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Retaking the Alamo

At the Alamo, Davy Crockett either: A. Died while swinging old Betsy; B. Came radically disconnected when he torched the powder magazine; C. Surrendered to the Mexicans, who tortured, then killed him, along with six other Anglo survivors of the siege.

Does it matter immensely which of these versions of Crockett's death commends itself to us as truthful? Possibly not. A and C (the trick choice, B, is the version from John Wayne's famous film, The Alamo) lead to the very same place: the tiny Alamo garrison wiped out, Santa Anna's vastly more powerful Mexican army in full possession of San Antonio de Bexar, Texas's hopes for independence flickering low in the ashes, waiting to be kindled less than six weeks later at San Jacinto.

Why, then, the sensitivity—much trumpeted in the media these past few months—over which version is right, A or C? What's it all got to do with the price of eggs in Arkansas? Especially given that, just before Texas Independence Day (March 2) of this year, a random poll of Texans uncovered what appears to be widespread public ignorance concerning events at the Alamo. I say "what appears" because you know about polls, especially random ones conducted, as in this case, by a New York City firm. Anyway, I solemnly relay the finding that 36 percent of the 403 people surveyed could not name anyone who died at the Alamo, nine percent did not know where the...

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