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A Highlander and his Books

By Carl Peterson

The Alamo Connection of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott

Reviewed by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA, USA

Carl Peterson is a multi-talented man. He sings. He writes music. He plays the guitar. He tours. He is one of Scotland’s top recording artists (I have more CDs by Carl Peterson than any other Scottish artist). He has his own recording studio. He flies his own plane. And, now, he is an author. I knew he could sing. I did not know he could write, but he does, and quite well! 

Carl has written an unusual book about the Alamo and the influence of the Scotch-Irish, or Ulster Scots, as they were known in Britain. Scotch-Irish, you ask? Yes, 70% of the 200 or so men defending the Alamo were of Scotch-Irish ancestry. John MacGregor played the pipes at the Alamo before losing his life there, and it’s said there was a fiddler who played Scottish tunes at the Alamo. Some say his name was Davy Crockett.

Sam Houston, of Scottish ancestry, read both Scottish history and the works of Robert Burns to inspire himself and his army to victory against Mexico. It was Houston who scattered a plea for volunteers throughout the countryside by declaring:

“Freemen of Texas
To Arms! To Arms!
Now’s The Day, And Now’s The Hour”

Maybe the next time you read Scots Wha Ha’e, you will have a better appreciation of these words that come from the pen of Robert Burns. It would not be the last time Houston quoted Burns. Other Scottish writers influenced the men at the Alamo. Sir Walter Scott would figure prominently in songs and stories. Lord Byron, not given enough credit for his Scottishness, also played a part. Byron was brought up in Aberdeen by his Scottish mother and once said of himself that he was “half a Scot and bred a whole one”.  These Scotch-Irish knew of the battles of Wallace and Bruce and their defeats and victories over the massive armies of the father and son team of Edward I and Edward II. Those brave lads took this knowledge with them to their graves at the Alamo.

William Barrett Travis, a South Carolina native, and eventually the Alamo commander, had in his possession Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, Waverly, and The Black Dwarf, as well as Jane Porter’s The Scottish Chiefs. Travis also read Lord Byron, and he emulated the heroic characters found in these books. Ironically, the son of Travis was named Charles Edward, two of the names of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Both Travis and Houston read Burns, Scott, and Byron widely. Scott was the favorite author of Travis who was 26 years old when he died at the Alamo.

There are many unusual characters in the book. None more so than Moses Rose, who fought in Naples, Portugal, Spain and Russia. He is the man who told of Travis drawing the “line in the sand”. True or not, it sure sounds good! This friend of James Bowie was the only one not to cross the line. He was a mercenary of sorts, and when asked later why he did not stay for the last few days of the siege of the Alamo, he replied, “By God, I was not ready to die”.  

Peterson tells us “the primary reason for this book is to demonstrate through the music how important the Scottish spirit was in Texas and at the Alamo”. Peterson goes on to point out “when you understand the history then you understand the music, for the music connects the people to their culture, present and past, and especially to their history…”

In addition to Now’s The Day, Now’s The Hour, you will want to purchase Scotland Remembers the Alamo, a CD released by Carl in 2001, which is a natural companion to the music section of this book. I’m listening to it now as I type these words, and I can feel in my bones what Carl Peterson is singing and writing about.   

I enjoy a good read as much as the next fellow, and Now’s The Day, Now’s The Hour is just that – a good read. I love history, and I love music. I read a lot of the former and listen to a lot of the latter. I picked this manuscript up with a question in my mind and put it down with an exclamation in my heart! Make that a song. Many of you, like me, will find this to be a quick read. It is a fascinating book about a subject many of us have not thought or read about. The first part is history. The second part is music. Both are like two sides of the same coin, you can’t have one without the other. To the author, I simply say that I look forward to your next CD and maybe, one day, you will gift us with another book. Both will be winners! Or, to use the coin analogy again, both will be sterling!  (4/29/04)

Dream Catcher Publishing, Inc., owned and run by Dwan Guthrie Hightower of Clan Guthrie is proud to announce the release of Carl Peterson’s new book: Now’s the Day and Now’s the Hour.  It is a brief history of how Scotland remembers the Alamo. With poems, verses, songs, lyrics and musical scores of the music popular at that time and played at the Alamo.

This intriguing Scottish insight into the battle at the Alamo gives a completely and historically accurate look at the men who fought and died at the Alamo.

This book can be purchased from Dream Catcher Publishing 888-771-2800 or  850-647-3637 or  or or at all fine book stores.

Carl will be selling his book at Grand Father Mountain on July 8-11, dropped in at his tent and get a signed copy and an accompanying CD of the music.

Return to June/July 2004 Index Page  |  Visit Frank Shaw's Page


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