Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Alamo

Commander K. at the Alamo, San Antonio, TX
"The Cradle of Texas Liberty"

1836 was the momentous year in the history of Texas, Mexico and the United States.  In that year a small group of Texians and Tejanos gathered at a fortified church in San Antonio called the Alamo.  This was the year of the Texas Revolution.

The mission of the Alamo (http://www.thealamo.org/) had been built by the Spanish in 1744.  It was intended to help settle a desolate sparsely populated land and to convert native Americans, mainly Comanches, to Christianity.

In 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain.  Texas was still a desolate land with few settlers.  The Mexicans launched a campaign to bring more people to Texas by offering generous land grants.  The only catch was that new settlers had to convert to Catholicism and that slavery was illegal.  This brought many Americans, mostly from the Southern states, to Texas.  Stephen Austin was and American Impresario in the Texas territory who actually changed his first name to "Estaban".  Austin today is politically the "bluest" part of Texas.

Then the government in Mexico changed.  The dictator Santa Anna came to power.  Suddenly the Anglo immigrants seemed to be a threat to Mexican rule.

The occupation of the Alamo by about 250 Texians was a direct threat to Mexican authority.  From the Mexican perspective, the Alamo insurgency was the result of a failed immigration policy that needed to be revised and the rebellion put down.  Santa Anna arrived with a force of over 2,000 Mexican soldiers to subdue the mission.

The leaders of the Texas Revolution who became the martyrs at the Alamo had no desire for martyrdom.  Most had come to Texas to get rich.  They were not perfect people.  Many were slaveowners.  There were classic American stories of men who had come to Texas looking for life's "second chance".

Bowie Knife, Alamo Museum, San Antonio, TX
Jim Bowie, born in Kentucky, was a forger and a land swindler who was wanted in several U.S. states.  He had also invented the Bowie knife.  Bowie was ill (either pneumonia or tuberculosis) and bed-ridden for most of the Alamo siege.

In 1831 William Travis was an Alabama school teacher who abandoned his pregnant wife and child to make his way to Texas.  At age 26 the Alamo was his first command.  Travis brought his slave Joe to the Alamo.

David Crockett was a legendary frontiersman from Tennessee.  He was elected to Congress in 1826, but lost his re-election bid in 1834.  Crockett responded, "I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas."

Commander K. at Alamo
The siege of the Alamo lasted 13 days.  Travis wrote a famous letter begging for assistance...

Commandancy of the Alamo------

Bejar Fby. 24th 1836

To the People of Texas & 
all Americans in the world------

Fellow citizens & compatriots------

I am besieged, by a thousand 
or more of the Mexicans under 
Santa Anna ----- I have sustained 
a continual Bombardment & 
cannonade for 24 hours & have 
not lost a man ----- The enemy 
has demanded a Surrender at 
discretion, otherwise, the garrison 
are to be put to the sword, if 
the fort is taken ----- I have answered 
the demand with a cannon 
shot, & our flag still waves 
proudly from the wall ----- I
shall never Surrender or retreat

Then, I can on you in the 
name of Liberty, of patriotism & 
every thing dear to the American 
character, to come to our aid,
with an dispatch ----- The enemy is 
receiving reinforcements daily &
will no doubt increase to three or 
four thousand in four or five days. 
If this can is neglected, I am deter 
mined to sustain myself as long as 
possible & die like a soldier 
who never forgets what is due to 
his own honor & that of his 
country ----- Victory or Death 

William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt

Commander K. and the Texas Heroes
Tomb of Travis, Bowie and Crockett
San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio TX
Early in the hours of March 6 the final assault on the Alamo was launched.  This was a clever tactic on the Mexican side which allowed them to reach the outer walls with minimal casualties.  The bravery of the assaulting Mexican forces is indisputable.  Travis was one the the first defenders to be killed that night.  His slave Joe survived the battle.

Travis' defiant "Victory or Death" defence of the Alamo recalls Leonidas' defence of Thermopylae against the Persians.  "Come and take it" would  become a motto for Texans just as it had been for Leonidas.

Mexican forces had won a victory at the Alamo.  Due to the savage no quarter policy ordered by Santa Anna, it would prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for the Mexicans.  After the Alamo, Santa Anna also ordered the murder of over 342 unarmed Texian prisoners at Goliad.  Santa Anna's disregard of the rules of warfare exposed to the world his nature as a brutal tyrannical dictator; by these actions Mexico had forfeited its legitimate claim to Texas.

"Remember the Alamo" would become a rallying cry for Sam Houston's force of Texians at the decisive Battle of San Jacinto which took place the following month...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-battle-of-san-jacinto.html.

Alamo at night
Visitors to the Alamo who are familiar with the John Wayne movie may be astonished to learn that the remains of the Alamo Mission are right in the heart of the city of San Antonio.  It is particularly moving to see the Alamo at night when it vibrates an almost mystical aura.

Commander K. at Menger Bar, San Antonio, TX
Photo courtesy: Jim Hooper
After visiting to the Alamo, I suggest beating a retreat to the nearby Menger bar in the Menger Hotel (http://www.mengerhotel.com/san-antonio-dining/) for a tissue-reviving refreshment.  It was here that Teddy Roosevelt channeled the spirit of the Alamo to recruit the Rough Riders for the Spanish American war (see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2012/02/remember-maine-but-forget-war-lovers.html).  You will find a London connection here too; this bar is a replica of the bar in the house of Lords in Parliament in Westminster.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, Nina Kelly (Eaves), of Wolf City, Texas.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

1 comment:

Jak Severson said...

Learned more about the Alamo from your post than from my history major.