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The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo--and the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  573 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican army led by dictator Santa Anna reached San Antonio and laid siege to about 175 Texas rebels holed up in the Alamo. The Texans refused to surrender for nearly two weeks until almost 2,000 Mexican troops unleashed a final assault. The defenders fought valiantly-for their lives and for a free and independent Texas-but in the end, they we ...more
Published May 15th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2012)
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May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prince Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool. As if the way one fell down mattered.
Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is – it matters…

-- John Castle and Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter

The first time I ever saw the Alamo, I had just consumed a 46 ounce margarita at The Republic of Texas Restaurant on the Riverwalk.

My wife and I had made it to San Antonio earlier in the evening, having started out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (and with a side-trip to the environs of Houston to see the San
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Blood of Heroes; the 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo – And the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation” is the second James Donovan book that I have read. His first, “A Terrible Glory”, dealt with Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn and I was not terribly impressed. It was very well written and up to date, but not particularly in-depth or eloquent. I rated "A Terrible Glory" highly however, because I felt that I had been unfairly comparing it to Evan S Connell’s “Son of the Morning Star”, perh ...more
Ed Arnold
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a recent transplant to San Antonio, it was a real pleasure to get a broader perspective on the Battle of the Alamo. Though the book is owed beautifully, it can still be a bit difficult to imagine the distances and positions of the various actors in the story. As the author admits - and is the case in nearly all narrative non-fiction - it's near impossible to create a perfectly accurate portrait of events, but for those of us needing a deep but graspable understanding of the Alamo and it's pla ...more
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I have mentioned before, I am a history enthusiast. What I may not have mentioned is that I grew and lived in Texas. After serving in the military for 20 years, I got a job with the government and low and behold, I was back in Texas. I know Texas history. You can't help it if you grow up there, as when I was child, Texas history was the only history of the world.
With this in mind, there are not many from Texas who don't know about he Alamo. But after reading this book, I learned a lot more ab
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have stated before in reviews of book on American history that my knowledge is weak on my own country's history. I have always been far more fascinated with Europe's history. I have, though been making an effort to learn more about the events that formed the United States. Most school children know the battle cry, "Remember the Alamo" but how many of them know what went on AT the Alamo? In all honesty no one REALLY knows but Mr. Donovan writes a fascinating and well researched book taking us o ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read "A Terrible Glory" (Custer and the Little Big Horn) by James Donovan and was so impressed with it that I immediately went out and bought "The Blood of Heroes". I found it to be an excellent read. I knew the basics of the story of the Alamo, but Donovan's in-depth research and telling the story from the perspective of both the Texians and the Mexicans really brought this struggle to life. As with his Custer book, Donovan manages to build suspense, even though the reader already kn ...more
Robert Melnyk
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book on the Battle of The Alamo. I was always a huge Davy Crockett fan growing up as a kid, so this book looked interesting to me :-). Although the book certainly talked about Davy Crockett, it really focused much more on the many other characters involved in this historical event. It also spent a good deal of time explaining the history of what led up to the battle, as well as what happened after the battle. Definite good read for those into American History, especially during that ti ...more
Tom Darrow
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More a book about the totality of the Texas Revolution than one just about the battle at the Alamo. This book traces the origins of the conflict back 30+ years before it started and covers the backgrounds of the major players, like Santa Ana, Travis, Bowie and Crockett, and their reasons for going to Texas in the first place. These characters, and others of lesser renown and importance, are all illustrated quite well. The book also covers the importance of San Antonio throughout the whole period ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Donovan's work should be required reading. For everyone. Students, teachers, historians, old, young, green, yellow, purple, what have you.

I love nonfiction. The majority of what I read is nonfiction, so I've experienced a pretty wide variety of writing styles when it comes to retelling history. James Donovan is hands and feet above literally everyone, ever. He writes clearly and expressively, but with very little personal commentary. Events are linear but multi-faceted. He provides a wealth of
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking for a historical book on the Alamo prior to a visit to San Antonio. Overall the book was interesting, though I wouldn't say it was so compelling that I just couldn't stop reading. The writing style is pretty straight-forward, but could be a bit dry reading at times. I did really appreciate the background and context leading up to the seige at the Alamo and the follow-on battle at San Jacinto. It seemed like the right amount of detail to set the stage and also finish the story.

Travis Gilbert
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written and thoroughly researched look at the battle of the Alamo, as well as the preceding events and what resulted from those heroes' sacrifice. I highly recommend this volume. God bless Texas!
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every couple years I return to certain subjects, the Alamo many times. Once in a blue moon you find a book that tells you "this is the story you wanted to read about" and Donvan hits a home run. Very clear well rounded history.
Sara Planz
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Texas transplant, I am having a wonderful time learning about my new home state. And after a first time visit to the Alamo a few weeks ago, I wanted to read more about it. This book was well researched, honest and fair to both sides of the battle, and very thoughtful. As someone who doesn't read a lot of non-fiction, I was thoroughly entertained while being educated about this time in history.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great popular history and human drama. I bought the book at the museum gift store inside the Alamo and read it soon afterward, while the visit was still fresh in my mind. That was a good decision. I didn't love the end of the book, which seemed out of place, but otherwise it was great read. I rarely read a book more than once, but this might be an exception.
Great book! Tells the back story of many of the characters so you know why and how they ended up at the Alamo at this crucial time. He brings history to life and spins an exciting tale.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Texas history; Alamo fans; Davy Crockett
Shelves: favorites
Get ready for an action-packed wild ride as author James Donovan takes the reader to the vivid battle of the Alamo! Laying the foundation first, Mr. Donovan goes into superb introductory detail with events and circumstances leading up to the massacre in Bexar by expounding on how the Texians got into their dire situation in the first place. By exploring the lives of the three most prominent defenders of the Alamo, David Crockett, William Barret Travis, and James Bowie, the reader gains a better ...more
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a native of San Antonio, Texas, I have always been fascinated by the history of my hometown, and the surrounding areas. As a young child, I had the opportunity to visit the Alamo and the surrounding missions. I'm not sure about other states, but Texans are extremely proud of their history, so I have read and studied about the Battle of the Alamo in school and on my own for many years. Every once in a while, new details emerge, inspiring new versions of the story of the Battle that took place ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book... but I didn't. Born in Texas and lived here most of my life, plus the mandatory Texas History in middle school, I knew that early Texas history was a little chaotic. Okay, okay a lot chaotic. That's the theme of this book although it's very well researched and could have been made into a respectable story. A story about grand adventure, patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice. Instead it's more of a boring text book that magnified the all too human character flaws of hero ...more
Paul Lunger
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The cry "Remember the Alamo!" is probably one of the most famous battle cries in all of American if not world history. In "The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo - and the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation", James Donovan takes we the reader on a journey through the Texas Revolution & through it's most critical moment the fall of the Alamo in San Antonio de Bexar which changed the course of Texas history as well as affecting 2 other nations at the same time. The battle itself do ...more
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, history
The book starts off slowly. Donovan spends time outlining the backstory of the major players (Bowie, Travis, Crockett, Santa Anna) and a brief history of Texas and Anglos in Texas up to that point.

Once Santa Anna and his army start their march north, the narrative picks up. Donovan describes battle scenes very well. Even on audio, in the car, with no maps or diagrams to reference, I felt like I had a sense of how the siege and battle played out. Definitely a gripping story. I would sit in my car
David Orphal
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donovan writes a terrific narrative about the Alamo and the immediate aftermath in the independence fight in Texas. Drawing on Mexican sources, he paints a more complete picture of the siege than previous treatments.

Like several history books I've listened to lately, devouring the book in one sitting (I was on a long car ride) makes some of the repetitions in the book glaring. He uses the same quote from Santa Anna in two chapters, and his parallel tales of tracing Santa Anna, Jim Bowie, and Dav
Urey Patrick
It is a wider ranging history than the title implies - the battle lasted 12 days, but in the book it barely lasts one chapter. Donovan spends a lot of time relating peripheral information about people who ultimately have some connection to the battle at the Alamo, and events that ultimately lead to the battle - but relatively little text dealing with the battle, although what he does relate is excellent, though limited almost entirely to the final day. He provides a compelling picture of the cha ...more
Raymond Brown
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written straight forward account of the Fall of the Alamo. I think others have mentioned the use of the narrative style - and I would say that although the captions mention the use of "new" archival material - that there is not really anything new revealed here.

The book makes good use of source material and is up to date with regard to the materials discovered to date. The notes are not really well referenced as they are not noted with numbers to specific passages.

The author presents a se
Derrick Jeter
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Legend and myth shroud the thirteen day standoff at Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as the Alamo. For many popular historians and movie makers the famous line from John Ford’s 1962 movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, serves as a guiding light when it comes to the Alamo: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Legend and myth has grown thick around the siege and battle that took place in the small Texas village of San Antonio de Béxar, on the distant edge of civilization
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Well, this isn't as bad as Donovan's Custer book. (Which I feared it would be, when I saw the author, and the similarly poor in style paragraph-length subtitle. [In "A Terrible Glory" Donovan goes back to old time Custer-defending on the amount of discretion he allegedly had in his orders, blaming Reno for many of his problems, etc., while failing to take full account of the latest findings in battlefield ballistic analysis to show that Custer's troopers were shellshocked as soon as they realize ...more
This is one of the better books I have read on the history of the Alamo and war for Texas Independence. James Donovan does a great job of researching a variety of sources and giving the reader an in-depth look at the Alamo and those that died defending it. I liked this book much better than Donovan's first book, A Terrible Glory, which was a look at Custer's last stand. The one thing I did not like about the book is that I thought it could have used more maps in the book. It would have been usef ...more
May 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
One of the blurbs on the back says that this "reads fast, like a gallop through South Texas." I think it more like a slow trot on an exhausted horse, which in a way, I think fits it better--there was nothing as fast and straightforward about the revolution as a ride across the plains. Although the title references only the Alamo, the book actually covers from Goliad and Gonzales all the way to San Jacinto, although nothing besides the Alamo is covered in great detail. I learned more about the Al ...more
Kevin Symmons
As a student of the Battle of the Alamo and a writer who intends to write a novel based on the same I have been reading several works for background information and to add to my knowledge. My all-time favorite is "A Time to Stand" by Walter Lord which I have reviewed earlier. Since most likely only historians, Texas patriots, or competing authors may read this I must say that I found Mr. Donovan's work a little tedious. I felt... and this is a problem I have found with many of the works on this ...more
Tom Schulte
With a title like "Blood of Heroes", I expected a work playing to the semi-legendary status of the last, hopeless, desperate, and near mythical stand that had the seeming impossible attendance of Bowie, Crocket, and Travis. However, especially the first, dragging half earns the book the dry, detailed title of "A Military History of the Texan War for Independence", or something. However, things pick up when the author "cuts to the chase" for the actual fall of The Alamo, the later massacre at Gol ...more
John Branney
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a book on the Alamo. I have visited the Alamo several times. I have read magazine articles about the Alamo, and of course, I have seen all of the movies, but I have never read a full length book on the subject. I picked a good book!

The author talks in great detail about the key players at the Alamo, the political environment in both the US and Mexico, the hardships of living in Texas at the time, and the battle strategy and tactics. What I liked most about the book was it did
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James Donovan is the author of the classic illustrated account of Custer's Last Stand, A Terrible Glory, and Custer and the Little Bighorn. He lives in Dallas.
More about James Donovan...