Battle of the Alamo
|Battle of the Alamo|
|Part of Texas Revolution|
Texans failing miserably at keeping Mexicans on the other side of a wall
|Republic of Texas||Mexico|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Whoever was sober at the moment||Antonio López de Santa Anna|
|Casualties and losses|
|258 killed||400-600 killed or wounded|
An old Spanish mission near San Antonio swelters in the swooning Texas heat, surrounded on all sides by over 2,000 Mexican troops under the command of the charismatic devil-spawn known as General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Inside the mission, 260 soldiers of the Republic of Texas know that there is no hope for survival. Their defeat is imminent. Death stares at them, unblinking. But the brave soldiers hold their ground, steadfast in the face of an enemy that crushingly outnumbers them.
They carry with them a fighting spirit that will later lead their fellow countrymen into brilliant victory at the Battle of San Jacinto. Though this battle will last only thirteen days, its legacy will resound through the months to come, rallying the Texan Revolutionaries to fight ever-stronger for their cherished ideals of justice, freedom of religion, freedom of expression... and the right to beat an African slave within an inch of his goddamned life. This is not merely a siege where one side is surrounded, killed, torn apart, used as piñatas, and then thrown to the dogs—this is the Battle of the Alamo.
Back in the 1820s, when the Lone Star State was still a territory of the newly independent Republic of Mexico, Texas (named after the Caddo word for "fuck you, got mine") was a harsh frontierland beset by Comanche war tribes from the north, and American filibusters from the east. Mexico opened up Texas to settlement by American immigrants, who came by the thousands. The Mexican government hoped that by promoting foreign immigration to the sparsely populated frontier, the settlers would develop the land, fend off the Indians, and provide much needed capital and skilled labor.
Despite hopes that the Anglo immigrants would assimilate to the culture, the new settlers had no love for the distant government in Mexico City, and soon vastly outnumbered residents from Mexico. Fearing an American takeover of their territory, Mexico passed laws to curb American immigration, raise taxes, and bring Texas under federal control. America hadn't sent their best however, and rather than respect the rule of law, settlers flouted the authority of the Mexican government, bringing their slaves, Protestantism and undeclared fruit. Thousands of illegal American immigrants poured into Mexico, with their exotic language and their and boiled, unseasoned food.
Unrest among American settlers in Texas grew when Santa Anna—the posterboy for failing upwards—overthrew the old President and became leader. Santa Anna abolished the Texas state legislature and consolidated all power to him, offending the federalist sensibilities of Texian slavers. Santa Anna soon demonstrated that he was not just a massive killjoy—he was also a massive failure at History 101. Metaphorically shutting the gates of Mexican Texas to immigrants, he then made modest demands of the settlers—requesting politely that they do such things as pay more taxes, speak only Spanish, and abandon the Protestant God in favor of the Catholic one, named El Papa. Worst of all, he banned the selling and transfer of slaves in Texas. The Texians took umbrage at this grave injustice: What monster would deprive their fellow man the fundamental human right to own slaves?
The naturally-peeved Texans, fearing for the fate of their property, and bristling under the rules imposed upon them by the Mexican government, rose up in armed rebellion, demonstrating that you may occasionally mess with Texas—and you may even get away with it—but you definitely do not mess with a Texian's right to buy and sell black people. The Texas Revolution had begun in earnest.
Before the Battle
The Alamo was a crappy makeshift fort, ill-suited to defend against Native attacks, much less a large army with artillery. Colonel James Bowie and his thirty men, under orders from the strapping Sam Houston, were to remove the artillery and blow up the fort. Lacking the draft animals to move the cannons, Bowie elected instead to make his suicidal last stand there, to stop the Mexican army from taking Béxar. Unbeknownst to Bowie, his decision to doom himself and his troops to becoming Mexican shish kebab would inspire a humble territory to become its own independent nation. And then get annexed by the US. And after that join the confederacy. And then rejoin the US again. And then...
Finding himself low on supplies, Colonel Bowie requested from the provisional government "more men, money, guns, bullet-lead, cannonballs, cannon powder, biscuits, beef, salt pork, laudanum, and, for the love of the good, Christian God, more liquor!" But the provisional government refused, since Texans don't believe in handouts. Low on both ammunition and whores, the Texan soldiers fortified the old Mission, while Santa Anna and his troops gathered outside.
The Mexican army arrived at Béxar, fighting dysentery and the winter cold on their long march north. By February 23rd, 1836, 1500 Mexican troops had occupied the town and surrounded the fort. Santa Anna sought to avenge the humiliating defeat at the Siege of Béxar from months earlier, when his Brother-in-Law was captured by Texian rebels and made to do the watusi. Santa Anna declared all rebels to be "pirates", criminals who would be given no quarter and shot in sight: he ordered a blood-red flag to be raised, to signal that there would be no peaceful surrender.
The First Days
The defenders of the Alamo were in no position to hold out for a long-term siege. They had cannons, and guns to spare, but each night the enemy batteries inched closer, and food and water grew scarce. William Travis wrote letters to the public, asking for volunteers who would march to the Alamo, lest they be "shredded by musket-fire, and turned to carnitas." Few volunteers would make it in time to reinforce the garrisoned troops, besides thirty-two cavalrymen from Gonzales. The Provisional Government was in shambles, and a relief force of 320 men from Goliad, led by the chronically indecisive Colonel James Fannin, made it less than a mile before turning back. The rest were pushed back by Mexican troops.
Due to food poisoning from a spoiled Mangonada, James Bowie became severely ill and was bed ridden the rest of the siege. He left command of the fort to the handsome William Travis, a good choice for future purchasers of Alamo commemorative plates and medallions.
Line in the Sand
Legend says that on the eve of battle, William Travis—knowing that to defend the Alamo would mean their deaths—drew a line in the sand and asked every soldier willing to die for the Texian cause to cross it. Only one man refused to cross the line, and that he lived to tell the tale of his working self-preservation skills. It's more than likely that the story of Travis' line in the sand was a tall-tale invented to imbue honor and gravitas to what was otherwise an ugly, undignified death pit. Regardless, the Alamo defenders' courage in the face of impending doom became an enduring symbol of the benefits of peer pressure.
The Final Battle
By 10 p.m. the Mexican artillery barrage had ceased. The exhausted Texians soon fell asleep, just as Santa Anna had planned. Santa Anna hoped that a night assault would catch the defenders with their pants down. At 5:30 a.m. Mexican troops advanced in silence. The Texian scouts posted outside the walls had been killed in their sleep. The Mexican troops had made it within musket range of the fort undetected, when the silence was pierced by screams of "¡Viva Santa Anna!" and "¡Ay, me duelen los pies!" The ruckus quickly woke the sleeping defenders.
They're Coming Outta the Goddamn Walls!
Although they were taken by surprise, the Texians quickly repelled the initial wave of attackers. The Mexican troops were bunched up closely, making them easy targets for Texian cannon fire. Those who tried scaling the walls with ladders were quickly beaten back, and some of the Mexicans had shot their own men in the confusion. The Texians had leaned over the wall to shoot the attackers below them, which made them vulnerable to enemy gunfire. William Travis was among the first defenders to die, tripping over a dead Mexican and cartwheeling over the wall ragdoll-style before landing neck first on an unsuspecting soldier's bayonet.
The Texians pushed back the first two waves before Mexican troops finally breached the defenses of the Alamo, swarming over the makeshift north wall. The surviving Texians fell back to the chapel and barracks. Those who couldn't reach the inner buildings tried to flee, but were run down by Mexican cavalry. Davy Crockett likely died with his men, wielding their rifles as clubs in a doomed last stand outside the Alamo chapel.
After the dust settled, and the dead removed from the site, the bitter memory of the Alamo was seared into the minds of Texans everywhere, like a Maverick getting branded by a Mexican ranch hand, minus the part where the cow makes a final last stand and faces the oppression of the Mexican government. The only few survivors were innocent civilians, and women. Santa Anna thought that the defeat at the Alamo would cause Texans to lose hope, or even surrender, but, not even a defeat can defeat the stubbornness and resolve of the Texan soldiers. Immediately afterwards, thousands of Texans fled their homes in an attempt to escape the wrath of Santa Anna. The Mexican general also used his history of massacres and refusal of surrender to scare Texans into stopping the war, but the memory of the Alamo kept revenge alive in their hearts. Vindication was coming, and it was to be swift and painful.
Battle of San Jacinto
On 21 April 1836, 1,360 Mexican soldiers were stationed in present-day Harris County, Texas, minding their own business, tending to tedious tasks, or on "guard duty". To their disadvantage, they were completely surrounded by the San Jacinto River, and two bayous, leaving them isolated and vulnerable to a sneak attack. General Sam Houston, seeing an opportunity to make another stealth pun, had previously planned an afternoon ambush which would leave the guards off guard and unprepared to retaliate. Amidst the grassy plain, the forces crept closer into the camp, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. In the tension surrounding the stealth mission, one soldier yelled, "Remember the Alamo!", and the whole platoon told him to shush before attacking. Unable to counter attack, Santa Anna's soldiers weren't able to form their intricately proper row and column formation they constantly rehearsed, and were confused, scrambling to escape. At the time, the soldiers were also with their wives and children, so they didn't have much time to prepare for battle. In only 18 minutes, the fierce fighting was over, and Texas emerged the clear victor, killing at least 700 Mexican soldiers, while only sustaining nine deaths and thirty injuries themselves. The coward Santa Anna was finally caught, and the revolution was ended in a Texan victory, meaning Texas could become a separate nation. Free of the oppressive chains of the government, Texans could now oppressively chain more slaves than ever before.
Decades after the Battle of the Alamo, many people still remember and commemorate that fateful day. Museums have been made, and collectors have collected (often obnoxiously) Alamo memorabilia, and the site itself single-handedly saved the nearly nonexistent Texas Tourism industry; funds from the Alamo gift shop make up 8% of San Antonio's GDP. But, history is more than just money and how people have exploited it. The effects of the Battle changed the whole world as we know it, and showed the Earth Texas's fighting spirit and willingness to fight for freedom till the very end. Though some might say that the battle was more than just a simple dichotomy between good and evil, Mexico was trying to deprive Texas of its rights, and anyone who deprives you of something is obviously evil.
- According to legend, when news reached Santa Anna that the Texans were revolting, he replied, "¡Si, si! They're disgusting!" Historians to this day struggle with how that pun would've worked in Spanish.
- Okay, it was probably beknownst.
- It was a very good location for a mission, but a very poor location for a fort
- They would later be known as the Immortal 32, despite all of them dying pretty easily.
- He and his men would later be massacred at Goliad after Fannin kept delaying their retreat. Don't be indecisive folks.
- Get yours at the Alamo Gift Shop, located at 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205.