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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The ‘Father of Texas’ is born, 225 years ago today

 

Stephen F. Austin

The ‘Father of Texas,’ Stephen F. Austin

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1793, Stephen F. Austin is born. He would come to be known as the “Father of Texas.”

Perhaps there is a twist of irony in that title? When Austin first heard of an opportunity to set up a settlement in Texas, he wasn’t so crazy about the idea.

To the contrary, it was Stephen’s father who originally wanted to go to Texas. Moses Austin’s personal finances had suffered following the Panic of 1819, and he was looking for new opportunities. He decided to seek land grants in Texas. Unfortunately, Moses passed away in the middle of the process. Thus, it was left to Stephen to take over where his father had left off.

It wasn’t easy! Ownership of Texas had changed. Although Moses had worked out a deal with Spain, the Mexican government did not want to honor it at first. Stephen traveled to Mexico City and lobbied in person, and he was eventually given permission to move forward. He was an “empresario,” with civil and military authority over the first Anglo-American settlements in Texas. More empresarios would follow, but Austin was the most successful of them, bringing as many as 1,500 families to the area. He was well-respected, and other empresarios sought his advice. As such, he found himself constantly mediating between Texan settlers and the Mexican government. You can imagine this got tricky! For instance, when Mexico banned further Anglo-American immigration into Texas in 1830, settlers were unhappy. Many had long thought that Texas would be purchased by the United States, but such a move now seemed less likely. They wanted the ban lifted. In fact, they generally felt that they should have a bigger say in their own governance. They wanted Texas to be its own state.

By 1833, matters were getting serious. Settlers wrote a list of grievances and a proposed Constitution for a new state of Texas; they elected Austin to take these items to Mexico City. Austin was worried that the move was too aggressive, but he went anyway. He ended up getting arrested for suspicion of trying to incite an insurrection. (Oops!) He wasn’t freed until July 1835.


‘War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country and our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.’


Austin was slow to get on board with the cause of Texas independence (he preferred conciliation with Mexico), but once he was on board, he did not turn back. As chairman of a Committee of Safety, he wrote: “War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country & our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.”

Austin commanded Texan forces during the Siege of Bexar, but he spent much of the (relatively short) 6-month Texas Revolution in the United States, seeking support for the “Texian” cause. When Austin returned home, he discovered that his influence had been eclipsed by that of Sam Houston, the victor at the Battle of San Jacinto. Both men were candidates in the first presidential election. Houston won. Austin came in a distant third.

Austin died only 8 months after Texas had won her independence, possibly weakened by a disease that he’d contracted during his imprisonment in Mexico. Upon hearing of Austin’s death, President Sam Houston declared: “The father of Texas is no more. The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed.”

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Tara Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! 

 

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