The battle at the Alamo was a siege that has reached legendary proportions, particularly in the state of Texas. The battle, which took place during the course of thirteen days in 1836, pitted rebels of primarily U.S. origin against the ruling Mexican government. Despite the short duration of the siege, it holds significant importance in history. The battle and the men who died during it are revered for their steadfast bravery in defense of their rights. It is also important for the impact that it had on the final outcome of the Texas Revolution.
Following the Mexican War of Independence from Spain, Mexico inherited the sparsely populated land known as Texas. Because of its low population and the constant threat from the Comanche Indians, Mexico relaxed its immigration policies to allow the colonization of Texas. This was done by granting the right to own land to empresarios who would then form colonies of settlers. This caused a swift jump in the population of Texas. Unfortunately, the constant efforts of the U.S. to purchase Texas and the shunning of Mexican laws regarding slavery would begin to make Mexico nervous about the presence of U.S. immigrants. This eventually resulted in a number of problems between Mexico and the colonists. One of these problems would be the passing of laws that put a stop to new immigration into Texas by U.S. settlers. More problems would soon arise when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was elected President and was eventually elevated to dictator.
Eventually the conflicts between Texas colonists and Mexico would lead to the Texas Revolution, starting with the siege of Béxar in October of 1835. This battle resulted in the rebel forces of colonists and Tejanos gaining control of San Antonio and also the Alamo. The siege of the Alamo began on February 23, 1836 with the arrival of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and roughly 600 members of the Mexican army. His arrival and intent to squash the frontier rebellion caused the rebels to flee to the Alamo, which was soon surrounded by Santa Anna’s soldiers. Inside the Alamo there were men as well as some women and children. The men in command at the time were William Travis and James Bowie. Bowie had been in command of a small contingent of volunteers who had joined with the rebels commanded by James C. Neill in January of that year. In early February, Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis had arrived on orders from Governor Henry Smith. Prior to the onset of the siege, Niall left due to illness in the family, leaving Travis in command. This created some conflict with Bowie who was in co-command. Bowie, however, became severely ill on the second day of the siege, leaving Travis in full command. Also behind the walls of the Alamo was the former Tennessee Congressman David Crockett, who was best known as a frontiersman.
The day after Santa Anna’s arrival, Travis sent out the now famous letter from the Alamo that is known as the “Victory or Death” letter and other pleas for assistance from Gonzalez. In response to these pleas, aid from Goliad was sent headed by James W. Fannin; however, Fannin was cut off on February 29 by Mexican troops. Relief in the form of thirty-two men who were able to break through the Mexican line on March 1 came to aid the Texans within the Alamo. Unfortunately for those within the Alamo, aid for Santa Anna also arrived several days later on March 3. These reinforcements increased the number of Mexican soldiers to over 2,000. In addition, not only did the arrival of reinforcements bring more men, but it also increased the number of cannons. By the eleventh day of the siege Mexican forces had begun to step up their attacks, battering the walls which soon began to crack under the bombardment. The assault on the Alamo continued throughout the morning and afternoon of the twelfth day, coming within 200 yards of the walls. It is during this day-long battery that Santa Ana devised a plan to attack and take down the Alamo in the early hours of the following morning. As this happened, Travis gave his men the opportunity to leave. With the exception of one man by the name of Rose, the rebels chose to stay until the end. At midnight of what would be the final day of the assault, March 6, 1836, Travis sent his final request for help that would never arrive. The final battle between Santa Anna’s troops and the Alamo began at approximately 5:00 a.m. and lasted a mere ninety minutes. When it was over, Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and a majority of the men were killed while defending the Alamo. The remaining six soldiers were taken prisoner and later executed according to Santa Anna’s decree that he would take no prisoners.
The battle at the Alamo had a profound effect on the future of Texas. It became a source of inspiration and determination for future battles against the Mexican Army. When Santa Anna’s forces were defeated at San Jacinto, it was to the cry of men shouting “Remember the Alamo!” This battle at San Jacinto became a turning point for Texas and resulted in the withdrawal of Mexican troops.
For more information about the siege at the Alamo, click on the links below.
- The 1836 Battle: Read an overview of the battle at the Alamo, which took place in 1836. The overview is on the Alamo website.
- Texas State Library and Archives Commission – The Battle of the Alamo: This page provides information about the events before, during, and after the battle of the Alamo. The page also includes a link to a letter from the Alamo written in 1836 by William Barret Travis.
- The Battle of the Alamo – Siege Chronology: The thirteen days of the siege are discussed in chronological order. Readers can click on a number to go directly to information regarding the corresponding day, or they may scroll down the web page and read each description in order.
- The Battle of the Alamo: On this page readers are given a brief history of the events leading up to the Battle of the Alamo and an accounting of the battle itself. The article also touches on the events following the battle.
- The Fall of the Alamo: On this page readers will find an accounting of the fall of the Alamo by Captain R.M. Potter who lived near the Alamo. The article was originally written in 1860 for the Antonio Herald.
- Mexican General Antonio Lopes de Santa Anna Recaptured the Alamo: A very brief review of the events on March 6, 1836. Clicking on the link takes readers to the first of two pages.
- Today in History: March 6: A brief review of what the siege of Alamo was about, why it is remembered and what it ultimately accomplished.
- Digital History – The Battle of the Alamo: This page begins with an overview of the battle of the Alamo and ends with the words from a document written in 1837 by Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana.
- A History of the Alamo: Click on this link to view a PDF that features the photographic history of the Alamo. The first images depicting the Alamo are drawings. Readers will also find the earliest known image and a brief written history.
- Siege of Alamo: By clicking on this link readers are taken to a chronological timeline for the thirteen days of the battle of the Alamo.
- History – The Alamo: The History Channel outlines the battle at the Alamo. The page includes information on the early history of the Alamo, the battle, and its legacy.
- Santa Anna and the Texas Revolution: The Texas Revolution and the battle of the Alamo as seen through the eyes of Santa Anna.
- The Texas Revolution: A PDF document that reviews the Texas Revolution. Readers will also learn about the Alamo and its impact on the Revolution.
- Davie Crockett: A brief biography of the life of Davie Crockett, including his death at the Alamo.
- David Crockett History: A short history of the political life of David Crockett.
- New York Defenders of the Alamo: An article that discusses people who came from New York and stood in defense of the Alamo.
- Remember the Alamo – People & Events: William B. Travis: PBS offers a history on William B. Travis. In addition, the page also discusses his time as default commander and his legend.
- The Travis Letter – “Victory or Death”: An article on the Texas Heritage Society website that discusses William B. Travis’ famous letter. It also includes an image of the letter.
- List of Those Who Fell in the Alamo: On this page readers will find a list of people who died on March 6, 1836 at the Alamo. The list includes the name, rank if any, and where the individual was from if known.
- Alamo, Battle of the: An article about the final battle at the Alamo written by the Texas State Historical Association.