Remember The Alamo!

We have all heard the cry,“Remember the Alamo!” We know about Davy Crockett’s coon hat and the Bowie knife. Yet who among us knows what actually occurred – and why? It’s an interesting story.

Mission San Antonio de Valero, famed as The Alamo, was founded in 1718 by Spanish missionaries and secularized in 1793. The Alamo complex gradually became known as a battle site rather than a former mission. The Alamo Chapel pictured above is one of the world’s most recognizable facades.

A Very Brief History of the Battle of the Alamo

 (February 23 – March 6, 1836)

Once upon a time, the area we know today as Texas was actually Tejas, a state in Mexico that welcomed colonists from the United States. “Texians” are what immigrant colonists from the United States were called, whereas “Texans” (Tejanos or Tejans) were the Texan-Mexicans.

Under the regime of President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the Mexican government had become increasingly centralized, had abolished the Constitution, and passed laws that discriminated against the Texians.

Several Mexican states opposed the regime of President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna which became known in Mexico as the Mexican Federalist War.

In March 1836, the Texans and Texians together declared independence from Mexico as the new Republic of Texas.

Santa Anna vowed to personally retake Texas believing that the rebellion was due to interference by the United States of America. He led a force to San Antonio de Bexar where his troops defeated the defenders of the Texian garrison in the Battle of the Alamo killing almost all of the 187 defenders. The Texian bodies were stacked and burned.

In the early morning hours of March 6, the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. After repelling two attacks, the Texians were unable to fend off a third attack. As Mexican soldiers scaled the walls, most of the Texian fighters withdrew into interior buildings. The Long Barracks (above), where most of the fighting occurred, is also the oldest building in Texas.

Texans’ rallying cries, “Remember the Alamo,” became etched in Texan history and legend.

The side entrance to the Alamo chapel from inside the mission walls. Photography was not allowed in the chapel.
This beautiful massive Live Oak was approximately 40 years old when it was transplanted inside the Alamo in 1913. The base of the tree now measures 12-feet and its branches sprawl over 50 feet.

Only 46 days after the Battle of the Alamo, the Texians, buoyed by a desire for revenge, defeated the Mexican Army in a 18-minute fight on April 21, 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto and Santa Anna was taken prisoner. In exchange for his life, Santa Anna was forced to order his troops out of Texas, ending Mexican control of the province and bestowing some legitimacy on the new republic although it was never recognized by the Mexican government.

Texas succeeded in breaking with Mexico and became the sovereign Republic of Texas from March 2, 1836 to February 19, 1846. Mexico considered it to be a rebellious province during its entire existence. The United States of American annexed Texas as the 28th state of the Union on December 29, 1845 with the transfer of power occurring on February 19, 1946. The annexation triggered the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). Looks like a story for another day.
Almeron, Susannah and Angelina Dickinson took shelter in the Alamo upon the arrival of the Mexican Army. After the battle, survivors Susannah, her daughter, and several others were freed and told to spread the word to the Texians “that Santa Anna’s army was unbeatable.”
David Crockett (1786-1836) Frontiersman, American Humorist, Politician and Alamo Defender. “Davy” Crockett had become a household name by the time of his death at the Alamo on March 6, 1836, and is the best-known of the Alamo defenders. During the siege, Crockett tried to raise morale by telling tall tales and playing his fiddle during lulls in the fighting. It has been said that Santa Anna did not appreciate the festivities and ordered his men to respond with a chilling bugle call to remind the defenders inside the Alamo that death awaited them.
William Barret Travis (1809-1836) Lawyer, Soldier and Alamo Defender. Travis and a small company of men arrived in February 1836 to reinforce the Alamo. Travis’ definitive cry, “Victory or Death,” motivated the Texians. During the siege, Travis wrote the letter below addressed “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World.”

Fellow citizens and compatriots; I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country. VICTORY or DEATH.William Barret Travis Lt. Col. Comdt. P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.” Wikipedia

The Alamo Cenotaph, also known as The Spirit of Sacrifice, is a monument commemorating the Battle of the Alamo. The monument was erected in celebration of the centenary of the battle, and bears the names of those known to have fought there on the Texas side.
The cenotaph engraving says: Erected in memory of the heroes who sacrificed their lives at the Alamo, March 6, 1836, in the defense of Texas. They chose never to surrender nor retreat; these brave hearts, with flag still proudly waving, perished in the flames of immortality that their high sacrifice might lead to the founding of this Texas.
This side portrays James Bonham and James Bowie who led 30 volunteer defenders to the Alamo where they found a force of 104 men with few weapons and cannons, but little gunpowder. The day of the battle, Bowie was ill and confined to bed. The most common version of his death is that he died on his cot, “back braced against the wall, and using his pistols and his famous knife.” Stories of him as a fighter and frontiersman, both real and fictitious, have made him a legendary figure in Texas history and American folk hero.
On February 23, the bells of San Fernando (still only a parish church) sounded the alarm of the approach of the Mexicans. From a church tower Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna hoisted the red flag of “no quarter” marking the beginning of the siege. In 1938 the remains of the Alamos heroes were exhumed and entombed here.
San Antonio has a rich, but complex history. Part of this history is the number of nations that held sovereignty over the area, beginning with Spain and ending with the United States. The mural above includes buildings and flags associated with the various time periods, cultures, and nations. One of the most complicated periods in San Antonio’s history was when Texas seceded from the U.S.A. on March 2, 1861 after voters elected to join the Confederacy, although San Antonio’s citizens overwhelmingly voted to oppose secession and slavery.

Entrance to The Alamo is always free although a reservation for a timed entry is required to enter The Chapel. You can purchase an Audio Guide or pay for a Guided Tour or for a History Talk.

The Alamo website states: The Alamo is like no where else: the jewel of Texas heritage and a historic destination for the entire family. Discover the place that has attracted the world’s attention for generations.

We paid for the History Talk, but I wish we had done the Guided Tour instead because there was one building open only to those on the Guided Tour. We enjoyed our visit: the talk, the video, the displays were all informative and interesting. We left feeling somber and desiring to understand more. Writing these posts causes me dig a little deeper, if only on Wikipedia, so I can share with you. Remember The Alamo!

Want to learn more? A good story is the “Come and Take It” flag and the Battle of Gonzales.

Until next time when I will Meet You in the Morning for a bicycle ride on The Mission Reach.

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