Sandra CashMailbox 108 Why We Remember the Alamo Why do we remember the Alamo? What affect did it have and what caused it? Before one cantalk about the Alamo, one must understand some of the American and Mexican history leading up tothis battle. First, an understanding of the underlying American history, especially of Texas, isfundamental. In the same way, the background history of Mexico is important. This paper will alsoaddress the actual battle of the Alamo: what happened, and who survived. In the end, the events of theAlamo affected the course of history. During the 1840s, citizens of the United States were going west. The ideology known as“Manifest Destiny” was an important factor in this migration (Brinkley, 194). Manifest Destiny was theideology in which Americans, being very proud of being Americans, thought that it was God’s will andtheir historical destiny to expand the country’s boundaries. (Brinkley, 194) Due to this, Americansstarted expanding into Texas and Oregon. Americans were able to help colonize Texas, because Mexicosaw how well Austins colony was doing and wanted to keep their country growing in the same manner.They started to give monetary incentives to American colony founders, who were like Austin, and evengave huge territories of land to individual settlers (Infoplease). Mexico had finally gotten its freedom in 1821, and the hero of this revolution, Agustin deIturbide, became the emperor of the new nation (Paul). Iturbide allowed Americans to colonize Texas,so long as the immigrants were Catholic (Paul). While Americans colonized Texas, the Mexican Republicwas having problems self-governing. “It had 13 presidents in its first 15 years of independence” (Todd).Throughout this time, the United States had offered to buy Texas from Mexico twice, and was twice
refused (Brinkley, 194). Later, President Miguel Felix Hernandez founded La Constituciòn Liberal de 1824,infuriating Santa Anna and eventually leading to the battle located at the Alamo twelve years later (Paul,6). The 1824 Constitution left it to each state to control its own immigration and land policy(William, 254). Also during this time, Mexico enacted a colonization law, which granted inexpensive and,for four years, tax-free land to every American who chose to move to Texas (Brinkley, 194). Due to this,many Americans moved to Texas, for they could buy cheap land without paying taxes. Many of thepeople who moved to Texas were farmers who only wanted to have land they could own. During thisimmigration to Texas, Stephen F. Austin led several hundred families into Texas, establishing asettlement along the Brazos River, which is close to the Gulf of Mexico (Todd). Through the next 15 years, about 30,000 Americans went to Texas. By 1830, the majoritypopulation of the area was American, which concerned the Mexican government (Infoplease). SantaAnna seized power and became president of Mexico. Concerned about the ratio of Americans toMexicans in Texas, he enacted the Law of April 6, 1830 (Remember the Alamo). This law did three things.First, it prevented more Americans from immigrating into Texas and canceled all colonization contracts.Second, it prohibited slavery; and lastly it sent military to the Anglo colonies (Remember the Alamo)(Todd). In addition, Santa Anna decided to tax Texas’ trade with the United States (Todd). Now theTexans were outraged at these changes, especially at the ban of slavery, and the taxes on their tradewith the United States. Stephen F. Austin then decided to go to Mexico City with the hope of bringing individualstatehood for the American settlers, as was promised by the former Mexican government.Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in his attempt and was incarcerated until September 1835, when hereturned to the territory and found the settlers on the brink of mutiny (Todd). Santa Anna took the
Texans’ resistance to his new regulations as treason, so in 1835 he sent his army to wield his authority(Todd). The Governor of Texas, Henry Smith had a meeting with leaders like Austin Houston and SamHouston, so that they could try to gather a force and beg the United States to help them (Todd). A fewmonths after Mexico’s Independence Day in 1835, the self-proclaimed Amy of Texas took over Bèxarand the Alamo (Raul, 2). Paul, from Wild West magazine wrote this about the attack: Under Bed Milam, the attack on Còs’ troops in San Antonio de Bèxar happened. San Antonio de Bèxar was only 400 yards from the Alamo. This fight was unlike anything the Mexican army had ever experienced. Còs finally flew the white flag of surrender from the Alamo on December 9. More than 200 of his men lay dead, and many more were wounded. He signed papers giving Texans all the public property, money, arms and ammunition in San Antonio. By Christmas Day, the Mexican army was back to the Rio Grande. To the Texans, who lost about 20 men, including Ben Milam, the victory seemed cheap and easy (Paul). Santa Anna was not at all pleased to hear that Bèxar was taken over by the Texans. He started toprepare an army that would eventually grow to 6,000 soldiers, before he started to attack (Paul). Eventhough it was the middle of winter, Santa Anna drove his militia ruthlessly. This took a toll on the menand animals; many died and were left on the trail (Paul). Knowing that Santa Anna will be comingthrough San Antonio de Bexar, the Texans bickered whether they should fight there, or just retreat tothe coastal area (Todd). Houston, who was in charge of the Texas army, corresponded with GovernorSmith stating this: “…I have ordered the fortifications in the town of Bexar to be demolished, and if you should think well of it, I will remove all the cannon and other munitions of war to Gonzales and Copano, blow up the Alamo and abandon the place, as it will be impossible to keep up the
Station with volunteers, the sooner I can be authorized the better it will be for the Country [italics added+…” (Lindley, 7)This letter shows that Houston only recommended that the Alamo should be blown up, but did notactually order the Alamo to be blown up. Also with that letter, Sam Houston also dispatched Colonel JimBowie and 25 men to help blow up the Alamo (Lindley, 7). Governor Smith decided that it would taketoo long to move the cannons and would not blow up the Alamo. Instead, they would fight, even thoughit seemed like a losing battle. Colonel William Travis sent letters begging for supplies and more men. Inone of his letters he said, “To the people of Texas and All Americans in the World…I shall neversurrender or retreat….Victory or Death!” (Paul) On March 6, 1836, Santa Anna reached the Alamo and witnessed a Mexican Flag flying with“1824” across it. He ordered the Texans to relinquish the mission, but they answered by a cannon shot(Todd). He told his men to bombard the Alamo and raised a red flag, which meant take no prisoners.This began the 13-day battle (Paul). The Texans who fought were positioned all around the walls.Because of this vantage point, they killed and injured hundreds of Mexican militia (Todd). Santa Annaordered his men to fire around the clock, that way the army would get weary and would be easy todefeat, but the same was true for his army as well (Paul). After a while, the Mexican militia finally gotinto the Alamo by climbing up the walls in multiple places. After many Mexicans were over the walls and in the Alamo, Texans withdrew from the walls andbegan to make their last stand (Todd). Soon after this they started fighting hand to hand with knives,pistols, rifles anything they had left (Paul) (Todd). This was throughout the Alamo, and after 90 minutesto 2 hours of fighting hand to hand, it was over. Almost all the Texans were killed during the fight,except a few were imprisoned, but Santa Anna imposed his “take no prisoner policy” so they were killed(Todd). It is thought that there were only 32 survivors, which were women, children and slaves (Habig,
7). Gregorio Esparza’s son Enrique Esparza and his family, excluding his father, survived the attack, helater said this about the attack to the San Antonio Express: “…the families that were in the quarters just huddled up in the corners. My mothers children were near her. Finally, they began shooting through the dark into the room where we were. A boy who was wrapped in a blanket in one corner was hit and killed. The Mexicans fired into the room for at least fifteen minutes. It was a miracle, but none of us children were touched …” (Remember the Alamo: Survivors Stories)Santa Anna was not even going to be merciful to all the women, children and slaves; he only allowedsome of t hem to live. Plenty of other survivor stories relate that the Mexican army just shot into rooms.There was only one male survivor and that was the slave of William Travis, named Joe (Remember theAlamo: Survivors Stories). Joe fought with his master during the siege, while fighting during the siege hewas shot and bayoneted (Remember the Alamo: Survivors Stories). We have this information, becausean army officer told the story Joe’s story, which Joe himself never published, in a letter written in May1836: “…Travis sprung up, and seizing his rifle and sword, called to Joe to take his gun and *uncertain+… Joe followed his example. The fire was returned by several shots, and Travis fell, wounded, within the wall, on the sloping ground that had recently been thrown up to strengthen the wall. There he sat, unable to rise. Joe, seeing his master fall, and the Mexicans coming over the wall and thinking with Falstaff that the better part of valor is discretion, ran, and ensconsed [sic] himself in a house, from the loop holes of which, he says, he fired on them several times after they had come in…” (Remember the Alamo: Survivors Stories)Later when the Alamo was taken over he was brought to Santa Anna, who gave him back to the Travis’sfamily (Remember the Alamo: Survivors Stories).
After the bodies of the Texans, which included legendary Davy Crockett, were gathered up, theywere burned, with the exception of Jose Gregorio Esparza (Paul). He had a Christian burial due to thefact his brother Francisco was part of General Còs’ presidio guards (Paul). The Mexican casualties arenot certain. It is thought that it could be any number from 600 to 2,000 who died (Todd). Consideringthis along with the number of wounded, Santa Anna could not afford another victory like this (Paul). Santa Anna kept going into Texas, taking back Mexican land from Texans. Many Texans fled toLouisiana (Todd). While Santa Anna was doing this, General Sam Houston gathered men to strike back(Brinkley, 195). On April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston attacked San Jacinto. During the attack, whichis known as the Battle of San Jacinto, the Texans rally cries were “Remember the Alamo!” “Alamo!Travis! Crockett!” and “Alamo! Alamo! Alamo!” (Williams, 572) After the battle had ended, the Texans had captured President Santa Anna, giving him moremercy than he had given to the survivors of the Alamo (Todd). Under the pressure from his captors,President Santa Anna signed a treaty giving Texas independence, which he later denied (Todd). WithTexas’s independence, they became their own country. Their first President, Sam Houston dispatchedrepresentatives to Washington with a proposal to become part of the United Sates (Brinkley, 195). The Alamo played an important part of American history and Mexican history. In the beginning,it was colonized by Americans through grants, while Mexico was just being to self-rule. Then oncePresident Santa Anna came into office he saw that there were too many Americans in Mexico anddecided the only way to fix this was by having them surrender and if they did not surrender than hewould battle them out. This was the sad fate of the Alamo, which was a tragic loss for both sides. Eventhough this was tragic, the Texans used it to rally people to help fight for their independence, whichthey would eventually win at the Battle of San Jacinto. This is why we remember the Alamo.