Saturday, March 02, 2002


Another Texas Independence season is upon us. This is the term I apply to the period from March 2nd, the day in 1836 that the brave men declared Texas independent from Mexico at Washington-on-the-Brazos, to April 21, 1836, where more brave men, led by a giant in American history, Sam Houston, defeated a much larger Mexican force and captured Santa Anna, "the Napolean of the West", effectively ending the war. Sandwiched between these events, of course, the bravest of men held the Alamo with less than 200 defenders against Santa Anna's army of 8,000, until the mission fell on March 6.

Texas Independence doesn't get much press or even much celebration, which is a damn shame; it makes a wonderful story. For starters, the odds of success were perhaps less than those of the British colonists of 1776. While no one would mistake Santa Anna's Mexico for the England at its height as a world power, no ocean separated Texas from Mexico. Nor was the dictator constrained by the niceties of gentleman's warfare. He'd succeeded in the past by ruthlessly crushing his opponents and showed every sign of giving the Texans the same treatment. Then something nothing short of miraculous happened: the Alamo held for 13 days.

Consider the Alamo: no medieval fortress complete with high walls and a moat, this mission proved defensible only because of the courage of the defenders and their uncanny skill as marksmen.

Consider William Barret Travis: the commander of the Alamo was between 25 and 27 years old. Most of us will live thrice that long, and more. He had a young son. Yet he never thought of surrender. How different the wolrd might have been had he not been of such iron character.

Consider Houston and San Jacinto: Houston trained the army of the Republic, such as it was, and lay in wait for Santa Anna. Then he pulled off a brilliant victory, capturing the dictator. He restrained his men, and himself, and instead of killing Santa Anna, he traded the man's freedom for Texas'.

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