The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988

"A Reservoir of Spiritual Power":
Patriotic Faith at the Alamo
in the Twentieth Century
EDWARD TABOR LINENTHAL*
THE CELEBRATION OF THE TEXAS SESQUICENTENNIAL IN 1986 HAS
focused attention anew on the saga of the Last Stand of the Texas
heroes at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. Both the Witte Museum in San
Antonio and the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University in
Dallas have had major displays on the evolution of the old mission and
on American perception of the battle. At least two books about the his-
tory of the Alamo in American culture are nearing completion. Further-
more, a replica of the Alamo built originally for John Wayne's 1960
movie in Brackettville, Texas, was recently refurbished for a new Alamo
movie that appeared on NBC, on January 26, 1987.'
It would be a mistake to dismiss such attention as a sign of anti-
quarian curiosity, as part of a nostalgic impulse, or as an anachronistic
attachment to the minutiae of history. Rather, such vibrant cultural ac-
tivity reminds us of the care we take to cultivate symbols that will link us
to events perceived as crucial to both the life of the nation and our
understanding of contemporary dilemmas. As Maj. Gen. H. L. Grills,
commander of Lackland Air Force Base, said in 1957, the Alamo be-
longs "to American history-and all Americans must be allowed to
share the pride of Texans in it." Many Texans have indeed taken a
* Edward Tabor Linenthal is associate professor of religion and American culture at the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He is the author of Changming Images of the Warrior Hero mn Amer-
ica" A History of Popular Symbolism (1982) and is currently writing a book on cultural interpreta-
tions of American battlefields.
I William Elton Green, now historian at the Texas State Capitol min Austin, prepared an ex-
hibit, Remember the Alamo: The Development of a Texas Symbol, 1836-1986, for the Witte
Museum min San Antonio. It opened in February, 1986, and was due to close in August on the
birthday of David Crockett. The exhibit was so popular, however, that the closing date was
extended until November, 1986. The companion catalogue to the DeGolyer display is Susan
Prendergast Schoelwer et al., Alamo Images. Changing Perceptions of a Texas Experience (Dallas:
DeGolyer Library and Southern Methodist Umniversity Press, 1985). Both Paul A. Hutton and
William Green are at work on book-length studies of the Alamo.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed March 28, 2015.