My kids gave me the book for Christmas. They know my fascination with history and take every opportunity to feed that hunger. On my own, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the book. The founding of Texas isn’t one of those things that interested me much.
I’d have been a poorer man for it. Despite a title that makes it sound like the latest installment in the Marvel Comics universe, the book is a first class example of research. The cool part is it shows us an American Legend, strips the legend away, and shows a man underneath. Someone who is just as fallible as the next guy. Houston had days of drunkenness, ran away from the world to live with his adopted people the Cherokees, and still managed to forge a second chance.
But the writer doesn’t stop there. No telling of the founding of Texas would be complete without a telling of the battles that led up to the independence. Kilmeade gives tons of information on the battle of the Alamo. Up to that point, about all I knew of the battle was what I’d seen in the John Wayne epic. About all the movie had in common with reality was there is a place called the Alamo, and people like Travis, Bowie, and Crockett fought there. His exhaustive research reveals that Travis was an early casualty at the battle, Bowie was so sick he might not even have known he was about to die, and forced into a corner, Crockett and his men surrendered. They were swiftly executed by Santa Anna. This was an action that angered Santa Anna’s men, and many began to wonder what kind of man they were following.
He then talks about other battles and a headlong drive from Santa Anna and his forces until at the right moment and time, Houston was able to turn, fight, and win.
One thing I liked about the book is it reveals this wasn’t an “Anglo” only war. There were more than a few people with Hispanic last names who were fed up with Santa Anna. Some were high ranking officers in Houston’s Army. Some were spies and couriers. Many gave eyewitness accounts in the years following about what they saw, did, and heard. A lot of that has made it into the book–and oh, he gives references in the back!
Despite being history (and most people consider history boring), it’s easily readable, keeps dates to a minimum, and focuses instead on what people were doing and thinking.
I think it’s one of the best books I’ve read and has inspired me to learn more about the time. I guess that’s what a good book should do.
After all, those events did impact the world I grew up into.