|Historian/ Author, Alan Huffines' soon to be released The Blood of Noble Men: An Illustrated Chronology of the Alamo Siege and Battleis a collection of primary sources, organized chronologically into thirteen chapters by date and time of day . All accounts are placed in their proper order. Added to this is the extensive footnote commentary by Alan and approximately fifty illustrations by well-known illustrator Gary Zaboly.|
tell us a little about yourself .
AH: I was born on the Llano Estacado almost 35 years ago... Grew up in various west Texas places that nobody has heard of unless they read Larry McMurtry. I' ve been an army officer for over 13 years and I'm married to the former Caroline Cotham of North Carolina. We have two daughters: Morgan who's six and Madison who's four. I'm passionate about history, most specifically military history.
ADP: How long have you been interested in the Alamo?
AH: One of my earliest memories is picking songs to sing in nursery school. I always wanted to sing "King of the Wild Frontier" if that gives you a hint.
ADP: Where do you think this interest came from?
AH: Almost definitely pop-culture. Probably more of "The Waynemo" than Disney, though the previous question shows Walt had a lot of influence.
ADP: What made you decide to write a book?
AH: The question was always in my mind....what happened at the Alamo before the last ninety minutes? The late Dr. John S. Gray wrote two of my favorite books on the Little Big Horn Battle. In my opinion he solved a lot of the mystery to that battle by going with previously considered "bogus" accounts, specifically Curley's. He used a formula, which I believe he called "cross- occurrences"; that is where two or more people witnessed the same event but perhaps one of them put a time to it. Gray timelined the battle using this. Nobody had attempted to do this with the Alamo. At that time there was no one place to read the primary accounts, so I began collecting them and, using Gray's formula, began to isolate "occurrences." This later evolved into my MA thesis and then into book form.
ADP: That's a hefty undertaking especially writing one that takes on the scope of the one you've just completed. Is this your first book?
AH: Yes, though I am published in Military Collector & Historian and Journal of the Alamo Battlefield Association.
ADP: You've been working on this project for a long time now, haven't you?
AH: Yes, since I got back from the Gulf War.
ADP: What's your book called?
AH: You'll have to ask my publisher. I would like it to be called, "The Blood of Noble Men: An Illustrated Chronology of the Alamo Siege and Battle."
ADP: That wasn't the original title was it?
AH: No, the original was "A Small Affair" with a huge subtitle. Too many people, rightfully so, felt the irony of this title might be lost on the public and be confused with a love story.
ADP: How did you decide on "The Blood of Noble Men..."?
AH: I wanted to use a quote as the title, and only found a few that had a ring to it. The quote I used is from Dickenson, I would have preferred a Hispanic quote but it did not work out.
ADP: Did you run into any problems while you were researching and writing it?
AH: Research is nothing but fun and adventure. The original writing wasn't bad either, the agony is in the rewriting. Fortunately I had a lot of help from several people much smarter than me with this, namely Dr. Jim Crisp, Dr. Steve Hardin, Jack Davis, Russell McGee, Ray Herbeck, Dr. Bruce Winders, and Steve Harrigan.
ADP: Alan, It's said we all stand on the back of giants. What writers or historians were your influences.
AH: Any and all credit for any of my achievements must go firstly to Jesus Christ, He is the biggest giant I know. Military Historians would be J.F.C. Fuller, B.H. Liddell Hart, George Patton, and Dr. John T. Broom. If I am ever considered a military historian it will be because of John Broom's tutoring. Texas Historians would be Steve Hardin and Kevin R. Young. Kevin took me under his wing when I was only sixteen and has been generous wealth of counsel and knowledge ever since. Steve has provided me with his writing knowledge and constant encouragement and mentoring. I believe if I called Steve at 4:00 AM with the most obscure question, he would graciously take the time to answer it. Walter Lord still has the best Alamo book out there.
ADP: Has your research uncovered any new primary material that may not be familiar to Alamo lore?
AH: No new accounts specifically, but that wasn't what my intent was. What's new is the combination of accounts to produce the first detailed chronology .
ADP: Did you uncover any material that may have changed your ideas on what transpired at the Alamo, or that you think may change the ideas of some readers?
AH: Several issues. A cease-fire for three days, most of the Tejanos leaving when Seguin goes, that the Mexican officers were really telling the truth as they saw it, that the Texians were patriots and brave but haphazard soldiers, a large escape attempt on the part of the Texians, Ana Salizar was the actual "Mother of the Alamo," and that I accept, at least in part, Madam Candelaria's remembrances.
People will either like or dislike this work. I suspect the traditional "Alamo Apologists" will not care for it. Those individuals who throw the word "revisionist" around like McCarthy used communist. There is no attempt here to bash anyone or take sides. These were men, with strengths and weaknesses just like we have. I came at this with absolute intellectual honesty, that is no preconceived notions or emotions. I literally wanted to resolve the mechanics of the siege, establish chronology and finally maybe move the Alamo into the military history arena, Steve Hardin has moved it some and I want to push it further. Before anyone can interpret there must be a sequencing of events...well that was not the case with the Alamo. Now there is one, hopefully it is close to the mark, but if it isn't then it will provide a frame of reference for future historians to move forward from.
ADP: You've said that "Blood of Noble Men" was a collection of primary sources that you organized into thirteen chapters by date and time of day and that you used extensive footnotes. Did you experience any problem matching the events described in the primary sources to a specific place in the chronological record?
AH: Some more than others. As I state in my introduction, I am not doing a scholarly analysis of accounts. I am a military historian and am interested in a scholarly analysis of the siege. An analysis of the accounts needs to be done, and there are some very smart folks working on this namely Tom Lindley, but that is a book in its own right.
Picture a car wreck and thirty people witnessed it. They all saw they same thing happen at the same time, but each person molded it and certain events stuck out more than others, and you have to write an article on the wreck, but can only listen to them talk--you can't ask any questions. This is especially difficult when we mix culture, ethnicity, gender, nationality and education. The trick is to isolate the wreck sequence and determine what the person said about it. Maybe they talk for twenty minutes or maybe that piece did not make enough of an impression to recount it. The collision they all saw, and you almost have to work backward from there. Most importantly if they seem to contradict each other, even in their own accounts, that does not necessarily make them liars. it merely makes them human.
ADP: "Blood of Noble Men" is scheduled for publication in March 1999. Is it still in the works, or is it in its finished form?
AH: I turned the final draft into the publisher in September. I haven't seen the galleys yet.
ADP: Who's your publisher?
AH: Eakin Press in Austin.
ADP: Is this going to be a big book?
AH: I turned in about 450 pages with illustrations. I don't know how that equates to in a finished book.
ADP: Your description of "Blood of Noble Men" sounds similar to another book, Wallace O. Chariton's "100 Days in Texas: The Alamo Letters." Aside from the obvious difference in the time period covered (13 days vs. 100), what would you say differentiates your approach from Chariton's?
AH: 100 Days is an excellent work and came out about the time I began mine. His work covers the entire time period and he place the accounts, as written in total. The reader will almost never get a complete account on one page, they are dissected and placed chronologically. For example if Santa Anna is writing a letter saying this and this and that, I take the "that" and place it where I believe he is talking about. Sometimes this is several paragraphs and sometimes it is half a sentence.
ADP: "Blood of Noble Men" will contain approximately fifty illustrations by Gary Zaboly. Gary is well known to readers of "Alamo de Parras"; would you describe a few of the illustrations that will appear?
AH: Gary Zaboly is the finest military artist today, a contemporary of H. Charles McBarron and every bit as skilled as Troiani. It is so great to be able to have someone who knows the topic as well as the material culture work with you. I have been spoiled by him. I sent him an old draft of the manuscript and asked him to come up with some ideas from an artist's perspective, emotion, point of view, etc. I gave him two pieces of guidance: Do not illustrate anything that has been illustrated before, i.e., Travis drawing the line, Crockett's death, etc., and that at least 50% of the illustrations must be from the Hispanic perspective, which is less than generous as well over half the participants were Hispanic and most of the accounts.
He has outdone himself and people will be able to see the entire battlefield from the Campo Santo to the Powder House with all terrain. The obligatory "bird's-eye view" of the Alamo is from the East looking West, which is another first. His work adds a depth to the topic that has never been seen before.
ADP: Alan, if you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
AH: Buy a computer first thing. I began literally cutting and pasting accounts onto legal pads, progressed into a Smith Corona word processor, then a Macintosh...its been a long road.
ADP: If this is the only book you ever write, how do you want to be remembered by the reading public and perceived by your peers?
AH: That's a humbling concept...As a Christian, a husband, a father, a Texan, a soldier, a historian and a fair hand with a horse.
ADP: What's next for Alan Huffines?
AH: Historical fiction, which I guess some folks might say this book is. Nothing dealing with the Texas Revolution at all. Trail drive era, 1880s another love.
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