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180 Years Ago Today: The Fall of the Alamo

(The Fall of the Alamo by Robert James Onderdonk)

180 years ago last Thursday, the representatives of the people of Texas voted to declare independence from Mexico. During that time, approximately 200 men stood in the old mission of the Alamo in San Antonio. Arrayed around them, from February 23 on, were the 1,800 soldiers of the dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna.

Lt. Col. William B. Travis commanded the vastly outnumbered Texan forces. On February 24, Travis wrote to his countrymen, asking for immediate reinforcements, but pledging to hold on regardless:

The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.

Relief did not come and Travis, along with fellow defenders Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and others, died when, 180 years ago today, the Mexican Army stormed though the mission's defenses. They did not stop Santa Anna at San Antonio. But they did delay him, buying time for the Texan Army to prepare itself and secure a final victory at San Jacinto on April 21 under General Sam Houston.

(Photo: David R. Tribble)

The Alamo is at the heart of the historical district of central San Antonio. There is a monument to the defenders across the street. On it are inscribed the names of the slain defenders of Texas liberty--among them one of my wife's ancestors. I make sure to touch my fingers along his name whenever I visit.

On the occasion of the 180th anniversary of this event, there are memorial ceremonies at the Alamo, including a re-enactment, the laying of flowers, and the playing of bagpipes to honor these fallen soldiers of Texas.


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