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On This Day in History: February 23, 1836 - Battle of The Alamo Begins!
Posted: 02/23/2013 10:28 by herodotusComments: 0
On February 23, 1836 the army of General Antonio López de Santa arrived at the Alamo (Misión San Antonio de Valero) and began attacking the Texian and Tejano volunteers defending the Roman Catholic Mission and Fortress. The siege would last for thirteen days.

During the early days of the Texas Revolution, a Texan force under Stephen F. Austin encircled the Mexican garrison in the town of San Antonio de Béxar. On December 11, 1835, after an eight-week siege, Austin's men were able to compel General Martín Perfecto de Cos to surrender. Occupying the town, the defenders were paroled and sent back to Mexico. The fall of Cos' command eliminated the last major Mexican force in Texas. Returning to friendly territory, Cos provided his superior, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, with information about the uprising in Texas.

Establishing his headquarters at San Luis Potosí, Santa Anna began assembling an army of 6,000 with the goal of marching north and putting down the revolt in Texas. In early 1836, after adding 20 guns to his command, he began marching north through Saltillo and Coahuila. To the north in San Antonio, Texan forces were fortifying the Misión San Antonio de Valero, also known as the Alamo. Possessing a large enclosed courtyard, the Alamo had first been occupied by Cos' men during siege of the town the previous fall. Initially manned by about 100 volunteers, the mission's garrison grew as January passed.

The Alamo was again reinforced on February 3, with the arrival of 29 men under Lt. Colonel William Travis. A few days later, the Alamo's commander, Colonel James C. Neill, departed to deal with an illness and left Travis in charge. Travis' ascent to command did not sit well with Jim Bowie, who led the volunteers, and had arrived on January 19. A renowned frontiersman, Bowie argued with Travis over who should lead until it was agreed that the former would command the volunteers and the latter the regulars. Another notable frontiersman arrived on February 8, when Davy Crockett rode into the Alamo with 12 men.

To the surprise of the defenders, Santa Anna's army arrived outside of San Antonio on February 23. Having marched through driving snow and foul weather, Santa Anna reached the town a month sooner than the Texans anticipated. Surrounding the mission, Santa Anna sent a courier requesting the Alamo's surrender. To this Travis responded by firing one of the mission's cannon. Seeing that the Texans planned to resist, Santa Anna laid siege to the mission. The next day, Bowie fell ill and full command passed to Travis. Badly outnumbered, Travis sent out riders asking for reinforcements.

Travis's calls went largely unanswered as the Texans lacked the strength to fight Santa Anna's larger army. As the days passed the Mexicans slowly worked their lines closer to the Alamo, with their artillery reducing the mission's walls. At 1:00 AM, on March 1, 32 men from Gonzales were able to ride through the Mexican lines to join the defenders. With the situation grim, legend states that Travis drew a line in the sand and asked all those willing to stay and fight to step over it. All except one did. At dawn on March 6, Santa Anna's men launched their final attack on the Alamo.

Flying a red flag and playing the El Degüello bugle call, Santa Anna signalled that no quarter would be given to the defenders. Sending 1,400-1,600 men forward in four columns they overwhelmed the Alamo's tiny garrison. One column, led by General Cos, broke through the mission's north wall and poured into the Alamo. It is believed that Travis was killed resisting this breach. As the Mexicans entered the Alamo, brutal hand-to-hand fighting ensued until almost the entire garrison had been killed. Records indicate that seven may have survived the fighting, but were summarily executed by Santa Anna.


Aftermath:
The Battle of the Alamo cost the Texans the entire 180-250-man garrison. Mexican casualties are disputed but were approximately 600 killed and wounded. While Travis and Bowie were killed in the fighting, Crockett's death is a subject of controversy. While some sources state that he was killed during the battle, others indicate that he was one of the seven survivors executed on Santa Anna's orders. Following his victory at the Alamo, Santa Anna moved quickly to destroy Sam Houston's small Texas Army. Outnumbered, Houston began retreating towards the US border. Moving with a flying column of 1,400 men, Santa Anna encountered the Texans at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Charging the Mexican camp, and yelling "Remember the Alamo," Houston's men routed Santa Anna's troops. The next day, Santa Anna was captured effectively securing Texan independence.

**The Alamo:
Originally named Misión San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years. Construction began on the present site in 1724. In 1793, Spanish officials secularised San Antonio's five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents. These men and women continued to farm the fields, once the mission's but now their own, and participated in the growing community of San Antonio.

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