What the heck is going on at the Texas State Historical Association these days? I understand that this is probably a story that sounds like it’s coming from deep in the weeds, at least if you’re not from Texas, but it’s certainly curious. The “chief historian” of the TSHA recently wrote an opinion piece for USA Today in which he made some rather outrageous (and dubious) claims about the Battle of the Alamo. Our colleague Bryan Preston at PJ Media does a deep dive into the claims made by Walter Buenger, pointing out why his revisionist history is both steeped in wokeness and historically inaccurate. Buenger describes the battle as “insignificant” in historic and tactical terms, amounting to little more than an excuse to promote racism and extoll the virtues of “whiteness.” Yeah… I know.
Buenger is currently the Texas State Historical Association’s chief historian as well as holding a major post at the University of Texas at Austin. The TSHA is not a state agency, it’s a nonprofit, but it plays a key role in history education in Texas schools, and of being an authoritative repository of the state’s history through its online Handbook of Texas. As Michelle Haas, editor of the Copano Bay Press, notes, Buenger’s role lends him a great deal of influence and power over how Texas history is recorded and taught.
In the article, Buenger asserts that the Battle of the Alamo was “tactically insignificant” and that it wasn’t recognized as important until decades after the battle, and then only as a “backlash to African Americans gaining more political power.” Both of these assertions, if true, undermine the common understanding of the Alamo battle as one of, if not the most important, turning points in Texas history and suggests Texas is and always was racist.
Preston does a thorough job of picking this nonsense apart. He contacted Texas historian Dr. Stephen Hardin, a professor of history at McMurray State University and someone who is widely regarded as being among the preeminent Texas historians. To say that Hardin was underwhelmed by Buenger’s scholarship would be selling the man short.
First of all, as Bryan points out, trying to create any causal connection between the Alamo and the Confederacy or the Civil War is malarkey. The battle took place a full quarter of a century before the Civil War began. As to the battle being strategically “insignificant,” Hardin has researched and written about the subject at length. He notes that the Alamo sat on one of only two serviceable roads between Mexico and the Texan Republic which could be used for the convenient movement of troops and supplies. That made it of enormous significance. He concludes that Buenger’s claim is “a myth.”
As to the subject of the Alamo being some sort of monument to “whiteness,” that’s another pile of hot garbage. There were plenty of Mexicans who fought alongside the Texan forces at the Alamo against Santa Anna, who had made himself essentially a dictator in Mexico at that point. Also, he had been facing the defection of many Mexican officials, including physician Lorenzo de Zavala who sided with the Texans. Later, de Zavala would go on to be elected the first Vice President of Texas. If the Texans were such a bunch of filthy racists who worshipped “whiteness,” why did they vote for a native Mexican to be their VP?
There’s plenty more history in Bryan’s article and it’s pretty fascinating so I encourage you to read it. But the bottom line is that this Buenger character clearly appears to be some sort of historical revisionist who is trying to score points with the woke brigade by trying to paint a picture of Texas as always having been racist and belittling the significance of one of the most famous battles of that era and the many brave individuals who gave their lives there.
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