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¡Recuerda El Alamo!?
October 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 6
All military authors agree that battles should be undertaken only in extreme situations, and I will take full advantage of these opinions; they affirm that as a general rule, so long as there is a way to weaken and overcome the enemy without combat, it should be adopted and combat avoided. Civilization has humanized man, and thanks to its good effects the more barbarous methods that were prevalent before to kill the greatest number of men in the least possible time have been abandoned; murderous maneuvers to destroy a whole army at a single blow have been discarded. It has been established as an axiom that a general entrusted with the command of an army should devote as much zeal to sparing the blood of his army as to the enemy. The opinion of the military sages, together with that of the moralists, states that the general who is frugal with the blood of his soldiers is the savior of his country, whereas he who squanders and sacrifices it foolishly is the murderer of his compatriots. One of these authors states that Louis XIV , at the time of his death, was inconsolable because of the blood spilled during his reign; that the memorable Marshal Turenne of France, in the last moments of his life, could not be quieted by the priests in spite of all the consolation religion offers. As a matter of fact, false feelings of glory are not sufficient to suppress the remorse that the useless spilling of blood always brings about. If General Santa Anna were to see gathered together at one place the bodies of all the Mexicans he has sacrificed in all the revolutions he has promoted and in all the ill-directed battles over which he has presided, he would be horrified, no matter how insensitive he may be. The most renowned captains have always feared the day of battle, not so much because of danger to their lives as because of the interests and the soldiers entrusted to their care; hut ignorance fears nothing, because it foresees nothing. Some of our generals, particularly the conqueror of the Alamo, seemed not to have heeded these authors, for the latter, in his long career, has always separated himself from principles and has cast aside \vise counsel. He has acted capriciously, uselessly sacrificing the life of the soldier, the honor and interests of the repuhlic, and the decorum of its arms, certain that no accounting will be required of him or else that were this to he brought about, he would be acquitted, as experience has demonstrated. Hc would certainly act differently were he to Ix? punished for his errors, but since he is lavished with honors even after his defeats, regardless of how shameful these may be, he could not care less about losing or winning battles so long as they serve the interest of his party.
The responsibility for the victims sacrificed at the Alamo, however, must rest on General Ramírez y Sesma rather than on the commander in chief. He knew that the enemy was at Béjar in small numbers and in the greatest destitution. When Sesma first sighted the town, the enemy was still engaged in the pleasures of a dance given the night before: he therefore could have and should have prevented their taking refuge in the Alamo. Several came to inform him, indicating to him the points through which he might enter and the orders he should give and urging him earnestly, but he turned down these recommendations and the repeated requests, conducting himself with extraordinary uncertainty and weakness. We have seen how dearly his indecision was paid for. At the very moment that General Ramírez y Scsma was advised to enter Béjar, there were only ten men at the Alamo, and it would have required an equal number to take it. Had he just placed himself at the bridge over the San Antonio that connects the fort to the city, as he was advised, he would have prevented the enemy from taking refuge there, thus avoiding the painful catastrophe that I have just described.