The Alamo was an heroic defeat which had to be avenged

Posted in America, Famous battles, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, War on Thursday, 12 December 2013

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This edited article about America first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 493 published on 26 June 1971.

The Alamo, picture, image, illustration

Defending the Alamo to the death

“Remember the Alamo!” That battle-cry reverberated wherever Americans gathered in the province of Texas in the 1830s. The mere mention of the word Alamo after the year 1836 was enough to make a Texan’s blood boil. It was a word that symbolised revenge – a battle-cry that called for a fight to the death.

Why should this be so? What was the Alamo and what happened there to arouse feelings of such intense bitterness?

In the 1820s, Texas was a province of Mexico – not as we know it today, as one of the United States. Most of its population were American settlers who had come to the province from the east coast of the U.S.A. They were sober-minded, fiercely independent, freedom-loving people, eager to develop the resources of their new land.

At first, the settlers had been encouraged by their Mexican masters. Then, finding that they were losing control of the Texan province, the Mexicans suddenly changed their policy. New immigrants were barred and new laws were introduced to restrict settlers.

The Americans of Texas now had to choose. Would they submit to Mexico, or would they fight for their independence?

The choice came easily. Almost to a man they had no intention of submitting their lush land to control and restriction. They would fight.

At this time, the President of Mexico was a man named General Santa Anna, a renowned and brutal fighter. When the Texan war broke out Santa Anna sent his troops, led by General Cos, into Texas and towards San Antonio, then the chief town of Texas.

With speed and assurance and not a great deal of opposition, Cos marched his army across the plains. In September, 1835, he was in battles with the Texan settlers, and by December he had concentrated his men on San Antonio. But things became so hot for him there that he eventually retired to a place just outside the town – a cluster of buildings called the Alamo, and a place that was to become famed in American history.

The Alamo had originally been built as a mission centre for the conversion of the wild Indians. Gradually, because it had never been safe from attack, it had been fortified: first by good friars and then by soldiers. As mission centres go it was a big place – covering two or three acres – and contained a square and several buildings.

General Cos did not spend many days cooped up in the Alamo. The Texans quickly stormed the place and forced the Mexicans to surrender. When Santa Anna heard of Cos’s defeat, he marched furiously for seven days across the plains to San Antonio, determined to avenge the humiliation. Swiftly, the tide turned against the Texans, led by their commander, Colonel Travis. It was now their turn to retire to the Alamo.

From the start, Travis’s position was desperate. He had a mere 145 men, and very little ammunition. Further, his men were scantily provisioned to withstand a siege from the 5,000 Mexicans marching into San Antonio.

On Sunday, 6th March, at 4 a.m., the Mexican columns took up their positions and advanced to the beat of drums. Suddenly, a bugle sounded and the Mexicans rushed forward. A fusillade of cannon and rifle fire bowled them over. Santa Anna rallied his troops for a second time, and they got to within a foot of the walls.

Again, the Mexicans were driven back. Then came a third, still more determined attack which managed to breach the north wall. Travis was killed. The Texans had to seek cover in the innermost buildings of the Alamo, while the Mexicans, having captured the guns on the outer wall, turned them upon the defenders.

Then the Mexican infantry charged into the Alamo buildings with fixed bayonets. Sheer numbers were against the Texans. In the last desperate moments, fists and knives were used to finish off the defenders. Only three women and a negro slave were allowed to live.

When the news of the massacre at the Alamo began spreading, revenge filled the Texan hearts. Not long afterwards, shouting their battle-cry, “Remember the Alamo” a Texan army led by General Sam Houston met Santa Anna at San Jacinto and crushed the Mexicans in a battle that ended the war.

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