Aquecia of the Alamo
A surviving feature of the
original complex, the canal
brought water to the mission.
Rear of the Alamo Chapel
This view of the back of the
Alamo Chapel shows the
cross shape of the structure.
The Alamo: The Early Years - The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
The Alamo
The complex was originally a Spanish mission, built
to minister to local Native Americans.
A Spanish Mission in Texas
At the time it was constructed, the mission
compound we know today as
the Alamo was
located on the outskirts of the small Spanish
settlement of San Antonio de Bexar.
Authorized in 1716, the present site of the
mission was selected in 1724 and the
cornerstone of the complex was laid twenty
years later in 1744.

During its early career, the Alamo was known
as the mission of San Antonio de Valero and
functioned along the lines of most such
establishments. Resident friars ministered
to local residents, many of whom were Native
American, and the mission was very much a
religious community complete with fields and

After twenty years of declining fortunes,
however, the mission of San Antonio de
Valero was abandoned in 1793 and allowed
to slowly deteriorate. In 1803, however, the
mission was reoccupied for service as a
military post. Its initial garrison was Second
Flying Company from the Alamo de Parras
area of Mexico. This has prompted some to
speculate that the "Alamo" name originates
from the use of the mission by this company.
Others believe it may refer to a grove of
cottonwood trees that grew at the site.
"Alamo" is the Spanish word for cottonwood.

Following the 1803 military occupation of the
mission, the Alamo remained an important
fort and post on the Texas frontier for many
years. Alterations were made to the original
mission compound over the next three
decades, but it never was converted into a
particularly strong fortification. Its dimensions
made it too large to be defended by a small
force and the design was much more
ecclesiastical than military.

When most people think of the Alamo today,
they think primarily of its famed chapel. In
reality, however, the chapel was just a small
part of a much larger complex. Adjoining it
was a large rectangular compound
surrounded by a masonry wall. A number of
buildings bordered this compound and were
used as offices, barracks, storehouses, etc.,
by the various soldiers who occupied the

In December of 1835, during the early days of
the Texas Revolution, the Alamo was seized
by Texan forces following a brief siege of San

The Texas then occupied the old mission
and began to try to strengthen the defenses
and mount artillery. The process was still
underway when the army of General Antonio
Lopez de Santa Anna marched north across
the desert and appeared on the outskirts of
San Antonio.
Copyright 2009 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Place of Peace, Place of War
The Long Barrack was once
used by the priests of the
historic mission.
Photos by Bruce Schulze
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