The Battle of The Alamo took place in 1836 between February 23 and March 6 in present-day San Antonio, Texas. Part of the Texas Revolution of 1835–36, it takes its name from the Alamo Mission where it was fought. The Mexican army under General Antonio López de Santa Anna laid siege on the Alamo to recapture it. The Texian resistance led by William B. Travis put up a brave stand but was ultimately crushed and all Texians involved in the battle were killed. The Battle of the Alamo is considered a pivotal event of the Texas Revolution which inspired many volunteers to join the Texian army. It has featured in numerous works and remains one of the most famous in the history of Texas. Know about the causes, events, significance and casualties of the Battle of the Alamo through these 10 interesting facts.

 

#1 The Alamo is named after the Spanish word for cottonwood

The Alamo Mission, commonly known as the Alamo, is located in present day city of San Antonio in Texas, U.S. It was founded around 1718 as one of the Spanish missions to educate Native Americans who had converted to Christianity. One mile north of the mission, the fort Presidio San Antonio de Bexar was built. In early 19th century, Spanish military troops were stationed at the former mission and it was the soldiers who called the complex “the Alamo”. The name was derived from the grove of nearby cottonwood trees, known in Spanish as álamo. The original name of the mission was San Antonio de Valero.

Alamo in the 1830s
1854 drawing – The Alamo would have looked something like this in the 1830s

 

#2 The Battle of the Alamo was part of the Texas Revolution

Following the Mexican War of Independence (1810 – 1821), Texas became part of Mexico. It was sparsely populated and saw an influx of immigrants from the United Sates who soon vastly outnumbered the resident Mexicans. In the 1830s, under President Santa Anna, the Mexican government shifted away from federalism and towards centralism. The 1824 Constitution of Mexico was repealed and a provisional centralist system was established. This angered the federalists in Texas leading to unrest in the region which the Mexican authorities blamed on the U.S. immigrants. In October 1835, Texians attacked the Mexican troops thus initiating the Texas Revolution.

Flag of the Republic of Texas
Flag of the Republic of Texas (1836-1839)

 

#3 The Alamo was about to be abandoned before the battle

In December 1835, in the Battle of Bexar, Texian forces captured San Antonio de Béxar (now San Antonio), from the Mexican forces commanded by General Martin Perfecto de Cos, the brother-in-law of Santa Anna. Texian soldiers then established a garrison at the Alamo. By January 1836, the garrison was short on provisions and had fewer than 100 soldiers. This led to Colonel James C. Neill, the acting Alamo commander, to request the provisional Texas government for troops and supplies. Sam Houston, Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Army, instead sent Colonel James Bowie with 30 men to remove the artillery from the Alamo and destroy the complex. However Neill persuaded Bowie that the location shouldn’t be abandoned due to its strategic importance.

Colonel James Bowie
Portrait of Colonel James Bowie

 

#4 The Mexican army to retake the Alamo was led by Santa Anna

Few reinforcements arrived at the Alamo in February 1836 including cavalry officer William B. Travis with 30 men. Colonel Neill left Alamo to recruit more reinforcements and gather supplies transferring the command to Travis. However, Travis shared command with Colonel James Bowie due to the demand of the volunteers. In mid-February, the Mexican army entered Texas. It was led by Santa Anna, the most prominent Mexican politician and general who was known as the “The Napoleon of the West”. Santa Anna had vowed to retake Texas personally to avenge Mexico’s honor.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
1852 lithograph of Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

 

#5 The Texian resistance at the Alamo was led by William B. Travis

On February 23, 1836, Mexican troops under Santa Anna entered San Antonio and surrounded the Alamo thus beginning the Siege of the Alamo. It started with skirmishes between 1,500 Mexican soldiers and a force of less than 200 Texians. On February 24, Colonel Bowie collapsed from illness leaving Travis in sole command of the Texian force. The same day Travis wrote the famous letter, To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World. He called for aid “in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character”. The letter was reprinted throughout the United States and played a part in people volunteering for the Texian cause. It is considered a “masterpiece of American patriotism” and forms part of history education of schoolchildren in Texas.

Famous letter of William Travis on plaque
Plaque with the contents of William Travis’s famous letter

 

#6 The Texians held Alamo for 13 days till the final assault on March 3

The Mexican force was reinforced by 600 men on February 24 and on 3rd March 1,000 more Mexicans arrived taking their numbers to around 3,100. Travis assembled his men to inform them of the dire situation and gave them the option to either escape, or stay and die for the cause. In the silence of the night, around 5:30 a.m. on March 6, the Mexican troops advanced for their final assault. Three Texians stationed outside the wall were killed in sleep. This breach allowed the Mexicans to reach within shooting range of the walls before the Texians were woken up. Travis rushed to his post yelling, “Come on boys, the Mexicans are upon us and we’ll give them hell!” He was one of the first defenders to die.

William B. Travis
William B. Travis – Commander of the Texian force at the Alamo

 

#7 Famous American folk hero Davy Crockett died during the Battle of the Alamo

David “Davy” Crockett is one of the best-known American folk heroes. He was an outstanding military officer and a successful politician who was elected to the U.S. Congress from Tennessee. Crockett arrived at Alamo in February along with a few volunteers. During the battle, Crockett and his men were the last remaining group in the mission to fight in the open. The men defended the low wall in front of the church, using their rifles as clubs and relying on knives, as the action was too furious to allow reloading. David Crockett died fighting at the Alamo at the age of 49. Due to his popularity, his role in the battle has been celebrated in several works including the famous 1950s Disney miniseries Davy Crockett.

The Fall of the Alamo - Painting by Robert Onderdonk
The Fall of the Alamo (1903) – Painting by Robert Onderdonk depicting Davy Crockett swinging his rifle at Mexican troops during his last stand

 

#8 Mexican forces won the Battle of the Alamo and killed all Texians involved

The final Mexican assault on the Alamo lasted for around 90 minutes after which the Alamo was taken over by the Mexican forces. All 182 to 257 Texians involved in the battle were killed. Mexican casualties are disputed but were approximately 600 killed and wounded. General Santa Anna had ordered his troops to take no prisoners and so Mexican soldiers inspected the bodies killing anyone who still moved. According to many accounts, 5 to 7 Texians surrendered but were immediately executed on Santa Anna’s orders. There were only a few Texians who survived at the Alamo. Santa Anna sent the survivors, including Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson and her daughter, to Major General Sam Houston’s camp with warning that a similar fate awaited the rest of the Texians if they continued the revolt.

Depiction of the Battle of the Alamo
Depiction of the Battle of the Alamo

 

#9 It inspired the Texians to win the following Battle of San Jacinto

Memorial to the Alamo in San Antonio
Memorial to the Alamo defenders, at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio

The Battle of the Alamo had two major effects. The first is known as the Runaway Scrape, during which the interim government of the new Republic of Texas, the army and much of the civilian population fled eastward to avoid the Mexican forces. The second was that the cruelty of Santa Anna and heroic resistance of the Texian forces inspired many Texians to join the army. On April 21, 1836, a Texian force of 900, led by General Sam Houston, handed a crushing defeat to Santa Anna’s Mexican force of 1,300 men at San Jacinto. Their war cry was “Remember the Alamo!” Santa Anna was captured and held prisoner of war. He later signed a peace treaty that dictated Mexican forces to withdraw from Texas. Victory at the Battle of San Jacinto thus ensured the success of Texas Revolution.

 

#10 A stamp was issued to commemorate its 100th anniversary

Within weeks of the Battle of the Alamo, it was compared to the famous 300 stand at the Battle of Thermopylae. Since its occurrence, much has been written on the battle and it has featured prominently in many non-fiction works. The most famous film version of the battle is perhaps the 1960 movie The Alamo which was produced and directed by John Wayne. However, the accuracy of the film is questionable. Several songs also feature the battle including Jane Bowers’ “Remember the Alamo”. In 1936, U.S. Post Office issued a stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo. The Alamo has become best known for the battle and it is now the most popular tourist site in Texas.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The Alamo, very interesting information for the upcoming memorial day! will be speaking to my church congregation as we celebrate those who have gone on before us.

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