Personal narratives of the Texas Revolution abound, but the overwhelming majority of them present only the Texan viewpoint. Very few accounts outside of those translated and edited by Carlos Castañeda in 1928 as The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution examine the Mexican army’s role in Texas. Although Anglo-American diaries, journals, and reminiscences add an important dimension to our understanding of the war between Texas and Mexico, their one-sidedness has contributed to exaggeration, factual errors, and fanciful interpretations concerning the size, organization, leadership, and problems of the Mexican army.

Carmen Perry’s translation of the diary kept by Lieutenant Colonel José Enrique de la Peña covers the period 8 October 1835-11 June 1836. During those eight months de la Peña served with Generals Antonio López de Santa Anna, Vicente Filisola, and José Urrea. Although he fought only at the Alamo, his observations on the march to San Antonio de Bexar, defeat at San Jacinto, and subsequent retreat are based either on personal experiences or reports from other Mexicans who participated.

The diary has never been translated previously, but it was published in 1955 as La Rebelión de Texas, edited by José Sánchez Garza. However, the translator used the original manuscript for this version, together with de la Peña’s field notes and supporting documents, all obtained from the late John Peace of San Antonio. The present work consists of a translator’s preface, introduction by Llerena Friend, a prologue and sixteen chapters of the diary, seven pages of illustrations therefrom, and an index.

De la Peña’s diary is a combination of facts and interpretations. It is obvious that he kept a chronological record of his participation in the campaign, but later added extensive interpretations and explanations. Opposed to the accounts of his generals and of those in the United States, de la Peña felt “compelled. . . to publish the diary I kept during the time I served in this unfortunate campaign, and at the same time to make a brief review of what is written there” (p. xxiv). Although he says that his chief purpose is “to relate facts” (p. 152), he often digresses and expounds at length on conflicting viewpoints, his interpretations, and occasionally his own home-spun philosophy on the military, generals, politicians, and what he considers better policies and procedures. The reader should be wary since de la Peña was only a subordinate unacquainted with the total campaign.

Nevertheless, the diary is particularly valuable for its detail on the Mexican army, its leaders, and its activities. Some will argue with the controversial points it raises, such as the statement that the legendary Davy Crockett surrendered at the Alamo. Yet, the observations that “General Santa Anna becomes irritable with discussions” (p. 18), and that he “would not tolerate opposition, his sole pleasure being in hearing what met with his wishes” (p. 43) certainly corroborate information previously known. These weaknesses later haunted him at Buena Vista and Cerro Gordo. De la Peña concludes that General Santa Anna “loses battles and wins the wars with words” (p. 130).

Miss Perry’s translation, as in her earlier San José de Palafox, is professonal, accurate, and readable. Although the narrative is sometimes obscured by long paragraphs, this is the fault of the diary’s author. A good map of Texas, depicting the route followed by the Mexican Army, would have been useful.

Undoubtedly, this excellent translation adds to the balanced study of the Texas Revolution and makes a primary source available to a wider audience. It should supplement Castañeda’s earlier work in the overall historiography of the Mexican-Texan confrontation. Scholars and laymen alike cannot afford to ignore de la Peña’s diary.