We have an army of maybe two thousand men, but our shaky government has appointed four supreme commanders. And each one holds a commission which confirms that he is superior to the other three.
A wavering revolutionary government, unsure whether it wanted statehood within Mexico, jointure with the United States, or a free nation of its own, had appointed Sam Houston, vainglorious but demonstrably able, as commander in chief of the army on the basis of his militia rank years ago in Tennessee. But they had also designated Colonel James Fannin, a West Point man but not a graduate, as commander of the regular army contingent and subsidiary to no one. Rump forces within the government had given still another command to Dr. James Grant, born in Scotland and since 1825 owner of an enormous ranch west of Saltillo; a volatile man much hated in northern Mexico, he had served in the governing body of Coahuila-y-Tejas until Santa Anna prorogued it and now sought revenge.
The fourth contestant for top honors was an irascible Virginia-Alabama-Illinois schoolteacher and greengrocer with military delusions; at a time of crisis in 1835 he had assumed command of a privateering force that had captured the Alamo from General Cos and sent him kiting back to Mexico under pledge never to return under arms. Commander in Chief Frank W. Johnson had his own plans for subduing Mexico; in executing them with total ineptness he would lose his entire force save four, but he himself would escape and live another forty-eight years, during which he would write a five-volume history of the times he had seen and the heroisms he had performed.There was, of course, a fifth commander, almost insanely jealous of the other four and possibly more gifted as a military leader than any of them: Colonel William Travis, who still held on to the Alamo in gross disobedience to orders from General Houston that he abandon it and blow it up.