Exodus from the Alamo

The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth

Phillip Thomas Tucker

Contrary to movie and legend, we now know that the defenders of the Alamo in the war for Texan independence 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 def
Date Published :
September 2011
Publisher :
Illustration :
16 pages illustrations
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Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781612000763
Pages : 432
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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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.

About The Author

Phillip Thomas Tucker, Ph.D., has authored or edited more than 40 books on various aspects of the American experience, especially in the fields of Civil War, Irish, African-American, Revolutionary, and Southern history. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, he has earned three degrees in American history, including a Ph.D. from St. Louis University in 1990. In 1993 his biography of Father John B. Bannon won the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for the best book in Southern history. For more than two decades, Dr. Tucker has been a military historian for the U.S. Air Force. He currently lives in the Washington, DC area.


FOREWORD by Antonio Zavaleta, Ph.D.
INTRODUCTION: From Fact to Fantasy

1: GOLDEN PRIZES: Land and Slaves
3: THE ULTIMATE FOLLY: Defense of the Alamo
4: LULL BEFORE THE STORM: Fatal Overconfidence



“…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

"An interesting, detailed study. Recommended"

- Choice

“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.”

- Dallas Morning News

"provides long overdue corrections to the Alamo story, this should be read by scholars and lay people alike"

- 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. . . .”

- Library Journal

“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

“Challenges conventional Alamo studies . . .”

- Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“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.”

- StrategyPage

"I disagree with many things in Exodus from the Alamo but it deserves a reading."

- The Alamo Journal

“…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

"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."

- The Guardian

"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."

- Daily Mail

“…passionate and gripping… the best English-language account we have of the entire lead-up to the doomed battle.”

- Open Letters Monthly

“…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 & 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, Inc.

“…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…”

- The Journal of America’s Military Past

"According to author Phillip Thomas Tucker, recently discovered Mexican accounts show the final battle in lasted as little at 20 minutes. In his book, Exodus from the Alamo, Tucker says the Mexicans surprised the Texan defenders as they slept and Crockett was executed after being captured."

- Pretorian 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

“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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