Part 4: Give Me Symbolism Or Give Me Death, But Mostly Death

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“Remember the Alamo!” is mostly known as the war cry of Sam Houston’s troops as they defeated the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto, the Alamo has taken its place in American legend. The key players at the battle were well known heroes of their own right in their respective countries- General Santa Anna (https://hashtaghistory.org/2018/04/25/part-2-tequila-has-always-led-to-bad-decisions/) for the Mexicans, and Colonel Bowie and Davey Crockett for the Texians (https://hashtaghistory.org/2018/05/02/part-3-weird-hats-and-big-knives/) On paper, it should have been an epic battle, when in reality, it took less than an hour for the Mexicans to turn the defenders into carne asada. #RememberThat What’s worse, is that most of what people “know to be true” isn’t. #ButMahHeroez

After the initial push by the Texians the previous fall, the Mexicans were south of the Rio Grande. That changed over the winter, as the Mexicans decided to make an example of the rebellious Texians. It was a campaign of extermination after the passage of the Tornel Decree, and the Texians were in full retreat. There was already a hundred-man garrison at the little mission near San Antonio known as the Alamo from the fall offensive. The Texian army commander, Sam Houston, was familiar with the layout of the compound, and even though it had 19 cannons that were “liberated” from the retreating Mexicans, he knew that it was a pitiful site to defend against a modern army. #WhenHesRightHesRight The walls were mostly too short, the parapets left the fighters exposed, and one entire side was a glorified cattle fence. As such, he sent Colonel Bowie and 30 men to the Alamo to remove the cannons and withdraw.

Instead, somehow, the garrison commander Colonel Neill convinced Bowie that they needed to defend it. How? The facility was garbage from a defensive standpoint, particularly since they had neither the men or ammunition to do so. #BulletsAreImportant #MenToFireThemACloseSecond Perhaps it was the symbolism of a Spanish mission being where the Texian army would make a stand, or perhaps Bowie had finally found his hill worth dying on. Bowie wrote to Houston, as well as the Texian Governor Henry Smith, and began to fortify the mission. Colonel Travis of the Texian cavalry arrived with 30 more men a few days later, and Davey Crockett soon followed with his own volunteers. #TheGangsAllHere

On February 11, Neill decided to bounce out for a recruiting drive, and he left Colonel Travis in charge. The men decided that they didn’t like that and elected Bowie instead. How was that possible? Travis was from the Texian Regular Army, whereas Bowie and most of the garrison were volunteers. After a “raucous night of drinking” in San Antonio de Bexar (it reads somewhat like my last time in Tijuana), Bowie and Travis decided to share custody of their baby and got to work.

On February 23, Santa Annas forces arrived. #CueTheMusic Much like Darth Vader, just the mention of his name caused the people to flee in terror. What’d the Texians do? They grabbed all of the food and supplies they could, herded some cattle into the courtyard and buttoned up. Santa Anna’s troops raised a red flag, indicating that Santa Anna was experiencing his time of the month, and that they had better have chocolate. #WaitThatsWrong The flag signified that “No Quarter” would be given to the defenders of the Alamo, and by that point, the Texians knew that he meant it. So how did Travis respond? In the absolute most Texan way possible. His response probably had a grandbaby at Bastogne in World War Two. HE FIRED A CANNON AT HIM. It didn’t hit anything, but it’s the thought that counts. Bowie believed that maybe Travis responded too quickly and sent a delegate out to parley with Santa Anna. After a few minutes of pleasantries, the delegate was told to screw off, and he returned to the mission. Bowie was a little perturbed by this development, so they set about in making a coherent and clear response. Travis reloaded the cannon and Bowie fired it at Santa Anna. #TrueStory #NoBallsSA

The Texians and Mexican basically played tag for the next week and a half, with only a few casualties on either side. Travis sent out couriers regularly in an attempt to get Houston to send reinforcements and to switch to Verizon, but Houston insisted on staying with AT&T and thus rarely received any of his messages. #CanYouHearMeNow The one letter that did get through was eventually distributed all over the US and Europe as being representative of “true American patriotism.” It’s titled “To The People Of Texas & All Americans In The World.” It really is worth a read but is not germane to this post. It’ll make you want to drink some whiskey, wave a flag, and shoot something, and not particularly in that order. The only other matter of note that occurred during the skirmishing phase was that the day after Bowie grabbed his nuts in Santa Annas direction, Bowie fell ill. It is not clear as to what afflicted him, but he was quickly bed ridden. From the few descriptions that made it out of the Alamo, it is commonly believed that he came down with some type of pneumonia.

The Texians did try to send reinforcements, but as to what actually happened is not well documented. #SNAFU An army of 320 men, cannons and light cavalry were supposed to leave out of Goliad but decided that they left their favorite binkey at home and turned around after a mile. #OneMile The men who were supposed to link up with them at Gonzalez got tired of waiting and headed out on their own, only to get shot at by the Alamo defenders. If it wasn’t for the fact that one of the men that had gotten shot at began to “fluently curse in American” (that’s an actual quote), they probably would have died. As it was, they didn’t have to wait long. Santa Anna got reinforcements as well, but to the tune of 1,000 men that had just won a major battle at San Jacinto.

Total troop strengths here became a little lopsided- Travis had somewhere between 200-250 men, and Santa Anna had over 1,800. Santa Anna could have fielded more, but he had excused any men with relatives in the area so that they wouldn’t have to kill their kin. #Awe #ThatWasNice The exact numbers of defenders at the Alamo is really hard to discern simply because there is very little solid evidence of anything here in a minute. #StayWithMe

Once we get to March 4th, we start to see a lot more legend and a lot less fact. What few sources that come from the defender’s side are the non-combatants that mostly stayed cooped up in the chapel until Santa Anna spared them to go spread the word of what had happened. The Mexican side? Its safe to assume that none of them attended the same assault, as none of the stories really matched. That whole thing about Travis drawing a line in the sand? No idea where that came from. That story started decades after the battle, and as far as anyone can tell, it spawned from one of the women saying that Travis had held a conference with the men and told them what the deal was. That’s it. No heroics, no great movie scenes, no line in the sandy dirt.

On the evening of March 5th, Santa Anna ordered his artillery to cease fire on the mission. He had been shelling it pretty regularly since the beginning of the siege, probably because he didn’t appreciate Travis and Bowies communiques. The defenders had to feel relieved that they could finally get some sleep, but that would be the last nap that they would take, because by dawn, they would all be sleeping for a long time.

Now, if anyone ever tells you that Santa Anna had some crack, highly trained military under him, just go ahead and laugh at them. #CrackedOutMaybe He had to set up his formation of 1,800 men with veterans on the outside to help corral the noobs in the center, as well as 500 cavalry to shoot any that ran. As a precursor to how modern day Third World shitheads shoot, the noobies didn’t use their sites because the big boom stick recoiled too much. #ThatsNotEvenAnExaggeration These “soldiers” were so untrained that the Mexicans took more casualties from friendly fire than they did from the Alamo. The defenders of the Alamo quickly ran out of cannonballs, so instead they made what is referred to as “grapeshot” which has absolutely nothing to do with grapes. They ripped any piece of metal that they could find out, shoved it down the cannon barrel and shot it. We’re talking silverware and door hinges. #ThatsDesperate

The Mexicans quickly breached the walls of the mission, and that fat lady was a-screamin’. Legend has it that Bowie fought bravely from his bed in the makeshift hospital, and that may be true. Some accounts state that the Mexicans stormed his room and drug him out to the courtyard to be executed, whereas others claim that he was bayoneted in bed or even committed suicide. It would be nice to remember the man as going out the way he lived- doing whatever it took to win. Crockett is remembered as fighting in brutal hand to hand combat with his volunteers in front of the chapel, and that is probably accurate as it is one of the few accounts that the Mexicans recorded from multiple sources as the same way. Crockett and his men ran out of ammo, so they began clubbing anyone who came near. The Mexicans had guns, that were loaded, and just gunned them down and kept going. #Anticlimactic

The last group of Texian holdouts were inside the chapel with a pair of large cannons. In a great, dumbass move, they fired the cannons at the Mexicans and destroyed their own barricades, thus allowing the Mexicans a clean shot at them. The last Texian to die was trying to light the last of the powder magazine, but he ultimately failed. Blowing up the church would have been a great punctuation mark on the fight but would also have killed the women and children in the chapel, so there’s that.

With that, the battle was over. Santa Anna had kept his word and killed every single one of them. He then had his men drag the bodies of the defenders out into the courtyard and torched them all. The cremation was one of things that make this battle difficult to nail down fact from fiction simply because there was very little post analysis possible. Was Bowie bayonetted or shot at close range? If there was a body, forensics could easily tell us. Instead, we have ashes. We don’t even have those, because they were long gone by the time anyone returned. There was a claim by one of the Mexican soldiers to have gathered the ashes of Travis, Crockett and Bowie and placed in an urn in front of the chapel. While an urn was found there, the real mystery was of whom was in there. The Alamo defenders didn’t wear uniforms, and the pieces found in the urn weren’t Mexican army uniforms. #UnsolvedMysteries #KindaCreepy

 

Next Up- Part 5: We’ve Had Enough Of Your Crap, Santa Anna

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