I’m Remembering The Alamo.

(This was last year’s post, slightly edited and expanded, but it says what needs to be said.)

On this date in 1836, before dawn, the Alamo fell.

From the official Alamo website:

While the Alamo was under siege, the provisional Texas government organized at Washington-on-the-Brazos. On March 2, the convention declared independence and the Republic of Texas was born, at least on paper. The Alamo’s garrison showed its support for independence from Mexico by sending its own delegates to the convention.While they were unaware that Texas had declared independence, the roughly 200 Alamo defenders stayed at their post waiting on help from the settlements. Among them were lawyers, doctors, farmers and a former congressman and famous frontiersman from Tennessee named David Crockett. While the youngest was 16 and the oldest defender was Gordon C. Jennings, age 56, most defenders were in their twenties. Most were Anglo, but there were a handful of native Tejano defenders as well. Legendary knife fighter and land speculator James Bowie was in command before falling ill and sharing duties with Travis. Several women and children were inside the Alamo, including 15-month-old Angelina Dickinson. Just before the final battle, Travis placed his ring around her neck, knowing she would likely be spared. One of the last messages from the Alamo was a note from Travis asking friends to take care of his young son Charles.

The final attack came before dawn on March 6, 1836. As Mexican troops charged toward the Alamo in the pre-dawn darkness, defenders rushed to the walls and fired into the darkness. Travis raced to the north wall but was soon killed. Bowie was most likely killed in his bed, while reports differ as to Crockett’s death. Many believe Crockett survived the initial attack but was put to death by Mexican soldiers soon afterward.

Mexican soldiers breached the north wall and flooded into the compound. The fierce battle centered on the old church, where defenders made a last stand.

The battle lasted only 90 minutes.

From the San Antonio Express News:

BEXAR, Texas, March 6, 1836 — Alas, alas! Forever more, the name of the Alamo shall stand alongside that of Thermopylae in the annals of history as a tale of unmatched bravery to be handed down from generation to generation.

The bastion of Texas Liberty has fallen, and to a man, Lt. Col. William Travis and his fellow defenders — like the immortal 300 Spartans — have been martyred.

After withstanding an unrelenting siege of twelve days’ duration by one of the mightiest armies ever assembled on this continent, the walls of the old mission that had housed Travis (a man as brave as the fabled King Leonidas), Col. James Bowie, the Hon. David Crockett and some 200 other defenders were breached before the sun rose to-day.

Savagery was unleashed therein as a juggernaut orchestrated by the modern-day Xerxes, Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, swept over the Alamo….

Since I was a small boy, this episode in American history has moved me more than any other. It still does.  I first learned about the Alamo when I watched Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, swinging his rifle like a baseball bat at Mexican skulls, the last man standing, as behind him we could see more of Santa Anna’s soldiers pouring over the wall. We never saw Davy fall—my dad explained that this was appropriate, since nobody is sure how or when he died, unlike Travis and Bowie, and the last verse of the Ballad of Davy Crockett played…

His land is biggest an’ his land is best
from grassy plains to the mountain crest
He’s ahead of us all meetin’ the test
followin’ his legend into the West
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!

The politics and complexities of the Texas war of independence don’t alter the essential facts: a group of men of different backgrounds, under the command of three prototypical American figures—the pioneer (Crockett), the settler (Bowie), and the law-maker (Travis), all of whom were trying to recover from dark periods in their lives—chose to make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believed in fervently enough to die for, in the company of others who felt the same. It was, after all, the perfect ethical dilemma, the choice between an ethical act for the benefit of  society and a non-ethical consideration, the most basic one of all: staying alive. They all had the same choice, and rejected life for a principle.

All the other stuff is a distraction.

Here is the best current list of the Alamo’s fallen defenders, and a link to find out more about them. 

For a long time 187 was the famous number of the slaughtered Texans, but eventually historians determined that the number was at least 212. Another 43 combatants left the Alamo at some point and thus survived. Looking over the list, I am always amazed at how many entered the fort knowing that they were going to die. Many arrived as late a March 4.

I know—most of the names mean nothing to you, except the few famous ones. Scroll down the list anyway.

They earned it.

Juan Abamillo
Robert Allen
George Andrews
Miles DeForest Andross
Micajah Autry
Juan A. Badillo
Peter James Bailey III
Isaac G. Baker
William Charles M. Baker
John Ballard
John J. Ballentine
Richard W. Ballentine
Andrew Barcena
John J. Baugh
Joseph Bayliss
John Blair
Samuel Blair
William Blazeby
James Bonham
Daniel Bourne
James Bowie
J. B. Bowman
Robert Brown
James Buchanan
Samuel E. Burns
George D. Butler
John Cain
Robert Campbell
William R. Carey
M.B. Clark
Daniel W. Cloud
Robert E. Cochran
George Washington Cottle
Henry Courtman
Lemuel Crawford
David Crockett
Robert Crossman
Antonio Cruz y Arocha
David P. Cummings PVT
Robert Cunningham PVT
Matias Curvier
Jacob C. Darst
John Davis
Freeman H.K. Day
Squire Daymon
William Dearduff
N. Debichi
Stephen Dennison
John Desauque
Charles Despallier
Lewis Dewall
Almaron Dickinson
James Dickson
John Henry Dillard
James R. Dimpkins
Andrew Duvalt
Samuel M. Edwards
Conrad Eigenauer
J.D. Elliott
Frederick E. Elm
Lucio Enriques
Carlos Espalier
José Gregorio Esparza
Robert Evans
Samuel B. Evans
James L. Ewing
William Keener Fauntleroy
William Fishbaugh
John Flanders
Dolphin Ward Floyd
John Hubbard Forsyth
Antonio Fuentes
Galba Fuqua
William Garnett
James W. Garrand
James Girard Garrett
John E. Garvin
John E. Gaston
James George
William George
James Gibson
John C. Goodrich
Francis H. Gray
W.T. Green
Albert Calvin Grimes
James C. Gwin
John Harris
Andrew Jackson Harrison
I.L.K. Harrison
William B. Harrison
Joseph M. Hawkins
John M. Hays
Charles M. Heiskell
Patrick Henry Herndon
Pedro Herrera
William Daniel Hersee
Benjamin Franklin Highsmith
Tapley Holland
James Holloway
Samuel Holloway
William D. Howell
William Hunter
Thomas P. Hutchinson
William A. Irwin
Thomas R. Jackson
William Daniel Jackson
Green B. Jameson
Gordon C. Jennings
Damacio Jiménez
Lewis Johnson
William Johnson
John Jones
James Kenny
Andrew Kent
Joseph Kent
Joseph Kerr
George C. Kimble
John C. Kin
William Philip King
William Irvine Lewis
William J. Lightfoot
Jonathan Lindley
William Linn
Toribio Losoya
George Washington Main
William T. Malone
William Marshall
Albert Martin
Edward McCafferty
Ross McClelland
Daniel McCoy Jr.
Jesse McCoy
Prospect McCoy
William McDowell
James McGee
John McGregor
Robert McKinney
S.W. McNeilly
Eliel Melton
Thomas R. Miller
William Mills
Isaac Millsaps
Edward F. Mitchasson
Edwin T. Mitchell
Napoleon B. Mitchell
Robert B. Moore
Willis A. Moore
John Morman
William Morrison
Robert Musselman
James Nash
Andrés Nava
Andrew M. Nelson
Edward Nelson
George Nelson
James Northcross
James Nowlan
L.R. O’Neil
George Olamio
George Pagan
Christopher Adams Parker
William Parks
Richardson Perry
Adolf Petrasweiz
Amos Pollard
John Purdy Reynolds
Thomas H. Roberts PVT
James Waters Robertson
Guadalupe Rodriquez
James M. Rose
Jacob Roth
Jackson J. Rusk
Joseph Rutherford
Isaac Ryan
W.H. Sanders
Mial Scurlock
Marcus L. Sewell
Manson Shied
Cleveland Kinloch Simmons
Andrew H. Smith
Charles S. Smith
Joshua G. Smith
William H. Smith
Launcelot Smither
John Spratt
Richard Starr
James E. Stewart
Richard L. Stockton
A. Spain Summerlin
William E. Summers
John Sutherland
William DePriest Sutherland
Edward Taylor
George Taylor
James Taylor
William Taylor
B. Archer M. Thomas
Henry Thomas
Thompson
John W. Thomson
John, M. Thurston
Burke Trammel
William B. Travis
George W. Tumlinson
James Tylee, James
Asa Walker
Jacob Walker
William B. Ward
Henry Warnell
Joseph G. Washington
Thomas Waters
William Wells
Isaac White
Robert White
Hiram James Williamson
William Wills
David L. Wilson
John Wilson
Anthony Wolf
Claiborne Wright
Charles Zanco
Vicente Zepeda

 

36 thoughts on “I’m Remembering The Alamo.

  1. Yes, an interesting analogy to Thermopylae. If Texas were not so obnoxious about being Texas, the Alamo might be better known by Americans (maybe not, as this related to Texas as an independent country).

    The Butler who was killed may be a distant, distant relative. If you wander back several centuries, I am related to William Butler Yeats.

    I noticed a Marshall in the mix, as well. Any relation?

    -Jut

    • In actual fact, we’re not particularly obnoxious. We are, however proud, in part because of a wildly improbable history. And the Alamo IS fairly widely known. It was taught in American History in Pullman, Washington in Junior High School in 1953. Later, taking American History at High Point College in 1964, High Point North Carolina, the Alamo took up two days of discussion.

      “Thermopylae had it messenger of defeat. The Alamo had none”.
      General Edward Burleson in 1841 or 1842

    • if Texas were not so obnoxious about being Texas…

      ONLY independent Republic to become a state… ever. Believe in rugged individualism and personal responsibility. We are forever having elementary kids bussed in to see the Alamo: the struggle is ingrained in us from deep childhood.

      I remember the annual pilgrimage to San Antonio aboard a vintage school bus myself… grades 2, 3, and 5. (4 was cancelled, maybe due to an ice storm)

      Yup, we are proud of our heritage. 🙂

  2. I am not a native Texan. I move herr in 1985. Texans are proud of (and a bit arrogant about) their heritage. There is a defiance in the native Texan that is admirable. I wonder if transplants, or “Damn Yankees”, are softening that character trait.

    jvb

    • Nope. My wife, from Kansas City, Missouri was as proud a Texan as I ever met. I might have rubbed off on her, a bit.

    • I am a native Texan; I’d argue the pride isn’t in heritage, but the state itself. I suspect that there is no other state with so many things made in the shape of the state or with the state flag on them. You may not actually be a Texan unless you own something in the shape of the state or at least the “lone star in a circle” design. But we want all residents, regardless of origin, to be proud of the state as well. I once worked with a group of proud Texans that included people born and raised in Egypt, Malaysia, South Korea, and India. Sure there can be some politics and divisions, but I wish there existed this same level of pride at the national level.

      • Your point is well taken, but I’ll challenge your claim on having the most stuff in the shape of your state – I’m from Michigan and we put this mitten everywhere (you can see it from space!) 😀

        • You might have more state images per capita.

          Reminds me of a story, told by my soon-to-be-late father, about a cousin whose parents turned Mormon and moved to Utah in the late 40’s. Utah was always comparing themselves to Texas, it seems, and on a visit home one day she told my dad that ‘Utah has more per capita horses than Texas.’

          ‘I believe it,’ he replied. ‘You also have more rocks, trees, cars, and Hershey bars per capita than Texas.’ At her puzzled look, he continues, ‘You gots no capitas in Utah!’

          You gots no ‘capitas’ in Michigan 🙂

          • Which reminds me of a joke- a Texan, a Canadian, and a Michigander are riding horseback through the plains.

            The Texan pulls a bottle of tequila from his saddlebag, takes a swig, throws it into the air and shoots it. He says “In Texas we have plenty of great tequila, and bottles are free.”

            The Canadian pulls a bottle of whiskey from his own saddlebag, repeats the stunt, and says “in Canada we make plenty of whiskey, and bottles are free for us too.”

            The Michigander pulls a bottle of beer from his saddlebag, drinks the whole thing, tucks the bottle back into the bag, and shoots the Canadian. He turns to the shocked Texan and says “In Michigan we’ve got Canadians everywhere, but you can return bottles for a dime.”

        • Ah, but can you buy tortilla chips in the shape of Michigan? Blocks of cheese? Pasta? (Actually, quite a lot of our food is available shaped like our beloved state.)

          How about a house?

  3. Daniel W. Cloud is a relative on my wife’s mother’s side and James Kenney is a relative on her fathers side. The names mean something to us and we’re from Missouri.

    • Here’s the bio of Cloud:

      Daniel William Cloud, Alamo defender, son of Daniel and Nancy (Owens) Cloud, was born in Logan County, Kentucky, on February 20, 1814. He was a lawyer and, on his way to Texas, traveled through Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana with Peter J. Baileyqv, also a lawyer from Logan County. Both men enlisted in the Volunteer Auxiliary Corps of Texas on January 14, 1836, at Nacogdoches, as did B. A. M. Thomas, William Fauntleroy, and Joseph G. Washington,qqv all of whom were also from Logan County, Kentucky. With these four men, Micajah Autry, and two others, Cloud traveled to San Antonio de Béxar and the Alamo. They arrived after February 11 and became members of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, commanded by William B. Harrison. Cloud died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.

      And Kenney:

      James Kenny, Alamo defender, son of James Kenny of Kentucky, was born in Virginia in 1814. He immigrated as a single man to Texas in 1834, enlisted in the service on September 28, 1835, and served in Capt. Robert M. Coleman’s company until December 14, 1835. He then enlisted for another four months’ service. Kenny served in the Alamo garrison and died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.

  4. … Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!

    Trusting that this levity will not overly distress, I recall having heard that Davy Crockett had three ears: a left ear, a right ear, and a wild front ear.

  5. Thanks. Very interesting, not only the history but how you express it. You paint 187 plus wonderful heroes; who “chose to make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believed in fervently enough to die for”. And “They all had the same choice, and rejected life for a principle.”

    I do wonder. We tidy away so much when we write the stories. It is comforting and convenient when we can hold that our war dead chose freely to die for a wonderful cause.

    I must read some more, and not just Howard Zinn. If we could talk with our glorious dead, would they agree that they did not die in vain? It would be good to think so. Whatever ……. we should remember to tell them that it did make for a wonderful film.

      • And is your reading of history that this was the stark choice? Once the battle started there of course there may not have been a practical surrender option. But with the benefit of hindsight would you have ‘chosen’ to ‘reject life for a principle’ and if so what would that’ principle’ have been?

        • At some point, it was the stark choice. Col. Travis was clearly out to be a martyr, he said his goal was to make victory for Santa Anna more costly than defeat, he had been informed that the Mexicans would grant no quarter, and he knew that reinforcements were not going to make it in time. And the men in the garrison all knew it.

          • Yes, it is inspiring and very sad. ‘Inspiring’ as a demonstration of solidarity; dying with one’s mates as a hero rather than letting them down. Yes, we should eulogise our glorious dead. ‘Very sad’ in that it shouldn’t have happened : multiple cock-ups on both sides. Such a waste. Yes, “Remember (and learn the lessons of) The Alamo”. But we didn’t, we won’t , and probably never will.

            • Well spoke, and in many ways. Many of the lessons of the Alamo are clearer the more abstract the event seems, as you allude. Some of the lessons require knowing the layers, which are seldom taught. Santa Anna could have marched around the Alamo and saved a large chunk of his army while losing nothing: a lesson in not letting your adversary taunt you into self-destructive conduct. Davy Crockett’s fate is a Gilbertian lesson in the perils of becoming whom you have been pretending to be. Bowie’s was pure irony: the guy with actual experience in prevailing in violent battles against daunting odds was so sick that he was useless when it counted.

              But at the Alamo, there is a simple bronze plaque honoring the fort’s messengers who were sent out to convey news, in some cases learned that the mission was doomed, and a you say, returned to die with their friends, knowing that their loyalty would change nothing, but believing it was the right thing to do. A pure act against self-interest. It’s my favorite part of the story.

              • Note that many of the layers are still taught in Texas public schools… not as many as I learned, and certainly not in the (still?) required college course, but more than a skim over nonetheless.

                • Good for Texas. In Massachusetts, I was not taught anything about the Alamo at all. My Dad told me about it, Disney helped, and the John Wayne movie, for all its flaws, moved me greatly. Then I was given “A Time To Stand,” the book by the writer of “A Night To Remember.”

  6. This list of names is more than something we teach our kids in school here in Texas. More than dusty history.

    They are alive still, in the names of our counties, our lakes, our communities, our streets, and our children.

    You would not BELIEVE the shit storm created by the proposal to move the Alamo Cenotaph Monument, a memorial statue enumerating the Texan dead on the grounds in front of the Alamo, in preparation to upgrade the historical site to reflect World Heritage status. (The real name is ‘The Spirit of Sacrifice.’)

    It was placed there in 1936 (one hundred years anniversary) so is not ‘original.’ Moving it is no bueno, though.

    Funny story. Ozzy Osborne, in a drunken stupor, was caught urinating on the monument. He was banned from performing in San Antonio for 10 years.

    People still care about history and values worth dying for.

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