Forget the Alamo Book Summary By Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford

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Forget the Alamo (2021) is an eye-opening exploration into America's heroic mythology.

It delves into the history of the Alamo, from its real beginnings in 1836 all the way to its modern-day interpretations.

Through captivating narrative and thought-provoking analysis, readers can see how the events of 1836 spawned a heroic legend that captured not just American imaginations, but also played a central role in various culture wars.

But, beneath the veil of American valor lies a more complicated - and not always flattering - depiction of American history.

This book gives readers a chance to see past the myths and learn about what really happened at the Alamo, why it remains such an important moment in American history, and how it continues to shape our understanding today.

Forget the Alamo Book

Book Name: Forget the Alamo (The Rise and Fall of an American Myth)

Author(s): Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 34 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Bryan Burrough is an experienced journalist and award-winning author.

He hails from Texas, which inspired his interest in the events at The Alamo.

He is well known for his work as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and his books The Big Rich and Barbarians at the Gate, which have all been critically acclaimed.

But perhaps most notably, he is the author of Forget the Alamo – a book that chronicles the battles of 'Texas Independence' and paints a vivid picture of life during those tumultuous times.

Uncovering The Dark Reality Of The Alamo And Its Role In The Founding Of Texas


When it comes to the Alamo, there’s a good chance you’ve heard an oversimplified version of its story.

Maybe you’ve seen the 1960 John Wayne movie or what you were taught in school.

But the truth is often far from this narrative, and many of us don’t realize how deep the myth goes.

In “Forget the Alamo”, readers will discover how two hundred years of Texian-Mexican conflict are rooted in an economy built on cotton production.

We’ll also learn why figures like Jim Bowie may not be deserving of their heroic status, and how Phil Collins could play a part in preserving its future.

At the heart of this book is a look into how the truth about the Alamo conflicts with its mythology – something that many have yet to realize today.

Readers will gain insight into this complex history and the broader implications that accompany it.

The Real Cause Of The Conflict At The Alamo: Cotton And Slavery

The conflict at the Alamo is often remembered for its brave revolutionaries taking a stand against tyranny.

But there was a lot more going on behind the scenes, and it all led back to cotton and slavery.

In the early 1800s, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin helped revolutionize production, creating huge fortunes in the American South which were dependent upon slave labor.

This caused many to look for new land to farm, so they turned their eyes to Mexico’s Texas region where land was cheap and slavery was permitted by Spain.

This increase in enslaved people from 900,000 in 1800 to around 4 million in 1860 eventually set up tensions between wealthy Tejanos and American Southerners who sought independence from Mexico for economic freedom.

While popular mythology states that James Bowie, William Travis and Davy Crockett were fighting for liberty and freedom at the Alamo, this doesn’t reflect what they were actually fighting for – they were fighting primarily on behalf of their own economic interests which revolved around cotton and slavery.

Mexican Independence Forced Texians To Adapt Or Die: How Slavery In Texas Changed With The New Government

Mexican independence meant drastic changes for Texas’ Anglo settlers.

Before Mexico declared its independence, the country was dominated by Spanish rulers and Anglo-American settlers were welcomed to help push back against Native Americans they viewed as troublemakers.

However, when the Mexicans won their fight for freedom in 1821, new constitutional principles were established that abolished slavery throughout the region – something that drastically impacted those Texans who had come to the area looking to make a living through cotton farming.

Though this news came as an unwelcome shock to many of the inhabitants, they had a powerful representative in Stephen F.

Austin who travelled extensively to plead their case with the Mexican government in Mexico City.

Despite his best efforts, no compromises were made and there could be no legalized slavery throughout Mexico or Texas.

Therefore, any potential Texian settlers would have to leave their property behind and hope for better opportunities elsewhere in neighbouring US territories – it was a difficult decision for many who had been hoping for much better prospects from their journey across the border into Texas.

The Myth Of The Virtuous Rebel Fighters At The Alamo Vs

Fighters At The Alamo

The Alamo has become an enduring symbol of heroism and freedom but it may surprise some to learn that not all of the Alamo rebels were morally upstanding individuals.

It was a place for those looking for a new opportunity, both honest hardworking folks as well as criminals wanted in other US territories.

Enter Pierre and Jean Lafitte, two famous scoundrels known for selling stolen goods and enslaving people for dollar a pound off of Galveston Island.

But this isn’t the only example of morally questionable heroes from the Alamo.

Jim Bowie was known for being a violent, drunken brawler and illegal slave trader who’d fled to Texas after many failed business deals in the United States.

Davy Crocket migrated south after being voted out of office and William Travis had completely run out of luck with mounting debts and an arrest warrant hanging over him when he arrived in Texas.

It appears that these men were seeking refuge rather than coming to defend liberty and freedom, which is what we know today as the battle of The Alamo.

Mexico responded by showing a willingness to compromise on slavery but it wasn’t enough; this led to the one-sided battle on March 6th, 1836 resulting in Mexico’s surrender two months later on May 14th – ultimately leading us to today’s false narrative regarding what really happened at The Alamo.

The War Dogs’ Rhetoric Divided Texians And Mexicans, Paving The Way For Conflict At The Battle Of The Alamo

For a while, the Texas settlements thrived.

But their future was uncertain.

With Mexico refusing to change its abolitionist stance, Texians and Tejanos started to become discontented, leading talks of rebellion.

The leader in helping to keep the peace was Stephen Austin who wrote that “Texas must be a slave country” in his view due to necessity of circumstances.

Between 1832 and 1835, concerns between Texians and Mexicans over politics and policies began to grow rapidly until war seemed imminent.

In January 1834, Stephen Austin was arrested for writing a letter about the possibility of creating a state constitution which the Mexican government viewed as treasonous intent.

This caused even more dissatisfaction among the War Dogs, a small twelve-man group comprised of Jim Bowie and William Travis, who were urging for revolt against Mexico.

The Mexican President Santa Anna had initially showed favor towards the Texian rebels but as he remained in power longer his views began shifting to an exertion of total control over them.

With continual tensions between both parties escalating over time by December 1835 before they engaged in battle at Alamo thus effectively beginning their war.

The Battle Of The Alamo: A Pyrrhic Victory For Militia That Led To An Imminent Threat

At the end of 1835, a ragtag group of militiamen found themselves in a vulnerable situation at the Alamo.

Cut off from reinforcements and with few resources, they squatted in the old Spanish mission which was open on all sides and had low walls.

The Mexican Army had retreated to San Antonio following an attack on a few dozen troops in Anahuac by William Travis, but even then they could see that defending the Alamo would be difficult.

In order to try and bolster their resources, the Texian militia gathered weapons and ammunition in Gonzales.

This caused a tense standoff with two hundred Mexican troops when the militia made a flag out of a cannon with “COME AND TAKE IT” printed on it.

Despite these tactics, General Cos chose to retreat rather than draw further conflict from it.

Unfortunately for these brave soldiers, many chose to leave when winter set in, leaving only small numbers of Texian and Tejano soldiers at the Alamo – too spread out to really mount any successful defense against Santa Anna’s army looming on the horizon.

The Battle Of The Alamo Was A Military Disaster That Could Have Been Avoided

Battle Of The Alamo

The Battle of the Alamo is now seen as a classic example of a military disaster that could have been avoided.

This has become much clearer in recent decades, thanks to accounts from Mexican soldiers who fought in the battle, and the few survivors who managed to escape, describing not only what happened in detail but also how it could have been prevented.

At the time of the siege, Travis had around 150 men under his command – much lower than the 3000+ Mexican soldiers led by Santa Anna.

William B.

Travis was only 26 years old at the time and none of them had any sort of military training or experience, leading many to wonder why they stayed instead of retreating earlier on when they likely still had a chance.

One factor might have been Travis’s own pride that he somehow believed his desperate pleas for reinforcements would be answered.

His letters were printed in local newspapers yet no help came their way – even Sam Houston was skeptical about their situation.

Another possible explanation is that Colonel James Fannin attempted to march an army with 300+ men to assist the Alamo along with cannons but due to a lack of shoes and wagon breakdowns on the 90-mile journey, it was called off and he ultimately returned without providing any assistance.

It’s safe to say that from these circumstances and more, The Battle of the Alamo was indeed a military disaster that could have been avoided.

The Myth Of The Heroic Last Stand At The Alamo Is Just That – A Myth

The Battle of the Alamo was a decisive victory for Santa Anna’s army.

After 12 days of siege and cannon fire, as well as bullets chipping away and ripping holes in the outside walls, there was no chance of the men inside holding out any longer.

On March 5, 1836, Travis sent out a Tejano woman to negotiate a surrender with Santa Anna, but his terms were denied.

The only option left was for an unconditional surrender.

The Mexican Army flooded in and overwhelmed the compound without much difficulty.

Even the most durable of heroes at the Alamo -Travis, Bowie and Crockett- could not defeat Santa Anna’s forces.

While some men attempted to escape, they were soon cut down by soldiers on horseback.

After all was said and done, Susanna Dickinson and her infant child were freed by Mexican troops, who proceeded to spread word about this overwhelming victory for Santa Anna’s army.

The Myth Of The Alamo: How A Devastating Loss At The Battle Turned Into An Inspirational Symbol Of Heroism And Victory

Just weeks after the disastrous Battle of the Alamo in March 1836, the myth of the Alamo began to spread, transforming what had been a foolhardy idea into a glorious, heroic tragedy.

After all the evidence indicated that General Travis and his men should never have stayed and fought at the Alamo.

Despite this, news papers started adding embellishments to romanticize their heroic acts and inspire which stirred an outrage in people across America who called for swift vengeance against Santa Anna and his army.

Sam Houston fully embraced this myth as he set out to recruit volunteers and build an army to fight Santa Anna and reclaim Texas Independence.

The key message he shared with them was remember the Alamo and how bravely their heroes fought – thus inspiring over 1400 men join him.

This ultimately lead to winning back Texas Independence after another battle at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

The Truth About The Alamo: How Revisionist History Has Challenged The Myth


Only in recent years has factual history caught up with the persistent Alamo myth.

It all started with Walter Lord’s book, A Time to Stand, which was one of the first twentieth-century books on the Battle of the Alamo that wasn’t afraid to challenge the popular narrative.

This introduced a trend known as revisionist history, where scholars and historians questioned what had been accepted for centuries about this iconic battle.

Jeff Long’s book Duel of Eagles took this trend even further, exposing the flaws in characters like Travis and Bowie – an approach that earned him so many death threats from his fellow Texans he was initially scared to stand near a window!

It’s worth noting that prior to this challenge of the story, non-white rebels were conflated together and marginalized in literature, perpetuating negative stereotypes prematurely added onto Mexican citizens.

Nowadays, Texas seventh graders visiting what’s left of the Alamo can learn an accurate version of events which doesn’t group all Latino fighters into an “other” category and paint them as villains.

It seems it is only now that we’re beginning to acknowledge how important factual accuracy is when it comes to our history – particularly within a nation built upon immigrant talent.

Texas Reckons With The Alamo Myth And Phil Collins’ Dubious Artifacts

While efforts are being made to provide an accurate version of the events at the Alamo and make sure that Tejano representation is included, there is still a fight over the true meaning of the Alamo.

There are those who are committed to upholding and promoting the heroic mythology surrounding it, while others believe that its story must be told from a more nuanced perspective.

The Alamo site went under control of a group called the Daughters of the Republic of Texas who tried to preserve this heroic myth for many years.

This changed when state legislature ended their custodianship and put control back in the hands of the state.

Since then, George P.

Bush has been in charge of making plans to create a world-class destination with more inclusive, accurate descriptions of events at The Alamo such as discussing how it had more to do with preserving slavery than with stemming Mexican oppression.

Though this approach has received pushback from some parties and resulted in people showing up with rifles at The Alamo site to protect old monuments, perhaps even more interesting is musician Phil Collins’ large collection of artifacts concerning The Alamo which he wishes to display onsite.

Unfortunately aspects of this collection’s provenance have been found sketchy due to authentication done without much factual evidence.

It appears that regardless if The Alamo story is told with greater accuracy or not, opinions about its true significance continue to remain highly contested – leading some people to advise that it should just be left forgotten altogether.

Wrap Up

Overall, the story of the Battle of the Alamo has changed drastically over time.

It began as a conflict between Mexico and Texan immigrants who wished to continue their use of slave labor.

This quickly escalated into a revolt, culminating in the Battle of the Alamo, which was an overwhelming victory for Mexico.

However, this defeat soon became inspirational; instead of accepting it as a failure, Texan Anglo-Americans used this story as a rallying cry for independence from Mexico.

For generations, even to date, Latinos living in Texas have suffered from this false narrative.

Now, finally, it is being revised and recognized for its inaccuracy by those who know its true history; it deserves to be placed in the back corners of history books, where it can remain undisturbed.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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