Alamo is about to fall and needs your help! If social media had been around on this date in 1836, that might have been the trending item. On February 24, the former Spanish Mission, just outside the small village of San Antonio, was under attack by the Mexican army. Texas Colonel William Travis sent a message out on behalf of the troops who were defending the Alamo.
Today, the Ukraine and Venezuela join a long list of countries where protesters are storming government buildings and the respective federal governments are fighting to put down the opposition. Seen through the filter of 2014, the headlines which might have been written about the Alamo could easily be written today.
From Alabama, Travis moved to Texas in 1831. At the time, Texas was the northern most Mexican state. Shortly after taking the U-Haul to Texas, Travis became a leader of the growing opposition which wanted to overthrow the Mexican government and set up an independent Texas republic.
When the revolution began in 1835, Travis was commissioned a lieutenant-colonel in the army. Troops in San Antonio de Bexar were put under his command and the Alamo became his unofficial headquarters. Travis and his troops continued to shelter in the Alamo and that is where the Mexican force found the men on February 23, 1836.
The Mexican troops, under General Santa Ana, numbered more than 5,000 men. Although heavily outnumbered, Travis and the men in the Alamo declared that they were not about to give up. When Santa Ana called for their surrender on February 24, Travis gave his response. A shot from the Alamo’s cannon into the midst of Santa Ana’s troops.
Infuriated, the Mexican general ordered his men to stage a siege. Travis saw right away his disadvantage. Dispatching couriers with messages asking for reinforcements, Travis signed each plea with the now-famous line, “Victory or Death.”
Gonzales was a small hamlet close to San Antonio. Without a large population, it sent only 32 to help Travis and his men. The siege continued and on March 6, at 5:30 in the morning, the Mexican troops flooded through a breach in the outer wall killing Travis and 190 of his men. The men in the Alamo fought furiously and inflicted a huge loss on their enemy. Over 600 of Santa Ana’s men lay dead.
The Alamo became a symbol for the Texas revolution. Following the battle, the momentum turned in the Texans’ favor and remained that way throughout the remainder of the conflict. The next month, April, the central Battle of San Jacinto was fought. Led by Sam Houston, the Texans rallied under the battle cry of “Remember the Alamo” and went on to defeat Santa Ana’s army of 1,250 men. The next day, Santa Ana himself was captured. Seeing his cause as hopeless, Santa Ana ordered that all Mexican troops move back beyond the Rio Grande.
On May 14, 1836, Texas became an independent nation. In 1845 the US military used the building and grounds as a depot for storing weapons, munitions and food. The well known front of the building was designed by John Fries of the Quartermaster Corps in 1849.
San Antonio grew up around the old mission and today the Alamo is hidden between the feet of skyscrapers as taxis and buses go roaring by. As they rumble over the broken pavement, no one stops to think of the hundreds of Mexican men who gave their lives for their country or for the men inside the Alamo who were “the opposition.”
By Jerry Nelson