The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Southwestern Hzstorzcal Quarterly

ample, the excellent discussion on the shrimp industry in Brownsville. It is a
valuable addition to the growing literature on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Universzty of Calzfornza, Irvzne RAUL FERNANDEZ
Duel of Eagles: The Mexzcan and U.S. Fzght for the Alamo. By Jeff Long. (New York:
William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1990. Pp. 431. Acknowledgments, illustra-
tions, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $22.95.)
J. Frank Dobie, in his 1957 Christmas greeting-a pamphlet version of his
"Jim Bowie, Big Dealer"-prefaced his essay with a caveat: "Neither Jim Bowie
nor anything that could be truthfully written about him signifies Christmas.
But we send this booklet with good hearts, and while wishing you all a Merry
Christmas wish for Texas a nobler set of heroes." All of us who grew up wor-
shiping those heroes, but then as historians have had to deal with the often sor-
did reality of their lives, cannot help but smile knowingly at Dobie's words. Yet,
Dobie still loved those oversized Texans of old despite, or perhaps because of,
their many flaws. The same cannot be said for Jeff Long, whose book Duel of
Eagles assails some of Texas's most cherished figures without the slightest evi-
dence that the author feels any compassion or understanding for their failures.
That is what marks, of course, the difference between a talented but rather
shallow young author like Long from a wise old master like Dobie.
Long, who is the author of the particularly fine Outlaw: The True Story of
Claude Dallas, is a gifted writer. His character sketches are deftly composed and
sometimes brilliantly conceived. His chapter on the assault on the Alamo is fast-
paced and riveting, effectively using a wide range of sources to make lucid and
compelling the awful carnage and horror of that dawn battle. Yet, no matter
how much a reader may admire the author's graceful prose, it is in the realm of
interpretation that Duel of Eagles sets itself apart from the books of John Myers
Myers, Lon Tinkle, and Walter Lord, and everyone else who has written of the
fabled Alamo.
The Alamo battle, according to Long, was the opening of the evil era of
Manifest Destiny, the first play in a grand conspiratorial game to steal all of
northern Mexico. This theft of Texas (which many might just as easily interpret
as a rescue) from Mexico he exposes with self-righteous indignation, as if no
one had noticed it before. His revelation rings as hollow as the shock employed
by Claude Rains's Captain Renault upon his "discovery" of gambling at Rick's
cafe in the film Casablanca. There is, in fact, nothing new about this book at all
beyond its stridently revisionist tone.
That revisionist tone is something to behold. The Texas revolutionaries are
labeled "War Dogs," and spend much of their time in ineffectual yapping. Most
of the army is made up of "mercenaries." They are thusly defined because they
fight in anticipation of payment in land bounties-the same pay received by
George Washington's soldiers. Most of them are recently arrived in Texas,
which puts them a cut above the local Anglos who Long portrays as routinely
prostituting their wives. These early settlers have no appreciation for the bless-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed July 29, 2014.