On This Date in History:
Back in the 18th Century, the Spanish were running around what is now Central and North America, pretty much on a mission of conquest and not so much on a mission of colonization. My take has always been that the main goal of the Spanish was to secure gold and other treasures for the crown rather than develop the territories as on-going concerns. While they were conquering, they also decided that the defeated needed to be saved and so they set out to make the natives Christians. They set up a number of missions where missionaries could “civilize” those who were under the thumb of the conquistadors.
One such mission was Mision San Antonio de Valero. Construction on the mission began in 1724. By 1793, the Spaniards decided to secularlize the 5 missions in the area and distributed the lands to the Indians in the region. I’m not sure why they did that but I doubt if it was guilt over taking it in the first place. A guess would be that the “natives were getting restless” and it was a way to appease them so they wouldn’t have a revolt on their hands. What once had been mission lands became their own and they continued their farming. Just after the turn of the century, the Spanish decided that the old mission would make a great fort and so there they stationed a cavalry unit. The solider’s of that unit were from Alamo de Paras, Coahuila. Perhaps they were homesick because they renamed the mission the Alamo, which means cottonwood in Spanish.
During the decade long effort to secure Mexican independence from the Spanish, the fort was held by both revolutionaries and also the Spanish as it changed hands during the fortunes of war. By 1835, things were getting unsettled again in the region of Mexico known as Tejas.
The Mexican government had encouraged settlement by immigrants. They got good deals on land and pretty much had a semblance of freedom, provided that they follow the Mexican laws. Most of the immigrants were ex-patrioted Americans. Some were fleeing the long arm of Uncle Sam’s law. Nevertheless, many of the Americans, being a rather independent lot, wanted to separate from Mexico. One item that was in the craw of some of the immigrants was that Mexican law forbade slavery and many of the Americans were slave holders. The Texicans organized volunteers to take up arms against the government and the Mexicans decided it was time to put down the unrest in their territory. The Texicans thought it was time to get more organized and on March 2, 1836 declared independence from Mexico.
Now, the unruly Texicans had gone to battle with the Mexican forces in San Antonio de Bexar in December 1835 and after house to house fighting, forced the Mexicn forces to surrender. The Texicans took up residence in the Alamo which was well fortified and supplied with munitions. Mexican President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna thought San Antonio was a good place to go after the upstarts and on February 23, 1836 he brought thousands of troops to the Alamo. Inside the Alamo were about 150 Texicans led by William Barrett Travis. He was in charge of the small professional Texas soldier but Jim Bowie led a group of volunteers as did David Crockett and his men from Tennessee. The vastly outnumbered Texicans held out for 13 days. They refused to surrender. Travis wrote a letter that is famous in Texas folklore in which he begs for reinforcements and says that he had answered the Mexican call for surrender with a cannon shot. The Texas State Archive Commission provides more information regarding the letter of William Barret Travis at the Alamo, including an additional note and verbiage written on the envelope.
Only 32 volunteers showed up halfway through the seige to bring the total to 189. No reinforcements came. On this date in 1836, the Alamo fell. All of the men were killed, though modern historians uncovered a letter from a Mexican soldier that claims that a few men were taken prisoner and taken back to Mexico City where they were tortured and killed. One of those men reported to have been captured was Davy Crockett. I do not believe that this account has been totally accepted by historians though I also do not think it has been totally dismissed either. But, it does fly in the face of John Wayne’s version of the Alamo in which Crockett is one of the last defenders to die and dies taking out several men and blowing up the munitions, in true John Wayne hero manner.
As with many things in history, particularly items as heroic as the Alamo, myths have become fact. Let’s explore a few with the Alamo. It was often been portrayed in film that the Alamo defenders died while “buying time” for Sam Houston to train his army. Truth is that Houston on January 28 was given a furlough to take care of some business. He went and negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee Nation and then served as a delegate to the constitutional convention until March 6. It was at that time that he was reconfirmed as commander in chief of the Texican volunteer and regular army. Travis is often portrayed as a pompous man who was disliked by many of the volunteers, particularly Jim Bowie. Travis was really a very likeable and outgoing fellow.
The story of the dislike comes from the volunteers refusing to take his orders, but that was more out of loyalty and respect for their own commanders, such as Crockett and Bowie. There were some survivors of the Alamo but they were all women, children and slaves. The weather was not part of one of the coldest winters in Texas history. That rumor came about because the Mexican Army ran through a brutal and freakish snowstorm on their march to the Alamo. A couple of cold fronts came through during the seige but they only took the temperatures into the 30’s. Two days after the seige was over the weather was described as “fine weather.” And finally, the 400 men of James Fannin at Goliad, just 100 miles away, could not have come to the rescue because they had another Mexican Army in the area that they had to deal with.
Nevertheless, the Texicans ended up getting the last laugh. In late April, with shouts of “Remember the Alamo,” the Texican Army under the command of General Sam Houston, routed the Mexican Army near present day Houston in 26 minutes. They forced Santa Anna to surrender, not only his army but also sign documents that ceded Texas to the revolutionaries. It is said that Santa Anna was distracted in his tent by the beautiful woman spy, the Yellow Rose of Texas. About 10 years later, Santa Anna was at war again over Texas with the United States over the border of Texas…seems Santa Anna believed his definition of Texas only went to the Nueces River, whereas the Americans and Texans determined that the documents that Santa Anna signed at San Jacinto took Texas to the Rio Grande. Santa Anna lost that war too and ended up losing most of the Southwestern United States in the process.
The Alamo is a shrine today in Texas and millions of people from around the world come to San Antonio each year to visit. One visitor was Ozzy Osbourne who in 1984 was arrested. At 11 am he was spotted drunk, pulling up a dress he was wearing, urinating on the Alamo. He found out the hard way what the Alamo means to Texans. He was banned from the city.
No matter what….this is a great and historic day for Texans around the world!
Weather Bottom Line: Weekend outlook looks on track. Highs in the mid 50’s…maybe even upper 50’s on Saturday for some folks. We’re back to the mid 50’s on Sunday as a lead shortwave comes out ahead of the main storm. Rain activity looks to be around Sunday afternoon into Sunday night. Now, the main show will come out and I am pretty confident that there will be some severe weather in the midwest Sunday or Monday and then Tuesday or Wednesday in the South. I”ll tell you what though..the latest runs want to bring the main short farther North. Consequently, it’s not out of the question for Thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon or Tuesday night around here…nor is it a totally foreign idea that the area of rough weather in the South just may expand closer to Louisville. I do however expect any watch areas to be primarily in Dixie. We’ll have to see.