Tuesday, June 1, 2004

The Struggle for Texas Independence

How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence - and Changed America by H.W. Brands

After seeing The Alamo I was curious about its historical accuracy. It says a lot about just how curious I was that I actually checked out Lone Star Nation from the library and read all 527 pages. I never read this sort of historical book, preferring instead to rely on Tom for interesting historical tidbits from whatever book he is reading. However, I found this book riveting.

Brands' treatment of all involved in the conflict is very even handed. As with all good histories, there is no side or person that is entirely good or bad as all are flawed in some way. The story is told not only through the larger than life figures of Austin, Houston, Crockett, Bowie, Santa Anna, Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams but also by a host of lesser figures on both sides whose stories also were intertwined with the battle for independence. I really enjoyed seeing the appearance of small characters whose names now loom large in Texas history ... Lamar, Seguin, and Fannin being just a few.

I had no idea that Stephen Austin's fight to establish and defend his colony came as the result of a deathbed request by his father, the original conceiver of a colony in Texas. Also I had no idea that Sam Houston's long retreat before Santa Anna was an overall strategy of getting close to existing U.S. borders where President Andrew Jackson had the U.S. Army standing by to come to their rescue by claiming that Santa Anna was trying to invade the country. Needless to say, this book sheds light on the motivation for all sorts of events during this time in Texas history such as why Santa Anna sacrificed 600 soldiers in the final attack on the Alamo, Fannin's fatal flaw that caused the capture of the Goliad defenders, and much more.

What about the question that started me on this quest? Was The Alamo historically accurate? I found it surprisingly so although some of the character motivations were tweaked ... which was no surprise at all.

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