A Line in the Sand

Published 10 Jan 2017

In the book a line in the sand: the Alamo in blood memory two great historians Roberts and Olson try to give the insight regarding the history of Alamo mission in San Antonio. The word “Alamo refers to a cottonwood tree.” Their view is that the religious love for Texas and its heroes from Adina de Zavala and the Disney television series were responsible for making Alamo a national shrine. It gives an account of the people who lost their lives trying to defend Alamo during Texas revolution. The Texans were land-hungry settlers many of them had the characteristic of being argumentative, unruly, uncouth and more often liked to engage themselves in drinking and fighting than they were interested in working.

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Despite these negative attributes they are a people that believed strongly in freedom and to them the American founding fathers were like small gods. Starting all the way back from when it was built by missionaries and all the way to the past decades. They describe in detail everything about Alamo from the Clara Driscoll and advances to the de la Pena diary, John Wayne through to Fess Parker of interest they show how men in Alamo, were attacked by lesser men who were only interested in making sure their agenda propelled forward . These men consisted mainly of a group which was composed of opportunistic settlers of American origin who seized property they had long wished to have.

These American settlers took advantage of the internal turmoil in Mexico at the time to achieve what they wanted. The two historians, from the Mexican’s point of view, give an interesting overview of the Texas war of independence and the details of the events leading to the Alamo battle. Earlier in the book gives a detailed history of Mexico dating to as early as the 19th century going all the way to the Texas war for independence and what followed after the war had ended. The imposition of criminal civil code and a uniform tax are the main things that sparked bitterness throughout Mexico resulting to rebellion.

In chapter one of the book the authors explain how the conservative nature of the Mexican society helped resist the liberal constitution in the year 1824 in addition the Mexican preferred a central government. The book is very clear in its details giving a description of what happened and why it happened throughout that time, the continued conflicts for the physical and the mythical elements of the Alamo are accounted for by the authors as a focal point of the struggle to try to define and control America’s past. In the book the siege for Alamo began on the 23rd day of February in 1836 amidst fierce winds and hail.

The book also shows in detail of what can be called post-war American culture in addition to history regarding Mexico and Texas. Its is recorded in their book that the very first native occupants of Texas were Indians who lived there for decades before the land was re-claimed by the Spanish, Anglo or Mexicans. The book’s description of America’s history reminds one of moments that stand out and which the imagination in everyone particularly in events where no one could give an account of what really happened because there were no survivors. Also of interest is the action as a result of the fall of the Alamo showing how fess Parker’s Davy Crocket try to defend the wall in front of the Alamo. Further we see the efforts put in place to save Alamo and the steps that were taken in its dissertation.

The book can be looked at has having two sections. The first half of “A Line in the Sand” marjory focuses on the histological background regarding the siege, from both Mexican and Texas perspectives, of the Alamo; with the battle and the aftermath being given a good overview in the context of a clash between many cultures and the then two political sources. It also describes the steps that led to the break of fight in the Alamo in 1836 with both Mexican and Anglo perspectives being reflected. The battle is described to have been free from liberal condemnations as it’s always common with the defenders like imperialists who during the battle opposed an authoritarian despot in defense of slavery among other things or free from reactionary attempts to promote the elevation of God-like status.

In the second half of the book focuses shifts to the history of the shrine since the battle. Its main focus is what happened just after the battle, through treatment of Travis, Bowie and Crockett which eventually leads to the view of these men and their actions. For example this section also brings into focus the works of twentieth century luminaries including John Wayne to lionize the battle and the preservation attempts. The authors describe a shift of events from the historical event to a piece in America. More interesting in the second half is the focuses on the views of the people on the story over time and critiques the eye witness and the diaries.

This section analyses the combination of cold war, Walt Disney’s politics and increased mixed culture with this regard people to view this battle as everything from a defining moment in American history to a preservation of slavery and racism by Bowie Travis and others. The authors vividly bring out the role of history for the modern culture. In connecting the events as they unveiled in the Alamo revolution the two authors explain the circumstances in a way that makes the events look much more alive as they are in the present. With this regard during national crisis, the Alamo was to be a symbol of inspiration and an American spirit several decades later after the revolution; in addition it helped envelope Texas and other southern states during many years later after the civil war.

Consequently in the civil war years it was a symbol of liberty, in addition to becoming a touchstone for President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam years. In general it is a symbol of truth, justice and sacrifice for the noble cause in the cold war view.

Roberts and Olson differ with many scholars who believe that the Texas revolution in 1836 was motivated by racism and fueled by ethnocentrism, their view is based on legitimate views of inpidual right and political freedom. Consequently they try to compare this Texas revolution and the American resolution arguing that they have lots of similarity.

This is supported by the fact that Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his and his counterparts elsewhere in Mexico faced rebellion on the same political principles. Santa Anna described as the napoleon of the west was the commanding general of the Mexican armies. Accordingly, Santa Anna was probably the worst thing that ever happened to Mexico and although some of generals were skilful enough to have guaranteed him to win the honorable enough to execute Texas POWs.

It is estimated that three hundred men were required to service the captured guns at the Alamo at the time of the battle. In contrary only half of the number was available this necessitated that half of the guns had to be sent North to General Sam Houston for reinforcement. Santa Anna’s attack began on the 13th day of the siege his war plan consisted of the artillery that attacked from the flanks, the cavalry from the rear and the infantry from the front. The battle lasted for ninety minutes after it started in the thirteenth night of the siege and it was found out that eight hundred corpses were lying slaughtered in the field from both sides the following morning. The dead bodies were not given a decent burial. The reality is that the actual Alamo siege and battle according to Robert and Olson pass fairly quickly.

Most of the Roberts and Olson writing is dedicated towards clarifying the existing myths. It’s commonly thought that Santa Anna’s army was undefeated or indomitable. This was because the army was outfitted with dragons, heavy artillery and long lines of men and material. However, according to the two writers were totally untrained and were unable to speak Spanish, often walked bare footed without shoes and may of them living in limed food rations. The authors bring out the Alamo defenders as men who were flawless who had great humor in them and as being heroes fighting for just the sake of it.

According to Roberts and Olson Alamo had collapsed on hard times just as it is with many institutions which are attributed to the culture wars that envisaged it. During this time the Alamo men were likened to Nazis in contrast to the earlier times when they were seen as revered.

In general Robert and Olson have done an excellent job in describing Alamo both before and after the battle. However, the authors tend to give more of the details of the Mexican war rather than the bloody battle in Alamo and somewhat loose focus of the objective of the book and contrary to their claim that they are unbiased.

A more detailed description of the Alamo war would maybe be found in the essay “Duel of the Eagles” written by Jeff Long. William C. Davis’s book “Three Roads to the Alamo” is yet another book that can give more detailed history concerning the real situation and the men in Alamo. Its is a particularly eye opener on how describing on how an historical event can be whipsawed by the current events and trends.


Gilbert M., Cuthbertson (2002). A Line in the Sand: the Alamo in Blood and Memory (Book review). New York

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