Our listeners are likely to know well of Gens. George Patton, David, Patraeus, and Dwight Eisenhower. But what about the patient general whose strategy led an inexperienced team of freedom fighters to victory against the Mexican army?
Brian Kilmeade of “Fox & Friends” rejoins “The Right Side of History” to tell us about such a man in his book “Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers: The Texas Victory That Changed American History,” now out in paperback.
He discusses Houston’s legacy, his personal challenges, and what might have been if Texas had remained an independent country. He also shares his take on the Texas attitude in a time of crisis, and new information he decided to add to the paperback version his book.
Fred Lucas: Welcome to the show, Brian.
Brian Kilmeade: Thanks for having me on.
Lucas: Thanks for joining us. So one aspect of this book—bring us into modern times a little bit. This book is very much about, I think, the fighting spirit of Texas. And I wonder if you could maybe talk about how what’s in this book can reflect on what we’re going through now in terms of coming out of this major crisis. And for that matter, how Texas is handling this major crisis, the pandemic.
Kilmeade: Right now, everyone’s fighting to get their freedom back. Little things like going to a bookstore, evidently, is too dangerous. Evidently, going to a florist is too dangerous. Evidently, going to a furniture store is too dangerous.
It’s preposterous, but that’s what we’re looking at—some of these states who feel as though they want to micromanage your life. And don’t feel as though they’re being asked to explain some of this, which is outrageous.
And you’ve seen in Texas, in particular, you have a salon owner two weeks ago, who said, “I’d rather go to jail. Put me in jail. I don’t care because I’m not doing this.”
So I thought that that’s pretty much the Texas attitude, is that what people would do for freedom to call their own shots, not to demand anything, was the story of early Texas and just hope for the best and work hard to make it happen and not blame. And that’s too bad it’s not the culture we have today.
Lucas: Your previous book was about another general, of course, Andrew Jackson. Could you talk a little bit about Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and also the stages in which Texas flipped from being an independent country to becoming a U.S. state?
Kilmeade: Well, I mean, Andrew Jackson was a guy who grew up an orphan and he really understood what Sam Houston was going through—his dad died at a very young age. So his dad dies at a young age and he was basically forced to move with his whole family out West. At which time he didn’t like it.
He didn’t like the fact that there was nobody around, he didn’t like the working on a ranch, he didn’t like working on the farm. He didn’t like working in the store. And he got so much crap from his siblings and his mom, he left. And Sam Houston went to live with the American Indians.
Now, you’ve got Andrew Jackson, who’s two brothers are killed in the war. He almost dies in the Revolutionary War. His mom dies trying to earn a living and he finds himself all alone in the world at 15 years old, and he’s forced to make his own way.
They both become lawyers. They both become governors. They both go into the military. One significantly older is Andrew Jackson. And they just see themselves as people who like to take responsibility for their own actions, don’t expect any free lunch, and they help each other the rest of their lives.
Lucas: So, Sam Houston, he was known for being sort of a patient general. He was willing to retreat, and in terms of maybe losing the battle in order to win the war. And you wrote about that. So some of the troops didn’t necessarily like the idea of retreating in certain circumstances. Can you talk about that?
Kilmeade: Yeah. I mean, early on in his life, he was in his 20s, he was a guy going headstrong into a hail of bullets. As he got older, he realized that courage is great, but it’s got to be calculated.
And by the time he becomes a 41-year-old military officer trying to take a bunch of raw soldiers who had never had any experience at all, he becomes very calculated, very cautious, very, very savvy about how fragile life is. So he’s not trying to put his guys in any situation where they might not win.
So he wanted to get the biggest advantage possible, and to do that, he had to do something that Texans never do, and that’s go backwards. And while he’s doing that, he’s doing something very similar that the Russians and Soviets did with the Napoleon and Hitler. They burn everything. They don’t want to leave anything in their towns for the incoming army to take advantage of.
So they call it the “Runaway Scrape.” This happened into 1835 and finished up in 1836 until Santa Anna thought Sam Houston was afraid of him. And when they finally did track Sam Houston’s army down, they reported to square off with them, and when they didn’t fight in the morning at the Battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna thought, “OK, my guys can get some rest. They’re not going to fight at all.”
But they ended up fighting in the afternoon. And the Mexican army was a disaster. They lost in 17 minutes. They go finished off in two hours. And that was all in revenge of the Alamo.
Lucas: That crushing loss at the Alamo, that really inspired the victory going forward. … Do you think war heroes … carry the same cultural significance today as in those days?
Kilmeade: You don’t really see our wars. You just hear them reported on. You don’t even see the battles necessarily. But I do think people know Gen. [Stanley] McChrystal, Gen. [David] Petraeus, Gen. [John] Kelly. I do think they know who Gen. Tommy Franks is, but it’s not as big as [Douglas] MacArthur or [George] Patton or [Dwight] Eisenhower.
Lucas: One big aspect of the book is that this was a group that had sort of second chances, and this ragtag group—how did this group end up beating Santa Anna’s [army]?
Kilmeade: They got wiped out at Goliad, they got wiped out at the Alamo. Yeah, they went backwards. They shaped the battlefield. When they finally did it, the Mexican foolishly put themselves back up to a body of water. No one can swim. They blew up the bridges.
And then they had the surprise element of the Battle of San Jacinto to attack when they weren’t ready and hence the word surprise. And when they did it, their guns were piled in a stack, and Sam Houston leading the charge is able to go the rest of the way.
Lucas: So, one big historical “what if”: How do you think Texas would have survived as an independent country if it had continued being a sovereign nation?
Kilmeade: In my opinion, it’s pretty big country, but they have their own navy. They began to seem to have diplomatic relations with a lot of European nations. They wouldn’t have been a force, and it’s hard to imagine them staying independent … between Mexico and the United States.
But they do have a lot of assets. They do. They are bigger than most countries, too. So they were smart enough. Sam Houston was smart enough to hedge it against the U.S. They said, “Listen, we waited nine years to be annexed. If you’re not going to do it, I’m going to go with Britain.” And that got everybody to act.
Lucas: Sam Houston wanted Texas to remain in the union. He opposed secession.
Kilmeade: Yeah. So in the paperback, I added something else. And the new stuff I added into it was I bring in the War of 1812. Then I bring it to the Texas Revolution, 1835-36. And I end with 1860, where Sam Houston is governor again of Texas, and the Civil War is about the start, and he wants to keep Texas out of the Confederacy.
He said, “Hundreds of thousands will die and we will lose.” He goes, “They will not stop. We will lose.” He was right on both counts, and when they wouldn’t listen to him, he left as governor and he was kind of fired, too. But he left. His own son joined the army, but not him.
He would end up dying before the war is over, and he would see, he would visit the Northern prisoners all the time. He … also would go to bat for the Indians to make sure the American Indians weren’t involved in this war because it’s not their war.
Lucas: That was Brian Kilmeade rejoining “The Right Side of History.” The book is “Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers,” which is now available in paperback.