Book Review: Eyewitness to the Alamo (Bill Groneman) : WW

8/12/2001 • Battle of The Alamo, Davy Crocket, Wild West Reviews

Eyewitness to the Alamo, by Bill Groneman, Republic of Texas Press (an imprint of Wordware Publishing, Inc.), Plano, Texas, 1996, $12.95 paperback.

None of the participants on the Texas side during the Battle of the Alamo were remembering the Alamo in the months and years following the famous siege and fight of February 23­March 6, 1836. All were dead. But there were a few noncombatant survivors inside the old mission, and on the victorious Mexican side, there were, of course, plenty of survivors who had witnessed all or part of the battle. Putting together the various accounts by Alamo eyewitnesses to tell the legendary story is what Bill Groneman has done, but he cautions in his introduction that “very few of the accounts are consistent with one another, even those given by the same individual at different times.” Groneman, a longtime student of the Alamo action and the author of three previous Alamo books, offers comments with some of the eyewitness–or alleged eyewitness–accounts. For instance, the author provides the account by José Enrique de la Peña (1807­ca. 1842), which includes a description of the execution of Davy Crockett and the half-dozen other survivors on the Texas side, but then says that the de la Peña account “bears many indications of being a clever fake.” Whether Crockett died fighting or was executed after the fighting stopped is one of numerous questions that will never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction no matter how many “eyewitness” accounts are produced. Groneman writes that “the final decision as to whether or not any of them are of historical value is left up to the reader.” In the first 18 pages of the 270-page book are letters or communications written during the siege, including William Travis’ famous February 25, 1836, letter to Sam Houston that ends with “Victory or Death!” The last chapter deals with what the Alamo looked like during the siege, which is quite different from how it looks today in modern San Antonio, Texas. The book is a must read for Alamo aficionados.