Last Stand Myth: The Texan defenders stood their ground, dying to a man within the walls of the Alamo
Published: April 18, 2012
"False," writes U.S. Air Force military historian Phillip Thomas Tucker in his 2010 study Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth. According to Tucker, the author or editor of over 20 books and 60 scholarly articles, Santa Anna's pre-dawn attack on the fortified mission caught the garrison unprepared. The accounts of the battle cited by Tucker are not restricted to the disputed diary of Mexican Colonel José Enrique de la Peña, who later became a political rival to Santa Anna. Contemporary Mexican military and American newspaper stories of the battle are examined, as well as diaries describing the period. Tucker contends that at least two groups of Texans attempted to leave the Alamo, hoping to reach defensible higher ground east of the mission at what was then the tree-lined alameda of the Gonzales Road, now near the north side of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Tucker's account also examines the makeup and motives of both forces, depicting the majority of the Alamo defenders as recent and naive colonists who hoped to extend the Southern system of slave-labor to attain personal fortune, while the Mexican forces are seen as territorial defenders of a young and fragile republic.
Texas patriots shouldn't be worried by Tucker's version of events. Though he writes of the Alamo rank and file, "Contrary to the traditional Alamo mythology, possessing a death-wish or desiring to die as a martyr to Texas were the lowest of all priorities at the time," Tucker does not impute cowardice to the men, but rather a determination to survive and continue the fight. A group of 62 men are described marching in formation from the Alamo sally port near the Church, hardly a runaway scatter. He also presents evidence that there was true heroic sacrifice at the Alamo, but it wasn't just a gesture. Instead, he posits that the column received supporting fire from Captain Dickenson, who commanded the battery of 12-pounders at the Church's rear. Even with cannon support, states Tucker, the column fell to a lancer company of the Dolores Regiment commanded by General Sesma. Among other evidence, Tucker cites an 1878 article in the San Antonio Daily Express that quotes Sergeant Loranca of the Dolores Cavalry, "Sixty-two Texans who sallied forth … were received by the Lancers."
Though interpretive speculation, the accounts in Tucker's story serve to humanize the conflict, showing foolishness, arrogance, and yes, bravery, on both sides.
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