Battle of the Alamo Begins 186 Years Ago: February 23, 1836

by HB Auld, Jr.

On this day, 186 years ago, February 23, 1836, one of the bloodiest battles of the Texas War for Independence began:  The Battle of the Alamo. At the end of the 13-day battle, more than 187 Texians (as they were called back then) lay slaughtered in and around the San Antonio mission, along with 400 to 600 Mexicans who died or were wounded in the assault on the Mission.   This battle generated the battle cry: “Remember the Alamo,” which resonates with Texans, even today.

At the end of the 13-day siege (February 23 – March 6, 1836) Mexican President and Army commander of more than 1,500 Mexican attackers, General Antonio Lopez de Sana Anna claimed victory over the Alamo’s Texian defenders, all of whom were either killed in the onslaught or executed after the battle.   This bloody massacre was soon followed by the Battle of Goliad and later the Battle of San Jacinto where Santa Anna (as he was called) was defeated in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes by Texas General (and first Republic President) Sam Houston on April 21, 1836.  The rallying cries, “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” echoed throughout this final battle for Independence.  The Battle of Goliad was fought at sunrise on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836. The Mexican Army marched most of the captured Texian army from the Persidio La Bahia near Goliad out in three groups. A short distance later, the Mexican army opened fire on the unarmed Texian defenders and executed 342 of them. Forty of the executed soldiers were too wounded to march.  

Travis became the sole commander of the Alamo on February 24, 1836. 

In February, 1836, the garrison at the Alamo, a Spanish mission near San Antonio, Texians led by 26-year old Colonel William B. Travis, James Bowie (originator of the famed “Bowie Knife”), Tennessean Davy Crockett and others, prepared to defend the mission.  James Bowie had originally been ordered to the Alamo on January 19, 1836.  He arrived with orders to destroy the complex.  Instead, he took command of the garrison as its co-commander, along with Colonel William Barret Travis.  Travis became the sole commander of the Alamo on February 24, 1836. 

Texians, enraged by the slaughter at the Alamo and later Goliad, joined the Texas Revolution cause across the state.  A little more than a month after the fall of the Alamo, Texas General Sam Houston made his stand on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto Bay near the present-day city of Houston, and defeated Mexican General and Commander, Santa Anna in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes.  General Santa Anna was captured while disguised as a mere foot soldier and Private, but was recognized and cheered by his men as he was paraded through the other Prisoners of War.  Santa Anna was presented to General Sam Houston and just three weeks after the battle, was forced to sign a peace treaty which dictated that the Mexican Army would depart the area to south of the Rio Grande River.  The Republic of Texas then became an independent country, General Samuel Houston became a national celebrity, and the rallying cries “Remember the Alamo,” and “Remember Goliad” became legendary in Texas history. 


The Battle for the Alamo Ends

Today’s post about the end of the Battle of the Alamo is authored by guest writer and Texas mother, author, and retired lawyer, Tara Ross from her daily historical posts:

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1836, the Battle of the Alamo is fought. Despite a valiant defense by the Texans (then called Texians), the Mexican Army is victorious.

Okay, so I already discussed the long siege and battle a few days ago. But can you ever really say too much about Texas?! Ha.  So, in that spirit, here are some random facts that you may not know about the Alamo.

When Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived at the Alamo, he sent a courier with a demand that the Texians surrender. Do you want to take one wild guess as to how the Texians responded? They responded with a cannonball! The Texas spirit was born early, wasn’t it?

Three famous figures were killed at the Battle of the Alamo: William B. Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett. Travis was defending the north wall of the Alamo when he was killed, early in the battle, by a shot to the head. Bowie probably died in the Low Barrack. He was ill and confined to bed when the battle started. Crockett’s death is more of a mystery. He either died during battle or he was executed by Santa Anna afterwards.

The number of Texians who died defending the Alamo is also a bit of an unknown quantity: Depending on whose figures you believe, that number is as low as 150 or as high as 250. The youngest of these Texians was 16 and the oldest was 56.

Imagine that! No more than 250 Texians, defiantly refusing to give up the Alamo to the much larger Mexican force (as many as 1,800 soldiers) sitting just outside the Alamo’s walls. BRAVE. DETERMINED. And they inflicted heavy casualties on the Mexican force, although historians dispute the actual number of killed and injured among Santa Anna’s men.

Maybe one of the bravest acts at the Alamo? During the course of the siege, 32 men snuck past the Mexican lines and joined their fellow Texians inside the Alamo. They had to know that they were volunteering to go to their death. Yet they joined the Battle anyway.

Those men truly meant the words written by Travis during that 2-week siege: VICTORY OR DEATH!

P.S. The painting is of the death of Jim Bowie. It’s depicted as the artist imagines it, of course, since no one knows for sure how he died that day.

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Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2019 by Tara Ross. I appreciate use of the share feature instead of cutting/pasting.

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