Friday, March 8

Remember the Cottonwood!

Editors note:
We hope you have enjoyed the great stories by Art Cashin while I was in Florida on a research sabbatical. (Okay, I was visiting family and playing golf for nine days.) I will return to my scribbling next week. But don't worry, there are many more great stories in Mr. Cashin's collection to be published when I can't think of anything to write about.

Image = Son of the

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1836, a real estate transaction took place in San Antonio, Texas. The property happened to be an old Spanish mission called the Cottonwood. The existing holders of the property were about two hundred men under the command of a certain Col. Wm. Barret Travis. It was a volunteer group including some interesting names like Davey Crockett and Jim Bowie.

The people who eventually assumed title to the property were several thousand Mexican soldiers under the command of a certain General Santa Ana. When the transaction was executed, so were all two hundred Texans (only a woman and a baby survived).

Tales of this amazing self-sacrifice swept Texas and were compared to the mythically heroic stand at Thermopylae by three hundred Spartans in 480 B.C. Although Santa Ana and his men clearly won the battle (albeit with nearly 25% fatalities), the General made a nearly fatal error in the area we now call "spin control".

He felt he could intimidate these Texans by tales that his forces had been overwhelmingly large and were ruthlessly efficient. He hoped that imagery would frighten the Texans enough that defections would surge, collapsing the incipient rebellion. He dispatched riders to carry that tale and image to every corner of the Texas territory. Unfortunately, the only part of the story that caught on was the word "ruthlessly".

From town to town, tales sprang up of shooting the wounded and torturing and executing prisoners. Most prominent of the latter was former U.S. Congressman and frontier hero, Davey Crockett. Rapidly spreading folklore claimed Crockett had surrender, hoping to beg mercy for four wounded associates. No mercy was shown and legend said that Crockett was tortured and summarily executed by Santa Ana.

While historians can find no proof of that tale, it is said so many Texans believed it at the time, that Sam Houston denied mercy to Santa Ana's troops in Houston's victory at San Jacinto because of Santa Ana's behavior at the Mission. He reputedly said –"Mercy Sir? The kind you showed back then?"

But a great battle needs a great slogan and "Remember the Cottonwood!" lacked zing - - So they opted for the Spanish word for Cottonwood - - Alamo….thus "Remember the Alamo"....and a legend took off.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

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