James Clinton Neill could be the unsung hero of the Alamo and the battle for Texas Independence. It was his failure to obey Sam Houston's command to abandon the Alamo that left Texians in the mission and gave Texans their cradle of liberty.
Neill was on leave when the Alamo fell to Santa Anna, William B. Travis and James Bowie having assumed temporary command. Was he away because of illness in the family-as rumor has it-or to investigate the disappearance of $5,000 that Harry Hill of Tennessee had donated to the cause of Texas Independence? Colonel Neill soon joined Sam Houston as commander of the artillery at San Jacinto but was injured. Later he accepted appointment as an Indian commissioner.
The commander of the Alamo brought an unusual background to Texas. He had served in the Alabama legislature and had fought in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Included in this biography are details of Neill's Irish and American heritage, his part in the "Come and Take It" incident at Gonzales, and his work with the Constitutional Convention at San Felipe. Until now, James Clinton Neill has rarely received more than a footnote reference.