Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 38
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38 TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
From Page 36
tions, remove the artillery, and take the munitions to
Gonzales and Copano.
Bowie has been characterized by one writer as
"game hunter, fortune hunter, alligator wrestler, horse
tamer, gambler and, above all, knife fighter." He had
even smuggled slaves with French pirate Jean Lafitte.
The Bowie who arrived at the Alamo with his men on
Jan. 19 was also grief-stricken by the recent loss of his
wife, children and parents-in-law, who died in a cholera
epidemic in Mexico. Col. Neill refused to carry out
Houston's orders, saying that there were not enough
draft animals left to move the artillery. There were un-
doubtedly other reasons: San Antonio was a political
capital, and was seen as the linchpin to all of Texas.
Also, keeping the Mexicans busy in Central Texas kept
them away fom the settlements in East Texas. The
other men voted to stay, so Bowie stayed with them,
sending out a plea for men and supplies. Col. William
Barret Travis and 30 men answered his appeal, arriving
on Feb. 3. The 26-year-old Travis, described by some as
egocentric and supercilious, had persuaded Gov. Smith
to give him a commission. A native of South Carolina,
Travis had come to Texas and settled in San Felipe de
Austin to practice law.
On Feb. 8, the Alamo troops were joined by 50-year-
old David Crockett of Tennessee, who brought 12 men
with him. The well- known frontiersman and former
U.S. representative from Tennessee has been described
thus: "At his best he was honest, brave, noble, resource-
ful, blessed with abundant'horse sense,' independent to
a fault and able to tell a good story; at his worst, unedu-
cated, crude, violent, boastful, drunken, and even
clownish." When Travis offered him a high rank, he de-
murred, saying he preferred to be a "high private."
Three days later, Col. Neill left, placing Travis in
charge. The volunteers held an election and voted to
follow only Bowie. Bowie and Travis signed a letter on
Feb. 14 agreeing that Col. Bowie would command the
volunteers of the garrison, while Travis commanded
Travis badly miscalculated the situation on at least
two crucial points: He expected the Mexican troops to
wait until spring to move north. And he expected Fan-
nin to arrive from Goliad at any moment with 400 men.
But Santa Anna marched his troops northward
through the bitter winter weather. The Mexican army
was a duke's mixture of professional soldiers, presidial
soldiers, militia, impressed convicts and one battalion
of Mayan Indians who didn't speak Spanish and had
never been out of the tropics.
Among the Texans, boredom was rampant. Travis
sent out a steady stream of appeals for more men and
arms. He had sent several desperate pleas to Col. Fan-
nin at Goliad, all of which had been turned down. Travis
finally sent James Bonham to persuade Fannin. Bowie
and many of the other men were ill. By mid-February,
there were about 150 fighting men in the Alamo.
Some of the men ransacked nearby houses for grain
and herded the cattle they found into a corral on the
east side of the Alamo compound.
From Previous Page
the Alamo itself already belonged to the state. What
Driscoll saved was the convent.
De Zavala and Driscoll fought over the best way
to preserve the site. De Zavala wanted both chapel
and convent restored to demonstrate the site's use
as a mission. Ironically, Driscoll, who had saved the
convent, wanted it demolished, so that the chapel's
role in the Texas revolution would be emphasized.
A public hearing was held in December 1911, during
which de Zavala offered documentation as to the
importance of the convent. The convent was saved.
In its almost 300-year existence, the Alamo has
been many things to many people. It has served as
the chapel of a Spanish mission; quarters for troops;
housing for Indians, Tejanos and squatters; hospi-
tal; army supply depot; Masonic lodge; jail; com-
mercial store and warehouse; public park; tourist
attraction; movie set; and historic site. To Texans,
however, it will always be "The Alamo - Shrine of
Most defenders of the Alamo were relatively new to
Texas; most had not even been in Texas when the fight-
ing first started in the fall of 1835. They came from 18
different states and several European countries.
Santa Anna crossed the Rio Grande on Feb. 18 and,
by pushing his troops to their utmost, led about 1,500
men into Alamo Plaza on Feb. 23. Other units of the
Mexican army were on their way to join him. San
Antonio's civilian residents who had not already left
scrambled into the Alamo compound for protection.
Raising the red flag of no quarter from the top of
San Fernando parish church on Main Plaza, Santa Anna
sent an emissary to give Travis the chance to surren-
der. Travis answered with a cannon shot. Also on Feb.
23, Bonham returned from Goliad with Fannin's latest
refusal of aid.
Fannin finally started for San Antonio on the Feb. 26
with 400 men, four pieces of artillery and a number of
wagons. A wagon broke down and he turned back. He
remained at Goliad, drilling his troops. Bonham left the
Alamo yet again on Feb. 27 with what would be Travis'
final appeal to Fannin.
The men in the Alamo were slightly cheered by the
arrival on March 1 of 32 men from Gonzales, who had
eluded the Mexican patrols. The Gonzales reinforce-
ments must have known that death was almost certain.
But they also understood that keeping Santa Anna busy
at San Antonio would buy time for the rest of the Texas
Meanwhile, on March 2 at Washington-on-the-
Brazos, the convention delegates signed the Texas Dec-
laration of Independence from Mexico, a document that
echoed the United States Declaration of Independence
that preceded it by 60 years.
Travis sent his last appeal for help out of the Alamo
on March 3 . . the same day that Bonham dashed back
into the fort with the news that Fannin had once more
refused to come to San Antonio. According to the lone
adult Anglo survivor, Mrs. Susannah Dickinson, Travis
called his men together on the evening of March 5 dur-
ing a lull in the Mexican cannonade. He explained the
futility of their situation, and told them that if they did
not wish to stay, they could take their chances on leav-
ing. Only one man, Moses Rose, left.
There were probably between 18 and 21 cannon in-
side the Alamo compound, but not enough cannonballs
to sustain a long battle. When a cannonball was not
available, the men stuffed the barrel with jagged pieces
of broken rock and metal, creating a large shotgun. The
effects were devastating on massed infantry. But there
were not enough soldiers to keep them all firing at the
Most of the Alamo defenders were armed with hunt-
ing rifles, most often Kentucky or long rifles. These
weapons were slow to load, but very accurate to fire.
The escopetas of the Mexican army, on the other hand,
were 3rd model Brown Bess muskets purchased as sur-
plus from the British East India Company. They were
faster to load and fire, but their accuracy was mar-
No one knows why Santa Anna did not simply wait
out the Alamo defenders. But about dawn on March 6,
Santa Anna ordered his troops to attack. The Mexican
forces, numbering about 4,000 with the arrival of re-
inforcements, twice charged the Alamo compound,
and twice they were repulsed. Then they breached the
north wall. In an hour and a half, the battle was over.
Mexican soldiers tore down the flag of the New Orleans
Greys and raised the Mexican tricolor.
All the fighting men of the Alamo died. Those who
had been too sick to participate or were wounded were
killed on the spot. Santa Anna ordered the bodies piled
up and burned. After the Texan victory at San Jacinto
a month and a half later, remnants of the Texas army
buried the remains of the Alamo defenders, but no one
About 600 Mexican troops were killed or wounded.
At least 14 of the Alamo's non-combatants survived,
among them Susannah Dickinson, wife of Capt. Alme-
ron Dickinson, and their 15-month-old daughter,
Angelina; Travis' black slave, Joe; and a number of
Hispanic women and children - residents of San
Antonio who had sought protection in the Alamo.
As the Mexican army advanced to the east,
Houston's strategy was to pull back. As the army re-
treated, the civilians along the way desperately
packed up and moved out, too, in a headlong rush that
became known as the Runaway Scrape. Houston had
TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/42/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.