Wednesday, 6 March 2013

San Antonio de Valero de Bexar, 6 March 1836

It is done, the Alamo is lost

During these hours the fires ordered by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had consumed the remains of the Defenders of the Mission of San Antonio de Valero....known to the locals as..."la capilla de los Alamos....the chapel of the Cottonwoods.
Col. James Bowie

Only one of the defenders was not thrown onto the common pyre. Juan Jose Esparza was the only person to be granted permission to be buried in Holy Ground, under Christian Rites. All the others were immolated. Including David Crockett. Esparza was a close friend of James Bowie, the co-commander of the outpost. Esparza essentially snuck into the compound through a window, bringing his wife and children with him. That evening or the next day, he took to the defense of his very ill friend, Col. Bowie and bolstered him in the continuing arguments that he had with the childish and arrogant, 28 year old William Barrett Travis.

Travis was Southern aristrocracy. He also carried the rank of Lt. Colonel. He looked down his nose at the sometimes sober Bowie, who was famous as an alligator wrestler, dueler, gambler, and adventurer. Travis was cold, spoiled, arrogant, and as we say in the South, 'full of himself'. James Bowie was a man of Eastern Tennessee with considerable life experience in and around Southern Louisiana, especially New Orleans. He spoke Cherokee, and could read, speak, and write English, Spanish, and French, making him comfortable in any environment...low or high. All who knew him thought him given to flights of extreme chance in business, and perhaps being fascinated with risk. People say he invented the Bowie Knife, but that honor actually belonged to his brother Rezin Bowie.

File:Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna c1853.png
Antonio Lopez de
Santa Anna c. 1869
When Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna ordered the Defenders burned in a commom pyre like dogs, finally even deciding to throw Bowie in with the rest, Juan Jose Esparza's brother, Francisco, a middle ranking officer in the Mexican force under the command of General Filisola, asked the Supreme Commander for permission to take Esparza's remains to be buried. That was the only one who received such permission. There were 17 known Latin Defenders, although there is a probability that some of Captain Juan Seguin's men were never rostered....meaning there may have been as many as 35 to 60 Latins....known as Tejanos. Impromptu volunteers would not have been out of the question because Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was extremely disliked by the people of Coahuila and Texas, Latin and non-Latin alike.
Lt.Col. William Barret Travis
Bowie, however, is an interesting element among the Texian Forces. Some think he was afflicted with tuberculosis, others say he was fighting the residual effects of a bout with typhoid. Others say that he was struck hard by the death of his fiancee' in Mississippi some years before....and then after a very successfull marriage ...which had financial and emotional depth into a pre-eminent San Antonio - Monclova - Saltillo based Spanish/Mexican family it all happened again. A cholera epidemic swept through Texas in 1832, so Bowie sent his wife, children, and several of his in-laws to Monclova to wait out the plague in the healthier, drier, and higher air. They all died when the cholera broke out there.
So, there is reasonable speculation that Bowie, although relatively young and very accomplished, decided that he had a better place to be than on this Earth. From the time after the death of his family, he had taken to drink and, while still gregarious and friendly and popular among the people in and around San Antonio, he was obviously a man with a wounded heart and soul. He would not be the kind of man one would want in charge of a military garrison.
So you have Bowie, the Mexicanized fighter for the Constitution of 1824, and Travis who really did not like the Latins and their peculiar brand of Christianity. Bowie has a Latin friend who essentially comes into the Alamo to die with and for his Anglo friend. Then we have Travis turning to Captain Juan Seguin, a brilliant Mexican army officer who hated Lopez de Santa Anna to ride out for re-enforcements, because Seguin was the only one who knew enough about the lay of the land and the populations to be trusted with the job.

File:Juan seguin.jpg
Capt. Juan Nepumecino Seguin
Imagine Captain Juan Seguin riding to find Col. Fannin in order to bring him and his 350 men to the Alamo's defense. He finds that Fannin's group has been annihilated at Victoria, near the coast, and all were lost. General Urrea has riden back from a forward scouting to find that lesser officers have ordered the execution of all the prisoners, some 300 men, according to the orders of Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. Urrea is furious, because he knows well the rule of "if we do it, then they will do it ten times over". But, the damage is done, Seguin rides back to San Antonio to find that upon his arrival, the Alamo is fallen, all is lost.
He continues then to the east, looking for Burleson or Houston or Austin or anyone. He finds Mrs. Dickenson and her baby and Man James. He arrives to meet with Samuel Houston and to confirm that Fannin, Bowie, Travis, and Crockett are all gone. Along with almost 500 regular and irregular militia. Although he is a trained artilleryist, Seguin goes on to command the Texian cavalry at the decisive Battle of San Jacinto, where he and the Texian forces destroy Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's headquarters command of some 1,800 men, through a Washington-like attack on a Holy Day...a Sunday...21 April 1836.
Lopez de Santa Anna had brilliantly conducted an Army and Navy attack, 1,000 miles away from his point of origin, moving three large corps of combined military force, cavalry, infantry, and artillery over deserts, mountains, cold, snow, and rain, encountering the enemy on frequent occasion and winning a succession of 24 straight engagements. In every engagement the Texians had been beaten badly. And then he camped with his main force on a swampy peninsula, surrounded by water, with no exit. The carelessness of arrogance.

Finally consider the Yucatecan Infantry, earlier this morning before sunrise. They were put at the front of the attack group, attached to the 2nd Batallon de Zapadores, Ingenieros de Combate. To them it was a form of punishment as Yucatecos, because that province had declared itself allied with the forces supporting the Constitution of 1824. Lorenzo de Zavala had written that Constitution and Lopez de Santa Anna knew de Zavala was taking refuge in Texas. So, the Yucatecan soldiers lay in the heavy wet snow that morning before sunrise, then became exasperated with their suffering, finally rose up and began the attack before the bugle call, that would leave 182 - 225 Defenders dead within the next 2 hours, and a minimum of 400 Mexican soldiers dead, and as many as 225 more dying of their wounds over the next two months.
All of this defense and offense over a place that was neither worth defending nor assailing in military terms. The brother-in-law of Lopez de Santa Anna, Gen. Perfecto de Cos declared, "Con una victoria mas como el este, perdieremos no solo la guerra, pero quizas el pais. (With another victory like this, we should lose not only the war, but perhaps even the country).

From an event that lasted for a little less than a month, that involved directly less than 3,000 men, there are a million stories and angles, points of view, and tidbits that will continued to the analysed, talked about, studied, and frequently misunderstood for the next one thousand years.....or more. To be sure, we shall, and our progeny shall, Remember the Alamo.

Thanks for your attention. Remember the 6th of March 1836.
El Gringo Viejo