THE BATTLE OF THE ALAMO

 

ANTONIO LOPEZ De SANTA ANNA

 

 

 

 

Between the years 1820 - 1830 approximately 25,000 Americans had settled in the northern Mexican  province of Texas. At first the Mexican government encouraged the migration, believing the settlers would cultivate the barren land and subdue the hostile Indian tribes. But the Americans soon became troublesome, choosing to ignore the Mexican governments policy against slave owning and demanding extensive rights to more self government.

In 1830 Mexico forbade any further American immigration to Texas and in 1835 the Mexican  government which was now under the firm control of military dictator General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna, attempted to bring Texas back under Mexican domination by garrisoning the province with troops. 

Santa Anna then advocated the removal of all foreigners and sent a force of 1200 troops  commanded by his brother in law General Martin Perfecto De C'os to remove all non Mexicans by force. By October De C'os had succeeded in occupying the city of San Antonio and quickly placed it under strict military rule.

On December 5th, 200 Texan volunteers under the command of Ben Milam, launched a surprise  attack in an attempt to retake San Antonio. The fighting was savage and bloody, raging house to house. This form of warfare was unlike anything the Mexican's had ever experienced and they began to surrender in droves.  

By December 9th, with over 300 dead and hundreds more wounded, De C'os had no further options but to surrender. The Texan victory was complete, with minimal losses of 40 men, but amongst these was the tragic loss of their commander Ben Milam.

The capitulation of San Antonio forced the remainder of the Mexican army back across the Rio  Grande river. The Texan victory brought instant recognition amongst the American settlers and they were now determined more than ever to achieve independence from Mexican rule.

News of the Mexican surrender infuriated Santa Anna who immediately assembled a large army of 8,000 men and marched north, determined to crush the rebellion and reclaim Texas as a province of Mexico.

On January 17th 1836, General Sam Houston assumed command of all revolutionary forces and sent  Colonel Jim Bowie and 30 men to San Antonio with orders to destroy the Alamo fortifications. 

When Bowie arrived both he and the local commander Neil, discussed Houston's order and both  came to the conclusion that it would be fool hardy to abandon such a defensible position.

Both men knew Houston needed time to raise an army capable of confronting Santa Anna on equal  terms. Neil however was forced to leave due to sickness thus leaving Bowie in overall command. Bowie then set about reinforcing the Alamo for the coming Mexican assault.

On February 2nd, Colonel William Travis arrived at the Alamo with a contingent of cavalry with David Crockett and his Tennessee volunteers following suit one week later. On February 23rd, Santa Anna arrived and easily occupied San Antonio.

Santa Anna then sent out his standard bearers to the Alamo with an offer of unconditional surrender. The Texan’s replied with a volley from the mouth of their cannons, Santa Anna now knew he would have to take the Alamo by force.

On February 25th, Santa Anna ordered two infantry battalions numbering 500 men to advance on the south west corner of the fort. The Texan's remained silent and motionless as the enemy force drew closer, when they came to within fifty yards, the defenders sprang to life opening fire on the Mexican's with everything they had at point blank range. 

The Alamo cannons tore huge gaps through the ranks of the enemy formation, which quickly lost cohesion and fell apart. The Mexican infantry attempted to regroup but it was to late, the Texan's had caught them completely by surprise and shot them down mercilessly, wiping out the entire attack almost to a man. 

Santa Anna was furious with this failure but wisely choose to hold off another attack, instead setting about organizing his army for a siege. Once completed, Santa Anna then ordered his cannons to fire upon the defenders for the next twelve days and nights, while his army remained encircled around the besieged fortress.

During the night of March 2nd, a last group of thirty reinforcements broke through the Mexican lines and joined up with their comrades within the Alamo, this would bring the total number of defenders to 180 men. 

The Mexican cannons continued to pound the defenders another three days, until on the evening of March 5th, Santa Anna called all senior commanders to his headquarters, informing them of his decision to crush the Alamo in one massive final assault.

From midnight onwards the Mexican forces slowly began moving into their attack positions. Just  before 5am, Mexican buglers broke the pre dawn silence along with cries of "Viva Santa Anna". Simultaneously four attack columns numbering a total of 3000 men rose up in one mass and marched forward toward the Alamo walls.

The Alamo cannons opened fire upon the advancing Mexican infantry shredding their ranks down wholesale, but they continued onward toward the Alamo walls. Although the Texan's were inflicting horrendous casualties upon the enemy, it soon became evident that as the Mexican's drew closer, the Alamo cannons could not depress far enough to continue firing upon them. 

As the Mexican's reached the walls of the fort, the Alamo cannons now became useless, leaving the defenders atop the walls with only their rifles and small arms fire to repel the assault. Weilding his sword to the very last Colonel Travis was shot in the head and killed instantly. 

 

DEATH OF COLONEL TRAVIS

 

 

 

Waves of Mexican infantry now began scaling the walls of the Alamo itself, the defenders in some  instances didn't have enough time to reload their weapons and resorted to wielding axes, shovels, clubs, anything that was close at hand in an attempt to hold the enemy at bay.

After suffering heavy casualties, the Mexican's finally succeeded in forcing the northern gate and stormed into the open plaza. The defenders quickly shifted all available cannons towards this breakthrough, firing point blank into the enemy onrush cutting them to pieces. 

As the Mexican troops poured over the walls and through the main gate, the fighting within the fort became more fierce and desperate. The defenders tried valiantly to hold back the waves of enemy infantry bearing down on them but their weight of numbers soon began to tell and eventually swept the Texan's aside.

       

ALAMO FORTRESS

 THE FINAL ASSAULT

 

 

 

It was in the hospital that a severely wounded Colonel Bowie along with many other dying Texan's were discovered and mercilessly bayoneted to death. Unable to hold back the enemy David Crockett and what was left of his Tennessee volunteers fled into the church to make a last stand. Many other defenders now began to jump the walls in a desperate attempt to escape the carnage, but they were easily chased down by Mexican cavalry and slaughtered.

The defenders still alive within the Alamo scrambled for cover searching out any structure or room that would afford them protection from the masses of Mexican infantry swarming the compound. Room by room the Mexican's systematically blasted away at the defenders barricaded positions with point blank cannon fire, followed by the rifle and then the bayonet. 

The last building standing was now the church were David Crockett and only 15 men remained  defiant. Colonel Morales now ordered all the captured cannons within the compound be positioned to the front of the structure. Without even an offer of surrender, Morales ordered the cannons to open fire. In one thunderous volley the front of the church disintegrated and the Mexican's rushed in to finish off the last of the defenders.

One of the very last survivors now grabbed a torch and raced towards the Alamo's ammo magazine  where hundreds of pounds of gunpowder was stored, but he was cut down by Mexican rifles only a few feet short of the stores. With this final act, the fighting stopped and the battle was declared over at 6:30am. 

In the thirteen day siege, for the loss of all one hundred and eighty men, the Texan defenders inflicted a staggering six hundred casualties on Santa Anna and the Mexican army.

 

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