- Battle of the Alamo
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=The Battle of the Alamo
Texas Revolution(against Mexico)
caption=Plan of the Alamo, by José Juan Sánchez-Navarro, 1836.
date=February 23–March 6, 1836
combatant2= flag|Republic of Texas|Burnet|size=22px
Antonio López de Santa Anna
commander2= William Travis†
Jim Bowie† Davy Crockett†
strength1=6,000 in siege
1,200 in assault
strength2=between 180 and 250
Siege: Around 100 killed, 250 wounded
Assault: Around 200 killed, 300 wounded
casualties2= All soldiers killed, except some women, children and two slaves
The Battle of the Alamo was fought in February and March 1836 in San Antonio,
Texas. The conflict, a part of the Texas Revolution, was the first step in Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's attempt to retake the province of Texas after an insurgent army of Texian settlers and adventurers from the United States had driven out all Mexican troops the previous year. Mexican forces began a siege of the Texianforces garrisoned at the Alamo Mission on Tuesday, February 23. For the next twelve days, Mexican cannons advanced slowly to positions nearer the Alamo walls, while Texian soldiers worked to improve their defenses. Alamo co-commander William Travissent numerous letters to the acting Texas government, the remaining Texas army under James Fannin, and various Texas communities, asking for reinforcements, provisions, and ammunition. Several times small groups of Texians ventured outside the Alamo walls, occasionally skirmishing with Mexican soldiers. Mexican forces received reinforcements on March 3. The Texians were reinforced at least once, when 32 men from Gonzales entered the fort, and may have received additional reinforcements. Additional Texas settlers and American adventurers gathered at Gonzales to prepare for the march to San Antonio.
In the early morning hours of March 6 the Mexican army prepared for a final assault. At 5:30 a.m. soldiers, divided into four columns, rushed towards the Alamo. Untrained soldiers in the columns may have fired hastily, killing or wounding their comrades. The Texians repulsed the initial attack as well as a second attempt. During the third Mexican advance, three columns of Mexican soldiers became massed against the Alamo's north wall. Santa Anna sent the reserves to the same location. Mexican soldiers soon scaled the wall and opened the gates to the rest of the army. Most of the Texian soldiers retreated into the long barracks or the chapel; several small groups who were unable to reach these points attempted to escape and were killed outside the walls by the waiting Mexican cavalry. Fighting within the Alamo shifted to hand-to-hand combat. The battle ended by 6:30 a.m.. Between five and seven Texians may have surrendered; if so, they were quickly executed on Santa Anna's orders. Most eyewitness accounts counted between 182 and 257 Texian dead, while most Alamo historians agree that 400–600 Mexicans were killed or wounded. Of the Texians who fought during the battle, only two survived: Travis's slave, Joe, as a noncombatant, and Brigido Guerrero, who had deserted from the Mexican Army several months before, convinced Mexican soldiers that he had been taken prisoner by the Texians. Women and children, primarily family members of the Texian soldiers, were questioned by Santa Anna and then released.
On Santa Anna's orders, three of the survivors–Joe,
Susanna Dickinson, and her daughter Angelina–were sent to Gonzales to inform the Texas settlers of the Alamo's fall and to deliver a warning to the remainder of the Texian forces that the Mexican army was unbeatable. After hearing this news, Texian army commander Sam Houstonordered that the men who had gathered in Gonzales to aid the Alamo retreat; this sparked the Runaway Scrape, a mass exodus of citizens and the Texas government towards the east (away from the Mexican army). News of the Alamo's fall prompted many Texas colonists to join Houston's army. On the afternoon of April 21 the Texian army attacked Santa Anna's forces in the Battle of San Jacinto. During the battle many Texians shouted "Remember the Alamo!" Santa Anna was captured and forced to order his troops out of Texas, ending Mexican control of the province, now known as the Republic of Texas.
By March 24 a list of names of the Texians who died at the Alamo had begun to be compiled. The first history of the battle was published in 1843, but serious study of the battle did not begin until after the 1931 publication of Amelia W. Williams's
dissertationattempting to identify all of the Texians who died at the Alamo. The first full-length, non-fiction book covering the battle was published in 1948. The battle was first depicted in film in the 1911 silent film " The Immortal Alamo", and has since been featured in numerous movies, including one directed by John Wayne. The Alamo church building has been designated an official Texas state shrine, with the Daughters of the Republic of Texasacting as permanent caretakers.
In 1835, federalists in
Zacatecasrevolted against the increasingly centralist reign of Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 6.] The unrest spread to other areas of the country, and in October settlers in Mexican Texaslaunched an armed uprising, which became known as the Texas Revolution. By the end of the year Texas settlers had defeated all Mexican troops in the region. The last Mexican commander in Texas, General Martin Perfecto de Cos, surrendered in San Antonio de Bexar on December 9. He and his men were paroled back to Mexico on the condition that they not take up arms against those fighting for federalism again.Barr (1990), p. 56.] By the time Cos surrendered, many of the troops in the Texian Armywere recent arrivals to the region, primarily adventurers from the United States. According to historian Alwyn Barr, their presence "contributed to the Mexican view that Texian opposition stemmed from outside influences".Barr (1990), p. 63.]
After Mexican troops departed, approximately 400 Texian soldiers stayed in Bexar. Within several weeks, however, Colonel
Frank W. Johnsonand Dr. James Grant enticed 300 of the men to join them in preparing to invade Mexico, leaving Colonel James C. Neillto oversee the remaining 100 soldiers garrisoned at the Alamo Mission.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 29.] On January 6, 1836, Neill wrote to the provisional government:
If there has ever been a dollar here I have no knowledge of it. The clothing sent here by the aid and patriotic exertions of the honorable Council, was taken from us by arbitrary measures of Johnson and Grant, taken from men who endured all the hardships of winter and who were not even sufficiently clad for summer, many of them having but one blanket and one shirt, and what was intended for them given away to men some of whom had not been in the army more than four days, and many not exceeding two weeks.
Neill requested that an additional 200 men be sent to fortify the Alamo and expressed fear that his garrison could be starved out of the Alamo after a four-day siege.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 30.] The Texian government was in turmoil and unable to provide much assistance. A week after Neill sent his letter, the Texian provisional legislature impeached the governor, who in turn disbanded the legislature. The interim constitution had given neither party the authority to take those actions, and no one in Texas was entirely sure who was in charge.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 31.] In the confusion, four different men claimed to have been given command over the entire army:
Sam Houston, James Fannin, Johnson, and Grant. Neill chose to approach Houston for help, and on January 14 sent a message complaining about the lack of supplies, clothing, and ammunition. He also wrote that 20 of his men were planning to desert the following day, and that although he had heard rumors that Santa Anna was en route to Texas, the men did not have sufficient horses to scout the area.
Both the Mexican and Texian armies used the former Alamo Mission as a makeshift fort. The Alamo had been built almost 100 years previously to educate and convert the local Native American population. The complex sprawled across convert|3|acre|m2, providing almost convert|1320|ft|m of perimeter to be defended. An interior plaza ranged convert|150|yd|m long and convert|62|yd|m wide. To the west of the plaza lay the chapel, convert|75|ft|m long and convert|62|ft|m wide with convert|4|ft|m thick walls. To the south was a one-story building, convert|114|ft|m long, which served as a
barracksand was known as the Low Barracks. A wooden palisade stretched between the chapel and the low barracks.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 10.] On the east was the Long Barracks, formerly the convent, which was two stories high, convert|186|ft|m long and convert|18|ft|m wide.Myers (1948), p. 181.] At the northern corner of the east wall stood a cattle pen, with a horse corral between it and the plaza.Edmondson (2000), p. 364.] The walls surrounding the complex were at least convert|2.75|ft|m thick and ranged from convert|9|ft|m to convert|12|ft|m high.Myers (1948), p. 180.]
Described by Santa Anna as an ""irregular fortification hardly worthy of the name",Edmondson (2000), p. 129.] the Alamo had been designed to withstand an attack by native tribes, not artillery.Edmondson (2000), p. 128.] In the few months that Cos had supervised the Mexican troops garrisoned in San Antonio, he had ordered many improvements to the complex.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 10.] When Cos retreated, he left behind 19 cannon, including an 18-lber. After the Texians took control of the Alamo, engineer Green B. Jameson was assigned to further improve the fortifications. On January 18, Jameson wrote to Houston that, "You can plainly see that the Alamo never was built by a military people for a fortress".Lord (1961), p. 59.] After installing many of the Mexican cannons along the walls, Jameson wrote that the Texians could "whip 10 to 1 with our artillery".Hardin (1994), p. 111.] The walls boasted no firing ports, so Jameson constructed catwalks so that defenders could fire over the wall; this method, however, would leave the shooter's upper body exposed.Edmondson (2000), p. 131.] A scaffolding had been placed near the top of the roofless chapel so that men could fire over its walls. In several places, earthen breastworks were constructed several feet back from the walls to provide a secondary defense.Myers (1948), p. 182.]
Prelude to battle
Mexican Army of Operations
As early as October 27, Santa Anna had been making plans to quell the unrest in Texas. He stepped down from his duties as president to lead what he dubbed the Army of Operations in Texas, which would relieve Cos and put an end to the Texian revolt. Santa Anna and his soldiers believed that the Texians would be quickly cowed. The Mexican Secretary of War,
José María Tornel, wrote: "The superiority of the Mexican soldier over the mountaineers of Kentucky and the hunters of Missouri is well known. Veterans seasoned by 20 years of wars can't be intimidated by the presence of an army ignorant of the art of war, incapable of discipline, and renowned for insubordination."Hardin (1994), p. 98.]
The units comprising the Army of Operations were generally operating at under full strength, and many of the men were raw recruits. A majority of the troops had been
conscripted or were convicts who agreed to serve in the military instead of jail.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 20.] The majority of the soldiers were armed with Brown Bessmuskets, while the light infantry units carried British Baker rifles.Hardin (1994), p. 99.] The Mexican officers knew that the Brown Bess muskets lacked the range of the Texian weapons, but Santa Anna was convinced that his superior planning would nonetheless result in an easy victory.Scott (2000), p. 73.] As part of his preparations, Santa Anna orchestrated a warning to the American citizens who were flocking to Texas. At his behest, the Mexican Congress passed a resolution stating:
In this time period, captured pirates were executed immediately. The resolution thus gave the Mexican Army permission to take no prisoners in the war against the Texians. Santa Anna also sent a strongly worded letter toForeigners landing on the coast of the Republic or invading its territory by land, armed, and with the intent of attacking our country, will be deemed pirates and dealt with as such, being citizens of no nation presently at war with the Republic and fighting under no recognized flag.All foreigners who shall import, by either sea or land, in the places occupied by the rebels, either arms or ammunition or any kind for their use, will be deemed pirates and punished as such.Scott (2000), p. 71.]
Andrew Jackson, the United States president, warning that any Americans found fighting the Mexican government would be treated as pirates.Scott (2000), p. 74.] Although the letter was printed by at least one newspaper in New York, it was not widely distributed, and it is unlikely that most of the American recruits serving in the Texian Army were aware of that there would be no prisoners of war.Scott (2000), p. 75.]
By December 1835 6,019 soldiers had gathered at
San Luis Potosito march into Texas. Several of Santa Anna's officers argued that the Army of Operations should advance along the coast, so that they would be able to receive additional supplies via sea. Instead, Santa Anna ordered the army to Bexar, convert|400|mi|km from the nearest Mexican-controlled town. Bexar was the political center of Texas, as well as the site of Cos's defeat; Santa Anna wanted to restore the reputation of his family after his brother-in-law's embarrasing surrender. The long march would also provide an opportunity to train the new recruits.Hardin (1994), p. 103.] The men were accompanied by 21 fieldpieces, with 1,800 mules and 200 oxcarts to transport supplies. In late December, the army began the march north.Hardin (1994), p. 102.]
Progress was slow. There were not enough mules to transport all of the supplies, and many of the teamsters, all civilians, quit when their pay was delayed. The large number of "
soldaderas"–women and children who followed the army–reduced the already scarce supplies. The soldiers were soon reduced to partial rations, only convert|8|oz of hardtack each day. After reaching Saltillo, the army halted for two weeks so that Santa Anna could recover from an illness. Officers took advantage of the break to train the men. Many of the new recruits did not know how to use the sights of their guns, and many refused to fire from the shoulder because of the large recoil.Lord (1961), p. 67.] The march into Texas resumed on January 26,Lord (1961), p. 68.] and the army crossed the Rio Grandeon February 12.Lord (1961), p. 73.]
Temperatures in Texas reached record lows, and by February 13 an estimated 15–16 inches (38–41 cm) of snow had fallen. A large number of the new recruits were from the tropical climate of the
Yucatán, and some of them died of hypothermia. Others contracted dysentery. Soldiers who fell behind were sometimes killed by Comancheraiding parties.Hardin (1994), p. 105.] Nevertheless, the army continued to march toward Bexar. As they progressed, settlers in their path in South Texasevacuated northward. The Mexican army ransacked and occasionally burned the vacant homes.Scott (2000), p. 77.]
Houston had received the missives sent by Neill and Jameson and decided that it would be difficult for the Texians to hold the Alamo. He asked Colonel
James Bowieto take 35–50 men to Bexar to help Neill move all of the artillery and destroy the Alamo.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 31.] When Bowie and his men reached Bexar on January 19,Hopewell (1994), p. 112.] they found a force of 104 men with little supplies and gunpowder. [Hopewell (1994), p. 113.] The garrison also lacked draft animals, making it impossible for the artillery to be transported. Neill soon convinced Bowie that the fortress should not be abandoned.Hopewell (1994), p. 114.] In a letter to Governor Henry Smith, Bowie reiterated his view that "the salvation of Texas depends in great measure on keeping Bexar out of the hands of the enemy. It serves as the frontier picquet guard, and if it were in the possession of Santa Anna, there is no stronghold from which to repel him in his march toward the Sabine." The letter to Smith ended, "Colonel Neill and myself have come to the solemn resolution that we will rather die in these ditches than give it up to the enemy."Hopewell (1994), p. 115.] Bowie also wrote to the provisional government, asking for "men, money, rifles, and cannon powder".
William B. Travisto raise a company of 100 men to reinforce the Alamo; Travis was only able to recruit 30. Travis seriously considered disobeying his orders, writing to Smith: "I am willing, nay anxious, to go to the defense of Bexar, but sir, I am unwilling to risk my reputation ... by going off into the enemy's country with such little means, so few men, and with them so badly equipped."Hardin (1994), p. 117.] Despite his misgivings, Travis and his men arrived in Bexar on February 3. Five days later, Davy Crockettarrived.
On February 7, the Alamo garrison elected two men,
Samuel Maverickand Jesse Badgett, to represent them at the Convention of 1836, which would determine whether the Texian Army was fighting for independence or a return to Mexican federalism.Lord (1961), p. 81.] On February 11, Neill went on furlough, likely to recruit additional reinforcements and gather supplies for the garrison.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 32.] He left Travis, a member of the regular army, in command. Most of the men who had served under Neill and Bowie were volunteers, and they asserted their right to choose their own leader. Bowie, older than Travis and with a reputation as a fierce fighter, was soon elected. Bowie celebrated his appointment by getting very drunk and creating havoc in Bexar. Travis was disgusted, and Bowie was soon apologetic. Within two days, the men agreed to share the responsibility; Bowie would command the volunteers, and Travis would command the regular army and the volunteer cavalry.Hopewell (1994), p. 116.] Hardin (1994), p. 120.]
Mexican army arrival
The Texians were unaware that Santa Anna had begun his preparations the year before and were convinced that no action would have been taken until after Cos was defeated in December.Meyers (1948), p. 131.] However, as early as February 16, locals warned that Santa Anna was marching towards Bexar.Lord (1961), p. 86.] Lord (1961), p. 87.] Despite his own contempt for the accuracy of the rumors, on February 21 Travis, at the urging of Captain
Juan Seguin, released 15 of the Tejanovolunteers so they could evacuate their families from ranches south of Bexar.Hardin (1994), p. 121.] Petite (1999), p. 26.]
That afternoon, Santa Anna and his vanguard reached the banks of the
Medina River, convert|25|mi|km from Bexar.Lord (1961), p. 89.] With no idea that the Mexican army was so close, all but 10 members of the Alamo garrison joined about 2000 Bexar residents at a February 22 fiesta to celebrate George Washington's birthday.Nofi (1992), p. 76.] After learning of the planned celebration, Santa Anna ordered General Ramirez y Sesma to seize the Alamo while the garrison was unprotected; sudden rains halted the raid.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 36.]
Fearing the Mexican army's imminent arrival, many Bexar residents began to leave early the following morning. When Travis discovered their reasons for fleeing, he stationed one of his soldiers in the San Fernando church bell tower to keep watch. At approximately 2:30 that afternoon, the soldier saw flashes in the distance and rang the bell. Travis sent scouts to look for signs of an approaching army; they returned quickly, having seen Mexican troops convert|1.5|mi|km outside the town.
At this point there were approximately 154 effective Texian soldiers in the Alamo, with another 14 in the hospital.Lindley (2003), p. 87.] The garrison was completely unprepared for the arrival of the Mexican army and had no food in the mission.Edmondson (2000), p. 299.] The men quickly herded cattle into the Alamo and scrounged for food in some of the recently abandoned houses.Edmondson (2000), p. 301.] A few members of the garrison brought their families into the Alamo for safety. Among these were Alamaron Dickinson, who fetched his wife Susanna and their daughter Angelina, and Bowie, who brought his deceased wife's cousins, Gertrudis Navarro and
Juana Navarro Alsburyand Alsbury's young son into the fort.Lord (1961), p. 95.]
Travis quickly dispatched two couriers, one to Gonzales (convert|70|mi|km away) and the other to Fannin (convert|100|mi|km southeast), with pleas for reinforcements.Nofi (1992), p. 78.] By late afternoon Bexar was occupied by about 1500 Mexican troops, who quickly raised a blood-red flag signifying
no Quarter.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 40.] Travis responded with a shot from the Alamo's 18-lb cannon. Believing that Travis had acted hastily, Bowie sent Jameson to meet with Santa Anna. The Mexican general refused to meet with Jameson, but allowed Colonel Juan Almonteand Jose Bartres to parley. Almonte later said that Jameson asked for an honorable surrender, but Bartres replied "I reply to you, according to the order of His Excellency, that the Mexican army cannot come to terms under any conditions with rebellious foreigners to whom there is no recourse left, if they wish to save their lives, than to place themselves immediately at the disposal of the Supreme Government from whom alone they may expect clemency after some considerations."Todish "et al" (1998), pp. 40–41.] Travis was angered that Bowie had acted unilaterally and sent his own emissary to the Mexican army; he received the same response. Bowie and Travis then mutually agreed to fire the cannon again.Edmondson (2000), p. 308.] Although Santa Anna later reported that the cannon fire killed two Mexican soldiers and wounded eight others, no other Mexican officer reported fatalities from that day.Edmondson (2000), p. 304.]
The first night of the siege was relatively quiet. Under cover of darkness, the Mexicans erected an artillery battery near the Veramendi house.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 41.] Santa Anna also sent General Ventura Mora's cavalry to circle to the north and east of the Alamo to prevent the arrival of Texian reinforcements.Edmondson (2000), p. 310.] The following day, Wednesday, February 24, marked the first full day of siege. After scouting the Alamo defenses, Mexican soldiers established an artillery battery consisting of two 8-lb (3.6 kg) cannon and a mortar about convert|350|yd|m from the Alamo.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 42.] On the night of February 23, two new artillery batteries were established outside the Alamo walls. They held a combined two 8-lb (3.6 kg) canon, two 6-lb (2.7 kg)cannon, two 4-lb (1.8 kg) cannon, and two 7-in (180 mm) howitzers. One of the batteries was located along the right bank of the San Antonio River, approximately 1000 feet (300 m) from the south wall of the Alamo. The other was located 1000 feet (300 m) east of the eastern wall.Nofi (1992), p. 81.] Six hundred more of Sesma's troops arrived on the first day.Lord (1961), p. 107.] The reinforcements allowed Santa Anna to post a company of soldiers east of the Alamo, on the road to Gonzales.
On February 25, the Mexican army erected two more artillery batteries, one only 300 yards (270 m) from the Alamo.Tinkle (1985), p. 121.] The other was erected at a location known as the old Powderhouse, 1000 yards (910 m) to the southeast of the Alamo. The Mexican army now had artillery stationed on three sides of the Alamo, and each night they inched closer to the Alamo walls. Santa Anna soon heard rumors that a Texian relief force was approaching and Almonte and 800
dragoons were stationed along the road to Goliad to intercept them.Scott (2000), p. 102.]
The Mexican army was reinforced on March 3, when the Zapadores, Aldama, and Toluca battalions arrived. The Texians watched from the walls as approximately 1000 Mexican troops, attired in dress uniform, marched into Bexar's military plaza. The Mexican army celebrated loudly throughout the afternoon, both in honor of their reinforcements and at the news that troops under General
Jose de Urreahad soundly defeated Texian Colonel Frank W. Johnsonat the Battle of San Patricioon February 27.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 47.] Most of the Texians in the Alamo believed that Sesma had been leading the Mexican forces during the siege, and they mistakenly attributed the celebration to the arrival of Santa Anna. The reinforcements brought the number of Mexican soldiers in Bexar to almost 2,400. [Edmondson (2000), p. 349.]
The first fatality of the siege occurred on February 24, when Texians killed a Mexican soldier as he and other scouts crossed a footbridge over the San Antonio River; the other scouts quickly retreated. The following morning, about 200–300 Mexican soldiers crossed the San Antonio River and took cover in abandoned shacks approximately 90–l00 yards (82–91 m) from the Alamo walls.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 43.] Tinkle (1985), p. 118.] Several men volunteered to burn the huts, despite the fact that it was broad daylight and they would be within musket range of the Mexican soldiers. Those who remained behind provided cover with rifle and cannon fire.Lord (1961), p. 109.] The skirmish lasted approximately two hours.Tinkle (1985), p. 119.] No Texians were injured,Tinkle (1985), p. 120.] but two Mexican soldiers were killed and four wounded.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 43.] Mexican troops retreated into Bexar as the huts burned. That evening, Texians ventured out again to burn more of the huts and returned unmolested.Tinkle (1985), p. 122.]
The Mexican army kept up a consistent barrage of artillery shells. During the first week of the siege over 200 Mexican cannon shots landed in the Alamo plaza. The Texians often picked up the cannonballs and reused them.Petite (1999), p. 34.] At first the Texians matched Mexican artillery fire, but on February 26 Travis ordered the artillery to conserve powder and shot. Crockett and his men were encouraged to keep shooting, as they rarely missed and thus didn't waste ammunition.Hardin (1994), p. 132.]
A blue norther blew in that evening and dropped the temperature to convert|39|F. Neither army was prepared for the cold temperatures.Nofi (1992), p. 83.] Several Texians ventured out to gather firewood but returned empty-handed after encountering Mexican troops. On the evening of February 26, the Texians burned more huts, these located near the San Luis Potosi Battalion.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 44.] Santa Anna sent Colonel Juan Bringas to engage the Texians, and according to Edmondson, one Texian was killed.Edmondson (2000), p. 325.]
Texian troop movements
The sudden arrival of the Mexican army caught several Texians outside the fort. Fearing that they would not be able to reach the fort, four of them left the area and returned to their homes.Lindley (2003), p. 89.] At least one man was able to join the garrison early in the siege; on the night of February 23, Gregorio Esparza and his family climbed through the window of the Alamo chapel to join the Texians.Lord (1961), p. 105.] At some point on Wednesday, February 24, Bowie collapsed from illness,Nofi (1992), p. 80.] leaving Travis in sole command of the garrison. That afternoon Travis wrote a letter addressed
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World, which is, according to historian Mary Deborah Petite, "considered by many as one of the masterpieces of American patriotism".Petite (1998), p. 88.] Couriers brought the letter first to Gonzales and then to Governor Henry Smith in San Felipe.Petite (1998), p. 90.] The letter was eventually reprinted throughout the United States and much of Europe.
That letter was one of several that Travis sent pleading for reinforcements. The Texians believed that none of their early couriers had made it through the Mexican lines,Myers (1948), p. 200.] and on February 25 the Alamo officers elected Seguin to carry the next message to Gonzales. The officers believed that Seguin's knowledge of Spanish would help him to avoid capture by Mexican patrols.Tinkle (1985), p. 149.] Although Travis protested vehemently, believing Seguin's knowledge of the language, the countryside, and Mexican customs was invaluable, he was overruled and Seguin left that night.Lord (1961), p. 111.] He made it safely to Gonzales and found that the earlier couriers had also reached their targets. As the news of the Mexican army arrival spread throughout the Texian settlements, colonists gathered in Gonzales. There they waited for Fannin to arrive with more troops so that they could reinforce the Alamo.Tinkle (1985), p. 162.]
On the morning of February 26, Fannin and 320 men, 4 cannon, and several supply wagons began the convert|90|mi|km march from Goliad to the Alamo. By the end of the day, they had traveled less than convert|1|mi|km.Edmondson (2000), p. 324.] Nofi (1992), p. 95.] The following day the group returned to
Presidio La Bahiain Goliad. Fannin blamed the retreat on his officers, who he said requested that the trip be cancelled once they received word that General Urrea's army was marching towards Goliad.Scott (2000), p. 100.] The officers and men in the expedition claimed that Fannin decided on his own to abort the mission.Scott (2000), p. 101.]
According to historian Thomas Ricks Lindley, Fannin had sent a small advance force to scout the route to Bexar. This advance force encountered about 60 men from Gonzales near Cibolo Creek; the combined force then paused to await the arrival of the remainder of Fannin's forces.Lindley (2003), pp. 123–4, 127–8.] On February 27, some of the men from Gonzales became impatient and began their march towards Bexar.Lindley (2003), p. 130.] These men carried with them the first flag ever made for use in a Texian battle; the
Come and take itflag from the Battle of Gonzales.Tinkle (1985), p. 163.] That same night, Travis ordered Samuel G. Bastian to go to Gonzales "to hurry up reinforcements". According to Lindley, Bastian soon found the group from Gonzales and volunteered to lead them to the Alamo. In an interview several years later, Bastian said that the group encountered a roving patrol of Mexican soldiers. Four of the men, including Bastian, became separated from the larger group and were driven off. However, Juan Almonte's journal did not mention any skirmishes that evening. The following year, Santa Anna's secretary Roman Martinez Caro did report "two small reinforcements from Gonzales that succeeded in breaking through our lines and entering the fort. The first consisted of four men who gained the fort one night, and the second was a party of twenty-five".Lindley (2003), p. 131.] A total of 32 reinforcements reached the Alamo; in the darkness, the Texians thought this was a party of Mexican soldiers and fired, wounding one of the volunteers. The wounded man's English curses convinced the defenders to open the gates.Edmondson (2000), p. 340.] The reinforcements likely carried a letter from R. M. Williamsonwith news that men were assembling in Gonzales and would join Fannin in coming to their rescue.Lindley (2003), p. 133.] At this point, Lindley calculated that the Alamo should have had approximately 164 effective men.Lindley (2003), p. 139.]
According to Lindley, after Fannin's aborted rescue mission up to 50 of his men, most of whom had been in Thomas H. Breece's company of
New Orleans Greys, left Goliad to rescue their former mates in the Alamo.Lindley (2003), p. 137.] On March 3, these men joined the group waiting at Cibolo Creek for Fannin.Lindley (2003), p. 138.] That day in Bexar, Mexican reinforcements arrived. Probably in response, that evening Travis sent three men, including Davy Crockett, to find Fannin's force, which they still believed was en route.Susannah Dickinson mentioned this party in an interview in 1876.] Lindley (2003), p. 140.] Lindley stated that just before midnight, Crockett reached Cibolo Creek and found the force of Texians waiting convert|20|mi|km from the Alamo. Just before daylight on March 4, part of the Texian force managed to break through the Mexican lines and enter the Alamo. A second group was driven across the prairie by Mexican soldiers.Lindley (2003), p. 142.] Almonte's journal reported that there was an engagement that night, but that the Mexican troops had repulsed the assault.Lindley (2003), p. 143.]
On March 4, the day after his reinforcements arrived, Santa Anna called his senior officers together and proposed an assault of the fort. Many of the participants recommended that the battle wait for the two convert|12|lb|abbr=on cannons, anticipated to arrive on March 7.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 48.] A local woman, likely
Juana Navarro Alsbury, approached Santa Anna that evening and attempted to negotiate a surrender for the Alamo defenders.Edmondson (2000), p. 355.] According to many historians, this visit likely increased Santa Anna's impatience; as historian Timothy Todish noted, "there would have been little glory in a bloodless victory".Todish "et al" (1998), p. 49.] The following morning, Santa Anna announced to his staff that the assault would take place early on March 6.
That evening, James Allen became the last courier to leave the Alamo. He carried personal messages from Travis and several of the other men. [Edmondson (2000), p. 360.] Legend holds that at some point on March 5, Travis gathered his men and explained that an attack was likely imminent, and that the Mexican Army would prevail. He supposedly drew a line in the sand and asked those willing to die for the Texian cause to cross and stand alongside him. A bedridden Bowie requested that Crockett and several others carry his cot over the line, leaving only one man, Louis "Moses" Rose on the other side. Explaining that he was not yet ready to die, Rose deserted that evening. This episode was first mentioned in a newspaper article written thirty-five years later by a reporter who said his parents heard the story directly from Rose.Hopewell (1994), p. 126.] The reporter later admitted to embellishing pieces of the article, and as Rose had died by the time the story was published, the story could not be authenticated.Chariton (1992), p. 195.] Years after the story was published, Alamo survivors Susannah Dickinson and Enrique Esparza mentioned the incident, but many details conflicted. [Groneman (1996), pp. 122, 150, 184.]
At 10 pm, the Mexican artillery ceased their bombardment. As Santa Anna had planned, the exhausted Texians soon fell into the first uninterrupted sleep many had gotten since the siege began.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 51.]
Just after midnight on March 6 the Mexican army began preparing for the final assault.Edmondson (2000), p. 362.] The men were divided into four columns. Cos commanded the first column of 350 men, which comprised 6
line infantrycompanies and 1 light infantrycompany from the Aldama Battalion, as well as 3 line infantry companies from the San Luis Battalion. These men were assigned 10 ladders, 2 crowbars, and 2 axes.Edmondson (2000), p. 356.] The second column, consisting of 400 men under Colonel Francisco Duque, comprised 6 line infantry and 1 cazador company of the Toluca Battalion with the remaining 3 line infantry companies from the San Luis Battalion, who would have a combined 10 ladders. A third column, under Colonel Jose Marie Romero, contained 400 men from 12 line infantry companies, carrying 6 ladders. Colonel Juan Morales commanded the final column of 125 soldiers from light infantry and cazador companies, carrying 2 ladders.Edmondson (2000), p. 357.] Four hundred reserves, including five grenadiercompanies, remained in camp under the authority of Santa Anna, while the Mexican cavalry were positioned around the Alamo to prevent escape of either Texians or Mexican soldiers.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 50.] Each rifleman was assigned four rounds of ammunition and two flints, while grenadiers and scouts were given six rounds of ammunition each. Despite the bitter cold, the soldiers were ordered not to wear overcoats, which could impede their movements. Clouds concealed the moon, and thus the movements of the soldiers.Lord (1961), p. 160.]
At 5:30 a.m. Santa Anna gave the order for the soldiers to begin the assault. They silently moved forward, with veterans positioned on the outside of the columns to better control the new recruits in the middle. Cos and his men approached the northwest corner of the Alamo,Hardin (1994), p. 138.] while Duque led his men from the northwest to the breach in the north wall of the Alamo.Hardin (1994), p. 139.] The column commanded by Romero marched towards the east wall, and Morales's column aimed for the low parapet by the chapel. In front of each column ranged several lines of light infantry, poised to "pick off any defenders who showed their heads". Although the Texians had posted three sentinels outside the walls, the men had fallen asleep and were killed before they could give an alert.Tinkle (1985), p. 196.] Within the Alamo, only Captain John Baugh had remained awake.
When the Mexican soldiers noticed Santa Anna arriving at his position, they began shouting "Viva Santa Anna! Viva the Republic!". Jose Maria Gonzales, the bugler for the Zapadores Battalion, then sounded "Attention", then "Charge", then
El Degüello, which signified that no quarter would be offered the defenders.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 51.] The bugle anthems were soon repeated by bands from the other units. Baugh gave the alarm, and the Texians began rushing to their posts. Most of the noncombatants gathered in the church sacristyfor safety; according to Susana Dickinson, before running to his post, Crockett stopped briefly in the chapel to pray. [Edmondson (2000), p. 363.] As Travis ran to his post, he shouted, "Come on boys, the Mexicans are upon us and we'll give them hell!" and, as he passed a group of Tejanos, "!No rendirse, muchachos!" ("No surrender, boys"). By this point, the Mexican army was already within musket range. Each Texian had four or five pre-loaded rifles with him, and began immediately firing into the oncoming Mexican army.
In the initial moments of the assault Mexican troops were at a disadvantage. In their column formation only the front rows of soldiers at a time could safely fire.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 52.] Perhaps not realizing this the untrained recruits in the ranks "blindly fir [ed] their guns", and injured or killed the troops in front of them.Petite (1998), p. 113.] The tight concentration of troops also offered an excellent target for the Texian artillery. Lacking
canister shot, Texians filled their cannon with any metal they could find, including door hinges, nails, and chopped-up horseshoes, essentially turning the cannon into giant shotguns. According to the diary of José Enrique de la Peña, "a single cannon volley did away with half the company of chasseurs from Toluca".Hardin (1994), p. 146.] Mexican Colonel Duque fell from his horse after suffering a wound in his thigh and was almost trampled by his own men. General Manuel Castrillon quickly assumed command of Duque's column.Edmondson (2000), p. 364.]
Although some in the front of the Mexican ranks wavered, soldiers in the rear pushed them on. Soldiers of the first two columns gathered against the west and north walls, protected from Texian artillery and rifle fire.Edmondson (2000), p. 364.] Some Texians leaned over the walls to fire into the massed troops, which left them exposed to Mexican fire. Travis was one of the first defenders to die; struck in the head with a musket ball as he discharged both barrels of his shotgun into the soldiers below, Travis fell down the artillery ramp. Mexican Sergeant Becerra later reported that "Travis died like a brave man with his rifle in his hand at the back of a cannon."Tinkle (1985), p. 212.] Most of the Mexican ladders did not make it to the walls, as their bearers either died or escaped;Hardin (1994), p. 147.] those that arrived were poorly made. The few soldiers who were able to climb the ladders were quickly killed or beaten back. As the Texians discharged their previously loaded rifles, they found it increasingly difficult to reload while attempting to keep the walls free of ladders.
At the north end of the Alamo, the Mexican columns withdrew. Morales's column at the south retreated into huts near the southwest corner of the mission. The Mexican army regrouped and attacked again and were again repulsed. Now fifteen minutes into the battle, they attacked a third time. During the third strike, Romero's third column, aiming for the east wall, were exposed to cannon fire and shifted to the north, mingling with the second column. Cos's column, under fire from Texians on the west wall, also veered north, intermingling the three columns.Todish "et al" (1998), p. 53.] When Santa Anna saw that the bulk of his army was massed against the north wall, he thought the army was being routed; "panicked", he sent the reserves into the same area.Petite (1998), p. 112.] The Mexican soldiers closest to the north wall realized that a ladder was not necessary, as the makeshift wall contained many gaps and toeholds. One of the first to scale the convert|12|ft|m wall was General Juan Amador; at his challenge, his men began swarming up the wall. Amador located the
posternin the north wall and opened it, allowing Mexican soldiers to pour into the complex.Hardin (1994), p. 147.] The west wall had few defenders, and men in Cos's column began climbing through gun ports or boosting each other over the convert|11|ft|m walls.Edmondson (2000), p. 366.] As the Texian defenders abandoned the north wall and the northern end of the west wall, Texian gunners at the south end of the mission turned their cannon toward the north and began firing into the incoming Mexican soldiers. This left the south end of the mission unprotected, and Morales's men left the huts where they had taken refuge and raced to the mission. Within minutes they had climbed the walls and killed the gunners, gaining control of the Alamo's convert|18|lb|abbr=on cannon.Lord (1961), p. 160.] By this time Romero's men had taken the east wall of the compound and were pouring in through the cattle pen.
As previously planned, most of the Texians fell back to the barracks and the chapel. During the siege, Texians had carved holes in many of the walls of these rooms so that they would be able to fire. In the chapel, artillery officer
Almaron Dickinsonbriefly left his post at the cannon to run to the sacristy, where he yelled to his wife, "Great God, Sue, the Mexicans are inside our walls! If they spare you, save my child." After quickly kissing his wife goodbye, Dickinson returned to his post. The defenders in the cattle pen retreated into the horse corral. Those carrying weapons fired into Romero's column. The small band of Texians, including Alamo quartermaster Eliel Melton, then scrambled over the low wall, circled behind the church and raced on foot for the east prairie, where no Mexican soldiers could be seen. Sesma's cavalry was waiting, however, and attacked. Dickinson and his artillery crew turned a cannon around and fired into the cavalry, probably inflicting some casualties. Nevertheless, all but one of these Texians were thought to have been killed by lance; the last man was shot while hiding under a bush.Edmondson (2000), p. 367.]
Unable to reach the barracks, another group of Texians, stationed along the west wall, charged west for the San Antonio River. When the cavalry charged, the Texians took cover and began firing from a ditch. Sesma was forced to send reinforcements, and the Texians were eventually killed. Sesma reported that this skirmish involved 50 Texians, but Edmondson believes that number was inflated.Edmondson (2000), p. 368.]
Crockett and his men were also too far from the barracks to be able to take shelter,Lord (1961), p. 162.] and were the last remaining group within the mission to be in the open. The men defended the low wall in front of the church, using their rifles as clubs and relying on knives. After a volley of fire from Mexican soldiers and a wave of Mexican soldiers with
bayonets, the few remaining Texians in this group fell back toward the church. The Mexican army now controlled all of the outer walls and the interior of the Alamo compound except for the church and rooms along the east and west walls.