Moses Rose
Louis "Moses" Rose also seen as Lewis Rose), known as the Coward of the Alamo, was according to Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 legend, the only man who chose to leave the besieged Alamo
Alamo Mission in San Antonio
The Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, is a former Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound, site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, and now a museum, in San Antonio, Texas....

 in 1836, rather than fight and die there. Some regard him as a coward for having left the Alamo prior to the final battle. He was illiterate and many believe that his tale was embellished by those who were writing on his behalf. Others take the view that Rose appropriately declined to sacrifice his life in a losing cause. Finally, some question the accuracy of this part of the legend.

Life before the Alamo

According to the most commonly told story, Rose was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, had been a lieutenant in the French army, and had served in Napoleon's invasion of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. In 1814, he was named to the Légion d'honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

(Legion of Honor) for heroism. He migrated to Nacogdoches, Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, after Napoleon's fall, and lived in the then-Mexican territory until the age of 51, when the Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

 erupted in 1835.

Presence in the Alamo

The evidence for Rose's cowardice at the Alamo is thin. It is known that Louis Rose of Nacogdoches testified on behalf of the estates of five men who may have been at the Alamo. In each of these cases he made statements similar to “left him in the Alimo [sic] 3 March 1836”. In none of his testimony did Rose explicitly state that he was a member of the Alamo garrison, or that he had entered the Alamo and later escaped. In at least one case, the man on whose behalf he testified had not been at the Alamo, although he had the same name as one of the known Alamo defenders; in a second case, the man (Henry Teal), was later proved to have died after the battle's conclusion.

Popular legend holds that Rose was a member of Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 James Bowie's forces and had fought during the siege of Bexar
Siege of Bexar
The Siege of Béxar was an early campaign of the Texas Revolution in which a volunteer Texan army successfully defeated Mexican forces at San Antonio de Béxar . Texians had become disillusioned with the Mexican government as President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's tenure became increasingly...

, and that he then joined Bowie in reinforcing the Alamo Mission in San Antonio de Bexar in late January 1836. The available records do not permit historians to confirm these accounts. Rose's name is not found on any muster rolls for the siege of Bexar. Neither a Louis nor a Moses Rose is listed on the muster rolls that James C. Neill
James C. Neill
↔James Clinton Neill was a 19th-century American soldier and politician, most noted for his role in the Texas Revolution and the early defense of the Alamo. He was born in North Carolina.-Early life and career:...

 compiled for the Alamo garrison on December 31, 1835, or February 1, 1836, although Bowie was listed on the latter document.

On the other hand, a man named “Rose” from Nacogdoches was listed as an Alamo victim in the March 14, 1836, issue of the Telegraph and Texas Register
Telegraph and Texas Register
Telegraph and Texas Register was the second permanent newspaper in Texas. Originally conceived as the Telegraph and Texas Planter, the newspaper was renamed shortly before it began publication, to reflect its new mission to be "a faithful register of passing events"...

. This first attempt to name the men at the Alamo was compiled by John William Smith
John William Smith
John William Smith was a Texas political figure and the first mayor of San Antonio, Texas. He supported and served Texas during the struggle for Texas Independence.-Early life:...

, one of the last couriers to leave the Alamo, and Gerald Navan, who probably also left the Alamo as a courier. Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson testified in 1853 and again in 1857 that the only man named “Rose” of whom she knew in the Alamo was James Rose, who accompanied Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett
David "Davy" Crockett was a celebrated 19th century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. He is commonly referred to in popular culture by the epithet "King of the Wild Frontier". He represented Tennessee in the U.S...

 and who had died.

Historian Thomas Ricks Lindley speculates that Louis “Moses” Rose had intended to fight at the Alamo and had joined volunteers who attempted to reinforce the Alamo on March 4. According to Lindley, while fifty or so of the volunteers successfully entered the Alamo complex, the remainder were driven away by Mexican troops. Rose may have been in the group that was repulsed, and either had seen some of his comrades enter the Alamo, or assumed that they had successfully entered.

Rose in the legend of the Alamo

The traditional account of the battle states includes the following description of Rose's actions.

In March 1836, the Alamo was surrounded by the Mexican Army
Mexican Army
The Mexican Army is the combined land and air branch and largest of the Mexican Military services; it also is known as the National Defense Army. It is famous for having been the first army to adopt and use an automatic rifle, , in 1899, and the first to issue automatic weapons as standard issue...

, which raised a "no quarter" flag, promising death to all defenders. Travis
William B. Travis
William Barret Travis was a 19th-century American lawyer and soldier. At the age of 26, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army...

, the Texan commander, drew a line in the sand
Line in the sand (phrase)
A line in the sand is a metaphor with two similar meanings:*The first meaning is of a point beyond which one will proceed no further...

 with his sword. He asked the defenders to cross over it, and thereby pledge to fight (and presumably die) in the Alamo. All did, except Rose.

Rose fled the Alamo the night of March 5, evading Mexican forces, and made his way to Grimes County, where he found rest and shelter at the homestead
Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency.-Current practice:The term may apply to anyone who follows the back-to-the-land movement by adopting a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. While land is no longer freely available in most areas of the world, homesteading...

 of one William P. Zuber. Rose made no attempt at hiding the true story of his journey, attributing his decision to a love for his family (including his children) and desire to fight another day rather than face a slaughter like those he had seen in previous failed battles. But Rose did not fight another day, but instead merely faded away from the revolution, eventually settling in Logansport, Louisiana
Logansport, Louisiana
Logansport is a town in western DeSoto Parish adjacent to the Sabine River in western Louisiana, United States. The population was 1,630 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Shreveport–Bossier City Metropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:...


Some historians have said that the story of the line in the sand was first told by Rose himself. Whether there ever was an actual line drawn in the sand is disputed, but the evidence does suggest that all Alamo defenders were at one point given a choice to stay or to go.

Portrayal as a coward

When the legendary account is accepted, Louis Rose is generally portrayed as a coward, though he was 51 at the time, and had seen the cost of futile warfare in conflicts on two continents. This is largely due to the pride Texans take from the Battle of the Alamo, and a the contrast of Rose with the defenders who chose to stay and die. His alleged actions suffer further in comparison with the 32 volunteers who evaded the Mexican forces to join the garrison.

Some advocates for Rose have noted that others also left during the battle, notably Juan Seguin
Juan Seguín
Juan Nepomuceno Seguín was a 19th-century Texas Senator, Mayor, Judge, and Justice of the Peace and a prominent participant in the Texas Revolution.-Early life and family:...

 (who was sent to seek reinforcements and is considered an Alamo hero), and at least twelve others who left as couriers during a brief armistice. Others note that Seguin and the other couriers were ordered to leave as part of their duty, while Rose chose to abandon his comrades in order to save his own life. (In fact, Juan Seguin returned to the scene, though the Alamo had fallen by the time he arrived.)

Rose's reputation as a coward remained with him for the rest of his lifetime, and continues up to the present day. To those who accept the popular account, it matters little what Rose's motives were; more important is the fact that he left, by choice.

According to legend, when asked many years later why he did not cross the line and remain, he replied simply, “By God, I wasn't going to die!” This alleged statement did not help his reputation, especially in Texas.

During the period just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 by the U.S., the Rose legend gained new currency when France opposed the invasion. Anti-French sentiment in the United States
Anti-French sentiment in the United States
Anti-French sentiment in the United States is the manifestation of Francophobia by Americans. It signifies a consistent hostility toward the government, culture, and people of France that employs stereotypes.-Understanding anti-French sentiments:...

 increased and Rose's legend was often invoked as an historical example of ostensibly French cowardice in the face of war, despite the unverified status of the popular account.

In the years following the fall of the Alamo, Rose was often contacted by relatives of men that died at the Alamo, to help verify their deaths, so that their survivors could settle land disputes or property claims. As noted above, on some lists of the participants in the Battle of the Alamo, Rose is not even listed; proponents of the legendary account believe this is so because Rose left before the climax of the battle. In 1927, relatives of Rose presented his musket to the Alamo Museum. According to legend, Rose himself, if asked, would often proclaim that he was, in fact, the "Coward of the Alamo".

The song, “Moses Rose of Texas”, which uses the tempo of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas
The Yellow Rose of Texas
"The Yellow Rose of Texas" is a traditional folk song. The original love song has become associated with the legend of how an indentured servant named Emily Morgan "helped win the battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle in the Texas Revolution."...

”, tells the popular story of Rose, saying in part

The 1952 film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 The Man from the Alamo
The Man from the Alamo
The Man From the Alamo is a Technicolor Western directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Glenn Ford, Julie Adams, Hugh O'Brian, and Guy Williams .-Plot synopsis:...

, starring Glenn Ford
Glenn Ford
Glenn Ford was a Canadian-born American actor from Hollywood's Golden Era with a career that spanned seven decades...

, is loosely based on Rose's story, but Ford's character is not a coward. Instead he is selected to escape the Alamo to protect the families of the defenders from looters and bandits. The film's plot was criticized by some Texan traditionalist groups, such as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas
Daughters of the Republic of Texas
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas is a sororal association dedicated to perpetuating the memory of Texas pioneer families and soldiers of the Republic of Texas. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas is best known for its role as caretakers of The Alamo. They also operate a museum in Austin...


External links

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