There's much to learn here. This excellent article by former Texas Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson accurately describes underlying reasons for Texas independence without sugar-coating or aggrandizement. Just pure undeniable facts.
A SOLDIER DIED TODAY
We wanted to present you this poignant homage to all of our soldiers and other military who unselfishly and courageously served our Nation. Hope y’all like it.
"A Soldier Died Today (Just A Common Soldier)"
Original poem by A. Lawrence Vaincourt
He was gettin’ old and paunchy and his hair was fallin’ fast,
As he sat around the Legion, tellin’ stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in, and the deeds that he had done,
Of his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And though sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
But his buddies they really listened, ‘cause they knew from whence he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bob has passed away,
Now the world’s a little poorer, ‘cause A Soldier Died Today.
No, he won’t be mourned by many, just his friends, his kids, his wife,
‘Cause he lived a very ordinary, sorta quiet kind of life.
He held a little job and he raised his family, he just went quietly along his way,
So the world won’t note his passing, though A Soldier Died Today.
When politicians leave this earth and their bodies lie in state,
Thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Yes, the news tells their life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier, it goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land,
Some clown who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who in times of war and strife,
Feels the need to serve his Country and he offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives,
They’re so very disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Soldier, who offers up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
It’s not the politicians, with their promises and ploys,
Who won this thing called freedom that our Country now enjoys.
And if you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you really need a politician with his daily changin’ stands?
Or will you need a soldier, who has sworn that he’ll defend,
His home, his kin, his Country, and who’ll fight until the end?
Yes, he’s just a common soldier and his ranks, they’re growin’ thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need him once again.
And this country with its conflicts, just what’s the soldier’s part?
It’s to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we fail to give him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s pay him homage at the end of his days.
Just a simple headline in his hometown paper that’ll say:
“Our Country Is In Mourning, ‘Cause A Soldier Died Today.”
Remember that our martyred Alamo Defenders are amongst all the American Military who made the supreme sacrifice in defending us from Tyranny and who are to be honored on Memorial Day. I hope future generations remember that.
On a personal note—I find it unbelievable that I lived at a time in which I experienced the death of the last veteran of The War Between The States (appropriately a Confederate and a Texan), then the loss of the last veteran of World War I—also a Southerner—(when young there were still MILLIONS of them in the nation of whom I knew many, including my grandfather), and before too long we will be facing the loss of the last World War II vet. That does not seem possible.
And after not much longer we will be losing (in fact already are) MY contemporaries—the Vietnam Generation. Time keeps moving relentlessly forward and spares no one. We are all in a fight against Time—and Time always wins.
I leave you with an apt quote from our upcoming new book on the Alamo provided by my good friend and fellow longtime Alamo researcher, Craig Covner:
“I think the story of the Alamo is almost a metaphor for life. You know you’re not getting out alive. What matters is what you do, before that inevitable end.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Remember the Alamo!
This is an excellent op/ed written by former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. It lays out the situation at the Alamo just about as well as anyone has done.
THE ALAMO BATTLE WASN’T OVER SLAVERY, AND THE CENOTAPH SHOULD REMAIN WHERE IT IS
By Jerry Patterson
Enter “Alamo and slavery” in your web browser and you’ll find innumerable articles claiming the iconic battle of March 6, 1836 essentially had no other purpose than to preserve and protect the vile institution of slavery. Last month a San Antonio Express-News columnist, Elaine Ayala, wrote a column titled “The Alamo will be remade into a 21st-century monument to the Confederacy.” Marina Starleaf Striker of the Express-News referred to the recent Black Lives Matter protesters as marching to the Alamo because of the Confederate monument there. In fact, the Alamo Cenotaph, a monument to those defenders who died there, was their target. Other than “C” being the first letter in the words “Cenotaph” and “Confederacy,” there is no connection or similarity.
San Antonio Council Member Roberto Trevino, the go-to guy in city government for all things Alamo, appears to share with Misses Ayala and Striker the opinion the Alamo needs to be viewed through a new and different lens.
In a press conference the day after the Cenotaph was defaced with spray paint, Mr. Trevino seemed more focused on expressing his belief that the future of the Alamo lies in promoting “unity,” “healing,” and “inclusion,” than he was focused on the heinous act of defacing what is in effect a grave marker to the Alamo’s heroic defenders.
No Mr. Trevino, “unity,” “healing,” and “inclusion” should not be the objectives of the massive Alamo project currently underway. A complete and factually accurate telling of history, with emphasis on the events of 1836, should be the only objective. Politicians trying to make us “feel good” instead of promoting history is not what San Antonians or Texans want for their Alamo.
If Texas’ rebellion from Mexico was all about slavery, the March 2, 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence, which is not without specificity, should tell us that. Listed therein are approximately twelve major grievances against the Mexican government and General Santa Anna. The Mexican prohibition of slavery is not mentioned anywhere. The primary grievance was Santa Anna’s abrogation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 and his centralization of power in the national capital, Mexico City.
If Ms. Ayala’s belief that the Alamo was all about slavery had merit, how do we explain the non-slave holding Mexican states of Zacatecas, Yucatan, Tabasco, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas also seeking independence at essentially the same time? The answer is simple. Texas, and the other Mexican states, shared the same list of grievances, especially Santa Anna’s rejection of the Constitution of 1824 and replacing it with His Excellency himself. While the grievances were shared, the results were not. Texas became independent; the others didn’t.
It was rebellion against tyranny by a half a dozen Mexican states. The Mexican prohibition of slavery was not even being enforced in Texas. Texans didn’t die at Goliad and the Alamo defending slavery.
This historical stupidity by many politicians and much of the press is in large part responsible for the defacement and destruction of monuments happening today. The Alamo Cenotaph has been the target of several mob assaults over the past week. There will be more, both now and in the distant future. Inexplicably, the Texas General Land Office and the City of San Antonio are hell-bent on making the Cenotaph even more vulnerable to another anarchist, or anarchist mob, armed with cans of spray paint or sledgehammers.
They now intend to move the Cenotaph south and outside of the Alamo’s original footprint into what will be designated as a “Free Speech Area.” What can possibly go wrong? Forcing all the future protesters, a.k.a. unruly mobs, to assemble aside the Cenotaph is akin to providing a blank palette to those who think they have something to say using an aerosol can. As a retired Marine, I know that increasing the size of an area to be defended, and therefore increasing the perimeter to defend, makes defense more difficult and requires more resources. This is a really dumb idea.
There are other reasons the Cenotaph should remain where it is. Perhaps the most obvious is there’s simply no reason to move it. If we could recreate the Alamo as it was in 1836 moving might make sense, but we can’t. Moving the 80-year-old structure risks destroying some of the marble panels. Moving will disturb and desecrate the graves that lie in Alamo Plaza. And the Cenotaph was placed by the sculptor Coppini, the Governor of Texas, and the City Government of San Antonio specifically where it is because that is the very area where the largest number of defenders were killed.
The defacing and destruction of monuments in Austin and San Antonio and across the U.S., even the Lincoln monument at our nation’s capital, prove these thugs have no knowledge of or appreciation for our history. We should do more to protect our heritage and monuments instead of placing them in more vulnerable locations and inviting the mob to enjoy free speech with cans of spray paint.
It’s time to end the retroactive revision and destruction of our history.
The Alamo Cenotaph should remain where it is.
Jerry Patterson is a former Texas State Senator, former Texas Land Commissioner and retired Marine Vietnam veteran. He is most known for his passage of the Texas concealed handgun law in 1995. He was chosen as “Texan of The Year” by the nonprofit Texas history preservation organization “Celebrate Texas” for his efforts to preserve and promote the histories of all Texans with special attention to the Tejanos of 1836. He passed legislation establishing the Juneteenth Commission for the purpose of placing a monument on the Texas Capitol grounds to that unique Texas holiday. He is retired and lives in Austin, Texas.
For Dallas’ Hall of State, ‘Remember the Alamo’ means a sprawling, 2,000-piece centennial exhibit
Pennsylvania artist Thomas Feely chose to debut the work in Dallas and not at the Alamo in San Antonio.
By Michael Granberry
Dallas Morning News
10:05 AM on Mar 24, 2022
The Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836 and played a pivotal role in Texas becoming its own nation, before emerging as the 28th state in 1845. But 186 years after the battle with Mexico, the Alamo remains a source of mystery and intrigue for millions.
Not to mention controversy.
For one, when most people think of the Alamo, they think of the mission façade, which remains a major national landmark in San Antonio. The truth is, the battle and the grounds of the Alamo occupied a much larger land mass, upon which more than 2,000 people fought and about 500 died, according to Stephen Harrigan, author of the widely celebrated book, The Gates of the Alamo, published in 2000.
For those wanting to know more, the Dallas Historical Society will unveil on March 29 at the Hall of State in Fair Park a major exhibition that documents the full scope of the 13-day battle. It occupies a 14-by-24-foot canvas in the basement of the building, featuring more than 2,000 handcrafted miniatures.
“The name of this diorama is Texas Liberty Forever: The Battle of the Alamo,” says Karl Chiao, executive director of the Dallas Historical Society, which has occupied the Hall of State as a tenant since 1938.
That was two years after Fair Park and the State Fair of Texas served as the central exposition site of the Texas Centennial celebration, to which President Franklin D. Roosevelt paid a visit.
The sweeping diorama, which the Hall of State hopes will lure thousands of visitors to Fair Park, is the creation of an artist named Thomas Feely, who Chiao describes as a 75-year-old who “lives in the woods” in rural Pennsylvania.
Feely has long been drawn to the history of the battle, in which the army of Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar, now known as San Antonio, overcoming (though not without difficulty) the greatly outnumbered Texians and Tejanos inside.
Fueled by revenge, the Texians vanquished the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, ending the rebellion in favor of what became the newly formed Republic of Texas — nine years before statehood.
Dallas v. San Antonio
Getting Feely and his diorama to Dallas — during a pandemic, no less — carried its own aura of mystery and intrigue, as does a question that more than a few may ask:
Why is the piece being shown in Dallas and not at the Alamo in San Antonio, where the battle took place?
That, too, is a story.
As for the artist, “He has done so many jobs,” Chiao says. “He has been a police officer. He has been a bar owner. He’s kind of a jack of all trades, but one thing he’s always loved is making little figures. Or figurines. He loves to create these little figurines.”
Feely began assembling the diorama in 2000, which means by the time it was trucked to the Hall of State, he had been working on it for more than two decades.
With the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the State Fair of Texas in 2020, Chiao and exhibits manager Toby Hazelip took a road trip to transport Feely’s Alamo from the backwoods of Pennsylvania to Fair Park.
Chiao’s curiosity had been aroused in December 2018, “when I got a call from a guy who said, ‘There’s the potential of you having this amazing thing in Dallas.’ "
That man is Rick Range, who lives in Dallas and belongs to the Alamo Society.
“I’ve got a friend named Tom Feely,” Range told Chiao. “And he has built a diorama of the Battle of the Alamo.”
Range laid out the particulars — “It is 1/54th scale. It is 14 feet by 24 feet. It has more than 2,000 hand-painted figures.” And then he said, “This was supposed to go the Alamo,” but …
“Because of issues Feely had [with Alamo management],” Range told Chiao, “he was thinking of throwing it away. I told him, ‘You can’t do that. It’s your life’s work. It might not go to San Antonio, but I know there’s a place for it somewhere in Texas.’ "
Which led to Range recommending to Feely that the next best destination would be the Hall of State. Born in Taiwan, Chiao moved to San Antonio when he was 5. Over the years, he says, he has grown weary of the folderol surrounding the Alamo.
As The Dallas Morning News put it in a March 2020 editorial: “The Battle of the Alamo ended in March 1836. Or so we thought.”
But how did Feely’s diorama become entangled in the current-day drama surrounding the Alamo?
“The Alamo has been going in a different direction,” Chiao says with a sigh. “Let’s just say it’s becoming a little more PC [politically correct].”
In other words, to focus on the battle itself is no longer as popular as it once was, amid tussles over race and historical accuracy and the so-called “reimagining” of the Alamo. And in addition to that, politics has also reared its head, with the latest flurry of what The News called “political cannon blasts” pitting one GOP stalwart against another.
That would be Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Bush v. Patrick
Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the nephew of former President George W. Bush, oversees the General Land Office, which manages the operations of the Alamo. (George P. Bush will face a runoff on May 24, in an attempt to unseat incumbent state Attorney General Ken Paxton.)
Bush has been the target of criticism by Patrick and others over choices he’s made regarding the Alamo. As a headline in The Texas Tribune proclaimed in December 2019: “The latest battle of the Alamo pits Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick against Land Commissioner George P. Bush,” with a subhead adding: “The feud began when Bush was incorrectly accused of trying to erect a statue of Mexican dictator Santa Anna at the Alamo site.”
In 21st century America, the mere mention of the word “Alamo” is guaranteed to entice discussion. But as author Harrigan once said: The subject “is buried in so many layers of myth and counter-myth as to be nearly irretrievable.”
David Lozano, the executive artistic director of Dallas’ Cara Mía Theatre Co., sees the story of the Alamo as being far more complicated than popular history has portrayed it. For one, when the battle occurred, Texas — known then as Tejas — was part of Mexico.
“For Latinos, it’s a question of how we end up being portrayed in Texas history in particular,” Lozano says. “In other words, can we not jump to the conclusion that the U.S. settlers in Texas are automatically the heroes in the story? And stop portraying the Mexicans — or the Mexican government — as the automatic villains or oppressors in the story? To do so, we run the risk of making one side’s version the predominant narrative. It’s important for us to see all of the people in the story as human beings and certainly not as racialized heroes or villains.”
Chiao contends that Feely’s piece is in no way political, nor is it intended to be. Rather, it documents the battle — only. His showcase of visual art documents who fought at the Alamo and what it looked like, as though he were sent there as a photographer, traveling back in time.
This much is indisputable: Yes, there was a battle, and like any battle, it was bloody and awful.
In 1983, Feely made a 4-foot-by-6-foot diorama that, for years, occupied a niche at the Alamo. He had made it for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, which once managed the Alamo, whose stewardship George P. Bush ended in favor of his own state agency.
After the Daughters of the Republic left the building, Chiao says, so too did Feely’s smaller diorama.
“Feely had an issue with the state over how they wanted to portray it,” says Chiao, who cites the artist’s failing health as why he won’t be coming to Dallas for the exhibition, nor will the Hall of State make him available for interviews.
Feely did reluctantly fly to Dallas in March 2019 to check out the Hall of State and meet his potential hosts. He did not want to stay in a hotel.
So, the Hall of State arranged for him to sleep in an RV parked outside.
Harrigan, whose book on the Alamo has been widely hailed by all sides, mentioned Feely in the pages of Texas Monthly in 2000 and praised his work, in particular his earlier, smaller diorama shown at the Alamo. “A spirited diorama of the final assault by Thomas Feely,” Harrigan wrote, “should not be missed.”
In 2003, Texas Monthly writer Caroline Harper added her praise:
“One of the most dramatic exhibits in this building,” Harper wrote, “is a large diorama depiction of the Battle of the Alamo, constructed by Thomas F. Feely Jr. The model is replete with exquisite detail including tiny Mexican and Texan soldiers, trees, guns, cannons, and even smoke made from cotton.”
And, of course, that diorama was merely a sneak peek of what the Hall of State will unveil.
Officials at the Alamo say they, too, are intrigued.
“We are dedicated to telling the story of the battle of 1836,” Alamo spokesman Jonathan Huhn said in a statement shared with The Dallas Morning News. “The battle was a brutal conflict where hundreds of Texans gave their lives for a single ideal — liberty.
“Mr. Feely’s diorama is a fantastic depiction of the battle. We sincerely hope that once the museum and visitors center is completed, that the Alamo will have the room available to display such large works of historical art.”
Artistic inspiration is, of course, paramount, so where did Feely’s come from?
“The reason he likes the Alamo is, he grew up watching Davy Crockett,” Chiao says, referring to the television series starring Fess Parker that aired on ABC from 1954 to 1955. “He loved it. And then at some point, he saw a magazine which had on its cover a diorama of the Alamo.”
And where was that diorama shown to the public? At the Hall of State in Fair Park during the 1936 Texas Centennial.
“So, he comes into our building in 2019, and he sees that diorama, and he literally starts crying,” Chiao says. “He says, ‘This is what inspired me to make mine, and yes, this would be a great home for mine.’ The whole thing was amazing.”
Chiao says Feely’s elaborate undertaking became a multi-year process of “constant tinkering. He remade it three times. He had a group of eight to 10 guys that helped him research what the final product became. They’re all members of the Alamo Society. They’re die-hards. Between the eight to 10 of these dudes, I’d say there are at least 70 to 80 years of research among them.
“If they found out there was something that wasn’t correct, Tom changed it immediately, such as the height of a building. Or if the arms of the soldiers were at the wrong angles. It’s that kind of detail. He wanted it to be perfect, and by the end, he felt that it was.”
Chiao says the finished product depicts “about 1,500″ Mexican soldiers descending on the Alamo, with “about 200 people on the Texian side,” including men, women and children. The sprawling piece also shows “horses and cattle and dogs, and yes, even a cat. A cat!”
The minuteness of detail also ended up in the faces.
“He did try to put people’s faces on them, if he knew what they looked like.” And if he didn’t, “he would put the faces of friends of his on the characters. On one of the defenders, he put John Wayne’s face on there.”
Wayne starred in the 1960 Oscar-winning movie The Alamo, in which he played Col. Davy Crockett. Wayne also directed the film.
“Another person has Fess Parker’s face,” Chiao says. “Feely left all these little Easter eggs you can find.”
Chiao expresses amazement over the complexity of detail and the deep artistic commitment Feely made to finish the project, amid a mountain of obstacles.
Those assisting him knew “what kind of cannon was on what kind of carriage. Was it a two-wheel carriage? Was it on barrels? They knew all the details about the uniforms. They even had an inventory list from the Mexican side. They knew how many battalions there were, how many sets of ladders each battalion had. So, there was a lot of research done on this piece — and on its moment in time.”
The ice storm
Against all odds, the diorama escaped the siege of ice and water that ravaged the Hall of State and other parts of Fair Park in February 2021.
So, now, Feely’s piece will become a permanent free exhibit in the South Texas Room, where, Chiao says, it will symbolize an internal triumph — the end to its own battle.
The Hall of State had been fully renovated in late 2020, at a cost of $14.41 million. But then came the record winter storm that killed 246 people and leveled a new round of damage to the 84-year-old building, leading to a second renovation, which cost just over $3 million.
Chiao says there is no better way to honor the historical society — now celebrating its 100th centennial — than for people by the thousands to come to the Hall of State to see with their own eyes Tom Feely’s masterpiece.
“After all,” he says, “the battle of the Alamo is the reason the Alamo is historic. And Tom’s exhibit is nothing less than a breathtaking illustration of it.”
Tony E. Arterburn, Jr. is a former U.S. Army Paratrooper, a veteran of three foreign wars, radio host, published columnist, and world champion powerlifter. He lives with his wife Melissa, son Houston, and chocolate lab Layla in San Antonio, Texas.
He has written this thoughtful and thought-provoking piece that we wanted to share with you.
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