Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth

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Overview

A Selection of the Military and History Book Clubs

A startling new analysis of one of America’s most glorious battles . . .

Contrary to movie and legend, we now know that the defenders of the Alamo in the war for Texan independence—including Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William B. Travis—did not die under brilliant sunlight, defending their positions against hordes of Mexican infantry. Instead the Mexicans launched a predawn attack, surmounting...

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Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth

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Overview

A Selection of the Military and History Book Clubs

A startling new analysis of one of America’s most glorious battles . . .

Contrary to movie and legend, we now know that the defenders of the Alamo in the war for Texan independence—including Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William B. Travis—did not die under brilliant sunlight, defending their positions against hordes of Mexican infantry. Instead the Mexicans launched a predawn attack, surmounting the walls in darkness, forcing a wild melee inside the fort before many of its defenders had even awoken.

In this book, Dr. Tucker, after deep research into recently discovered Mexican accounts and the forensic evidence, informs us that the traditional myth of the Alamo is even more off-base: most of the Alamo’s defenders died in breakouts from the fort, cut down by Santa Anna’s cavalry that had been pre-positioned to intercept the escapees.

To be clear, a number of the Alamo’s defenders hung on inside the fort, fighting back every way they could. Captain Dickinson, with cannon atop the chapel (in which his wife hid), fired repeatedly into the Mexican throng of enemy cavalry until he was finally cut down. The controversy on Crockett still remains, though the recently authenticated diary of the Mexican de la Pena offers evidence that he surrendered.

The most startling aspect of this book is that most of the Texans, in two gallantly led groups, broke out of the fort after the enemy had broken in, and the primary fights took place on the plain outside. Still fighting desperately, the Texans’ retreat was halted by cavalry, and afterward Mexican lancers plied their trade with bloodcurdling charges into the midst of the remaining resisters.

Notoriously, Santa Anna burned the bodies of the Texans who had dared stand against him. As this book proves in thorough detail, the funeral pyres were well outside the fort—that is, where the two separate groups of escapers fell on the plain, rather than in the Alamo itself.

PHILLIP THOMAS TUCKER earned his Ph.D. in American History from St. Louis University in 1990. The author or editor of more than 20 books on military history, several of which have won national and state awards for scholarship, he has worked as a U.S. Air Force Historian for nearly two decades in Washington, DC.

REVIEWS

“As Tucker provides long-overdue corrections to the Alamo story unknown to most readers, this should be read by scholars and lay readers alike. . . .”
—LIBRARY JOURNAL (3/2010)

“Those convinced that the 1836 Alamo battle was a heroic last stand will hate this book. Readers open to new interpretations, however, will find compelling arguments within its well-researched pages. The author, a historian who has written or edited many books involving 19th-century military campaigns, believes the Alamo defenders were overwhelmed in a surprise night attack, not a daylight assault, and many of them died outside the fort while trying to escape through Mexican lines.”
—THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS 4/25/2010

“Reignites the never ending controversy over the last stand myth vs. the historical record, which indicates most defenders died after breaking out from Santa Anna’s pre-dawn attack.”
--American History, 05/2010

“An eye opening reappraisal of what really happened during the Alamo siege, final assault and aftermath. . . . Tucker’s well researched account dramatically rewrites long-accepted history and shatters some of the most cherished and enduring myths about the 1836 battle. “
--Armchair General, 09/2010

“It is refreshing for historians to challenge the conventions of history, even if their interpretations only contribute to the existing controversy.”--ARMY Magazine, 06/2010

“I disagree with many things in Exodus from the Alamo but it deserves a reading.”—THE ALAMO JOURNAL

“An interesting, detailed study. Recommended.”
—CHOICE

“…uses recently discovered Mexican accounts and archaeological and forensic evidence to break down the “Last Stand Myth”…By recounting the Battle from a new point of view, Tucker attempts to break down the racism against the Tejano and Mexican people fueled by Alamo legends.”
Universitas, Saint Louis University, Fall 2010

“Today, most people will have in their mind the 1960 film version of the battle in which John Wayne played Davy Crockett. . . . This has helped to promote the image of a fervent band of freedom fighters standing up to the Mexican dictator and inflicting huge casualties upon overwhelming forces in a gallant stand. In fact, as the author’s carefully researched book proves, the defenders were panic-stricken and fleeing as Santa Anna’s dawn attack swept over them in barely 20 minutes. . . . To a British reader, what is most striking is how much the ‘race’ issue mattered then and apparently still does now. . . . The Texans of 1836 supported slavery and were to fight a bitter civil war a generation later over the issue, while Mexico had abolished it a dozen years earlier. Who was then the liberator?”
—MILITARY ILLUSTRATED

“…factual and objective…”
Journal of Southern History

“While it's long been known that some of the garrison attempted to escape as the Mexican infantry overran the improvised fortress, using long-overlooked Mexican and American evidence, including military reports, letters, and oral testimony, Tucker concludes that perhaps as many as half the dead may have been cut down by Mexican cavalry as they attempted to escape on foot.
“ A work likely to stir much controversy in some circles, and a necessary read for anyone interested in the Texas war for independence.”
—STRATEGY PAGE

“…demonstrates a mastery and understanding…Readers who enjoy detailed battle writing should like Tucker’s text…members who are interested in the story of the Alamo and on the creation and veneration of myth in American History should read…”
Journal of America’s Military Past, WINTER 2011

“Challenges conventional Alamo studies . . .”
—Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Tucker claims the defenders were overwhelmed in a night attack, and many were killed running away. Most were in bed when the Mexicans breached the walls. And, contrary to the 1960 movie, John Wayne was nowhere to be seen.

—GUARDIAN.CO.UK, 8/1/2011

Using recently discovered Mexican accounts of the battle, the historian wrote that the defenders of the Alamo in the war for Texan independence did not die defending their garrison under brilliant sunlight. Instead, the Mexicans launched a surprise pre-dawn attack, climbing the walls under cover of darkness and causing mayhem in the fort while most of its defenders were still asleep.

—DAILYMAIL.CO.UK, 8/1/2011

“…passionate and gripping… the best English-language account we have of the entire lead-up to the doomed battle.”
Open Letters Monthly, 10/2011

“…bound to stir controversy…proves in thorough detail the funeral pyres were well outside the Alamo where the twp separate groups of fleeing fighters fell, rather than inside the old Spanish mission…intriguing.”
Toy Solder and Model Figure

“Veteran American historian Tucker brings the bad news that almost everything Americans know about the Alamo is not only wrong, but nearly antithetic to what actually happened during the 1836 battle. Worse still, it is not very cinematic. If all the defenders died in that heroic last stand against Santa Anna's Mexican Army, he wonders, how do we know what happened. He has a different story, which passes through land and slaves as the prizes, Napoleonic influences, defense of the Alamo, fatal overconfidence, an ineffective siege, the predawn assault, flight rather than fight, the Alamo's most bitter legacies, and flames rising high.”
Book News

“Tucker’s bold assessment, while undeniably true, “that the Alamo defenders were on the wrong side of the slavery issue,” goes down with all the aftertaste of a pork chop in a synagogue. In exposing the underbelly of our historical tendency to absolve “America of guilt from the ugliest legacies of Manifest Destiny, slavery, and Indian removal,” Tucker describes such inglorious events as Colonel Neill, the man most responsible for setting the stage for the Alamo disaster, mounting his horse and “riding away from the Alamo and leaving the 26 year old Travis in command.”
City Book Review, February 2012

“The research is hard to argue against. Just because the story doesn't match the myth doesn't mean the story isn't true… Myth or fact? The research is pretty straight forward. Read all of it with an open mind before drawing your own conclusions. You just might surprise yourself. Remember, as the book's title warns, the author is challenging a 175 years old myth.”

Kepler’s Military History

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Editorial Reviews

Dallas Morning News
Those convinced that the 1836 Alamo battle was a heroic last stand will hate this book. Readers open to new interpretations, however, will find compelling arguments within its well-researched pages. The author, a historian who has written or edited many books involving 19th-century military campaigns, believes the Alamo defenders were overwhelmed in a surprise night attack, not a daylight assault, and many of them died outside the fort while trying to escape through Mexican lines.
American History
Reignites the never ending controversy over the last stand myth vs. the historical record, which indicates most defenders died after breaking out from Santa Anna's pre-dawn attack.
Armchair General
...an eye opening reappraisal of what really happened during the Alamo siege, final assault and aftermath...Tucker's well researched account dramatically rewrites long-accepted history and shatters some of the most cherished and enduring myths about the 1836 battle.
The Alamo Journal
I disagree with many things in Exodus from the Alamo but it deserves a reading.
Choice
An interesting, detailed study. Recommended.
Universitas (Saint Louis University)
...uses recently discovered Mexican accounts and archaeological and forensic evidence to break down the "Last Stand Myth"...By recounting the Battle from a new point of view, Tucker attempts to break down the racism against the Tejano and Mexican people fueled by Alamo legends.
MILITARY ILLUSTRATED
"Today, most people will have in their mind the 1960 film version of the battle in which John Wayne played Davy Crockett. . . . This has helped to promote the image of a fervent band of freedom fighters standing up to the Mexican dictator and inflicting huge casualties upon overwhelming forces in a gallant stand. In fact, as the author's carefully researched book proves, the defenders were panic-stricken and fleeing as Santa Anna's dawn attack swept over them in barely 20 minutes. . . . To a British reader, what is most striking is how much the ‘race' issue mattered then and apparently still does now. . . . The Texans of 1836 supported slavery and were to fight a bitter civil war a generation later over the issue, while Mexico had abolished it a dozen years earlier. Who was then the liberator?"
STRATEGY PAGE
“While it's long been known that some of the garrison attempted to escape as the Mexican infantry overran the improvised fortress, using long-overlooked Mexican and American evidence, including military reports, letters, and oral testimony, Tucker concludes that perhaps as many as half the dead may have been cut down by Mexican cavalry as they attempted to escape on foot. “A work likely to stir much controversy in some circles, and a necessary read for anyone interested in the Texas war for independence.”
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Challenges conventional Alamo studies ...
guardian.co.uk
Tucker claims the defenders were overwhelmed in a night attack, and many were killed running away. Most were in bed when the Mexicans breached the walls. And, contrary to the 1960 movie, John Wayne was nowhere to be seen.
dailymail.co.uk
Using recently discovered Mexican accounts of the battle, the historian wrote that the defenders of the Alamo in the war for Texan independence did not die defending their garrison under brilliant sunlight. Instead, the Mexicans launched a surprise pre-dawn attack, climbing the walls under cover of darkness and causing mayhem in the fort while most of its defenders were still asleep.
Open Letters Monthly
...passionate and gripping... the best English-language account we have of the entire lead-up to the doomed battle.
Toy Solder and Model Figure
...bound to stir controversy...proves in thorough detail the funeral pyres were well outside the Alamo where the twp separate groups of fleeing fighters fell, rather than inside the old Spanish mission...intriguing.
Book News
Veteran American historian Tucker brings the bad news that almost everything Americans know about the Alamo is not only wrong, but nearly antithetic to what actually happened during the 1836 battle. Worse still, it is not very cinematic. If all the defenders died in that heroic last stand against Santa Anna's Mexican Army, he wonders, how do we know what happened. He has a different story, which passes through land and slaves as the prizes, Napoleonic influences, defense of the Alamo, fatal overconfidence, an ineffective siege, the predawn assault, flight rather than fight, the Alamo's most bitter legacies, and flames rising high.
City Book Review
Tucker's bold assessment, while undeniably true, "that the Alamo defenders were on the wrong side of the slavery issue," goes down with all the aftertaste of a pork chop in a synagogue. In exposing the underbelly of our historical tendency to absolve "America of guilt from the ugliest legacies of Manifest Destiny, slavery, and Indian removal," Tucker describes such inglorious events as Colonel Neill, the man most responsible for setting the stage for the Alamo disaster, mounting his horse and "riding away from the Alamo and leaving the 26 year old Travis in command."
Journal of Southern History
...factual and objective...
Library Journal
Over the years, a few scholars and history buffs have indicated that some aspects of the Alamo story may not have occurred as commonly believed. Now military historian Tucker (Burnside's Bridge) has used letters and reports of Mexican officers written immediately after the skirmish to show that almost everything we know about the fight at the Alamo is a myth. He explains that what drew Americans to Texas was cheap land that could be used for plantations worked by slaves, indicating that the Texas independence movement was designed to preserve slavery in Texas against a Mexican government that wanted to abolish the institution. Tucker demonstrates that the battle of the Alamo was in reality a 20-minute predawn skirmish of no military significance, one that literally caught the militarily inexperienced and overconfident defenders asleep in their beds. When aroused, they resorted to their natural instincts and fled (hence the title here), only to be cut down by Mexican cavalry. VERDICT As Tucker provides long-overdue corrections to the Alamo story unknown to most readers, this should be read by scholars and lay readers alike despite much unnecessary repetition and lots of heavy-handed prose. A better editor could have turned this into a far better book. Recommended nonetheless for its corrective value.—Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932033939
  • Publisher: Casemate Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/15/2010
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Customer Reviews

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( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Not a good book

    First let me say that the editing of this book is just terrible. Now my complaints. 1. Dr. Tucker wants the reader to believe that he is the 1st historian to suggest that members of the Alamo tried to escape. By looking at his bibliography and notes, he knows that this is not true. 2. According to him, his account his the "historical Alamo", while Walter Lord, Stephin Hardin, Allan Huffines, and Jeff Long writes about the "mythological Alamo". 3. Throughout the book he stands how great the Mexican Army and Santa Anna is. He also states how the Texas general and army is so bad. But he never explains how the battle of San Jacinto turned into a Mexican massacre. 4. On pages 228 - 238 the author describes why he believes Travis commited suicide at the north wall. On page 213, he has David Crockett killed early at the norht wall. On page 242, he describes how Crockett dies in front of the chapel. On page 274, he has Travis and Crockett leading the escape from the Alamo, and them being killed outside the Alamo. 5. According to Dr. Tucker, the reason Santa Anna attacks, before his siege cannons came, was he heard the Texans were going to try to escape the Alamo, or surrender. If this is true, then Santa Anna is a complete fool. Why not just attack the Texans in the open field, like General Urrea did at Goliad. 6. Dr. Tucker states what historians conveniently overlook is that the Texans brought the no quarter concept into the picture (page 174). What Dr. Tucker convenintly overlooks is all of his examples are words, not deeds. He also overlooks that the men of the Alamo, released General Cos and his troops, only asking that he does not re-enter the battle. A promise he latter dis-honored. 7. He condemns the Texans for killing 600 Mexicans at San Jancinto, 3 times as many than the Texan dead at the Alamo. Again he conveniently forgets about the Goliad massacre (350 men), and that the Mexicans committed these attrocities first.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    almost...

    As person who grew-up in Texas with a long-time interest in the Alamo, I'm always interested in new books. Based on the initial review, "Exodus" does not sound good. Please know, I'm a Texan, but I'm open to the truth about the battle, but I don't want another money-making story, like Bowie was taken by aliens. Should I buy this book -- feedback?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Interesting but flawed

    Great historical analaysis makes this worthwile. It may just change you perspective on the legend. The authors one flaw, to repetative after he's already made his point.

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  • Posted October 16, 2010

    Much Recommended & thought provoking. Read as a skeptic though

    I had trouble getting through the introductions & first few chapters as Mr. Tucker, who writes well, spent most of his time demonizing the "Anglo-Celts" culture, some of it deservedly so. Once I got past that and the obvious lionizing of Santa Anna and the Mexican army, I found the basic thesis very credible.

    Mr. Tucker contradicts himself quite often however, oft times within the same chapter. Since this is not a scholarly review, I'll just say the most glaring was his assertion that the garrison of the Alamo was an undisciplined rabble incapable of defending themselves and then asserting that they were highly organized in their pre-planned escape attempts.

    The other issue I had related to descriptions of the participant's individual demeanor or personalities that had inadequate footnotes to verify those statements. I felt he was speculating but maybe that should have been stated more clearly. I must say however, that there are many other examples of very credible & excellent footnotes.

    Bottom line: This is a very interesting and thought provoking book regarding the "Last Stand" at the Alamo. If one brings a totally skeptical yet objective eye to the reading experience, as one should have with all historical writing, you'll have a wonderful read.

    Very enjoyable.

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  • Posted October 14, 2010

    Wordy But Worth the Slog...

    Phillip Tucker has done an admirable job of analyzing the massacre at the Alamo with fresh eyes. He shows commendable mastery of the wealth of scholarly writing that has examined the defense of the Alamo in particular, and the Texan war for independence generally. He has also dug deep into Mexican sources, including newspapers and memoirs. From the start, Mr. Tucker makes his position clear -- the Alamo was a tragic battle that never should have been fought. He paints Jim Bowie and William Travis as criminally inept leaders who failed to recognize the indefensible design of the Alamo complex and did little to improve its defenses. Davie Crockett is portrayed as a washed-up politician seeking new life as a founding father of Texas. He provides a balanced account of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, describing him as a capable and talented, though undeniably ruthless and opportunistic, military and political figure. Mr. Tucker does a fine job of describing Gen. Santa Anna's role in the larger context of early 19th century Mexican history.

    For those who like detailed historical works, this will be a gold mine. It identifies a bonanza of source materials, and is well-noted. The book could have benefitted from more attentive editing. A surprising number of grammatical errors and curious word choices are springkled throughout the book. Mr. Tucker likes long, run-on sentences that are sometimes hard to parse. He has also elevated the art of beating a dead horse to new heights. When he has a point to make, he MAKES it... and MAKES it... and -- well, you get the idea. It seems, to me, that about 60-70 pages could have been shaved by judicious editing without diminishing the content of the book. It was this duplication of effort that induced me to give the book three stars instead of four.

    A more enjoyable read that reaches many similar conclusions is William C. Davis' "Three Roads to the Alamo -- The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis."

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Afraid you will be disappointed...

    While obviously incredibly well researched, the author's writing "style" is tedious at best and middle-school in general.

    Mr. Tucker unnecessarily annoyingly repeats himself, giving his narrative a feeling of disorganization.

    Additionally, he presents a "pro-Mexican/anti-Texan-U.S." bias and uses a heavy-handed prose style that is often as distracting as his above mentioned repetition of facts.

    The arrangement of the material in the "term-paper-like" chapters reads as if he had word-count more in mind than narrative flow. One can almost see the linking of index-card notes as one labors through.

    Mr. Tucker would be well served by reading Nathaniel Philbrick's _The Last Stand - Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Little Bighorn_ as an excellent example of revisiting a story already "well known" but in need of updating with newly discovered sources (an EXCELLENT read, by the way...)

    A better editor could have turned this into a far better book, especially given the number of spelling and gramatical errors encountered along the way.

    My high school English or history teachers would have returned this series of "papers" with grades of C or C-, all well marked with red-ink underlinings, circled words and phrases, and multiple marginal notes on the aforementioned style, spelling, and grammar. Had I not been reading a copy from the library, I would have marked up my copy accordingly and sent it to the publisher asking for a refund.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    Stimulating, Provocative, yet Grinding

    Many readers, especially Anglo-Texans, will despise this book because it attacks almost everything they have been told since the first grade about the 1836 battle at the Alamo. But you should read it none-the-less because it is stimulating and provocative. Despite that, however, I found it quite difficult to read, not because of the content, but due to Tucker's writing style. I'm not sure if he was just short on words for his publisher, or if his writing style is such that he feels it necessary to constantly repeat the same details over and over and over again. Despite this irritation, I do recommend this book for its coverage of new historical perspectives.

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    Posted May 13, 2014

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    Posted May 16, 2012

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    Posted May 4, 2011

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    Posted December 13, 2010

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