'The Man from the Alamo' is
as much a detective story as it is an account of the lives of Zephaniah Williams and John
Rees two of the main protagonists in the Chartist Uprising of 1839, an event that, in the
eyes of the world, propelled Wales into the cockpit of working class revolution.
Twenty-two men died during the attach upon Newport's Westgate Hotel when a detachment from
the 45th Regiment of Foot, hidden behind the hotel's shuttered windows, discharged their
muskets into the crowd. For waging war against the monarch, thirteen of the Chartist
leaders were indicated for High Treason in the last great show-trial in British legal
sentences, later commuted to transportation for life to Van Diemen's land (Tasmania), were
imposed on three ringleaders, John Frost, Zephaniah Williams, and William Jones. A fourth,
John Rees, alias 'Jack the Fifer' - 'The Man from the Alamo' - escaped to America, and
disappeared, until John Humphries uncovered his trail 160 years later.
A mystery man, who
stepped from the crowd to lead the Chartist onslaught on the Westgate, Rees had fought
previously in the Texas War of Independence, and was one of the few committed
revolutionaries in what the Government believed was a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy
and establish a republic. Zephaniah Williams was another shadowy figure.
A bankrupt mine owner and
beer-shop keeper, William had only a few months before the Uprising, narrowly escaped
transportation for hijacking a colliery owned by two of the most powerful men in Wales.
By reconstructing the
lives of Rees and Williams from previously undiscovered documents and sources, the author
probes the reasons for an event that continues to baffle historians. His investigation
extends from the 'Black Domain' of Monmouthshire's19th Century industrial valleys to
Ballahoo Creek in a remote corner of the Tasmanian bush, where Williams established a
Welsh mining settlement, and to the banks of the San Antonio River, which Rees swam after
escaping execution by the army of Mexican General Santa Anna.