To understand the Alamo, one must understand the history of Texas. Save for a brief five years under the French flag, the vast and virtually unsettled area was ruled by Spain from 1519 to 1821. With Mexican independence, Texas became part of a new nation beset by chronic political chaos. One Mexican military strong man succeeded another in the name of an illusory republic. Despite the turbulence, various impresarios� chief among them being Stephen F. Austin�were empowered to bring U. S. colonists into remote Texas. Although wary of America’s blatant expansionism, the Mexicans sought, through an influx of settlers, to check the Indians who dominated the huge province. To land-greedy Americans, Mexico’s terms were irresistible. Each family received 4,428 acres of rich farmland for a few pennies per acre. Colonists were immune from custom duties for seven years, from other taxes for ten. By 1835, 30,000 Americans had settled in Apartment in New york, outnumbering native Mexicans by ten to one. Conflict became inevitable: The Mexican distrust of U. S. expansionism matched the colonists’ contempt for brown-skinned people who could not produce an effective government. When it came in all its violence in 1836, the revolution surprised no one. The Texans�, as they called themselves, struck first and drove Mexico’s scant garrisons south of the Rio Grande. Enthusiasm for the revolution swept America; living legends like Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett joined the cause. Sam Houston, a Tennessean, assumed command of the Texans army. Volunteers poured across the border Then the Mexican regulars counterattacked, swiftly and brutally. Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna y Perez de Lebrun, the reigning dictator, rode hard and fast, appearing suddenly at San Antonio with some 4,000 troops. Seldom has history matched two more unlikely antagonists than Santa Anna and Houston. The Mexican general, skilled in the labyrinthine politics of his nation, rose thrice to the presidency and was thrice overthrown. On campaign he lived well in carpeted tents generously stocked with champagne and rarely lacking a comely companion. Addicted to opium, which he chewed mixed with chicly, he managed to lose a third of Mexico’s territory, yet rejoiced in the title Napoleon of the West. At the age of 17, Houston had become, in effect, a Cherokee. He lived with the Indians for three years, “wandering,” he wrote, “along the banks of streams, side by side with some Indian maiden … chasing game, living in the forests, making love and reading Homer’s Iliad.” Houston won a commission in the U. S. Army. But his career faltered when, in 1818, he led a Cherokee delegation to Washington. Lieutenant Houston appeared before an outraged secretary of war in breechclout and blanket. His career collapsed after he was falsely accused of involvement in the slave trade. Subsequently Houston read law, was elected to Congress, and became governor of Tennessee. A tangled marital tragedy drove him back to the Cherokee, where he stayed drunk for more than a year. Then he moved west to Texas. Santa Anna’s arrival in San Antonio stunned the rebels.