Alamo, Siege of the
ALAMO, SIEGE OF THE
ALAMO, SIEGE OF THE, a standoff between the Mexican army and a small band of Texan forces between 23 February and 6 March 1836 at the Alamo, a fort established in 1793 at a former Franciscan mission in San Antonio. The siege took place during the revolt of the Texas province to gain independence from Mexico.
In 1835 the Texan government dismissed its commander in chief, General Sam Houston, for recommending that the fort at San Antonio be abandoned. Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis and James Bowie were placed in command of about 155 men at the Alamo.
On 23 February 1836 General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived at San Antonio with a Mexican force
of 3,000–4,000 men. Travis and Bowie could have retreated to safety. Instead, they moved into the stout-walled Alamo mission, answered a demand for surrender with a cannon shot, sent couriers for reinforcements, and vowed not to surrender. A message signed by Travis read, "I have sustained a continual Bombardment and a cannondale for 24 hours and have not lost a man. … Our flag still proudly waves from the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat.… VICTORY OR DEATH." On the eighth day of battle, 32 recruits crept through the Mexican lines, the last reinforcements the garrison was to receive. This brought their number to about 187. Although suffering from want of sleep, and with ammunition running low, the Texans had lost only Bowie, who was ill and disabled by a fall.
At 4 a.m. on 6 March, Santa Anna stormed the Alamo on all sides. The first and second assaults were broken up. At dawn the Mexicans attacked again. The Texans' guns were hot from heavy firing in the two assaults, their ammunition was nearly gone, and men were dropping from exhaustion. When the walls were breached, the defenders fought by clubbing with rifles and drawing knives. The last point taken was the chapel, where casualties included David Crockett and twelve volunteers from Tennessee. That evening, the last of the 187 defenders was dead, but the Mexicans spared about 30 noncombatants. Mexican casualties numbered about 600.
The fall of the Alamo sowed panic throughout Texas, precipitating a flight of the civilian population and government leaders toward U.S. soil. Enraged over Travis's disastrous stand, Houston gathered an army to meet Santa Anna. The Texan general paraded his men and in an impassioned address rallied them to the battle cry, "Re-member the Alamo!" With that cry they vanquished the Mexicans at San Jacinto, establishing the independence of the Texas Republic.
Matovina, Timothy M. The Alamo Remembered: Tejano Accounts and Perspectives. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.
Nofi, Albert A. The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence, September 30, 1835, to April 21, 1836: Heroes, Myths, and History. Conshohocken, Pa.: Combined Books, 1992.