February 23, 2015

Remember the Alamo

Few words resonate so strongly in American history textbooks the way "Remember the Alamo!" does.  Even international visitors largely unfamiliar with United States history have a vague idea about the events and choose to visit this small mission in San Antonio, Texas, to get a glimpse of the fabric that has made Texas -- and in large part, the United States -- so great.  But what exactly are we supposed to be remembering about the Alamo?  What happened there, and what events led up to this defeat which has been transformed into a rallying point?

The story of the Texas Revolution and subsequent annexation into the United States encompasses over ten years, but can be condensed into a few key events leading up to and after the Battle of the Alamo:
  • In October 1835, the colonists of Texas, which at that time was Mexico's northernmost province, rebelled against the increasingly centralist Mexican government.  At this juncture, the ultimate goal was unclear as popular sentiment was divided between seeking independence or reinstating the Mexican Constitution of 1824.  However, within two months, all Mexican troops were withdrawn from or driven out of Texas, and it seemed clear that Texas would declare its independence. 
  • In February 1836, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna marched into Texas and caught Texans unprepared.  In March, Texas declared itself independent, but the newly-formed army under Sam Houston was pushed back towards the border with Louisiana in the face of Santa Anna's army.  It is during this time that the Battle of the Alamo occurred.
  • In just twenty minutes and at the cost of only 9 Texan casualties, Sam Houston routed Santa Anna in a surprise attack on the Mexican army's vanguard at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.  Santa Anna himself was captured, and his ransom included a promise to lobby for Texas' independence in the Mexican government.  It was at this battle that the cries of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!" became a rallying point of Texan history.
  • Despite Santa Anna's ransom agreement, Mexico refused to recognize Texan sovereignty, and when Texas agreed to be annexed into the United States in 1845, the Mexican-American war erupted, lasting until 1848.

The events of the Battle of the Alamo itself can be characterized into two parts: the siege and minor skirmishes for the first 12 days, and the full-blown assault and capture of the Alamo on the 13th day.  Although romanticized in films such as Disney's Davy Crockett or John Wayne's The Alamo, the hand-to-hand assault and combat of March 6, 1836, was far from romantic.  Many of the Texans were killed by bayonet wounds, which is neither a swift nor preferable way to die.  One Texan was bayoneted in front of the women and children survivors hiding in the sacristy of the complex.

Although the Battle of the Alamo was just a small occurrence in the overall strategy of the conflicts, it is arguably the most memorable.  There is the tragic romance of a few hundred Texans staving off over 1,500 Mexican soldiers for 13 days.  Then there is the celebrity appeal of such well-known names as Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and William Travis, all dying at the Alamo.  And then there is the historic appeal -- it became a rallying point for the Texas revolution and ultimately has become representative of the insatiable thirst for personal liberties and independence which has resulted in this country we live in.  And this is what we should recall when we remember the Alamo.

Have you visited the Alamo?


Linking up with Bonnie RoseAmandaCaityMarcella, and Michelle for #TravelTuesday!


  1. Go America! :) Thanks for breaking down the truth from the legend - all of the versions are great stories of heroism and patriotism! How long would you normally spend seeing the Alamo? An hour? An afternoon?

  2. Oh yeah - and I have to admit, I looooove the John Wayne version even if there are a few inaccuracies! About 1-2 hours is plenty of time, depending on how crowded it is. You'll definitely want to wander down the River Walk afterwards if you visit on a hot June day like we did!

  3. Hey! I just went there a little while ago! Hopefully you had some good weather while you were down there :) I like San Antonio, but after showing countless out-of-town visitors the small city, I'm so sick of it! There's only so many times you can see the Alamo and walk the riverwalk hahah

  4. Finally something I've visited! Haha, I hope I get to visit san Antonio when we go back!

  5. :) We want to go back, too, since we forgot our National Park passports and didn't get a stamp for our visit!

  6. Sounds like how I feel about DC! We're always taking visitors there and do the same things every time, so that gets old after the zillionth time. >_<

  7. When my parents came, I couldn't do it anymore, haha! I told them point blank that they would have to explore on their own.


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