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Alamo now armed with Phil Collins’ collection

Phil Collins smiles as he speaks to the media with then Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, right, during a news conference on Oct. 28, 2014, in San Antonio. Phil Collins smiles as he speaks to the media with then Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, right, during a news conference on Oct. 28, 2014, in San Antonio. Bob Owen

Phil Collins, former rock star and one of the most successful figures in pop music history, has become a major force in preserving the story of the Alamo and the 1835-36 war for Texas independence, having donated some $15 million in artifacts last year to the state-owned historic site.

It may be years before all 204 documents, relics and pieces of battle ordnance, in what is believed to be the world’s largest private collection of Alamo memorabilia, are publicly displayed. But the former drummer for Genesis and solo artist has singled out several items among his most cherished artifacts, including a fringed leather musket ball pouch that David "Davy" Crockett, the Alamo’s most famed defender, is believed to have carried during the 1836 siege and battle.

In order to embrace the pouch’s authenticity, one has to accept the account of Mexican Lt. José Enrique de la Peña, who was at the Alamo and later wrote in a diary that Crockett was among several Alamo defenders captured, then executed under the order of Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna. Some refuse to part with the traditional narrative, the one Collins grew up with through television and movies, that Crockett fought to the death.

"People don't want to believe things that mean they have to rethink and disbelieve everything they've been brought up to believe," Collins, who grew up near London and now lives in Switzerland, told the San Antonio Express-News last year.

In his 2012 book, "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey," Collins cited a list of de la Peña’s belongings, written by an aunt after he died in 1840, tracing the story of the leather pouch. The list, written in Spanish, said the pouch, listed as "Numero 11," had belonged to "Don David Croquet of the site of the Alamo" and was given to de la Peña, presumably just before Crockett was executed.

In the book, Collins acknowledged that artifacts connected specifically to Crockett and other famous figures "are difficult to prove with sufficient provenance for the average Alamo enthusiast." But he said he’s been careful since he began collecting Texas artifacts in around 2002 to work with experts to authenticate every item purchased.

"I normally don’t buy anything that doesn’t have strong provenance," Collins told reporters at the Alamo in June 2014.

Collins’ other artifacts include a 26-pound howitzer shell, similar to one found at the Alamo, that was discarded by Mexican forces and unearthed in East Texas in 2000; a Bowie knife that belonged to Jesse Robinson, an early Texas settler who fought at the Battle of Concepción and Siege of Bexar; and a Spanish short sword, or espada ancha, that was popular with horsemen in the 1800s. The collection also includes the circa-1830s metal remains of a dual-barrel "over and under" flintlock pistol found on the Alamo grounds after being buried for more than 150 years.

Other items include documents, such as a receipt signed by Alamo commander William Barret Travis for "30 heads of beeves" to feed his men. The Spanish short sword and a Mexican howitzer cannon belonging to Collins are currently on display at the Alamo. More items from his collection are likely to be exhibited in the fall, said Kaye Tucker, Alamo liaison with the General Land Office.

Collins also has financed the transport of a 13-by-15-foot model of the 1836 compound from Georgia to the History Shop, a collectibles store just north of the Alamo, as well as an excavation below the shop that revealed horseshoes, ordnance and other items. He commissioned artist-historian George Nelson to produce eight 34-by-40-inch bronze panels tracing the evolution of the Alamo site from a mid-1700s mission to a modern plaza, at a cost of more than $20,000 each.

Aside from winning the gratitude of Texans, Collins has been named an admiral in the Texas Navy, an honorary designation bestowed by Gov. Rick Perry. Jerry Patterson, who just stepped down as Texas Land Commissioner, who is in charge of the Alamo, has said Texans are "deeply indebted to Phil Collins."

"He is giving us back our heritage," Patterson said.

Patterson has said it will take at least five years to raise funds, design and build a visitor center to display the entire collection. The Land Office has been working with the nonprofit Alamo Endowment to raise funds to preserve and improve the Alamo.

© Expressnews, by Scott Huddleston

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