The following post was mostly assembled from past essays here about my favorite event in American History…
I will never forget my first visit to the Alamo, and seeing Texans weeping, openly, proudly, as they read the plaque with Travis’s words engraved on it:
Commandancy of the Alamo
Bejar, Feby. 24, 1836
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World
Fellow citizens & 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 & 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 & 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 & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.
William Barret Travis.
The story of the Alamo isn’t taught in schools outside of Texas. It wasn’t taught in my school, either: like most American history, I learned about the event though a thick mixture of pop culture, reading (Walter Lord’s “A Time To Stand” was a birthday present in 1961) and ongoing research. I recently completed “Texas Rising,” which was also just broadcast on cable as a mini-series starring the late Bill Paxton as Sam Houston. Historian Stephen Moore is a plodding writer, but he nicely puts to rest the currently popular politically correct slander that the defenders of the Alamo and the Texas rebels were fighting to keep their slaves, and trying to steal Mexico’s land. The Texians were opposing a dictator who had changed the terms under which they had come to the territory, and anyone familiar with the American character could have predicted what would happen when a despot demanded that they submit to unelected authority. The Alamo was a fight for liberty and democracy, and its martyrs exemplified sacrifice for principle and country.
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 about 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 moved me more than any other. It still does. I first learned about the Alamo when I watched Fess Parker as Davy Crocket, swinging his rifle like a baseball bat at Mexiacn 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 Crocket 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!
[A brief humorous note related to Davy: When my son was about three-years-old, I gave him a replica Alamo toy that included little plastic Mexican soldiers and models of the fort’s defenders, with identifiable models of Crockett, Travis, and Bowie. Grant let the prize within range of our first Jack Russell Terrier, Rugby’s more diabolical predecessor Dickens. Grant brought us Dickens’ sole victim, a headless plastic man. “Deedee eat!” he said sadly. Yes, it was Davy Crockett.]
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 (Crocket), 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.
The story of the Alamo should be told and retold, with its ethics lessons made clear and bright.
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 as March 4. They knew what awaited them.
Scroll down the list, and think about that. They earned our admiration and respect.
Miles DeForest Andross
Juan A. Badillo
Peter James Bailey III
Isaac G. Baker
William Charles M. Baker
John J. Ballentine
Richard W. Ballentine
John J. Baugh
J. B. Bowman
Samuel E. Burns
George D. Butler
William R. Carey
Daniel W. Cloud
Robert E. Cochran
George Washington Cottle
Antonio Cruz y Arocha
David P. Cummings PVT
Robert Cunningham PVT
Jacob C. Darst
Freeman H.K. Day
John Henry Dillard
James R. Dimpkins
Samuel M. Edwards
Frederick E. Elm
José Gregorio Esparza
Samuel B. Evans
James L. Ewing
William Keener Fauntleroy
Dolphin Ward Floyd
John Hubbard Forsyth
James W. Garrand
James Girard Garrett
John E. Garvin
John E. Gaston
John C. Goodrich
Francis H. Gray
Albert Calvin Grimes
James C. Gwin
Andrew Jackson Harrison
William B. Harrison
Joseph M. Hawkins
John M. Hays
Charles M. Heiskell
Patrick Henry Herndon
William Daniel Hersee
Benjamin Franklin Highsmith
William D. Howell
Thomas P. Hutchinson
William A. Irwin
Thomas R. Jackson
William Daniel Jackson
Green B. Jameson
Gordon C. Jennings
George C. Kimble
John C. Kin
William Philip King
William Irvine Lewis
William J. Lightfoot
George Washington Main
William T. Malone
Daniel McCoy Jr.
Thomas R. Miller
Edward F. Mitchasson
Edwin T. Mitchell
Napoleon B. Mitchell
Robert B. Moore
Willis A. Moore
Andrew M. Nelson
Christopher Adams Parker
John Purdy Reynolds
Thomas H. Roberts PVT
James Waters Robertson
James M. Rose
Jackson J. Rusk
Marcus L. Sewell
Cleveland Kinloch Simmons
Andrew H. Smith
Charles S. Smith
Joshua G. Smith
William H. Smith
James E. Stewart
Richard L. Stockton
A. Spain Summerlin
William E. Summers
William DePriest Sutherland
B. Archer M. Thomas
John W. Thomson
John, M. Thurston
William B. Travis
George W. Tumlinson
James Tylee, James
William B. Ward
Joseph G. Washington
Hiram James Williamson
David L. Wilson
28 thoughts on “Remember The Alamo Today, March 6, When The Fort Fell, And Entered American Lore And Legend Forever.”
“The story of the Alamo should be told and retold, with its ethics lessons made clear and bright.”
OOOO…coulda said “Big and Bright” evoking a Texas classic song…
“Deep in the heart of Texas”.
“a group of men of different backgrounds, under the command of three prototypical American figures—the pioneer (Crocket), 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.
Very movingly said.
As for the list of those killed, I don’t think it was much more than 200. While the official list at “183” came under scrutiny, I’ve not seen good arguments for more than 200. Yes, one can argue that many more “defended” the Alamo, but that would include guys who bailed before things got serious, or guys who were part of the Alamo “garrison” in the weeks and months preceding Santa Anna’s arrival.
William Davis, in “Three Roads to the Alamo,” guesses that as many as 40 total defenders comprised two “break-out groups” who escaped the fort at the peak of the battle. The 183 was the count of bodies burned in the emclosure, and Davis said there were two other pyres outside. His estimate was 220, but who knows.
Tracking people in that confusing time does lead to gaps. But I don’t think the Mayor of San Antonio (who was tasked with burning the bodies) explicitly claimed his 183 count was exclusively inside the walls. While I’m comfortable with there being many outside the walls, I’m sure his count would have included some of those nearer the walls.
The hard thing to accept, after years of exhaustive research into all known documents of men at the Alamo, men who left the Alamo, and men who arrived at the Alamo, that, accounting for 183 of 200 men (about 8.5% “forgotten”) seems reasonable, but pushing the number to 220 men requires us to assume that somehow 17% of the garrison is completely unknown…or even the more fanciful figures of 250-260 men, where we’ve forgotten almost 30% of the defenders.
The Texian accounts are all very consistent in logically arriving at a number between the traditional 183 and 200 men after assuming for some missing data. The Mexican accounts are all wildly inconsistent with each other.
(That is to say, I wouldn’t argue with Davis’ claim that up to 40 guys made a break for it…I’d love to think even more did so…why hang around when your point’s been made and further fighting after a loss is just a waste of lives)
I just don’t think we should use a guess of the number of break outs and automatically add that full amount to the traditional 180 or so defenders. Ruiz (the Mayor of San Antonio) would have had many guys hauling bodies around to consolidate for the burning, I doubt he ordered a freeze on operations until he personally walked to each body for a count.
(Here’s an interesting message board I periodically visit, run by guys who really dive into the available data)
I will say this, one of the more entertaining theories that I like, and it ultimately isn’t unreasonable, but still right on the edge or reasonableness is that the mysteriously hard to reconcile numbers that could account for the differing body counts, and would attribute the differences to bodies outside the Alamo, that Texan sources OF the Alamo would not have been aware of is, instead of a massive breakout…
what if there was a massive break in attempt?
You see, some researches have been able to deduce that while Sam Houston was gathering the Army at Gonzales, about 60 miles away, an itchier group of Texans had advanced to the Cibolo Creek crossing, about 20 miles away where Houston had placed some advanced scouts to keep tabs on events in San Antonio.
This group may have their own even more forward groups, or have had a group attempting to enter the Alamo like the famed Immortal 32, coincidentally at the same time as the final assault or as a result of hearing the havoc of the final assault.
Counter arguments here:
1) I don’t think Mexican accounts would have confused a break in with a break out.
2) A break in would most likely have been on horseback and no Mexican accounts indicate men on horseback in actions outside the Alamo.
3) I don’t think the forward party at the Cibolo Creek crossing would have been large enough to account for the body count discrepancies.
Like all theories regarding teh gaps in our knowledge about a battle where the only survivor refused to be helpful, it’s worth considering.
David suggested there were three pyres, a big one inside the enclosure and two smaller ones.
Some estimates say as high as 240!
Another good argument:
He doesn’t conclude a final number in his estimation but definitely considers it much higher than the traditional count.
“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 as March 4. They knew what awaited them.”
Prior to the Alamo, as far back as the earliest years of settlement, the colonist’s experience was that when one settlement called, the rest rallied. All operated under the notion that the rest of the Texans were doing what they could to get there.
Also this week, Thursday, March 5 was the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, which was touted by several of the founding fathers as the seminal event leading to the American Revolution.
A recent book that I really enjoyed is *Sam Houston & The Alamo Avengers* by Brian Kilmeade. It covers the events leading up to
the capture of San Antonio de Bexar and the surrender of the fort by General
Cos, what happened at Goliad, and the fortification and siege of the Alamo. A fine read for an adult or teen.
From the Traitorous Wikipedia page:
The new policies [of Republican México], and the increased enforcement of immigration laws and import tariffs, incited many immigrants to revolt. The border region of Mexican Texas was largely populated by immigrants from the United States, some legal but most illegal. These people were accustomed to a federalist government and to extensive individual rights including the right to own slaves, and they were quite vocal in their displeasure at Mexico’s law enforcement and shift towards centralism. Already suspicious after previous American attempts to purchase Mexican Texas, Mexican authorities blamed much of the Texian unrest on American immigrants, most of whom had entered illegally and made little effort to adapt to the Mexican culture and who continued to hold people in slavery when slavery had been abolished in Mexico.
Obviously, and definitely in this case, the history of the Alamo is a contested narrative. When the critical theorists confront the history, they must rewrite and represent the ‘official’ or ‘patriotic history’ and offer a ‘nuanced’ version. But what is the function of that? It seems to be that as the US was made, and is being made, into a MultiCultural Nation, the official history and the patriot’s history has to be modified, rewritten, reconfigured so as not to offend sensibilities. The government takes on this role to re-present the nation. It simply must.
So, when Mexican national comes to The Alamo they need to be presented with a *history* that accords with their romantic desire and their present political and social stance. But that is also applied to the son & daughter of the former Mexican national. History and historiography then conforms itself to the need of the audience but within a larger politicized frame. You can bet that during the phase of American cultural history when La Raza Movement ascended that the history of The Alamo was modified, either through truth-telling or by infusing and injecting it with some romantic interpretation that suited the purposes of those who made the modification. At some point you just lose all track of *reality*. There are so many competing stories that the truth becomes . . . irrelevant.
But what is the real, cold, unembellished, non-romantic, *fact-based*, true-as-rain telling of the Anglo take-over of Northern Mexican land? Haven’t I just alluded to it, right now? Even in that simple sentence, an *innocent question*, it is obvious that it challenges the ‘official version’ and the ‘patriot’s version’?
If such events (the takeover of vast land areas by an ambitious, energetic people operating under totally different premises than the ‘sleepy Mexicans’) can be told strictly in *real political* terms I think that the true telling does not have to operate against Anglo will. And it is Anglo Will that is on the verge of asserting itself in America again. Which is of course what really operates in the story. That is what The Alamo is about. The will of one people against another people. Two radically different peoples with radically different destinies. These are issues that touch, so obviously, on race & culture. But as we know that conversation cannot be had, though just a few short years ago such ‘truths’ were commonly understood. They are whispered about now. They are completely forbidden in our present, just as we are not allowed to tell the truth about African Americans when they, as a group, as a ‘nation’ if you will, are compared with Anglos and Anglo culture and Anglo will.
You are not allowed to see the truth, and you are not allowed to tell the truth. This is the Primary Rule.
However, it is through a true telling of history, and a true acceptance of the validity of Anglo will, as a principle of power, or the self-validation of Anglo will, that is the truer story about America. And certainly the America that is now being undermined by very aggressive types. One always has to refer to this idea-war. It is going on all around us.
One thing about the American racist right (as they might be called) is that they give themselves the right and the power to *tell the truth*. For example (though I have not read any such version) I wonder what David Duke would say about The Alamo — or Richard Spencer? I think that if they told the story it would be a *true* story, not an *embellished history* with romantic overtones. The United States is ‘an empire of the white man’s will’. This is a fact. It is a truer fact than any of the now-necessary retellings, re-descriptions, embellishments and historical bendings.
In this sense, America today — one of the americas I must add — wishes to tell a story that will help it reclaim itself from out of the grip of debilitating narratives. Assertion of power, heroism, glory, greatness. But how can it do this when it must also bend to the will of its multicultural subjects? What a dilemma.
[Curiously, though predictably, if you examine the Wiki pages of both Duke and Spencer you will find absolutely negative versions of personal history. The framing in absolute evil terms. What this shows (me in any case) is that it is imperative to revise both perception & history; to bend it, to lie about it, to misrepresent it. I take this as a ‘given’. It does not at all bother me or surprise me that this happens: it is necessary.
Oh well, just another day of deviant thought by a deviant mind . . . forgive me for I know that I am evil!
It is right to honor those who have so valiantly given their lives in such endeavors.
As is an annual personal tradition for me, I honored those that died at the Alamo with a simple moment of silent remembrance in the morning and then raising a glass or two in their honor after dinner.
Remember the Alamo!
Thank you, Steve. I, too, raised several glasses, as the man named William Irvine Lewis was a distant relative. I would like to believe I would have had the balls to stand with him, but I’ll never really know for sure.
The Alamo was certainly a turning point in the history of this country, and one of the seminal events that led to the Mexican-American War and the subsequent expansion of the United States into the Southwest. Were the defenders heroes? In the sense of men willing to stand up and die for a cause, certainly, although I’m not sure whether it’s more heroic to stand, fight and die, or to try to escape and renew the fight under more favorable circumstances. I certainly can’t applaud the Mexican army – what they did was a massacre, as much about Santa Ana’s ego as anything else.
Frankly, I’m surprised that the Alamo hasn’t come under fire in the current iconoclastic climate. There is certainly plenty of fodder for attacking the US/Mexico conflict if you are a revisionist: Mexico had already abolished slavery, the US hadn’t, the Mexicans had as good a claim as the US to the land up to the Rio Grande, the US was trying to bully Mexico into a subservient position, the leaders were all white, etc., etc. You could also pull up the San Patricio Battalions in Mexican service, composed of Irish expatriates who’d gone to a place where they could freely practice their faith, and the fact that the US military was not exactly Catholic-friendly at the time.
I think it’s only a matter of time before some revisionist history professor or author aims his rhetorical gun at the Alamo and the wider conflict, and the left jumps onto it, just like lately they’ve been jumping onto the anti-Confederate and anti-Columbus bandwagons lately. As I’ve pointed out, though, this isn’t about really any of the historical issues. It never has been. It’s about the left wanting to take away the foundations and reference points of Western and American society so that they can rebuild based on their ideology. A big part of that ideology is making America and Americans, especially Americans of European origin, permanently apologetic just for existing, and unable to feel anything other than guilt. In effect, it’s a secular version of Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” a verse frequently cherry-picked to make certain everyone knows they are sinners and therefore there is no reward for virtuous behavior – you only get saved if God wills it – so in addition to behaving yourself, you better listen up, defer to your religious leader, and do as he says. You also need to tear down the old idols that distract from the one truth. Just as St. Boniface cut down the Blood Oak and the Muslims smashed the Hindu idols, so now all this old traditional stuff has got to go. Just you watch.
Oh, the revisionism is well underway, though I expect this battle of the Alamo to be won by the good guys. It is disturbing that there was so little mention of the anniversary in the news media this year. Travis’s plan, as vainglorious as it seemed. worked because Santa Anna was a fool. He could have marched around the Alamo, and avoided 600 casualties, which might have helped him avoid losing Texas. The defenders’ sacrifice was not in vain.
Put another way, the *colored multitudes* that *you-plural* chose to flood the country with in the 1970s when the immigration patterns were altered from what they had always been (the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965), are now rising up to take democratic power. That is technically how a democracy works: demographics is destiny.
It is not that soon along will come a *revisionist professor* who will re-describe the history — reinterpret it aggressively in favor of those here serves — it is that that time is now. Demographics is destiny. They know this, they talk about it. In just a decade, more or less, white Americans are destined to be a majority in their own country.
And this is what you-plural, as dedicated American progressives, serve. You have no argument to oppose it. To oppose it involves *moral repugnancy*. It puts you in a bind. You freeze. You stand by, powerless, and watch as everything you value is taken from your hands. It is called dispossession.
There is no similar situation in all of human history. A people who stands by and watches — indeed contributes! directly! — to their dispossession. It is one of the most amazing psycho-civilizational situations that results from the tenets of The Cathedral.
The only way to oppose the Anti-Confederates is to take the side of the Confederates, and to turn against the entire direction in which Lincoln, and his lieutenants and accomplices, engineered for America. The huge & terrible mistake. The tolling of the bell of death for America. In order to *save America* you will have to turn against an aspect of The Cathedral: the tenets of the American progressive religion. Stop singing in that particular choir as it were.
It’s about the left wanting to take away the foundations and reference points of Western and American society so that they can rebuild based on their ideology.
Yes, but you have to make it clear that it is a specific demographic that is non-white, with the aid of *traitorous* whites (with whom you have a spiritual link) who have *sold their brothers & sisters out*. They gargle in that ugly choir, they serve the process of dispossession because it is a religious tenet of their belief. They have no alternative, as you have no alternative, except that they do it willingly and with zealousness, but you-plural do it with at least some awareness that you will lose everything. You are losing everything, right now.
A big part of that ideology is making America and Americans, especially Americans of European origin, permanently apologetic just for existing, and unable to feel anything other than guilt.
Our enemies, therefore, are those among us who serve an enemy ideology. We have never defined them as ‘traitors’ and yet, in fact, this is what they are. They do not see themselves as such, just as you-plural do not recognize your complicity in what we are living today, and yet they are, in truthful terms, absolutely complicit.
I request refutation and yet I know that no refutation will come. Because this is a truthful assessment of our situation. We have to wake up to it.
…. white Americans are destined to be a minority in their own country.
Oh, so what?
The views I have are views I have thought through. There are very solid reasons behind them. The quick answer is: So that we don’t live in a national California.
Thank you, Jack. I fight back tears every time I go into the Alamo, which is fairly frequently. I’d like to think I could have stood with them, but at my advanced age, I’ll never know.
Gordon Cartwright Jennings, born in Windham, Connecticut in 1782, at 53, was the Alamo’s oldest defender. Davy was close, though, at almost 50.