelled three days before the event in July of this year by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick after GOP members of the State Preservation Board and other conservative groups complained, and several conservative web sites have been set up in an attempt to debunk the book.

Texans take their myths seriously. This fight is not over. ( )
  etxgardener | Dec 18, 2021 |
The story of the Alamo has achieved iconic status in America. This book looks carefully at the myths and legends of the Alamo as propagated most emphatically in the films of Disney and John Wayne arguing that it is time to finally look at the true history behind the Alamo. The book begins with the historical events leading up to the battle of the Alamo revealing the many warts in the characters of Travis, Bowie and Day Crockett. The book then explores in great detail the evolution of the myth of the Alamo and the people promoting these myths. Finally, the book discusses the very recent efforts to reimagine the Alamo and try to bring in more historic accuracy.

The book is best in its history of the history of the Alamo. It is marred in many places with an overly flippant writing style. ( )
  M_Clark | Aug 26, 2021 |
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A New York Times bestseller! "Lively and absorbing. . ." -- The New York Times Book Review "Engrossing." --Wall Street Journal "Entertaining and well-researched . . . " --Houston Chronicle Three noted Texan writers combine forces to tell the real story of the Alamo, dispelling the myths, exploring why they had their day for so long, and explaining why the ugly fight about its meaning is now coming to a head. Every nation needs its creation myth, and since Texas was a nation before it was a state, it's no surprise that its myths bite deep. There's no piece of history more important to Texans than the Battle of the Alamo, when Davy Crockett and a band of rebels went down in a blaze of glory fighting for independence from Mexico, losing the battle but setting Texas up to win the war. However, that version of events, as Forget the Alamo definitively shows, owes more to fantasy than reality. Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos--Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels--scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico's push to abolish slavery papered over. Forget the Alamo provocatively explains the true story of the battle against the backdrop of Texas's struggle for independence, then shows how the sausage of myth got made in the Jim Crow South of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As uncomfortable as it may be to hear for some, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness. In the past forty-some years, waves of revisionists have come at this topic, and at times have made real progress toward a more nuanced and inclusive story that doesn't alienate anyone. But we are not living in one of those times; the fight over the Alamo's meaning has become more pitched than ever in the past few years, even violent, as Texas's future begins to look more and more different from its past. It's the perfect time for a wise and generous-spirited book that shines the bright light of the truth into a place that's gotten awfully dark.

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