Battle of the Alamo

In 1835, a Federalist army of Texan (or Texian) immigrants, American volunteers, and their Tejano allies captured San Antonio from Mexican forces during the siege of Bexar. Afterwards, most Texan volunteers returned home.

Two main roads led into Texas from the Mexican interior: the Atascosito Road and the Old San Antonio Road. Presidio La Bahia at Goliad and the Alamo at San Antonio blocked these approaches. Each of them served to alert the Texas settlements of an enemy advance.

At Bexar, James Clinton Neill tried to strengthen the fort. The chief engineer bragged to General Sam Houston that if the Mexicans attacked, they could “whip 10 to 1 with our artillery.” Unfortunately, on January 14, Neill told Houston that his people were defenseless.

Houston was not sure if Neill was the best person to protect Bexar. He said: "I have ordered the fortifications in the town of Bexar to be demolished. I will blow up the Alamo and abandon the place." Smith refused to authorize Houston’s plan.

James Bowie was impressed with the Alamo compound. Neill convinced Bowie that the Alamo was the only post between the enemy and Anglo settlements. Bowie wrote Smith to say that he and Neill would “die in these ditches” before surrendering.

Smith directed Lieutenant Colonel William Travis to report to Neill with his “Legion of Cavalry.” Only thirty men came. On February 8, David Crockett arrived with a group of American volunteers.

On February 14, Neill left to take care of his sick family. Bowie became commander of the volunteers and Travis the regulars.

Santa Anna’s army arrived in Bexar on February 23. Travis announced that they needed more men to protect the fort.

Santa Anna demanded that the Alamo surrender. Travis replied with a cannonball. Mexican artillerymen started trying to knock down the walls. The Texans had only one hope: that reinforcements would break the attack.

On February 24, Bowie fell ill, and Travis took full command. He sent a letter to the “people of Texas and all Americans in the world” telling them that he would never surrender or retreat, but his main message was a request for help. Few people responded.

Twelve days into the siege, Santa Anna attacked the walls from four directions. Texan gunners stood by their artillery. As 1,800 Mexican troops advanced into range, bullets ripped through their ranks. Shocked by the cannon and rifle fire, the Mexican soldiers stopped, regrouped, and moved forward. Soon they broke through.

The defenders withdrew to the Long Barracks. Many bloody battles occurred here. Travis and Bowie were killed. By dawn the Mexicans had won. The assault itself lasted only ninety minutes. Seven Texan fighters survived, but Santa Anna ordered them executed.

Although Santa Anna was victorious, 600 Mexican men were killed or wounded. Mexican officers led several Texas women, children, and slaves from the Alamo, allowing them safe passage.

Source: Battle of the Alamo
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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