This Day in History: William B. Travis and the Siege at the Alamo

On this day in 1836, Texans hold their ground during a siege at the Alamo. The very next day, Texas would declare its independence from Mexico!

The siege at the Alamo and the battle that followed were among the most pivotal events of the Texas Revolution.

Almost one week earlier, on February 23, 1836, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna had arrived at the Alamo with his army. That army badly outnumbered the Texans (then called Texians). There were only about 200 men defending the Alamo.

The Alamo’s commander, William B. Travis, sent messengers pleading for help. Couriers were apparently able to slip past the Mexican forces until at least March 3, but maybe even as late as March 5. (The Mexican army was building earthworks around the Alamo, which were meant to cut off the Texians from reinforcements. The couriers could get through while these earthworks were incomplete.)

“I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours,” Travis wrote, “& have not lost a man . . . . I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid . . . . If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.”

Unfortunately, Travis’s letters were to no avail. Help was on the way, but few of these reinforcements were able to arrive in time—only 32 extra men arrived on March 1.

Matters looked bleak for the Texians, to say the least.

Legend has it that Travis, seeing the difficulty of the mission, drew a line in the sand. He asked any man willing to defend the Alamo to step over the line. All but one man crossed over. These men knew they would likely give their lives in defense of the mission, but they did it anyway. They did not want to surrender their position to Santa Anna.

The Mexicans launched their final assault in the early morning hours of March 6. Almost every Texian defender was killed, giving Santa Anna a victory; however, the Mexican army also took heavy losses that day. (Accounts vary on the actual numbers.)

Roughly 20 women and children were inside the Alamo and were spared. The youngest of these children was a 15-month old girl. Another legend has Travis hanging his personal “cat’s-eye” ring around the toddler’s neck before the final battle began.

You already know that “Remember the Alamo!” became a rallying cry for the Texians in the wake of the battle. A little over a month later, the Texians would win the Battle of San Jacinto in a mere 18 minutes.

Wishing my fellow Texans a Happy Texas Independence Day tomorrow! 🙂