Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Texas History ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Texas History
Category: Reference, Education and News > Homework Help
Asked by: wilcut-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 21 Jun 2006 12:08 PDT
Expires: 21 Jul 2006 12:08 PDT
Question ID: 740007
How accurate is the movie The Alamo, with Dennis Quaid to history?
Subject: Re: Texas History
Answered By: byrd-ga on 23 Jun 2006 08:35 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi wilcut-ga, 

First of all, it?s important to understand that this movie is not a
documentary, nor does it pretend to be one. It is a film telling the
story of a historical event, yes, but it is more a work of
entertainment than a factual scholarly work. Therefore, it?s
inevitable, as in any such work of art, that there will be times
accuracy is sacrificed to storytelling, truth to drama, and fact to
fiction for artistic reasons.

Furthermore, there?s a semantic distinction to be made here as well.
?History,? as we currently teach, learn, and understand it, may not be
exactly the same as the unvarnished ?truth.? History comes to us as a
set of supposed facts, strengthened and often embellised in the
telling, over the years, reinforced by what is accepted for inclusion
in textbooks and ?official? records. The result of this often
subjective process is that what we are taught and learn in school as
?history? may not always itself be exactly right or ?true.?

Consider, for instance, the reality of the American West. We now know
that the version of history many of us were taught, that image
portraying Native Americans as ignorant savages, and the white
explorers/settlers as brave, adventurous heroes is badly twisted to
present a certain romantic viewpoint. Well, so too it may be with the
Alamo, as it too is a cherished icon of history, replete with its
legends and romantic stories, and itself subject to a lot of possible
embellishment of fact over the years. Additionally, in recent years
there has been a lot of new information come to light about the Alamo,
which further calls into question the accuracy of the historical

A full discussion of the subject, of course, is beyond the scope of
this question, and doesn?t really answer it anyway. Yet I think it
would be helpful to first try to sort out some truth from legend as
best we can, given current scholarship on the subject, and then
analyze this film to see how faithfully it portrays reality as we
currently understand it. I?ll try to keep my remarks brief, and give
you links to further information so you can explore the historical
records as much or as little as you like.

There are several issues of special interest, which we now know have
been neglected or somewhat mis-portrayed in past histories of the

-- There?s a good side-by-side comparision here, of a general listing
of some of the Alamo myths vs. the facts as we now know them:

-- And here?s a good article on the same subject:

Some of the main myths are: 

-- The role and involvement of the TEJANOS, persons of Mexican
heritage born and living in Texas, often for generations. In the past,
we haven?t heard much mention of them, but in fact they were equally
represented at the Battle of the Alamo, as they along with their
Texian compadres, were equally interested in winning Texan

See  Scroll down to
read about Seguin, Navarro, de Zavala, Esparza, Losoya . . .

-- SLAVERY also played a part in the events leading up to the siege
and battle, although it?s an aspect of this era that is seldom

One source actually ties one of the Tejano heroes of the Alamo to the
establishment of slavery in Texas, saying, ?Austin's Anglo settlers
wanted and needed to bring their own plantation-style slavery with
them to Texas, something Mexican law forbade. Navarro managed to
accomodate the Anglos' needs by legislatively circumventing Mexico's
slavery prohibitions.?

01-16/screens_feature2.html (scroll about halfway down).

Another source says, ?One ugly, though very common motive was
maintaining the "right" to own slaves, which Mexico was denying
by Cathy Schultz, ?a history professor at the University of St.
Francis in Illinois, [who] writes the syndicated column, History in
the Movies, which runs in newspapers nationally.?

-- The REASONS FOR THIS BATTLE are also a bit murky. While some
sources say it was one of two strategically important outposts
guarding the Texan frontier, others say it was of little strategic
value and was ordered abandoned. It is clear that Gen. Sam Houston
wanted to abandon the Alamo. However, permission to do this was denied
by then Governor Henry Smith, who overrode Houston?s recommendations.
So the defenders of the Alamo did not remain in defiance of orders, as
some sources suggest, although their position was far more precarious
than Smith supposed. Here?s a good source: 

-- DAVY CROCKETT?S DEATH has become a point of controversy in
historical circles. Traditionally, we?ve become accustomed to the
picture of him fighting to the death, swinging his musket ?Old Betsy?
as he killed Mexicans right and left before being heroically shot
down. However, there is both old and new evidence to suggest that
Crockett lived through the siege, only to be excuted by General Santa
Anna after the fall of the Alamo.  One main source of controversy on
this point is ?an account of the Texas rebellion of 1835-'36 by José
Enrique de la Peña, an officer in the Mexican army who witnessed much
of the conflict, including the battle of the Alamo.? Read more about
it here: 

-- Another story often told as truth is the legend of the LINE IN THE
SAND, supposed to have been drawn by Col. William Barrett Travis just
before the battle, in which he asked those who were with him to step
over the line. This is something we?ll never know for sure, but
scholars now say it?s probably not true. See: 

These are the main issues. There are a few other more minor points to
keep in mind, including authenticity of costuming and other props,
correct use of language and authentic architecture.


All right then, here?s how the movie stacks up. 

This movie?s director, John Lee Hancock, and several of its stars,
including Quaid, along with many of the production staff are Texans
born and bred, which means growing up on the story of the Alamo.
Indeed, Hancock said, ?In a lot of ways, The Alamo is synonymous with
my childhood?.?  which would certainly ring true with many Texans.

But he also said, and this is significant, ??It?s a tough thing, to
separate the mythology of the Alamo from the new facts that historians
have learned, but I?ve tried to embrace them both.?

He elaborated further by stating, ?It?s a telling of both the factual truth and 
the emotional truth .... I did my best to portray this story in a way
that is historically accurate and thematically correct while being
dramatically sound and moving and inspiring.?

And though he did diverge from fact in some cases, he did so
deliberately, with artistic intent.  Alan Huffines, the movie?s
military advisory said, ?...what John Lee said is he never wanted to
make an artistic decision based on ignorance. He always wanted to know
the facts before making that decision.?

It?s very interesting and instructive to read the full narrative text
from which these quotes are taken. If you?d like to, it?s on the
movie?s site, along with a lot of other interesting quotes from the
movie?s stars, its military advisor, the production designer and
others.  See here: 


Most reviewers do agree that the film is, however, historically
superior to earlier films in several regards. Areas where there is a
high degree of historical accuracy include:

-- TEJANOS. According to Hispanic Online, this film ?is one of the
first Hollywood adaptations of the Alamo to include such pivotal
figures as José Navarro and Juan Seguín in its main plotline.:  See:

-- COSTUMES, LANGUAGE: The same source as above mentions one standout
instance that illustrates an effort to be faithful to at least of of
the language of the day. It says, ?one character is challenging Sam
Houston?s leadership, and the future president of Texas shoots back by
calling the man "a Scottish catamite." He then explains that he meant
that the man was one step below a pederast.? Both words are now
archaic, and their use does show a desire for authenticity and an
unwillingness to accede to the demands of modern political

Hispanic Online also notes that it has tried ?to be more historically
accurate by hiring voice coaches to help the actors master 19th
century  Spanish, along with an authentic use of period costumes?no
boots or cowboy hats.?


Some points on which the film is admittedly or observedly less than factual:

-- ARCHITECTURE. Although the movie?s set was immense, it was not
strictly historically accurate, nor laid out in quite the original
configuration. The original Alamo was a huge compound, not just the
small chapel with a few outbuildings we see today. And it was built on
flat ground, while the movie set was built in the hills to the west of
Austin, a completely different surrounding. Here are some good
observations (with photos) from a local afficionado: (scroll down to near the

-- DAVY CROCKETT?S DEATH. The movie shows Crockett being killed while
fighting. And indeed, Director Hancock is quoted as saying, ?I chose
the more heroic death.?

-- REASONS FOR THE BATTLE. According to some sources, neither the
Texans? reasons for wanting independence, nor Mexico?s view of the
revolution as a plot by the United States are really made clear. See
this review from Decent Films:


Following are some general links for you if you?d like to read
further, both on the history of the Alamo, and about this movie.


Flaws in general: 



Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) Library: (This is the group responsible
for maintenance and preservation of the Alamo, and has excellent
information about its history, including a good timeline.)

?History of the Alamo and of the local Franciscan missions? 

Texas A & M University: 

Texas State Historical Association: Handbook of Texas Online: (Note: when searching for
names here, use the format of Lastname, Firstname for best results)


Chicago?s ?Center Stage?: 
The Hispanic Online: 
Eugene Weekly:
Gamerz-Edge: http://www.gamerz
Rotten Tomatoes (multiple reviews): 

Review of ?Remember the Alamo,? the History Channel documentary and
how it compares:
DVD Verdict: 


Of course, this isn't an exhastive analysis of the movie and its
historical accuracy or lack thereof. However, I think you can see
that, though this latest effort at retelling the story of the Alamo
does in some ways make a greater effort to stay true to historical
fact, it also takes artistic liberty with those facts for dramatic
effect. In summary, it presents the legend or myth of the Alamo quite
well, but it shouldn?t be used as a history lesson.

If anything isn?t clear, please use the ?Request for Clarification?
feature to ask before rating and closing the question, so I can be
sure you?re happy with the information provided.

Best wishes,

Search strategy:

First of all, as the descendant of a long line of Texans, stretching
back to the days of the Republic (though not the descendant of a hero
of the Alamo), I have long had a personal interest in Texas history. I
currently live in Austin and have seen the set where this movie was
filmed, and seen and heard local reviews and media interviews with the
movie?s stars and principals. I?m only a stone?s throw from the real
Alamo, which I have visited many times, and I?m a member of the
Daughters of the Republic of Texas, which is charged with its

In addition to my personal knowledge and bookmarks, I also found these
search terms to return good results:

accurate alamo history revising OR revise OR changing OR rewriting

[alamo legend truth]
[alamo history slavery]
[alamo history revising OR revise OR revisionist]
["the alamo" 2004 accuracy]
[?the alamo? 2004 reviews]

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 23 Jun 2006 13:41 PDT
In the section relating to accuracy in this movie, the paragraph
headed "COSTUMES, LANGUAGE" I referred you to the wrong source for
information on the use of archaic words by one of the movie's
characters. The correct reference for that is actually at

Apologies for any confusion.

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 26 Jun 2006 20:05 PDT
Oh my goodness, Wilcut, thank *you* for your enthusiastic praise and
kind words. You're very welcome! I'm happy to have been of service to
a fellow Texan!

Y'all take care now!

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 26 Jun 2006 20:06 PDT
Oh - and thank you too for the five stars. They're most appreciated!  :-)
wilcut-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
The best answer on this whole forum!!!  Thanks so much for all of your
hard work from one Texan to another!

Subject: Re: Texas History
From: thither-ga on 22 Jun 2006 16:20 PDT
Perhaps this will be of some help:

Have a good day.
Subject: Re: Texas History
From: wilcut-ga on 23 Jun 2006 04:48 PDT
Thanks!  Any more?
Subject: Re: Texas History
From: pinkfreud-ga on 23 Jun 2006 10:43 PDT
Wonderful answer, Byrd! I am so pleased that a real Texan answered this one!
Subject: Re: Texas History
From: byrd-ga on 23 Jun 2006 13:43 PDT
Wow, it's an honor receiving such high praise from one of GA's best.
Thanks, Pinkfreud! Your opinion means a lot!
Subject: Re: Texas History
From: pinkfreud-ga on 23 Jun 2006 14:00 PDT
I lived in San Antonio for about a year, and I remember the shock of
learning that the reconstructed Alamo was right across the street from
Walgreen's, in the middle of downtown! At that time, most folks'
conception of events associated with the Alamo came from the John
Wayne movie. The 2004 film has caused some grumbling, according to my
friends in San Antonio. But some of the grousing may have to do with
the de-mythologizing of legendary characters who have acquired the
status of superheroes.
Subject: Re: Texas History
From: myoarin-ga on 24 Jun 2006 02:24 PDT
Wow, reading the answer, I thought it must have been a $200 question.
Great work, and confirmation that Researchers more than rise to the occasion 
when the subject is close to them.
Most interesting.  And thanks for a longtime non-movie-goer.
Subject: Re: Texas History
From: irlandes-ga on 01 Jul 2006 16:15 PDT
I must be having a bad day. I could swear someone living in Austin
claims to live within a stone's thrown from the original
Alamo??????????  Gosh, San Antonio is getting away with fraud, or can
Texans throw rocks that far?

There is an old Mexican officer's diary which says the Alamo fighters
surrendered and Santa Ana ordered them executed. I happen to believe
it, because of what happened at Goliad, which was exactly that. In my
own opinion (moved to Texas when I retired in 1997) the Goliad
massacre involved a drastic conflict between American and Mexican
culture. In Mexico it was assumed those who fought against the
government were subject to execution, and in the US it was considered
to be murder. The angry backlash in the Colonies over what was
considered cold blooded and vicious murder may have cost Mexico the 
area it eventually lost.

But, Mexico has its own similar story. In the invasion of Mexico, a
battalion of Irish immigrants learned they were fighting a nation of
Catholics, and deserted to the Mexican side.  They had a similar
standoff in Churubusco, where still stands the convent they huddled
in. Mexicans also believe they fought to the death, but a journalist's
pencil drawing shows a row of gallows with a man swinging from each
one, hung by the military for desertion.

What is cold-blooded murder of helpless prisoners and what is military
justice obviously depends upon who is executed  by whom.
Subject: Re: Texas History
From: byrd-ga on 01 Jul 2006 16:47 PDT
This Austinite lives in suburbia to the south of town, and a 45-minute
drive from downtown San Antonio and the Alamo. That's a stone's throw
in Texas distance terms.  ;-)

And while I respect your right to interpret events as you will, I
suspect the diary you're referring to is the one referenced above, by
José Enrique de la Peña. De la Peña asserts that seven men survived
the battle and were captured, only to be executed by Santa Ana. He
puts Davy Crockett in that number. He does not, however, claim that
any of the Alamo defenders surrendered.

If you have evidence of some other diary that does make such a claim,
it'd be very helpful if you'd provide a link to a source for it.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy