The Chapel of the Alamo
The unique bell-shaped top of
the Alamo was added after
The Alamo Cenotaph
The Cenotaph or memorial to
the Alamo defenders stands
in downtown San Antonio.
The Alamo: The Siege and Fall
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
The Battle of the Alamo
When the Mexican army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna appeared on the outskirts of
San Antonio, the Texan volunteers in the community and many of the local civilians withdrew
into the fortified Alamo complex for safety. They knew their numbers were too few to defend
the mission against the approaching army, but riders went out to try to summon
reinforcements before Santa Anna could bring his entire force to bear.
In a famous scene, the siege of the Alamo began when Santa Anna demanded the surrender
of its garrison "at discretion." This meant he gave them no promise of treatment as prisoners
of war and if they surrendered, they did so knowing he might execute them as rebels. The
commander of the garrison, Lt. Col. William Barret Travis, answered the demand with a
For nearly two weeks the two sides battled in what became known as the Siege of the Alamo.
Travis and his small group of defenders desperately hoped for reinforcement, but only a few
men from Gonzales made it into the fort. The Mexican army, meanwhile, slowly tightened the
noose around the Alamo, pushing trenches closer and closer to the Texan works and
bombarding the old mission with light artillery.
The final attack came on the morning of March 6, 1836. Santa Anna had suspended his
artillery fire the night before, hoping to lull the Alamo defenders into a false sense of safety.
The ruse worked, as most of the garrison was soundly asleep when the attack struck.
The plan called for the Mexican troops to converge on the Alamo by columns from different
directions. Santa Anna hoped his men would be up to the fort and over the walls under cover
of darkness before the defenders knew they were coming. It almost worked. As the general's
troops started their approach, an anonymous soldier shouted "Viva Santa Anna!" at the top of
his lungs. Others picked up the cry and much of the element of surprise was lost.
The Mexican columns charged forward, bayoneting the Texan sentries and storming up to the
walls. Heavy fire rained down on them from the defenders who were now aroused and
rushing to meet the attack. The attack columns became confused and chaos ruled outside
Inside the Alamo, Colonel Travis awoke to the sounds of firing and rushed to the north wall,
where the attack appeared to be the heaviest. By the time he reached the artillery position
there, the Mexican forces were pushing up against the wall. Travis fired down into the crowd
below but then, according to his servant Joe, was shot in the head and fell down into a sitting
position by one of the guns.
General Santa Anna's troops soon forced their way over the north wall and the battle
degenerated into a bloody slaughter. The Texans refused to surrender and some barricaded
themselves into the building they called the "Long Barrack." Their own artillery was turned
against the barricaded doors of the structure and the Texan defenders were killed in a fight to
the death. Others fell in the chapel and still others in the other buildings of the compound. At
least one group tried to break out of the trap, but were set upon by Mexican lancers and nearly
all were cut down before the could reach the safety of the nearby brush.
According to the accounts of Mexican officers, a small group of defenders tried to surrender
but were executed by order of General Santa Anna.
Once the smoke cleared, virtually every man in the Alamo lay dead. Joe, the enslaved servant
of Col. Travis, had been an active defender, but survived, as did a few others. Most of the
women and children in the mission were also spared by order of Santa Anna.
|Copyright 2009 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
The Long Barrack
The defenders barricaded
themselves in this structure
during the final minutes of the
Photos by Bruce Schulze