Saturday, 28 February 2015

More detail and filling in as the Siege of the Alamo begins more than in earnest


     The events pertaining to the Battle of the Alamo, and the six months prior up to the year after, have absorbed analysts, historians, demagogues, archaeologists, run-of-the-mill Texians (if there be such a thing), and all manner of person starting around 1880, especially.   The popular perception is not all that bad, but it is also, frequently, not all that good.

     For instance in the posting two back from this one, we have a sign off song by Marty Robbins, the "Ballad of the Alamo" that is very good and inspiring.  Marty did not make much, if any, crummy work.  But, the song and its back up graphics have a few weak spots.

      For instance, it speaks to the fact that 185 men were going to face down 5,000 soldiers from the Mexican Centralist government.  Well....close, but no cigar.  The 185 might have been a few more, because there has been talk about a number of extra of the Tejanos coming in from the Yorktown area of Texas (south of San Antonio by a 100 miles) who were not tabulated into the roster of effectives due to their late arrival.   There were a few other of the Latin group who literally crawled into the Alamo through a window at night during the last days before the final assaults.   Still, and true enough, although it is probably true, there would have been only another 20 or so to have joined the ranks in defence of the noble old chapel.    So let us say that  there were 200 or so, plus two Negroes, and a large number of mainly Latin women (wives of Anglo and Latin Texians) and a fairly significant gaggle of children, possibly totally as many as forty.

     The entire Mexican Centralist combined armies under Lopez de Santa Anna, along with the Messrs. Gen. Pedro Urrea coming from the Matamoros to San Felipe along the coast,  the Italian Filisola coming up on Lopez de Santa Anna's right along what would become closely related to what is now Texas Highway 16 (an excellent wildflower highway with very little traffic....a delight in March and April), along with Reserves and special action battalions associated with General Pefecto de Cos (Lopez de Santa Anna's brother-in-law), Colonel Juan Almonte who had many friends among the Anglo-Texians, and the likes of Gen. Pedro Ampudia, a Cuban who was afraid of nothing and a cunningly brilliant tactician.....did not total 10,000 effectives.   Those arriving at the outskirts of San Antonio de Bexar did not exceed 1,800 combatants.

     So, when Marty sings about the Texians holding back 5,000, that could be construed as factual if one interpolates the value of distant troops lending doubly indirect assistance to the main body travelling with the Generalissimo Presidente Santa Anna.  That group directly involved however with the siege and final solution of the problems presented by the Alamo were never more than 1,800 effectives.
     And while it is not my wish to diverge widely, it must be pointed out that under reasonable conditions, any investigating body would have been correct in convening a courts martial action against both William Barret Travis, Colonel Commanding, the Alamo and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, General Commanding, for defending and attacking the Alamo.   It was folly for both.  Neither could win, and in the final analysis both lost, but the Ghosts of the Alamo had the last laugh.

     Another of the problems presented by the graphics and lyrics of the song is that there is one scene that shows the Alamo with a Texas Lone Star Flag.  No such flag existed at that time.  Further, the flag as it is depicted is unfurled up-side-down.   The white field must be atop the red.
     We have that continuing issue with the flags.  Still, as last year, we must admit that there are several researchers who adamantly deny the existence of a Mexican tri-colour with the gold numbers 1824 on the middle white field.  While I give them deference, it is necessary that they should be disposed of their useless pretences by the following:

Phillip Dimmit's Flag

      During the first few months of the Revolution, many of the Texian leaders were simply trying to lend their part in the larger Federalist Revolution that was being waged against the Centralist Regime of Santa Anna in other parts of Mexico. The first reference to a banner resembling the 1824 Flag is one which appears in a letter from Philip Dimmit, commanding the garrison at Goliad, to General Stephen F. Austin, Commander in Chief of the Army of the People, dated October 27th 1835. Dimmit writes:

    "I have had a flag made - the colours, and their arrangement the same as the old one - with the words and figures, 'Constitution of 1824,' displayed on the white, in the centre."
    Later, Philip Dimmit left Goliad to take part in the Storming of Bexar in late 1835. I think we can safely assume that he had his "Constitution of 1824" flag with him. Even during the Storming of Bexar, Dimmit was an ardent supporter of Restoration.

   The next reference to an 1824 Flag can be found in the proceedings of the General Council of the Provisional Government of Texas. I believe that from the Dimmit design, evolved the design that was adopted by this General Council for the banner which was to be flown by ships bearing "Letters of Marque and Reprisal". These were privately owned and operated ships that were granted permission by the government to attack and seize enemy ships and cargo. In return for this license the government received a percentage of the value of the seized property. On November 29, 1835 the General Council passed an ordinance which reads in part:

    "...Sec. 2. Be it further ordained and decreed, That all vessels sailing under Licenses, as Letters of Marque and Reprisal, which have been, or may be hereafter granted by the Governor and Council, or by the Governor, as provided in this supplementary Ordinance, or under any register or license of this Government, shall carry the flag of the Republic of the United States of Mexico, and shall have the figures 1, 8, 2, 4, cyphered in large Arabics on the white ground thereof....Passed at San Felipe de Austin, Nov. 29, 1835."
    This flag and another, the Coahuila y Texas Dos Estrellas, celebrated the region of the two States that had been combined into one by statute of the Mexico City central Congress.  The two States had a common political understanding and both were anti-centralists, pro-federalist, States' Rights places, and the "Two - Star Flag" flew over the Alamo most of the time during the siege.  The following analysis is presented:

    DeWitt Colonists lived under the State Flag of Coahuila y Tejas in the 1820’s and 1830’s. The two stars signified the two regions that comprised the State of Coahuila and Texas. Col. Juan Almonte, aid to Santa Anna, states "the enemy, as soon as the march of the division was seen, hoisted the tri-colored flag with two stars, designed to represent Coahuila and Texas" in his journal entry about the Siege and Battle of the Alamo. Mexican officer and engineer Carlos Sanchez-Navarro, who participated in the siege of the Alamo in Mar 1836 in his memoirs, La Guerra de Tejas, Memorias de un Soldado, shows in a illustration the flag of Coahuila y Tejas flying over the Alamo. It has also been speculated that this banner may have been carried by Capt. Juan Seguin's company at the Battle of Bexar and taken with them to the Alamo garrison.
          There was another, the banner of the New Orleans Greys, a body of two companies of infantry totalling about 120 men, well-supplied and trained, relatively.  They had a banner on grey-blue silk, and a group of those men left La Bahia del Espiritu Santo and entered the Alamo after the Texian victory in December that expulsed the garrison of Pefecto de Cos, and remained until they were killed-in-action on the 6th of March.   One last banner may have been the "bonny blue flag's" first appearance on a battlefield. It has been said that there was a "blue field flag with a single five pointed star in the centre" at the Alamo, but it is our opinion that it is confused with the first efforts of establishing an official standard for the new Republic of Texas, and one of the first of those was such a standard.
     Another depiction of the three big cheeses, Crockett, Bowie, and Travis, is okay for a glamour shot or a marquis poster, but Bowie, after 12th of February, could barely walk across his tiny cloister room.  So, the "crossing of the line in the sand, made by Travis's army sabre" if it occurred would have required Bowie to have been carried across said line.   The song's lyrics also indicate that "not a soldier crossed that line"....when supposedly Travis's admonition was to cross the line, if the soldier intended to stay to the death.

    The "crossing the line" matter is also disputed by some historians who say that it was fanciful, romanticism at best, and that none of those surviving souls saw the event or testified to it.  That is not exactly true, because the women and children and the two Negroes, one a slave the other a runaway "extralegal" from Louisiana, were kept inside the great room so as to be away from any harassing canon fire from Lopez de Santa Anna's ever tightening ring of six-pounders.

     These matters can go on and on....they become more interesting and riveting, not less, as the years go by.  We shall continue our communion with the Ghosts of the Alamo to-morrow, along with other things.  Thank one and all for your kind attention and time.

El Gringo Viejo