Historian Points Out Alamo Heroes' Flaws
© 1997, Associated Press.
SAN ANTONIO - The heroes of the Alamo weren't all heroic before they fought for Texas independence, a noted historian says.
Jim Bowie swindled the government out of land and sidestepped slave laws; William Travis abandoned a pregnant wife to escape debt; and Davy Crockett killed lots of animals, historian William C. Davis says.
"Some people may object to the portrait of Bowie. It takes nothing away from his bravery or sacrifice but he was a crook or a confidence man," Mr. Davis said.
A nationally known Civil War historian, Mr. Davis spent two years researching the Alamo's biggest names for a book he just completed. He spoke to the Alamo Battlefield Association on Friday, a day after the 161st anniversary of the fall of the Alamo.
Bowie, Crockett and Travis all were killed in the 1836 siege pitting Texas independence fighters against the Mexican army.
Bowie claimed hundreds of square miles of land in Arkansas and Louisiana with fraudulent Spanish land grants and phony bills of sale, Mr. Davis said.
Bowie also circumvented a law banning the slave imports by buying hundreds of Africans for $1 a pound from a French pirate before turning them over to Louisiana authorities, Mr. Davis said.
Travis was branded a "coward" after leaving Alabama as a failed husband, father, lawyer and publisher, Mr. Davis said.
It first was believed that Travis fled to Texas after killing a man who had slept with his wife, but Mr. Davis said he fled to escape debt. Travis matured into a revolutionary leader after arriving in Texas, Mr. Davis said.
Crockett was a "'very unsophisticated politician" who would "kill scores of animals" whenever he failed in life, Mr. Davis said.
Regardless of what the men may have done before the Alamo battle, they and all the other defenders were heroes, said Virginia Nicholas, chairwoman of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas' Alamo Committee.
"More research makes Texas history more interesting," she said. "But it doesn't negate the heroism of anyone at the Alamo."
Alamo historian Bruce Winders complimented Mr. Davis' work and said he may have confirmed what many have long suspected about Bowie and Travis. "He's turning up new details that might tend to be disturbing to people," Mr. Winders said.
Source: Dallas Morning News, Sunday, March 9, 1997 - page 49a