The Alamo originally began as a mission for natives to convert American foreigners to Roman Catholicism. Most of the native Spaniards built a land that they called ‘San Antonio de Valero’ which they had named for St. Anthony of Padua. San Antonio housed missionaries and numerous Native American descendants until Spanish authorities separated the five missions and gave away their lands to local residents. ‘Remember the Alamo!’ The battle of the Alamo in 1836 is one of the most interesting and well known battles to this day, the heroes that staked their lives and were crucial in leading the new era of key changes starting with Texas’s need for independence which led up to the famous 13 day siege and then the aftermath of the final battle at San Jacinto.
The need for freedom and separation from Mexico was essential to Texas. Gaining their independence was quite a struggle for them, they had for many years found Mexico’s system of control to be corrupt. The American’s are what made up most of the Mexican population. The American’s became Mexican citizens and the Mexicans declared that they must be loyal to the Mexican government, learn the Spanish language, and convert to Roman Catholicism. Unfortunately, the American’s saw themselves as descendants of the United States which had made independence more attractive. Many cultural, economical, and political differences also allowed for separation between the two. Most American’s had come from the South and were either Baptist and Methodists and they had a problem with converting to Roman Catholicism. They also did not like the fact that the government wanted to place total power in the hands of the Mexican National government and Santa Anna. The Mexican government liked to spend their money on useless items such as weaponry, and the Texans found that very irresponsible and they decided that the money should be spent on more useful products that could actually benefit everyone. Most of the settlers in Texas were from the southern states of the United States where slavery was still legal. Slavery was looked down upon by the Mexicans which in the end had led to several disputes. Many of the Texas settlers were worried that their slaves would be taken from them by the government. After sleepless nights and restless mornings from the Texans they finally took a step forward towards independence at the Battle of Gonzales. It was a rebellious attack led by Texans; they fired shots at Mexican soldiers. This battle was considered the first engagement of Texas’s war for independence. In December of 1835, a group of Texan volunteers led by Gerrge Collinsworth and Benjamin Milam had surprised the Mexican garrison at the Alamo and captured San Antonio. Sam Houston, a leading general for Texas, found the Alamo to be of no use and not worth defending so he ordered Jim Bowie to destroy it. Bowie disagreed, he thought the Alamo could have been arranged to be useful because of the weaponry.
With the yearn for independence rapidly coming from Texas, and Mexico not wanting to turn Texas over, the vigorous battles that lay ahead were approaching. ‘On February 23, a Mexican force comprising somewhere between 1,800 and 6,000 men and commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began a siege on the fort.’ (History.comStaff). The Texans had held out for as long as possible during the 13 day siege, starting with day one when Santa Anna and his troops had arrived at San Jacinto. Travis sent a request to Gonzales for help, he was largely outnumbered. On day two, Jim Bowie suddenly becomes ill and could not make co-commander therefore making Travis the total commander. On the west side of the river Santa Anna is ordering his men to begin setting up artillery batteries. The very famous ‘Victory or death’ letter was sent out by Travis himself as another plea for help. Day three consists of a two- hour engagement between the two armies when Santa Anna and his troops attempt to occupy Jacales. On day four the weather turns for the worst. Frannin returns to Goliad after Mexican troops advance from Matamoros. Day five mostly consisted of work on artillery batteries and other enrichments that would help the Alamo. On day six Santa Anna makes the Alamo endure a prolonged period of cannode from his army’s artillery batteries. Day seven consists of Mexican troops going to Goliad to collect Texan reinforcements. On Day eight, The Gonzales Ranging Company safely enters into the Alamo from Gonzales. It had increased the Texan army by thirty-two. On day nine, Texan government declares independence from Mexico. On day ten Travis receives a letter from Robert M. Williamison asking Travis to hold out a little longer for reinforcements. Santa Anna’s army receives 1,100 new reinforcements. On day eleven Santa Anna demands that the artillery batteries be pushed closer into the Alamo. On day twelve Santa Anna declares that he will be attacking in the morning and his army needs to prepare. Travis warns his and tells his men to prepare. Travis gathered his command together one last time to offer them the chance to leave. He draws a line into the sand and states that anyone can leave free-willingly or they can stay. Moses Rose decides to cross the line and leave. On day thirteen, the final day, right before dawn Santa Anna gives the surprise order to attack. During the 90-minute battle the Alamo falls. After the defeat of the Texan army Santa Anna orders that all the bodies must be burned, except for the women, children, and slaves, who lives could be spared.
After the attempts of the Texas army for independence failed they did not give up, they continued forward with another act of courageousness in the battle of San Jacinto.
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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 sectioned off San Antonio's five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents. These men and women continued to farm the fields â” once the mission's but now their own â” and participated in the growing community of San Antonio.
In the early 1800s, the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission. The soldiers referred to the old mission as the Alamo (the Spanish word for "cottonwood") in honor of their hometown Alamo de Parras, Coahuila. The post's commander established the first recorded hospital in Texas in the Long Barrack. The Alamo was home to both Revolutionaries and Royalists during Mexico's ten-year struggle for independence. The military â” Spanish, Rebel, and then Mexican â” continued to occupy the Alamo until the Texas Revolution.
San Antonio and the Alamo played a critical role in the Texas Revolution. In December 1835, Ben Milam led Texian and Tejano volunteers against Mexican troops quartered in the city. After five days of house-to-house fighting, they forced General Marín Perfecto de Cós and his soldiers to surrender. The victorious volunteers then occupied the Alamo â” already fortified prior to the battle by Cós' men â” and strengthened its defenses.
On February 23, 1836, the arrival of General Antonio López de Santa Anna's army outside San Antonio nearly caught them by surprise. Undaunted, the Texians and Tejanos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held out for 13 days against Santa Anna's army. William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo sent forth couriers carrying pleas for help to communities in Texas. On the eighth day of the siege, a band of 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived, bringing the number of defenders to nearly two hundred. Legend holds that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over â” all except one did. As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. Among the Alamo's garrison were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter, and David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee.
The final assault came before daybreak on the morning of March 6, 1836, as columns of Mexican soldiers emerged from the predawn darkness and headed for the Alamo's walls. Cannon and small arms fire from inside the Alamo beat back several attacks. Regrouping, the Mexicans scaled the walls and rushed into the compound. Once inside, they turned captured cannon on the Long Barrack and church, blasting open the barricaded doors. The desperate struggle continued until the defenders were overwhelmed. By sunrise, the battle had ended and Santa Anna entered the Alamo compound to survey the scene of his victory.
While the facts surrounding the siege of the Alamo continue to be debated, there is no doubt about what the battle has come to symbolize. People worldwide continue to remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds â” a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.
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