The Alamo

So much has already been written about the Alamo and the battle of 1836. We present here a brief history of the mission itself and a timeline of the days leading up to and including the battle.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas have done an excellent job of recapitulating the history of the mission and the battle. The dates summarized below are primarily based on their findings.

Brief Alamo background:

In 1716, the Viceroy of New Spain, the Marqués de Valero, authorized a mission to serve as the replacement location of the Mission of San Francisco Solano from its prior location on the Rio Grande to the San Antonio River. Two years later Mission San Antonio de Valero was founded by Franciscan missionaries. Its initial location was on the west side of the river but was moved to the east side of the river one year later in 1719. About five years later in 1724, it was again relocated further north to its current location after a storm. The construction of a mission church was begun in 1744 and completed over a decade later. Several of the other six missions were constructed during this period.

The mission was secularized by an order of the King of Spain in 1793. The mission was used at various times as a military post.

A year that is cited in the history of the mission is 1803 when Spanish troops previously stationed in a Mexican town sometimes called El Alamo occupied the mission. The National Parks Service gives the name of the company of soldiers to be the La Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos de Parras, (the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras). These troops had previously been stationed at Alamo de Parras, a town in Coahuila. This has been noted as being a possible source for the popular name “Alamo” having been applied to the mission.

Beginning around 1811, various conflicts occurred between Spanish troops and those seeking independence. Roughly ten years later, Mexico gained its independence from Spain. In 1824, Mexico adopted its constitution. The governance of the area included Texas and Coahuila and its capital is in Saltillo.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna later became president and proceeded to move towards a more centralist form of government which, among other issues including the cancelling of colonization contracts and taxation of local commerce, lead to unrest in Texas and dissatisfaction with the governance by Mexico. Finally armed conflicts began in the mid 1830s with the battle of Gonzales and the siege of Béxar (San Antonio) near the end of 1835, leading up to the Battle of the Alamo. The siege of Béxar resulted in the mission falling into the hands of Texas forces with Mexican forces withdrawing to the south.

Brief Alamo battle timeline:

Supporters of Texas independence, the trained Army and volunteers, began to arrive at the Alamo the first week in February, 1836. Also in February, William B. Travis was elected to serve as commander of the regular Army forces while Jim Bowie was selected to serve as commander of the volunteers. Meanwhile, Santa Anna and his troops are approaching the area.

Santa Anna’s forces arrived on February 23 and began preparations for the siege of the mission, where the Texas troops have congregated. This began the so called “13 Days To Glory.” On or about the 24th, Travis assumed command of all Texas forces and sent out his famous letter as Santa Anna set up an artillery battery on the west side of the river.

Around February 25th, Santa Anna set up an artillery battery south of the Alamo and forces engaged one another on the perimeter of the compound. James W. Fannin is said to leave Goliad in route to the Alamo with reinforcements. The following day, Fannin is said to have reversed his course in response to news of Mexican Colonel José Urrea’s forces heading to the area. The first of two weather systems moved through the area, dropping temperatures and bringing rain.

For the next three days to the end of February, Santa Anna continued to construct his artillery emplacements, fire on the Alamo and encircle the compound with his troops. 1836 was a Leap Year, so February had 29 days. Santa Anna learned of Fannin’s plans to send reinforcements and dispatched Mexican troops to oppose them.

A second weather system hit the area on March 1st, the day that thirty-two individuals come to the Alamo from Gonzales and Santa Anna continues his assault. In events elsewhere, a delegation completed and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico on March 2 in Washington-on-the-Brazos. About March 4th, Travis penned his second and final letter summarizing the situation.

From that time until March 6th, Santa Anna continued to bombard the Alamo and plan for the final assault. The current Alamo building was part of a much larger compound with a perimeter wall surrounding it. There are various recreations of the battle map available, but if you can visualize that the doors to the Alamo open roughly to the west, the orientation of the Mexican troops seems to generally place General Cos and his infantry off to the northwest, Colonel Duque and his infantry roughly due north from the mission compound, Colonel Romero and his infantry to the east and Colonel Morales and his infantry situated just south of the mission compound. Santa Anna and his leadership staff were positioned behind a line between Colonel Duque’s and Colonel Romero’s forces, along with reserve companies of infantry. Early that day, the assault began in somewhat of a pincer move as they Mexican forces converged on the compound from the northeast, the north, the east and the south. After a battle of about ninety minutes, the Alamo fell. All but a few civilian noncombatants were killed. Santa Anna ordered the remains of the Texas combatants burned on site.

In the aftermath, several more battles occurred, leading up to the pivotal conflict of April 21, 1836 at San Jacinto.

These dates are usually key dates associated with the Texas Revolution:

  • October 2, 1835 – Battle of Gonzales.
  • December 5, 1835 – Siege of Béxar.
  • Feb. 23, 1836 – Battle of the Alamo begins.
  • March 2, 1836 – Convention of 1836.
  • March 6, 1836 – Fall of the Alamo.
  • March 27, 1836 – Goliad Massacre.
  • April 21, 1836 – Battle of San Jacinto.

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