Inside These Walls: Alamo feature feedback
EDITOR’S NOTE: Stories on the Alamo inevitably stir deep
emotions, and Jan Reid’s personal reflection on the storied shrine in the
September issue was no exception. Some readers found the piece compelling, some
took offense to certain ideas expressed, and some pointed out factual errors.
We appreciate all of the feedback, and have posted the responses below. For an
updated version of the story, click here.
I just read the Alamo article in the latest issue. I thought it was very well done until close to the end where the author had to slip in the typical and trite PC moment of cautioning the reader not to be “jingoistic” (which I found offensive) and oddly including the Mexican cadets’ death at Chapultepec as a sop (I guess) for readers of Mexican descent.
The revolt against Santa Anna was not only in the province of Texas nor was it only an Anglo vs. Hispanic fight. The state of Zacatecas revolted against his tyranny and formed a militia which was given the same brutal treatment as the Alamo defenders. Check the list of names of those who fell at the Alamo and you’ll find Mexican and Anglo names together, just as these men fought and died together for what they believed.
While I honor the bravery of the “Los Ninos” of Chapultepec, their story has no more reason to be in this article than the Alamo has to be in a story honoring Chapultepec except as the author’s misguided attempt to be all-inclusive. When one stops being proud of his past, one has nothing to relate to or defend in the future.
Here I sit, trying to read “Inside These Walls!” Where to start:
The Federal Building (former post office) is on the north wall, not the “west wall.” The Mexicans breached the north wall first.
The Guinness World Records Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not is on the west wall, not the “south wall.” The Menger Hotel is on the south side of the Alamo.
Travis was killed on the north wall, not the “south wall.”
The Alamo is most likely named after the unit that garrisoned it, the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, from Alamo de Paras, in Coahuila, not for the trees in the area (although that is possible).
Viva Max was not a TV movie, but a regular feature film (and I remember the controversy very well).
The gift shop is not in the Long Barracks; it is in a newer building constructed for that purpose. The Long Barracks are preserved as a museum building.
Most of the accounts I’ve read and drawings I’ve seen show the chapel without a roof during the battle. It was not destroyed by the Mexicans. Remember, there was a cannon inside of the chapel.
And why mention Chapultepec Castle? Did no one check the story for errors? I love your magazine, but not this article.
6th-generation Texan, with relatives at the Alamo and San Jacinto
Our DRT President General has asked me to let you know how much we appreciated the fine article on the Alamo. You and your staff have truly made an “in-kind” donation to our Alamo Capital Campaign by helping us get the word out to the public.
I met photographer Griffis Smith when he was here, and I was so impressed by him. He asked questions about everything and you could just tell how interested he was in everything he was seeing. This was evident in his beautiful photographs that accompanied the feature! The article was well written, and your sidebar gave the public a wealth of information about our ongoing educational projects. I really enjoyed working with you. Thank you for helping DRT to further our goal of promoting Texas history.
I don’t think this is accurate. I worked for the developer of River Center Mall (Williams Realty Group of Tulsa, OK) during the time when the Fairmount Hotel was relocated, Joske’s was closed and the old Staffel’s Feed Store and adjoining warehouses were torn down.
Archeologists were ecstatic about the chance to see what was under the Joske’s parking lot and had the full expectation of finding the burial pyre of the Alamo Defenders. Every square inch of ground was exposed: There were trash pits, privy pits, former house foundations, even an octagonal foundation from a gazebo – but no burial pyre. It was a big disappointment.
Here are the problems that jumped out at me when reading the Alamo article:
Major Problem 1: “Upon losing an election on who would command the defenders, Jim Bowie went on a drunken rampage, declaring martial law, freeing prisoners of the town jail, and looting what he wished to carry off.”
Why is this statement a problem? James Bowie (he preferred being called James) actually was chosen by his 120 volunteers to lead them; he did not lose an election. He did not go on his “drunken rampage” because he lost an election. It is acknowledged he did go on a “drunk” but, because he had no prior history of consistent heavy drinking as Sam Houston did, it is speculated he may have been using alcohol as an anesthetic because of his illness. His “losing an election” changes the whole perspective of what followed. He and Travis decided to become co-commanders.
Major Problem 2: “Relentless pounding by cannonballs during the 13-day siege demolished the roof of the chapel; U.S. Army engineers introduced the distinctive arched gable while restoring the structure in the early 1850s.”
Why is this statement a problem? The Alamo church (not chapel) never had a roof until the 1850s. The Spanish missionaries had started building the church in 1758, but in 1793, when they abandoned the mission, they had not completed the church. The church was to be about three stories tall when completed, but they had only completed about the first story and a half. The church had no roof at the time of the 1836 battle. The tops of the church walls were basically rubble.
Minor problem 1: “The man [Travis] was 28 years old.”
Why is this statement a problem? Most scholars will acknowledge he was 26. He was born in South Carolina on August 9, 1809.
Minor problem 2: “In place of the lost cottonwoods (alamos) that gave the secularized compound its name….”
Why is this statement a problem? The source of the Alamo name is debatable. Some think it came from cottonwood trees at the site (if they existed). Other experts are sure it came from the name of a Spanish military unit that was stationed at the old mission from 1803 to 1807 – their name was “La Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos del pueblo del Alamo.” In correspondence of that era, the name “Alamo” was used interchangeably between the military unit stationed there and the site itself.
Minor problem 3: The entire article refers to the chapel throughout.
Why is this statement a problem? Maybe it is just nomenclature, but the missionaries were building what they called a church. A chapel was generally considered smaller or a part of a church. The building we know today as The Alamo was and is a church turned into a shrine.
Because of these problems, I have a feeling there are others that I did not detect but that more knowledgeable scholars may find.
Bob Heinonen, Owner
Heroes of History