A few years ago, it so happened March 2 – Texas Independence Day – fell on a Sunday.
As I took my seat in church beside the friends I usually sit with who are well aware of – and share – my home-state pride, greeted me with an acknowledgement of the day.
“It’s here,” Roger whispered. “Texas holy season.”
“Yes,” I whispered back, “we shall stand a little straighter, walk a little taller, remember a little better who we are and how we got here.”
Of course we were being a bit melodramatic – remembering events that happened well more than a century before our births.
But “remember” we do.
Texas most loyal sons and daughters know the dates of March 2 and March 6, 1836, as well as we know our own birthdays. Monday will be the 182nd anniversary of the 59 Texian delegates signing the declaration at Washington-on-the-Brazos that would make Texas a free and independent republic.
Four days later, on Sunday, March 6, 1836, the Alamo fell.
We Baby Boomers grew up on the Alamo’s bittersweet mixture of legend and evidence and can recite the stories with pride and – to some degree – prejudice. We’re horrified anew each time we think of the gory details, how after a 13-day siege Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna ordered the advance of his army to finish off the undermanned, under-protected Alamo, how the columns of Mexican soldiers headed for the Alamo's walls hours before dawn that Sunday morning and how at first the Alamo heroes had great success beating back their attackers. But with a strategic regrouping, the Mexican soldiers scaled the walls and rushed into the Alamo compound.
Once inside the fort’s walls, Mexican soldiers turned a captured cannon on the Long Barrack and church and blasted open the barricaded doors. The desperate struggle continued until the valiant defenders were finally, completely overwhelmed. By sunrise, the battle had ended. Save for a couple of women, several children and one or two slaves, all of those brave souls inside the Alamo had been killed.
The drilled and uniformed Mexican army had suffered three times as many casualties, but had that many more to go on and fight another day.
I couldn’t have been older than 6 the first time our family visited the Alamo. I remember feeling that huge tug of sadness and heart-wrenching wonder at how men could be as brave as those protectors were. I think I accepted right then and there they would be my heroes for life, and that I would honor them in all that I did and said by being a loyal and grateful Texan.
Even though I was hardly able to read, I already knew the legendary tales “remembered” from the Alamo. Back then, our kids-play backyard skirmishes always involved someone drawing a line in the sand with a stick-turned-sword just like Col. William B. Travis had at the Alamo, and our ranks always included a couple of Davy Crocketts with coon skin caps and/or Jim Bowies with rubber Bowie knives. But in our games, the good guys – no matter how seriously wounded – all recovered.
In our modern day observance of “Texas holy season,” we, the faithful, tend to go into some pretty deep and detailed Texas history discussions.
One of my good friends has pointed out Gen. Sam Houston ordered Jim Bowie to burn the Alamo before the Mexican army’s arrival. There was no need to sacrifice men to save the property, Houston must have decided. Bowie surveyed the situation and instead determined the Alamo could be saved.
Think about that. What if there had been no one to defend the Alamo when the troops arrived to take it over? Doesn’t that add a multitude of what if’s into the mix?
So now, consider this, too. The Alamo defenders were only defending the property. When the siege began, Texas hadn’t declared independence from Mexico, and the Alamo defenders did not know they were fighting for the Republic’s independence. Technically, the battle was inconsequential in the revolutionary movement. Pondering that made me all the sadder.
Still, my pride in my heritage was not altered. My loyalties did not change. The discussion only made me realize something I must have known all along.
“Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it might have been.” For sure.
But also this: Sometimes you stay and fight. Sometimes you let go and save what’s most important. And to whichever side you lean, then that’s the side you are on.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . A version of this column was originally published in the March 6, 2014, edition of the San Angelo Standard-Times.