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Remember the Alamo!

Why, 188 years later, we should still Remember the Alamo

By Sydney Alix

“We will use our best efforts to fight the enemy to such advantage, as will insure victory, tho’ the odds is greatly against us. I leave the result in the hands of a wise God and rely upon his Providence. My country will do justice to those who serve her. The rights for which we fight will be secured, and Texas Free.”

~ Sam Houston’s notes before the Battle of San Jacinto, April 19, 1836 (TSL)

The Texas Revolution. Remember the Alamo! Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Sam Houston. If you mention any of these names or events to children in America today—names and events that were once honored and revered in our country by Americans of all ages—you will, sadly, in many cases be met by a blank stare. If you search the internet for information on the Battle of the Alamo, you will almost certainly come across articles by revisionist historians detailing how the Texas war for Independence and the Alamo were the efforts of greedy, white Americans who wanted to seize control of Texas for their own financial gain, and the expansion of slavery. This despicable narrative is what is currently being propagated in our country today, and is also, in many cases, the “history” that kids in our schools are learning about the Alamo—if they are taught anything about it at all.

It is absolutely critical for us to study and know our nation’s history, not only so that it may inspire and equip us to face whatever may come in our day, but also so that we can recognize when it has been distorted and perverted, and work to educate those around us who are being deceived, for, as was said so truly by George Orwell, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” Or, as Ronald Reagan put it, “If we forget what we did, we’ll forget who we are.”

So what was the Texas Revolution really all about? Why should we, “Remember the Alamo?”

During the first part of the 19th century, the Mexican government (which had formally gained independence from Spain in 1821) created enticing incentives such as land grants to encourage Anglo settlers and traders to migrate to Texas. This was done with the hope that the new settlers would both revitalize the struggling economy, and help to control the waring Indian tribes that inhabited the wild Texas territory, terrorizing any who attempted to settle there. Before long, Texas was populated by mostly Anglo settlers, many of which had simply traveled to the Texas frontier in search of a better life. However, this hope soon began to dim as the Mexican government, which had at first appeared to be open and welcoming took a very tyrannical turn (D’Souza, D.).

The trouble first began in 1830, when the governmental structure of Texas was reorganized, customs duties imposed, and military garrisons ordered to be installed (D’Souza, D.). Mexico had originally established a republican form of government and drawn up a federal constitution in 1824, however, this new government proved to be very unstable and tumultuous. Ultimately in 1833, their newly elected president, General Santa Anna, decisively seized the reigns of power and quickly transformed the Mexican government, a change that would affect not only all of Mexico, but also its territories, including Texas. Santa Anna went on to totally dissolve the Mexican Constitution, and after declaring himself to be the dictator of Mexico, he went on to order all Mexican citizens to surrender their guns. Multiple Mexican states rebelled against his tyrannical orders, but Santa Anna was quick to crush them by unleashing the military on all who resisted his authority, inciting killings, looting, pillaging, and putting many of his prisoners to the sword (Federer, W.). In response to these acts of tyranny, the Texan settlers, led by Sam Houston, chose to revolt against Santa Anna and his despotic government. At first, the Texans did not wish to secede from Mexico, and merely entreated the Mexican government to adhere to its original constitution. Santa Anna, in return, answered their just demands with still more tyranny, which caused the Texans to ultimately resort to secession (D’Souza, D.)

On October 2, 1835, the growing tensions between Mexico and Texas culminated at Gonzales, when the Mexican army arrived to seize control of the Texan’s cannon in compliance with Santa Anna’s orders to disarm the Mexican citizens and settlers. Instead of surrendering to their demands, a small band Texans assembled to protect the cannon, resulting in a brief battle/skirmish that sparked the beginning of the Texas war for Independence. After the Battle of Gonzales, hostilities between Mexico and Texas escalated rapidly. The Texans, headed by Stephen Austen, proceeded to lay siege to San Antonio de Bexar (which was commanded by Mexican General Martin Perfecto de Cos), determined to seize as much ground as possible before the arrival of a larger and more formidable enemy force. During the siege of San Antonio, the Texans engaged the Mexican army in a brief struggle on October 28, 1835 called The Battle of Concepcion, which took place on the grounds of the Concepcion mission (Minster, C.), situated just outside of San Antonio. After a heated conflict, they forced the Mexican forces to retreat back to San Antonio, and captured one of their cannons (TheAlamo.org). The siege of San Antonio de Bexar went on to last from October through December, and on December 12, General Cos finally surrendered San Antonio to the Texans (Minster, C.).

San Antonio de Bexár was considered to be an important fortification, as it was situated on the main roads leading into Texas, thus controlling both supply and communication lines. After the Texans had captured San Antonio, they repaired and strengthened the Mexican entrenchments, and also fortified an old mission known as the Alamo, which was located on the town’s outskirts. All during this time, an overwhelmingly large force commanded by General Santa Anna was making its way to Texas, who had fully determined to utterly crush the Texas rebels, just as he had all others who had dared to stand against to his tyrannical rule (TheAlamo.org). Sam Houston, the commander of the rag-tag Texas army fully recognized the danger that the Texan’s cause for independence was in. He worked feverishly to recruit and train an army that would be able to withstand the enemy, but he found himself fighting a losing battle against time. The Alamo was commanded jointly be Colonels Jim Bowie and William Barrett Travis (who would later be joined by the renowned Davy Crockett and his small band of Tennesseans), who had both resolved to hold the Alamo at all costs. It was highly doubtful that the old mission could withstand a full scale enemy assault, but it was hoped that the Texans would be able to hold off the Mexican army long enough to buy Houston the time he needed to organize his army (Warren, R.).

On February 23, the first part of Santa Anna’s army streamed into San Antonio de Bexar. The Texans had fallen back to the Alamo, which was now heavily fortified, and defended by 18 cannons, and a small but fiercely determined band of 150 Texans and Tejanos (i.e. native-born Mexicans (TheAlamo.org)). Shortly after his army occupied San Antonio, Santa Anna sent a parlay to the Alamo to offer terms of surrender at discretion (which meant that he would decide the fate of the Texans if they chose to surrender). This offer was met by Colonel Travis with a shot from one of the Alamo’s 18-pounder cannons, sending a strong message of their resolve to the enemy, and sparking the commencement of the enemy siege. In response, General Santa Anna ordered that the blood-red ‘No Quarter’ flag be flown in order to display his barbarous intensions to the Texans (TheAlamo.org).

By the next day, the Mexican army had completely surrounded the Alamo (TheAlamo.org). Colonel Travis, who now retained full command of the Alamo (as Bowie had been taken severely ill and confined to his bed), wrote a passionate and heartfelt plea to, “The People of Texas and All Americans in the world…” urging them to come to the defender’s aid, and declaring his resolution to, “Never surrender or retreat,” and “Sustain himself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his own honor and that that of his country. Victory or Death (Warren, R.).” Meanwhile, the siege continued on, and the small band of Texan defenders held on resolutely through the days that followed, waiting for the reinforcement that they believed were sure to come. To their great joy, on March 2, 32 brave men from the town of Gonzales who had made their way through enemy lines to join them arrived at the Alamo. This brought the Texan garrison up to over 180 men (TheAlamo.org), however, the enemy forces surrounding the Alamo numbered in the thousands, leaving them still significantly outnumbered (Federer, W.).

While the siege at the Alamo continued unabated, over a hundred miles away, on the evening of March 1, 1836, Texas delegates met together on Washington-on-the-Brazos, and drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence. On the following day, March 2, 1836, the document was unanimously approved and signed, and Texas independence was officially declared (Minster, C.).

Back at the Alamo, by March 3, the small band of Texan defenders had received the grim news that there would be no one coming to their aid. Despite this, they courageously determined to fight to hold the Alamo to the bitter end, even if it were to cost them their lives. In the end, that is is exactly what happened (Warren, R.). On the Dawn of March 6, 1836 (now 188 years ago), on the 13th and final day of the siege (TheAlamo.org), the Mexican army succeeded in breeching the Alamo’s defenses, and a bloody, desperate, hand-to-hand conflict ensued (Warren, R.). The Texans fought with everything they had, but their small garrison could not hold off the overwhelming enemy forces forever. They were quickly overwhelmed, and all were systematically put to the sword (TheAlamo.org). True to his vow, Santa Anna ordered the execution of any Texans who surrendered, and further commanded that all the bodies of the Texan defenders be burned. Among the Texans who had fallen at the Alamo were the courageous commanders William Barrett Travis and Jim Bowie, and the legendary Davy Crockett (TheAlamo.org).

The news of the massacre at the Alamo spread like wildfire all over Texas, filling the hearts of the Texans with dismay and outrage. To further add to their grief and turmoil, on March 19, the Texas forces under command of James Walker Fannin were also completely overwhelmed and forced to surrender, after engaging in a desperate battle (which was later dubbed the Battle of Coleto Creek) with Mexican General Jose Urrea and his army just outside the town of Goliad. Fannin and his men were made prisoners, and escorted to the Presidio La Bahia (TheAlamo.org), a Mexican fortress located outside of Goliad (THC). Tragically, on March 27, 1836, Fannin and nearly all of his 350 men were executed the order of General Santa Anna, a horrific event which quickly became known as the Goliad Massacre (Federer, W.).

The sacrifice of the Texans who gave their lives at the battle of the Alamo was not in vain, for it was their brave stand that granted Houston the valuable time he needed to rally and prepare the Texan army to face Santa Anna. Santa Anna believed that his brutal show of force at the both the Battle of the Alamo and Goliad Massacre would strike fear into the hearts of the Texans, and firmly believed that his army would have no trouble annihilating that of his rag-tag rebel opponents. Little did he know how the murderous actions he had committed, and had hoped would wreak terror upon the Texan army would now come to work against him. On April 20, 1836, the Mexican forces finally caught up with and cornered Houston’s army at the San Jacinto river (Giorello, J). The news of the slaughter of their comrades had kindled a righteous fury and burning resolve in the hearts of the Texans which, in the end, would make their smaller force practically unstoppable. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston and his Texans attacked Santa Anna and his much larger army during what became known as the Battle of San Jacinto (TheAlamo.org). With, “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad,” as their battle cries, the righteous fury of Texans was worked up to such a fever heat that not only did their significantly smaller army put their foes to flight in a mere eighteen minutes, but their victory was so decisive as to force Santa Anna (who eventually was captured on the following day) to sign a peace treaty that granted independence to all of Texas (Giorello, J). Thus, the Republic of Texas was at last firmly established (TheAlamo.org), and though their troubles were not completely over, the Texans could now live as a free people, and eventually, in 1846, Texas would become a proud state of the United States of America (Winders, B.).

The history of the Texas war for Independence and the Battle of the Alamo are an incredible chapter in America’s history. From it, we learn of how a small number of freedom loving individuals were willing to give their all to stand against tyranny and oppression, and how despite overwhelming and seemingly impossible odds, they were at last able to triumph and become a free people. Though it cost them numerous untold hardships, and in many cases their very lives, these brave men valued freedom and their God-given rights (which no man on earth has the right to subvert) more than a life of “security” and relative tranquility and safety that would require an abject submission to tyranny.

Just as the Texans were willing to do all within their power to stand against tyranny, and preserve freedom for their children, may We the People of America resolve to do our part in our day to stand against any attacks upon our God-given rights, and ensure that the priceless gift of freedom continues to be passed down to the next generation.

“We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: none is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard, and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name (SMJ).”

~ Sam Houston’s address to the Texans before the Battle of San Jacinto

References:

D’Souza, D. (2014.) America: Imagine A World Without Her. Regnery Publishing. Warren, R. (1958.) Remember the Alamo! Random House, Inc.

Giorello, J. (2016.) Bunker Hill to WWI: Great Battles for Boys. Rolling Wheel Publishing.

Federer, B. (2023, March 5.) “Remember the Alamo-Remember Goliad”: History of New Spain & Texas Independence- American Minute with Bill Federer. Retrieved from: https://americanminute.com/blogs/todays-american- minute/remember-the-alamo-remember-goliad-history-of-new-spain-texas-american-minute-with-bill- federer

Minster, Christopher. (2020, August 28). Timeline of the Texas Revolution. Retrieved on March 3, 2024, from: https://www.thoughtco.com/important-dates-in-texas…

TheAlamo.org. (n.d). Battle and Revolution: Freedoms Worth Fighting For. Retrieved on March 3, 2024, from: https://www.thealamo.org/remember/battle-and-revolution

Winders, B. (n.d). July 4th: Independence and Annexation. Retrieved on March 4, 2024, from: https:// http://www.thealamo.org/…/independence-and-annexation

THC: Texas Historical Commission. (n.d.) The Presidio La Bahia State Historic Site. Retrieved on March 3, 2024, from: https://texastimetravel.com/…/presidio-la-bahia-state…/

TSL: Texas State Library & Archives Commission. (n.d.) Sam Houston’s Notes Before San Jacinto, April 19, 1836. Retrieved on March 4, 2024, from: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/exhibits/texas175/ houston_sanjacinto.html

SJM: San Jacinto Museum and Battlefield. (n.d.) Sam Houston: General, led Texians to victory at San Jacinto. Retrieved on March 3, 2024, from: https://www.sanjacinto-museum.org/Discover/The_Battle/ Commanders/Sam_Houston/

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