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October 19 • 11:34 PM
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Is Gen. Almonte really behind the name?



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April 07, 2010
Editor's Note: The following is the first in a series of guest columns submitted by Almont native Larry Bentz, now a resident of Clinton Township. Bentz holds BS and MBA degrees from Michigan State University and works in corporate finance. Bentz was surprised by what he learned when researching how his hometown got its name, challenging the traditional belief with evidence he gathered in this and upcoming installments.

When I was growing up in Almont, I was always told that our town was first settled in 1827, and had the names Bristol and Newburg before being named Almont in 1846, in honor of Mexico's General Juan Almonte (1803-1869). The school yearbook was named the Almonte and Almonters enjoyed dining at the Almonte Restaurant. However, I've always found it implausible—even abhorrent—that Almont is said to have been named for General Almonte, who was a devout enemy of the United States. Unlike today, relations between Mexico and America were hostile during his lifetime, due primarily to territorial disputes. He commanded troops in battle against American settlers in Texas ("Texians") who were aided by volunteers from America during the Texas Revolution (1835-1836), when Texas fought to gain independence from Mexico.

The most famous of these conflicts was the Battle of the Alamo (Feb.23-March 6, 1836), during which Almonte was one of 15 officers who served under the ruthless command of General Antonio Santa Anna, President of Mexico. Almonte was one of six aides-de-camp to Santa Anna and was his most trusted officer. Almonte favored immediate assault on the Alamo over negotiation. After Santa Anna's forces won the battle, he sent Almonte to order the 300 surviving Texian and American Alamo defenders to surrender unconditionally. Anyone attempting to escape was put immediately to the sword. In his private journal, Almonte wrote "our soldiers robbed me" when four women and a slave (all non-combatants) escaped without having been run through with a sword. The wounded were bayoneted and subjected to repeated rifle fire. The remaining survivors were tortured and then massacred. Their corpses were stacked into a huge pile and burned. American folk heroes, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, both died at the Alamo. Controversy rages as to whether Crockett was killed during the battle or captured afterward, tortured, and slaughtered. By most accounts, Bowie was stricken with tuberculosis and was bayoneted to death in his bed after he had emptied his pistols into Mexican soldiers advancing toward him.

A similar but less known incident, the Goliad Massacre, occurred on March 27, 1836. As at the Alamo, Almonte served under Santa Anna, who deceived the 450 Texians and Americans taken prisoner (including several non-combatant physicians) during the Goliad Campaign of 1836 into believing they would be released unharmed. However, he ordered their execution by rifle fire and bayoneting on Palm Sunday. As Santa Anna's most trusted officer, Almonte was a party to the atrocities at both the Alamo and Goliad, and Almont was named in his honor?

On April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston's Texian and American forces soundly defeated Santa Anna's troops at the Battle of San Jacinto in a surprise attack that lasted less than 20 minutes. Seeking vengeance for the atrocities at the Alamo and Goliad, Houston's troops charged Santa Anna's soldiers yelling "Remember Goliad!" and "Remember the Alamo!" Almonte led the last organized resistance of Mexican forces at San Jacinto. The defeated Santa Anna and Almonte were held as prisoners of war for several weeks. Almonte was court martialed by the Texian Army and sentenced to be shot but was released inexplicably.

Houston's decisive victory over Santa Anna at San Jacinto essentially ended the Texas Revolution and allowed the formation of the independent Republic of Texas, which included all of Texas and parts of five other present-day American states. Mexico refused to recognize Texas as independent. Almonte led Mexican troops into battle against Texans (formerly Texians) and Americans during subsequent bloody border skirmishes.

Almonte was serving as Mexico's Minister to the United States when Texas became our 28th state in 1845. In protest, he returned immediately to Mexico, stating that by annexing Texas, "America had committed the most unjust act recorded in history." Almonte despised America and Almont was named in his honor?

The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) broke out as a result of Texas statehood. Almonte served as Mexico's Secretary of War for the first year of that conflict. It would have been treasonous for Almont to have been named in honor of Almonte (especially in1846, the year cited for that event), when he was serving as Mexico's Secretary of War during the Mexican-American War. Several men from Almont served in that conflict. Had Almont really been named for Almonte, this would have meant these Almonters were defending their country against a nation whose Secretary of War was their hometown's namesake. Further, if Almont had been named for Almonte, wouldn't it be spelled as the Spanish "Almonte," instead of the anglicized "Almont?" Could there be another explanation or theory behind the town's name? From what I've been able to gather, the answer is yes.

Castle Creek
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