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The Gates of the Alamo

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,388 ratings  ·  192 reviews
A huge, riveting, deeply imagined novel about the siege and fall of the Alamo in 1836--an event that formed the consciousness of Texas and that resonates through American history--The Gates of the Alamo follows the lives of three people whose fates become bound to the now-fabled Texas fort: Edmund McGowan, a proud and gifted naturalist whose life's work is threatened by th ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 2000)
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Gary McDonald I've read them both and they are both essential. GATES is as fine a historical novel as you'll find. And THREE ROADS is the best popular history of th…moreI've read them both and they are both essential. GATES is as fine a historical novel as you'll find. And THREE ROADS is the best popular history of the Revolution. (less)

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 ·  1,388 ratings  ·  192 reviews

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May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
The battle of the Alamo concluded on March 6, 1836, outside of San Antonio, Texas. The separatist forces – comprised of a motley group of Anglo-Saxon immigrants, Tejanos, and American aliens – were wiped out by the Mexican forces of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. It is one of the most famous battles in American history. It has been written about, sung about, and filmed countless times. It has spawned a whole legion of passionate fans who argue and debate every aspect of the fight.

Anyone w
Anthony Whitt
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel ranks as one of my all time favorite works of historical fiction. Harrigan spins an interesting tale of ordinary folks caught up in the dynamics of history in the making. Authentic characters grow and transform to survive the tumultuous environment created by the struggle for Texas independence. The final battle scene at the Alamo is one of the best written and historically accurate accounts of the ultimate sacrifice made by men from both sides of the conflict. If you are a fan of det ...more
Steven Z.
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The story of the Alamo is clouded in myths and counter myths. Your personal belief is probably dependent upon your high school social studies education. It is a story that most Americans know because of the countless books and films on the subject. What is clear is that, it forms a major component of Texas history. In Stephen Harrigan’s THE GATES OF THE ALAMO we are presented with a new approach to the story through the eyes of fictional characters; Edmund McGowan, a loner dedicated to botanical ...more
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the first Stephen Harrigan novel I have read. The Texan characters in this book were not what I expected, and that was a plus. I found it interesting that the author chose to write many of the personality traits we associate with the heroes of the Alamo, not as positive attributes, but as defects. Rather than presenting William Travis as a idealistic patriot, he is shown to be a verbose zealot who was reckless with the lives of others. Jim Bowie's courage is shown as cruelty. Sam Houston ...more
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Military history / history buffs; fans of the mythical American West
What I love about this book is how Harrigan goes out of his way to show that the instigators of the Texas Revolution were a bunch of drunks, liars, and rabble-rousers with no justification for agitating for war. He follows the stories of two officers in the Mexican Army, and details their travails as pawns in a war that was imposed on them as surely as it was on the average Texan settler. He describes the senseless carnage and brutality wrought by self-important and stubborn men, not in service ...more
Michael Wilson
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an Alamo fanatic, I've read just about everything ever written about the siege of the Alamo. Stephen Harrigans novel outshines every other tome on the subject. His historical research is dead on and his characterizations are great. He creates people you care about.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, usa, fiction
Once upon a time I briefly lived in Texas. I made good use of my time in the USA, visiting several states. Inevitably I also visited the lovely Texan town of San Antonio and of course the historic Alamo Mission. Alas, at that time my interest lay more in medieval European history, and so I just gave it the quick tourist look over before heading to the Riverwalk, margaritas and Mariachi bands. Fast forward several years, and here I am up to my eyebrows in American history, reading both fiction an ...more
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
What happened at the Alamo is no secret and, living in Texas as I do, the legends of Travis, Bowie, Crockett, and Houston are daily evidenced. I've been to museums and read books on the subject. One would think I was reasonably well-informed about the Alamo, but while reading this book, I soon came to see that I had no idea of the reality of what happened. I knew virtually nothing about Bowie or Travis, who are revered as gods in these parts. While I realize this book is fictional, I found it to ...more
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History/TX Buffs
Shelves: favorites
This is fiction, but it's a fabulous view of the leadup and execution of the Texas Revolution. The three central characters are completely fictional, but most everyone else is a true historical Texas figure, painted in incredible detail and probably a great deal more true to life than the overblown images we usually have of the heroes we've named every junior high in the state after. Sam Houston is a pompous egomaniac who wants his own country to reign over, though he earns his stripes with his ...more
Kevin Symmons
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have read many works on the battle of the Alamo...some intellectual and crammed with facts, others packed with adventure. Until reading Mr. Harrigan's novel I had never read anything that combined the adventure and history so completely. I will not bore the reader by repeating the story which most American's are well acquainted with. I can only tell the reader that he has integrated the story of three fictitious individuals caught up by circumstance if the saga. Harrigan's story covers several ...more
Carole Hardinge
Apr 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Harriman’s account of the Alamo was different from other depictions in that he did not sensationalize Travis and Bowie. I read the author’s notes prior to reading the book he expressed a desire to base the historical references in his book to reliable sources and to avoid overly dramatic scenes. His fictional characters were cleverly intertwined with the actual participants. I especially liked a passage where a young fictional soldier who had left the Alamo days prior to the final conflict, was ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Great to read about a period in history that I knew next to nothing about. I really like how Harrigan interspersed a fictional storyline and characters into real events. I'm finding that historical fiction like this a la 'Devil in the White City' is quickly becoming my favorite genre.
Newt Taylor
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not Harrigan’s best effort(I recommend Remember Ben Clayton, instead). However, I now know more about the Battle of the Alamo than I ever imagined.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
An interesting take on a historical event which is very well known. This explores a little more of what happened in the build-up to the siege itself and the aftermath at the Goliad (the "other" Alamo) as well as offering a sympathetic look at a broad range of characters. Some other reviewers have pointed out that the last few chapters seem hurried- which they are, as if the author realized that he had got to a certain number of words and then needed to wrap it all up - and the framing device set ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I did lots of complaining to anyone who would listen about this book club book. I said things like it has too many characters, it is a slow go, it needs editing, and there is too much fighting. And I was quite certain this was a 3 star book for me. But, after finishing it, I am saying that this is a 4 star book because of the courage, tenacity, and bravery of the men who fought at the Alamo. You know the ones I am talking about: Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and William Travis. I am proud to be a Te ...more
Peter A
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes, when I look through collections of books, I come across a book and author I had never heard of. And in reading a book’s back cover, I would determine whether it is worth buying and reading. In the pre-COVID-19 lifetime, three months ago, I was in the Friends of Arlington Public Library book collection, and found the current book.

Having grown up for some of my elementary, middle school and high-school years in Texas, and having had an entire seventh grade school year on Texas history,
Allison Kirchner
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
After finishing "Two for Texas," I was interested in learning more about Texas history. This book was recommended, and I liked it very much. It did focus on the months leading up to the Battle of the Alamo, but the author included descriptive passages that provided general history about the diverse communities and peoples of the area. I'd read other books that referenced early German settlements in Texas, and this book also mentioned Irish settlers. When you add in the Easterners (with or withou ...more
Alison Miller-astor
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a loooong book. Not so much in terms of length (it was under 600 pages), but it just seemed incredibly dense. The setup of the novel -- which is more than half the book -- introduces three main characters and a panoply of others (some of whom I got confused all the way through) and the political situation in both Texas and Mexico. The pace picks up enormously once the siege of the Alamo actually begins. Don't get me wrong, the book is totally engrossing; frankly, I was surprised how lit ...more
Gene Ames,
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Texas and the Alamo led thirteen colonies to become America

Stephen Harrigan’s secret is to tie real historical events and people together in fictionalized yarns of how the lives of the people of those times might have been. The Gates of the Alamo vividly demonstrates how both fictional and true historical characters were living during the time of the Texas Revolution. Harrigan’s creative imagination lets exciting human tales flow through his remarkable writing, as the reader learns how the
Jeff Giddens
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a work of historical fiction, but it might be the best way to actually learn history. Super engaging, great story, outstanding characters, and they weave into factual history seamlessly. I'm not from Texas (but I got here as quickly as I could), so I never took Texas history. My knowledge of the Alamo was that Davy Crockett fought there and died, like most everyone in the fort. It was fascinating to learn about the character ticks of each of the major players, and how they ended up there ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Four stars because Harrigan writes so marvelously and he did copious historical research to craft this historical-fiction tale. But having said that, I can't honestly recommend this book, nor will I ever re-read it, because it is so depressing and grim -- a needed antidote, I suppose, to some Texans' romantic notions of their history, but a real downer. Harrigan depicts heroism on both sides, but it seems to have been outweighed by both sides' cruelty, crudity and venality.

Harrigan dazzles with
Johanna Dolle
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Before reading this I knew little about the Alamo or its key characters. The story slowly builds the conflict amidst escalating hostility between the two sides. I was happy that several alternating chapters of the book focus on the Mexican cast and its perspective, though the sentiments and delusions of the warmongering, Texian frontiersmen are what shined through the text most clearly for me. I also enjoyed the book's coming of age plot line - i know not the first of its kind in a war story - w ...more
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some interesting aspects of the Alamo, its defenders and the Mexican army made this tome worthwhile. Having had Texas history in the 7th (or was it the 8th grade?)and growing up steeped in local history, all the main players in early Republic of Texas history were well known to me. The Mexican viewpoint was one I had never really considered.

What hard times those were for all the early Texicans!! And THE battle was horrendous. Sometimes, too gruesome to read. Did the Alamo need to happen? To galv
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With the expectation to attend AWP in San Antonio this year, which sadly did not happen for me, I read this book. It was recommended by a Texas author, and it did not disappoint. This historical novel which has been carefully researched offers a more diverse view of this part of Texas history. The plot is gripping, but what lingers for me is the description of the land, the climate, plants and animals, pre-independence from Mexico, pre-establishment as a state of the US. The novel also explores ...more
May 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What I loved about this historical novel was the natural history woven into the familiar story of the Texians’ revolt. The main character (not a historical figure) is a naturalist employed by Mexico to collect information about the flora and fauna of the territory north of the Rio Grande. It’s been more than 15 years since I read the book but I still get a chill when I recall the description of the Mexican Army met by a “cold norther” with freezing rain and snow as it advanced toward San Antonio ...more
ker thomson
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing and wonderful

This is a thoughful and deeply personal viceral retelling of the fight for Texas independence. He weaves truth (as best as is known) with the brutality of life and death and hope and love and heros and villains.
The telling of characters from both sides of the fight enhances the story immeasurably and brings a veracity and wholeness to the story that noone will fail to appreciate.
Chuck Eaton
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A new favorite. This book usually makes the list of must read books about Texas. I agree. I had put off reading it because of its length, but like another lengthy favorite, Lonesome Dove, it kept me interested all the way through. I enjoyed how such famous Texas heroes as Travis, Crockett, and Houston were brought to life in the book. Also interesting was reading about The Alamo from the Mexican and from Santa Anna’s perspective.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A compelling read and the three main characters are interesting and nuanced. The novel paints an unflattering portrait of some big names like James Bowie and Sam Houston, but in the end you see them as flawed but determined men who had good things in them. All of us are like that, aren't we? The missing star is only because the descriptions of Comanche and Karankawa encounters and of the principal battles of the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto are graphic, disturbing, and brutal.
Ben Hoh
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
A solid find in the discount section at the book store from back when going in to a bookstore was a thing. As with all historical fiction it's hard to know how much is true and how much is artistic liberty, but I do feel like I learned a bunch about the Alamo that I didn't know. The story follows several fictitious characters from both sides of the war who interact with various real historical figures. An enjoyable story that occasionally drags on a bit.
Jan Vanderburg
Finally! I finished it! Don't get me wrong, it was a beautifully written historical novel by an author that I really admire but I just didn't want to know any more about the Alamo! It is extremely detailed and imaginative and an opportunity to look into the history of Texas and the way people lived, loved and fought, especially great detail.
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Stephen Harrigan was born in Oklahoma City in 1948 and has lived in Texas since the age of five, growing up in Abilene and Corpus Christi.
He is a longtime writer for Texas Monthly, and his articles and essays have appeared in a wide range of other publications as well, including The Atlantic, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Audubon, Travel Holiday, Life, American Histor ...more

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