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Jack Turner 59 of that kind of will. We must take heart and courage from his heart and courage. Perhaps then something shall pass between us, and our own path will be made bolder by his victory. JACK TURNER Cold Mountain Zendo Greater Yellowstone Bioregion Duel of Eagles. By Jeff Long. (New York: Morrow, 1990. 431 pages, $22.95.) Every so often in the past three or four decades, someone has set out to put Texas and the rest of the country straight on what, precisely, took place at the Alamo. The images are familiar to anyone who has seen Walt Disney’s popular version of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, clad in coon and buckskin, wielding OP Betsy from the crumbling parapet, laying waste to thousands of hapless Mexicans before, as we all know, he will be cut down and slain, his body burned, and his legend cemented into the minds of children of the 1950s for­ ever. Disney’s version offers much the same image as Lon Tinkle’s 13 Days to Glory, and viewers and readers alike knew that Travis died with a smile of satisfaction on his lips, that Bowie was cot-bound with injury or illness and slaughtered several dozen Mexicans before he was cruelly outnumbered, and that not a single man survived the thirteen-day siege in San Antonio; they all died bravely in the name of liberty and justice and good Christian and white male values, and the Mexican Constitution of 1824, which none of them ever read. The John Wayne version of the same event (“The Alamo”) did little to alter Tinkle’s or Disney’s interpretations. In that vintage 1960 account, though, Crockett died blowing up the powder magazine, while Bowie and Travis fell much as they always had. So far did that film go in reinforcing the popular myth, indeed, that the Daughters of the Texas Revolution displayed in the Alamo chapel a portrait done after the movie which depicted Laurence Harvey, John Wayne, Richard Widmark, and Frankie Avalon battling thou­ sands of swarthy Mexican soldiers against an ironic western sunset landscape pockmarked with explosions and atrocities. Latter-day debunkers of the myth are numerous. For years, books and magazine articles have come forth to say, for example, that Crockett would not have been wearing buckskins, for the weather was much too cold for such apparel. Further, Ol’ Betsy was back in Tennessee. Bowie, it turns out, was not injured in a fall, but was ill, possibly with tuberculosis, and probably did little to defend the ancient presidio. Travis, some have said, may have shot himself, or deliberately fallen on his sword, and it’s even possible that some several defenders, out of ammunition and trapped, may have surrendered, even sur­ vived. It’s possible, some have dared to whisper, that OF Davy himself gave the whole thing up as a bad job and begged for his life. 60 Western American Literature Texans have never taken such heresy lightly—or seriously—and when voices such as T. R. Fehrenbach’s or even James Michener’s have raised ques­ tions about these monoliths to liberty and freedom, even suggesting that the defense of the Alamo was crassly insubordinate and militarily stupid, that it was effective suicide for no good purpose, they have been shouted down and called more vile names than Santa Anna and his troops probably were called back in the spring of 1836. Now, however, Jeff Long has entered the fray. His thoroughly researched book, Duel of Eagles, presents the subtitle, “The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo.” The initials “U.S.” should tip anyone off that this is not going to be another “Tinklesque” or “Disneyesque” or “John Waynesque” treatment: “Mexican and U.S.?” not “Mexican and Texican?” That’s right. With a firm hold on the principles of Jacksonian Democracy and Manifest Destiny, with a profound understanding of the importance of land piracy in the first forty years of the nineteenth century, and with a strong sense of the importance of the antebellum South’s attitude and lifestyle, Long presents the so-called “Texas Revolution” as nothing more than a spectacular attempt to extend the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 59-63
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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