Okay, random-ey randomness for today brought me to a discussion over on Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated, regarding the heroic last stand at the Alamo by a group of about 180 Texas Volunteers who fought to the last man against Santa Anna and Mexican oppression.
I do not want to minimize the sacrifice of those men. Most of us today would never even consider something to be worth dying over, and many men would see no problem with compromising their morality and their principles as long as it kept them from being slaughtered. The men in the Alamo were real, true men, who willingly died over what they thought was right.
That being said, I find a massive amount of fault in the concept of “dying for your country.” I could not put it better than the late, great George S. Patton, who stated bluntly that “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. The way that you win a war is by making the other poor bastard die for his country.”
The same great man also stated that “fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man.”
And Fixed fortifications are exactly what the men at the Alamo fought and died for – and their deaths were exactly because of their decision to fight within a fixed fortification.
Consider this. David Crockett became famous for his early-in-life exploits with the Tennesee Volutneers, fighting Indians with a rag-tag group of other white volunteers and allied Indian Tribes. During his time as a Tennessee Volunteer, Mr. Crockett fought countless guerilla style campaigns and helped to win the war against the Indians. He knew the value of guerilla tactics. He understood the concepts of striking hard and fading away before your enemy could strike back. He knew that facing a superior force head-on was futile, and that a paltry number of men, appropriately trained and brutally motivated, could bring entire armies to their knees by attacking supply infrastructure and leaving the regular army alone.
So there is no excuse for his decision to hole up behind some adobe bricks and wait for Santa Anna to surround him and his crew, leaving them no escape but surrender, victory, or death. You cannot limit your options like that and call it a tactically sound maneuver, and fighting from within a fixed fortification does just exactly that. It was monumentally stupid, and I say that despite the fact that I have the utmost respect for David Crockett and his men. I understand that I am criticizing the national heroes of Texas, and that that is offensive as hell – but I cannot help but wonder what 184 dedicated, dangerous men like those men at the Alamo could have done if they’d shed themselves of their cannon, traveled light and fast and with the goal of making Santa Anna’s life as miserable as possible for as long as they could. I’ll bet that they could have delayed him longer than they did behind the walls of the Alamo, and I’ll bet there would have been a damn sight more of them available to help Houston at the final battle (if that battle even happened at all – an unfed army cannot fight).