Americans like to remember. But to merely remember any event or death is not in itself honoring it; to honor requires a respect and regard which, if present, would manifest itself in upholding the principles for which said honor is expressed. Without implementation and upholding of the principles for which men died, there really is no honor but only empty words.
Americans also like to celebrate independence – be it independence from Great Britain, or the story of how the state of Texas gained independence from Mexico – the battles are viewed as examples of heroism. However, each such celebration should give pause to reflect on the principles which were fought for and to look within to determine whether such character traits so grandly and rightly celebrated are within one’s own character?
A great quote from David Crockett:
“I leave this rule for others when I’m dead
Be always sure you’re right — THEN GO AHEAD!”
It is the the remark he placed upon the title page of a book he wrote (along with assistance from Thomas Chilton), A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee – Written By Himself, (the version Published by E.L. Carey and A. Hart, 1834), which I am just beginning to read, along with my also beginning to read A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory by Randy Roberts and James S. Olson.
My interest in learning more of Crockett stemmed from my recent interest into learning more about the Alamo. Has there ever been a subject you thought you knew a little something about…that is until you began reading more on the matter? So the past week or so has been for me.
There’s a most different feeling when walking the terrain where bloodshed has occurred. I recall walking civil war battlefields, and the sense of what occurred there was far more than mere knowledge of what had transpired. It’s the same feeling I’ve experienced visiting other historical places where much human suffering and misery was experienced.
Thus, when a friend recently asked if I had ever visited the Alamo, I replied “no,” but “it does interest me.” If I were to visit, I believe I’d get that same sense I’ve had at certain other places, the feeling of the loss of all the lives who died there.
I continued thinking about The Battle of the Alamo, finding the intrigue and perplexity I’ve had about the story reactivated. Captivated and interested in learning the answers to the questions I’ve had for years about this most remarkable and sad battle, I sought out research. As I began reading, I realized how little I knew about the events and battles for years leading up to the battle at The Alamo – with the past precisely what most most of my questions pertained to.
We all know the names: Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and some 150-180 other men whose names were recorded as lost at The Alamo, fighting the overwhelming force of Santa Anna. They became heroes in our history, and the legendary battle the subject of films and numerous stories, tales, and myths.
These men were fallible human beings (as all of us are), but regardless of their differences and individual stories, they were not going to subject themselves to the tyranny of a dictator taxing them and controlling their lives. With offers by the U.S. government to purchase the land from Mexico twice rejected, the unease and strain continued increasing between American settlers and the Mexican government. Once the Mexican constitution was abandoned and the once federal style republic replaced with a dictatorial, the previous agreements regarding property taxes and tariffs were suddenly rescinded (they had been in place to encourage American settlement – settlers were welcomed as long as they agreed to abide by certain conditions set by the Mexican government),and more animosity between the settlers and Santa Anna developed (including such conflicts as over choice of crops grown, slavery – which Mexico rejected, heavy taxation, and a prohibition on further American immigration, etc.). The choice facing the settlers was between surrender to dictatorial rule, without the previous state rights after all their investment in settlements or a fight for independence.
Distinguishing storytelling, myth, legend, and reality of such an event must be a difficult, but most interesting, one for historians and as well as for the person simply interested in learning more. Santa Anna’s soldiers went through inhospitable conditions of weather and Indian threats/attacks in order to reach San Antonio and fight this battle, while many of the men at the Alamo were eagerly looking forward to the day of building their lives in the region. As I learn more, one point which is most notable, regardless of anything else leading to it, is that these men are remembered, honored and celebrated for sacrificing their lives for liberty. For Texas independence. For freedom.
The battle necessitated men having the courage of their convictions – a courage which fights regardless of the odds. It takes courage to stand and oppose such an overwhelming enemy. This is the substance of the symbol they and the battle has come to represent. Putting aside fear, they vowed to stand their ground.
Awaiting reinforcement and supplies, the situation ever more desperate by the day, consider this quote:
“…If we fail, death in the cause of liberty and humanity is not cause for shuddering…” – from a letter written by Daniel Cloud to his brother.
Or consider the heroic James Butler Bonham whose commitment was so deep he relayed Travis’ requests for aid and returned fighting and dying in the Alamo’s defense.
What the Alamo has come to symbolize is good, but a memory and a symbol do not for liberty make. Its memory, and the memory of all who have ever sacrificed their lives or put their lives in jeopardy for those few battles truly for freedom in our history, is served and honored when one decides to emulate and likewise stand for the same principle.
If we regard The Battle of the Alamo as a fight against oppression, a fight for freedom, then it is not something to merely “remember,” for only doing so makes it but another piece of history which you may never give much thought to; rather, let us proclaim it as an excellent example of the victory of liberty over tyranny. The loss suffered there did not mean the cause was lost. On the contrary, it called to the hearts of many other men to battle hard. It proves that though a single battle may be lost, the quest can yet be achieved.
General Sam Houston and his men gained Texas independence at the battle of San Jacinto, defeating Santa Anna quickly. The oft repeated phrase attributed to him, “Remember the Alamo,” wasn’t a subdued suggestion to revere and honor the deaths while he kept safe from harm’s way. No, it was a courageous battle cry for independence, signaling his army to venture forward to do what must be done for independence, for freedom, thereby honoring the fallen and boldly fighting for the cause they were all committed to. Can we, today, regain the spirit in which those words were spoken?
For us, fighting for principle means a demand and commitment to a return to a constitutional republic. It requires a complete rejection and abolishment of all the power grabs those in government have assumed over us, the citizenry. We, the American people, must reign in the government and remember they do not wield the power over us, but the other way around. As we recall the past, let us simultaneously focus upon courageously living and devoting ourselves to those worthy goals so often only given lip service to. For the advancement of liberty is often hard fought, yet so easily lost through apathy and complacency.
As the deaths at the Alamo have come to symbolize great courage and sacrifice for liberty, the value in remembrance is in implementing that same spirit today in service to liberty. Let not it remain a historical memory, but a living one, so that your life can be one exemplifying that same commitment to liberty.
A battle is but one part of a war as the Alamo showed us. In our nation, we are in a battle for our sovereignty and rights as individuals and as states, as stated in the U.S. Constitution, from the federal government which has unconstitutionally assumed enormous power beyond which we have designated to it. Thus, as battles for civil liberties and economic freedom are won and lost and debated, never forget the primary battle which will win the war: the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people who have fallen asleep to the principles and way of life which our nation was based.
The ideas which formed a nation must be but rekindled within the people. Do not despair at the battles lost, but in the words of David Crockett, “Go ahead!” and persevere in remaining steadfast to your principles, unceasingly educate others to the libertarian philosophy, and bravely never back down nor compromise.
Remember, as the men at the Alamo demonstrated, it takes courage to stand and oppose a powerful adversary. It won’t be easy, but it is how liberty has always and will always prevail.
Just viewed the 2004 film, The Alamo, with Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett, and found it well made; it appeared a great deal of effort went into accuracy, of course, it is a drama, a film, not a documentary. Touches such as the “extras” making up the fighting force taking the names/identities of the men who died at the Alamo were impressive. Though it did not spend much time on the events leading up to The Alamo (which is what I am reading about including the history of the Mexican Federalists (who had created the Mexican Constitution of 1824) versus Centrists, as well as details about Santa Anna’s previous battles and rise to political power – a most interesting character study), the film did provide a good depiction and focus on the 13 days of the battle itself including excellent coverage of the repeated amazing keeping of the Mexican troops at bay through several attacks, the arrival of the Gonzales Ranging Company (not near enough men to reinforce the battle they would soon face), and the battle of San Jacinto. I think this film is a very good one for anyone who is interested in the Battle of the Alamo, and I recommend definitely viewing the extra bonus/special features on the dvd as well. I’m glad I viewed it, and recommend it to those interested in this part of our history.