Dr. R. Bruce Winders, Former Alamo Director of History and Curator
One of the most enduring misconceptions regarding the Battle of Béxar is a supposed family relationship between Antonio López de Santa Anna and Martin Perfecto de Cos. As the legend goes, Santa Anna and Cos were brothers-in-law. Hence, Cos’ loss of San Antonio de Béxar brought dishonor to the entire family, a dishonor that Santa Anna vowed to erase by recapturing the town. Although there is no evidence to support this supposed connection between Santa Anna and Cos, the public, and even some historians, continue to repeat it. The line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance comes to mind: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
What is the problem with continuing promoting this misconception? After all, Santa Anna’s supposed need to restore family honor by recapturing San Antonio provides a clear motive for his actions. Unfortunately, it becomes the substitute for the evidence and diminishes Santa Anna’s role as the president of Mexico. As the leader of that nation, Santa Anna was bound by duty to reestablish control of Texas.
Moreover, the family honor story diminishes the true importance of San Antonio de Béxar. The town of San Antonio was not a worthless settlement on the Texas frontier that was not worth a fight. On the eve of the Texas Revolution, the town boasted a population of more than two thousand inhabitants. It was the crossroads though which the routes to east Texas and the Rio Grande Valley passed. A political seat for most of its existence, Béxar was also a center of trade and commerce. In sum, San Antonio de Béxar was a prize worth fighting for — a fact that guaranteed that the Centralists would have to retake the town if the rebellion was to be crushed.