Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alamo Bookshelf 7: Jim Bowie, Alamo Soldier & Gregorio Esparza

I find most Alamo related books irresistible, but usually pass on the juveniles, because in most cases they offer no new information or insight. But there are exceptions, and here are three notables . . .

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the best Bowie bio to date is technically a juvenile. Well, this is it. But aside from the way it’s packaged and marketed, there’s nothing juvenile about it. J.R. Edmondson is one of the foremost authorities on Big Jim, and the author of two other books I’ve much enjoyed (one of those is a study of the Sandbar Fight, the incident that made Bowie famous). He’s also the closest thing we have to a modern-day Bowie, having portrayed him in many venues over the years, including several TV documentaries. Anyone seriously interested in the real-life Bowie needs this book in his library.

What makes this one special is the subject. Napoleon Bonaparte Mitchell was one of the many unsung defenders of the Alamo, one of those guys who sacrificed every bit as much as Crockett, Travis and Bowie, but is now little more than a name on the list of dead. Though it looks like a biography, this book is actually a full-length historical novel recounting Mitchell’s journey to the Alamo and his experiences during the siege. Templeton says he became interested in Mitchell’s story while doing research for a book on another young defender. How much of the story told here is supported by that research and how much is pure imagination is unclear. Templeton presents Mitchell as a young man of 17, while Bill Groneman’s book Alamo Defenders lists his age as 32. I have to believe Groneman.

GREGORIO ESPARZA, ALAMO DEFENDER by William R. Chemerka (2009)
Alamo Journal Editor Bill Chemerka is the author of several fine Alamo related books and knows the subject matter as well as anyone alive. Gregorio Esparza is of special interest because he was one of several Tejano defenders who chose to fight for his freedom alongside his more recently emigrated neighbors. Esparza’s story is better documented than most, because he had his family with him inside the Alamo’s walls, and they survived the battle. His son Enrique, eight years old at the time, was interviewed late in life, providing rare first-hand testimony regarding his father and the other defenders during the siege. Chemerka weaves the facts into a compelling story, giving us new insight into the conflicts faced by Esparza and other Tejanos in the weeks leading up to the battle, and the sacrifice they made for what they believed in.


Richard Robinson said...

I'm curious about the origin of your interest in the Alamo and the individuals who fought there, Crockett, Bowie, etc.

Evan Lewis said...

It's Walt Disney's fault, of course. Davy not only had the best theme song on TV, he had the best sense of humor. I had the coonskin cap, rifle, powder horn, buckskin jacket and b'ar skin rug, among other things. And the Marx Alamo playset let me act out the battle myself. And then came the John Wayne epic. So Davy and Jim were always lurking in my consciousness. I think it was sometime in 80s or early 90s when I became seriously interested in the history behind the legends.

Richard Robinson said...

Thanks, Evan!

I had the cap, but it got mangled by the dog.