Authors: Thomas Ricks Lindley
New Evidence and New
Thomas Ricks Lindley
Copyright Â© 2003 by Thomas Ricks Lindley
All rights reserved.
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Published by Republic of Texas Press
A Member of the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
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Lanham, Maryland 20706
NATIONAL BOOK NETWORK
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lindley, Thomas Ricks.
Alamo traces : new evidence and new conclusions / Thomas Ricks Lindley.
Â Â Â Â Â p. cm.
1. Alamo (San Antonio, Tex.)âSiege, 1836. I. Title.
F390 .L54 2003
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information SciencesâPermanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48â1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
Alvy and Ethel Pullin
by Stephen Harrigan
If there is such a thing as a dispassionate Alamo scholar, I've never met one. Even the soberest and tweediest of academic historians seem to have been infatuated, at an impressionable age, by the mysterious blend of annihilation and redemption that is at the core of the Alamo myth.
From time to time Thomas Ricks Lindley has tried to sell me on the idea that he is an exception to this rule, that his own interest in the subject is purely a matter of rational historical inquiry. But I know Alamo obsession when I see it. All the signs are there: the Alamo baseball cap on Tom's head, the framed photograph of the cast of John Wayne's
on his wall, the dog buried in the backyard whose name had beenâwhat else?âAlamo.
But the quality that distinguishes Tom Lindley from garden-variety Alamoheads like myself, and that sometimes contentiously sets him apart from eminent historians working the same ground, is his grinding focus. I first met him about ten years ago in the Texas State Archives when I was beginning the research on my novel
The Gates of the Alamo
, and that is where he is still likely to be found today, still reading through old letters and muster rolls and military claims in musty old files that have never before been examined with such relentless scrutiny, if they have even been examined at all.
People who make their livings writing or teaching history tend to be, at least to some degree, generalists. Their goal is not just to discover facts but to interpret those facts within a broader context of thesis or theory or narrative. Tom Lindley is not a professional historian in that way, but neither is he what is sometimes condescendingly described as an “avocational” or “recreational” historian. He is a dead-serious specialist, a relentless researcher who for a decade and a half has been on the trail of one single thing: the unambiguous truth of the events of the siege and storming of the Alamo in 1836.
Lindley's training for this work comes not from university instruction in historical methodology but from his early experience in the United
States Army as a criminal investigator, from which he developed habits and attitudes that are perhaps more characteristic of the pursuit of justice than of conventional scholarship. For instance, Lindley's innate skepticism is famous in the tight little world of Alamo researchers. Historians, of course, must routinely assay the relative credibility of their research material, but Lindley has a way of raising the stakes when it comes to considering whether or not a particular document is to be trusted. He seems to retain, from his days as an investigator, a visceral understanding that any source is apt to be lying. As a result, his tireless questioning of the authenticity or veracity of certain primary documentsâfrom John Sutherland's 1860 personal account of the first day of the Alamo siege to, most notoriously, the narrative of Mexican captain Jose Enrique de la Penaâhas helped to hold Alamo research to a higher standard of credibility, even if it does occasionally annoy other historians who complain that Lindley has never met a document he likes.
His days as a criminal investigator might help to explain another quality in his work, the sense of an urgent and personal quest. Talking to Tom about his discoveries, sometimes arguing with him about his conclusions, I've often come away with the conviction that he is trying to solve not just a historical puzzle but an actual crime. In the case of the Alamo, the crime in question is what has been allowed to pass for the historical record.
, he attacks this record with such authority and doggedness that it is hard to imagine anyone writing about the Alamo in the future who would not have to seriously wrangle with his reassessments and reinterpretations. As Lindley himself admits, his book is not a popular history. It is, instead, a methodical, piece-by-piece dismantling of what we thought we knew, combined with convincing speculation about what might have really happened.
People will argue with some of Lindley's conclusions. No doubt there will be a howl of outrage among Sam Houston's many partisans after they have read the first chapter, in which the once-unassailable hero of the Texas revolution is indicted for what Lindley regards as his duplicitous inaction during the siege of the Alamo. And there will certainly be readers who will continue to cling to the image of Colonel William B. Travis drawing a line in the sand, despite Lindley's definitive discrediting of that beloved story. But
is the farthest thing from a revisionist manifesto. It may take on a cherished historical chestnut or two,
but it does so with the intention of casting a clear light rather than a dark shadow. At the same time it also offers an abundance of new information, particularly in its groundbreaking chapters on the hitherto-unknown attempts to reinforce the Alamo.
is a book that must and will be reckoned with. It burrows deep into the historical record, shovels away deposits of myth and folklore and faulty assumptions that are generations deep, and never wavers in its search for a bedrock level of fact. It is a book that showcases a lifetime of fervent research and marks an audacious new direction for Alamo scholarship.
I owe a debt of thanks to many individuals who helped me in researching and writing this book. Foremost,
Alamo Traces: New Evidence and New Conclusions
would not have been written without the encouragement and support of former state Supreme Court justice Jack Hightower. Writer Steve Harrigan read the manuscript and offered advice on how to improve the writing and organization of the book. Steve also wrote a foreword for the work. Artist and historian Jack Jackson read some of the chapters and offered suggestions for improvement. Moreover, Jack shared some of his research on the Mexican army and drew me a map. Historian William C. “Jack” Davis also shared a number of Mexican documents he had found in researching
Three Roads to the Alamo
and furnished a back cover promotional blurb. He also read the manuscript and offered his help in locating a publisher. Historian Stephen Hardin furnished support and often acted as a sounding board for my arguments and interpretations. Dr. Jim Lutzweiler read the Moses/Louis Rose chapters and made a number of criticisms. Historian and researcher Dorcas Baumgarter, who probably knows more about Gonzales County than any other person, shared an unknown Susanna Dickinson interview with me. Lee Spencer-White of Freer, Texas, furnished me with names and evidence for two new Alamo defenders. Rod Timanus made some useful observations concerning the Jose Enrique de la Pena memoir manuscript. Bill Groneman allowed me the use of his research on forgery detection. Also, Bill was an important sounding board in regard to my Pena analysis. Dr. David B. Gracy II always answered my questions in regard to his point of view on the authenticity of the Pena manuscripts. Historian Jesus F. (Frank) de la Teja read an early draft of the manuscript. He made a number of important suggestions on how to improve the work. Dr. “Red” Duke of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston helped with information about wounds. Elias J. Dugie and Doyle Colwell were very generous in allowing me on their farm and ranch land in my search for the old road bed of the Gonzales to San Antonio road. Historian Paul A. Hutton has always been supportive and interested in my research. Historian David J. Weber read an early draft of the Houston
chapter and furnished a back cover blurb. His comments were generous, gracious, and helpful.
Then there were certain individuals employed at the various libraries and archives who helped a great deal. The Texas General Land Office operates one of three state archives in Austin. The division was well managed before David Dewhurst took over as Land Commissioner. Today, the Land Office archives are, bar none, including the University of Texas, the best archives operation in the state of Texas. Fortunately, Dewhurst had the ability to listen to the improvement ideas of his archival staff. Susan Smith-Dorsey, Carol Finney, John Molleston, Kevin Klaus, Jerry C. Drake, Bobby Santiesteban, and Galen Greaser were always friendly, professional, and knowledgeable in the assistance they gave me. Whatever the subject: land, oil, history, cartography, or genealogy, the Land Office “information specialists” can generally find the answer or point one in the right direction. John Molleston and Jerry Drake made me aware of an untapped collection of land grant applications that contained new Alamo data.
The Texas State Library also has a pretty good archives operation, second only to the Land Office. Eddie Williams, the former copy person, was extremely helpful to me. She made thousands of copies for me and I never had reason to complain. When she retired she left some big shoes to fill. Former reference archivist Michael R. Green alerted me to Alamo documents that I would never have found on my own. Donaly E. Brice and Jean Carefoot were always able to answer my questions or tell me where to look for an answer. John Anderson helped me locate the pictures I needed and took the photos of the Jose Enrique de la Pena handwriting samples.