The informant explained that most schoolchildren in San Antonio are familiar with a song written about the Texans’ final days at the Alamo Mission, where a group of Texan military leaders and their troops resisted the Mexican army’s assault for thirteen days before they were all killed. The song, “Thirteen Days to Immortality,” is incorporated into theatrical performances of the Alamo, namely the Phantom of the Alamo. It is a popular feature at annual school performances and at local summer camps. She acknowledged that the author is unknown and, while the song is sung to a medley of musical tunes from other folk songs, she couldn’t identify which ones.She did, however, note that while her parents were familiar with the song during their childhood, her grandparents had never encountered it, suggesting that it is a fairly recent folk song that has emerged over the last two generations.
Oh! What a beautiful sunrise,
Day Twelve is a wonderful day!
Texans all gather together
To find out who all wants to stay.
Travis and Crockett, Jim Bowie
Lead the men over the line.
One man decides it’s not worth it,
It’s not his time yet to die.
On Day Thirteen. . .everyone died.
All of the heroes who fought on both sides.
Take down the flag, honor the dead, isn’t it sad.
Everyone suffers the loss for those are bad.
Take down the flag, take down the flag.
The song is clearly a children’s song, akin to one you might see taught in a history class to aid children in memorizing historical facts. It is sung to a cheery tune, and there is a heavy emphasis on the collective loss shared by both parties during wartime: “Everyone suffers the loss.” Moreover, the lyrics also recognize heroics in both the Texan and Mexican troops, introducing the values of equality and honor in fighting for one’s land. “Thirteen Days to Immortality” presents perhaps a more sympathetic angle than the legend of the Alamo itself, which antagonizes the Mexican troops as the aggressors and looks unfavorably upon those who flee from death in battle (the lone Texan who abandoned the Alamo was left cursed to haunt the Alamo). Instead, the lyrics mourn the lives of the fallen, calling the deaths “sad” and the deserter is receives no negative attention at all.
Both “Thirteen Days to Immortality” and the historical legend of the Alamo illustrate examples of war-related folklore or, in this case, folk history. The song, in particular, relies on a lexicon of war-related vocabulary, namely “hero,” “honor,” and “flag.” In this way, outside of the song’s lyrical content, the vocabulary is recognizable as being related to war texts and literature.