On This Day, 176 Years Ago

The Alamo fell.
Some days later word of it arrived in the nearby settlement of Gonzales, where Sam Houston was assembling an army. I imagined what happened when Sam Houston read the message from Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, which had been carried by Susanna Dickinson, and his reply to it.
“Myself, gentlemen, I care little for a supreme government taking me under protection and seeking for my good. I’ll not waste the ink in reply but make our response in black powder and shot.” The rest of this is at my book-blog, here.

13 thoughts on “On This Day, 176 Years Ago”

  1. When I was in basic training in the Air Force, we had one weekend leave and went in a bus to see the Alamo. It wasn’t very impressive, I’m afraid. I understand it is now much nicer and I should visit again sometime. We had very obscene impressions of San Antonio. That was 1959. The circumstances might have contributed.

  2. Very good. I make it a point to read everything you post. Texas is a unique piece of the Anglosphere in many ways, but it is also archetypical of certain of its deep themes.

    Anybody who had known about the Anglo-Scottish Border in the days before Union understood that it was indiscrete to leave anything very valuable unguarded, like say a fat cow. Had the Mexicans understood these people, they would have realized that Texas was a fat cow indeed to leave so unguarded with them.

  3. MK, I first visited the Alamo on a day pass from Basic myself in 1977 – and I don’t think it was much better then, although it is now. All the tat and junky souvineers have been moved out of the historic chapel itself, to another building in the compound. It is really quite pleasant now, with gardens and trees planted around … although the chapel is still very small. Although as Spanish mission church structures go, it’s about as large as any other.
    There is a movement afoot to reconstruct the whole compount and re-landscape it so that it would look more like it did in 1836: I don’t know how far they would get, as it would neccessitate knocking down the post office building and many of the buildings that face on the Plaza … and replacing them with a line of low, narrow single-story buildings.

    JB, I’ve come to think of Texas as a sort of demi-glace, a concentration of the frontier into one place. A lot of the early Anglo settlers were from the south, Scotch-Irish borderers and extremely combative, to say the least. When they were done with fighting the Mexicans and the Indians, they fought each other, with vigor and enthusiasm. Makes for a colorfully eventful history, at any rate.

  4. Sgt Mom –

    Ahh, the Scots-Irish. Been kicking @#$ for – how long? ;-)

    never been to San Antonio – but your impression of the Alamo reminded me of another place that seemed so much smaller than what history suggested –

    The old Texas Book Depository in Dallas.

    I went to the window that Oswald used – and the distance to the street was so close.

    Everything seemed so much “tighter|” then the videos suggested.

  5. Texas is interesting for several reasons. Sgt. Mom is quite correct; Texas seems to take several elements and concentrate them. It is to some extent what America as a whole is to England; it take some core elements, concentrates them, takes them further, and leaves certain complexities behind. It is only by accident of history that most of America separated from England, and that Texas re-united with America. I think that is part of the reason why Texans have had such difficulty translating their political success in Texas to the national scene. They do fine in intra-Beltway wheeling and dealing in Congress, but when they need to communicate to the nation at large, there’s a gap. LBJ, Bush Jr., and Perry — same problems, really.

    The other interesting episode is the Republic of Texas, where this rather small bunch of transplanted Americans worked quite effectively as a member of the international system of nation-states. I’d love to see a novelistic treatment of the Texan diplomatic service, or the Republic of Texas Navy, which considering its size was surprisingly effective at regional power projection. A British historian friend of mine has read some of the diplomatic correspondence between Britain and the Republic; it’s been printed up in bound volumes like that of any other state Britain recognized and can be read in the British archives. If you’re ever in London, Sgt. Mom, you ought to go look at it for a bit. It might be fodder for another novel. Or some Texas archive might have a copy.

  6. James – more interesting bits of buried history in the archives would be to see the dealing between Britain and the Confederate States of America

  7. Bill — that would not be in the Foreign Office archives. The UK recognized the CSA as a belligerent power for the purposes of the laws of war (which the Union had opened the door to when they declared a blockade) but IFAIK did not extend actual diplomatic recognition to the CSA and did not exchange ambassadors. Therefore there are no diplomatic records per se. The Republic of Texas was a generally recognized member of the community of nations and had normal relations with Britain, and the archives treat it as such.

  8. James – you are of course correct.

    But the specter of Britain recognizing the C.S.A terrified Lincoln and I believe dictated some of his war strategy.

    I think Britain had some military liaisons embedded with the C.S.A.; I am sure that at least at Gettysburg there were some.

    With Longstreet I believe but not sure…

    But (at least trying to keep myself swerving off the topic road) as you say it would be fascinating to go into Texas’ history for 9 years as a sovereign nation.

    California was a sovereign nation too – I like to point out to Texans – but for 9 days instead of 9 years and I think more of a political stunt than anything.

  9. Fear of British and French recognition of the CSA was a major fear. Both the Union and Confederacy put a lot of resources into the propaganda game, especially in Britain, to sway things one way or the other. The timing of the Emancipation Proclamation was in part determined by these considerations. Once the Proclamation had been made, it became politically impossible for Britain to recognize the Confederacy unless the Confederates abolished slavery, which they would not consider. Game over.

    There were Confederate “missions” to Britain and France; that’s what the Trent Affair was all about. But the Confederate envoys had no diplomatic status. British officers, like many other foreign officers, were attached as observers to both sides. These were unofficial doings, and the officers were formally on leave. One Prussian officer attached to the Union forces was very impressed by the use of observation balloons. His name was Ferdinand, Count von Zeppelin.

    Many American states had claimed independent sovereignty at some point in their existence. All thirteen of the original states became, technically, independent until they signed the Articles of Confederation. Each Confederate state was technically independent (assuming you discount the Union’s dispute of status) between the passage of its ordinance of secession and its acceptance into the Confederacy. Vermont was an independent government until it joined the Union, and actually did negotiate with Britain for a while. California, as you mention, was a republic briefly — the flag still says so. But only Texas and Hawaii were fully accepted, functioning members of the international system of states, with recognition and diplomatic relations.

    It would have been interesting if Texas had not joined the Confederacy after secession, but had merely announced its abrogation of their treaty of accession into the Union and the “resumption” of its independent status. They would have had a stronger case for recognition by Britain and France, both of whom had previously recognized it. This would have actually been likely had they made at least some kind of stab at gradual emancipation at some future date. Texas was a lot less dependent on slavery than most Confederate states.

  10. The old Texas Book Depository in Dallas.

    I went to the window that Oswald used

    So did I and i was apparent that the shot Oswald took was not that difficult. I think I’ve read about plans to demolish it. I suspect that won’t happen.

    I have an interesting book on alternative history. Lee could have won, especially if Lincoln had lost in 1864 or in 1860. Sherman was responsible for 1864. People don’t realize how important Sherman is to US history. There is an excellent biography of him by Liddell Hart based largely on original sources, chiefly the telegraph. The Civil War was a railroad and telegraphy war plus the dominance of the rifled musket and the Minie’ ball. World War I was based on the US Civil War. The tactics are the same until the trench proved itself. The British never figured out the new tactics in WWII. Montgomery was an artillery general. WWII in Europe would have ended in 1944 without Montgomery.

    Had Lee won, we would today have a large republic to our south that is largely Mexican. Maybe California, too.

  11. MK – I too was surprised at the relatively short distance from the limo’s turning the corner to being in Oswald’s crosshairs -maybe 100 yards?

    Not much longer – History wants to paint Oswald as some sort of super marksman.

    There is a fascinating book on Gettysburg – not really a novel but because of fictionalized conversations among the principals – not a history book, either.

    Probably a bit like our good Sgt’s books.

    But the battles and tactics are all factual.

    Entitled The Killer Angels it is what the movie Gettysburg is based.

    If Lee had only listened to Longstreet…

    I read somewhere that to their dying days Longstreet refused to speak to Lee after that battle.

    On WW2 there was a good book on the European Theater – called Armageddon – based on the last year of the War.

    Something the author – Max Hastings – brought out – was that we had a bombing campaign against all the petroleum storage and production facilities – and “if” we only extended it a bit more the war would have been over by the end of 1944.

    But as another Sgt once told me, “if a bullfrog had wings he’d fly!

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