Hollywood vs. History: The Alamo

The Alamo was one of the most astounding and critical battles of our country. Its men were ruthless in their bravery and love of their country. Their mission for independence lives on in the hearts of all American’s today. Their legacy lives on forever and their courageous souls are still in the heart of the people of the lone star state. This is the story of bravery, love, tyranny, and liberty. This is the story of the Alamo The battle of the Alamo only spanned an approximate 13 days yet it’s a very critical battle in winning the independence of Texas and helping expand the United States to the west.

There were many small conflicts that led up to this battle but it all started as white settlers started migrating to Texas. In the early 1820’s after the Texas Revolution, Texas is a vast land sparsely populated and controlled by Mexico but not readily protected. The Mexican government began encouraging white settlers to come to Texas and start a new life so that they may help protect and populate it. For a small amount of money, settlers were given a fresh start and the fertile land of Texas.

For this the Mexican government wanted the new settlers to agree to a few terms. These were, to become Roman Catholic, become a Mexican citizen, and not to hold any slaves. The whites agreed to these conditions and began settling Jim Bowie was one of these settlers; he came to Texas to make a profit. Jim Bowie is best known to have built the bowie knife but even more so to have fought in the Alamo. Jim Bowie married a rich politician who is actually the sister of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was the new leader of Mexico; after he was put into power he proclaimed himself a dictator and abolished the Mexican constitution. As the Texan settlements prospered whites began breaking the codes and started smuggling in slaves. When the Mexican government was alerted of this they became furious. Meanwhile the whites began to seek independence from Mexico and shape Texas into a republic. They were joined in their beliefs by the Tejanos, a native tribe of Texas who also have been under Mexican rule.

In Stephen Austin a famous Empessario approached the Mexicans in Mexico City and pleaded for Texas independence. The Mexican government refused and even set up a law called the April 6, 1830 law, which stated that no more whites can settle in Texas and that they cannot recreate an American life in Texas. Settlers began forming militias and one such militia was set up in an abandoned missionary called the Alamo. But what really started the fighting was in December of 1835 when Santa Anna’s brother in law General “Cos” surrenders in a fight to retrieve cannons from the Texans.

Cos is made of promise never to attack the federalists again or take up arms against the people of the Texan republic. This left a blemish on Santa Anna’s families name and he sought to redeem his families glory by once and for all putting those Texans in place and showing them who their real leader is. In January of 1836 about 145 Texans were fortified in the soft walls of the Alamo also known as Cottonwood. Some of the important people here were lieutenant Colonel William Berret Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crocket.

Meanwhile Santa Anna drove his troops into Texas in the dead of winter to level the Alamo. They arrived and began their siege on February 23. Fighting Ensued for about 13 days with minimum casualties. But on the 13th day of battle March 6, 1836 Santa Anna ordered a surprise attack from all sides in the dead of night. All defenders of the Alamo died that night. Many a time has Hollywood skewed the difference between reality and fantasy, exaggerating the truth and placing heavy importance on the myths.

A recent historical movie was made about the Alamo. This movie though very historically accurate was different from the documentary; I will compare the two and show the differences. The movie was very good at illustrating key points. Also it was good at showing feelings between characters that was not always clear in the documentary. In the movie you could see the difference in personality between Travis and Bowie. Bowie was a rugged man that was into drinking and telling jokes and socializing with his buddies.

Travis on the other hand was an educated and successful man, a little arrogant at times but also very passionate to his people and his cause. Both were very compelling men but Bowie tended to get more respect from his fellow soldier that Travis did, this was especially shown in the beginning of the movie where Bowie asked whether the soldiers wanted to be under his command or under Travis’. Davy Crocket is an important Character in both the documentary and the movie. But many a time he has been shown to be more of a hero than he was.

In many retellings of the story it was told that Davy was the last man alive and that he went down waving his rifle and killing Mexicans around him, this was not the case since he actually surrendered and was captured by the Mexicans. This was shown in the movie and given as a possible death in the documentary. In the movie David Crocket explained to Bowie how his image was created by the people and not by himself and that he was just living up to his image. He explained how the real David Crocket from Tennessee would jump over the wall and flee.

But during the battle Davy Crocket does indeed live up to his image, just not in the way that he was always portrayed. During the movie Davy was able to raise the troops morals by performing small feats of bravery and making light of dangerous positions. Like the time he tried to shoot down Santa Anna. Also the time he left the fort and ended up killing two Mexicans outside and was greeted with cheers. He was also very helpful in the time that he played the fiddle as the same time as the Mexicans played their war songs. In this way he was able to stop a small conflict peacefully.

One this that the movie did that I think was a little inaccurate was make the people of the Alamo out as the good guys and Santa Anna as plainly the bad guys. This is true for many good Hollywood movies in which there usually must be a good and bad guy and there must be a conflict between them. This is well put by Frank Thomas author of The Alamo, the Illustrated Story of the Epic Film in which he said “Santa Anna really seems to have been the cruel despot that history has painted him, but his army did not march on Texas simply in order to squelch the freedom of the new settlers there, but to protect the sanctity of their own country.

This was no good guys/bad guys fight, as the movies have so often portrayed it, but a conflict in which both sides had perfectly valid, if mutually exclusive, points. ” In the movie Travis makes his famous speech to his men in which he tells them what he is fighting for and gives them the opportunity to leave. Travis does not draw the line in the ground, which was a myth that was denied, by both the movie and the documentary.

In the movie no one left, but in the documentary a French soldier was said to be the only one to leave the battle. Travis is a great leader in the film and in the documentary; he brings the troops together and gets them to fight as one body. As in the movie he was also not afraid to get his hands dirty since he was also doing a lot of the shooting and when he carried the cannonball that no one else would. The engaging ending battle of the Alamo was as well illustrated in the movie as in the documentary.

In the movie Davy fired the first shot which was very symbolic of his image. It was portrayed as the bloody battle that it really was. Bowie was killed sick in his bed as was true in history. Everyone in the Alamo is killed except for Davy Crockett. Davy is presented to Santa Anna where he is asked if he wants to beg for his mercy, he shows no fear and insults Santa Anna and still dies with honor. Both the documentary and the movie did a very good job of showing the facts in a compelling way.

The movie was slightly better in showing true emotion in characters and allowing you to really feel like you were in the position of the soldiers. The documentary and not exaggerate the heroism of Davy Crockett but still showing him as a brave and honorable soldier. The history of the Alamo and the Souls of the soldiers will be engraved in American history forever. And their deaths brought life and hope to our nation and to the Texan people.

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