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¡Recuerda El Alamo!?
October 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 6
When our commander in chief haughtily rejected the agreement that the enemy had proposed, Travis became infuriated at the contemptuous manner in which he had been treated and, expecting no honorable way of salvation, chose the path that strong souls choose in crisis, that of dying with honor, and selected the Alamo for his grave. It is possible that this might have been his first resolve, for although he was awaiting reinforcements, he must have reflected that he would be engaged in battle before these could join him, since it would be difficult for him to cover their entry into the fort with the small force at his disposal. However, this was not the case, for about sixty men did enter one night, the only help that came. They passed through our lines unnoticed until it was too late. This supports my opinion that Travis could have managed to escape during the first nights, when vigilance was much less, but this he refused to do. It has been said that General Ramírez y Sesma’s division was not sufficient to have formed a circumventing line on the first day. Although the Alamo is a small place, one of its sides fronts the San Antonio River and clear and open fields. The heroic language in which Travis addressed his compatriots during the days of the conflict finally proved that he had resolved to die before abandoning the Alamo or surrendering unconditionally. He spoke to them in the following words: Fellow citizens and compatriots, I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained bombardment and cannonade for twenty-four hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly over the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat . Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, and 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 and die as a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country.3
3This was a letter that Travis sent out of the Alamo by messenger on February 24. Oe la Peña must have seen it at a later date and translated it to include in his account. Although he omitted some of what Travis said, his translation—as rendered back into English above—was otherwise accurate.
Twelve days had passed since Ramírez y Sesma’s division had drawn up before the Alamo and three since our own arrival at Béjar. Our commander became more furious when he saw that the enemy resisted the idea of surrender. He believed as others did that the fame and honor of the army were compromised the longer the enemy lived. We had not advanced in the least during the twelve days that our vanguard stood facing this obstinate enemy. It was therefore necessary to attack him in order to make him feel the vigor of our souls and the strength of our arms. But prudent men, who know how to measure the worth of true honor—those whose tempered courage permits their venturing out only when they know beforehand that the destruction they are about to wreak will profit them and who understand that the soldier’s glory is the greater, the less bloody the victory and the fewer the victims sacrificed—these men, though moved by the same sentiments as the army and its commander, were of the opinion that victory over a handful of men concentrated in the Alamo did not call for a great sacrifice. In fact, it was necessary only to await the artillery’s arrival at Béjar for these to surrender; undoubtedly they could not have resisted for many hours the destruction and imposing fire from twenty cannon. The sums spent by the treasury on the artillery equipment brought to Texas are incalculable; the transportation alone amounts to thousands of pesos. Either our leaders did not wish or did not know how to make use of such weaponry; had it been judiciously employed, it would have saved us many lives, and the success of the campaign would have been very different indeed.
There was no need to fear that the enemy would be reinforced, for even though reinforcements had entered because of our lack of vigilance, we were by now situated so as to do battle with any other possible arrivals one by one. We were in a position to advance, leaving a small force on watch at the Alamo, the holding of which was unimportant either politically or militarily, whereas its acquisition was both costly and very bitter in the end. If Sam Houston, the Texan commander, had not received news of the surrender at the Alamo, it would have been very easy to surprise and defeat him.