- Historic Sites
¡Recuerda El Alamo!?
October 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 6
During a council of war held on the 4th of March at Santa Anna’s quarters, he expounded on the necessity of making the assault. Generals Sesma, Cos, and Castrillón, Colonels Almonte, Duque, Amat, Romero, and Salas, and the interim mayor of San Luis were present and gave their consent. The problem centered around the method of carrying it out. Castrillón, Almonte, and Romero were of the opinion that a breach should be made and that eight or ten hours would suffice to accomplish this. Fieldpieces were on their way, and Colonel Bringas, aide to the president-general, had left with the idea of activating them. It was agreed to call the artillery commandant and to alert him to this, and although the artillery would not arrive for a day or so and that solution was still pending, on the 5th the order was given for the assault. Some, though approving this proposal in the presence of the commander in chief, disagreed in his absence, a contradiction that reveals their weakness; others chose silence, knowing that he would not tolerate opposition, his sole pleasure being in hearing what met with his wishes while discarding all admonitions that deviated from those wishes. None of these commanders was aware that there were no field hospitals or surgeons to save the wounded and that for some it would be easier to die than to be wounded, as we shall see after the assault.
When in this or some other discussion the subject of what to do with prisoners was brought up, in case the enemy surrendered before the assault, the example of Arredondo was cited; during the Spanish rule he had hanged eight hundred or more colonists after triumphing in a military action, and this conduct was taken as a model. General Castrillón and Colonel Almonte then voiced principles regarding the rights of men, philosophical and humane principles that did them honor; but their arguments were fruitless.
We had no officers of the engineers’ corps who could estimate for us the strength at the Alamo and its defenses, because the section in this corps appointed for the army had remained in Mexico; however, the sappers were not lacking in personnel who could have carried out this chore, and, furthermore, information given by General Gos, by wounded officers he had left at Béjar, and by some townspeople of this locality was considered sufficient. The latter made clear to us the limited strength of the garrison at the Alamo and the shortage of supplies and munitions at their disposal. They had walled themselves in so quickly that they had not had time to supply themselves with very much.
Travis’ resistance was on the verge of being overcome; for several days his followers had been urging him to surrender, giving the lack of food and the scarcity of munitions as reasons, but he had quieted their restlessness with the hope of quick relief, something not difficult for them to believe, since they had seen some reinforcements arrive. Nevertheless they had pressed him so hard that on the 5th he promised them that if no help arrived on that day, they would surrender the next day or would try to escape under cover of darkness; these facts were given to us by a lady from Béjar, by a Negro who was the only male who escaped, and by several women who were found inside and were rescued by Colonels Morales and Miñón. The enemy was in communication throughout the siege with some of the Béjar townspeople who were their sympathizers, and it was said as a fact during those days that the president-general had known of Travis’ decision and that it was for this reason that he precipitated the assault, because he wanted to cause a sensation and would have regretted taking the Alamo without clamor and without bloodshed, for some believed that without these there is no glory.
Once the order was issued, even those opposing it were ready to carry it out; no one doubted that we would triumph, but it was anticipated that the struggle would be bloody, as indeed it was. All afternoon of the 5th was spent on preparations. Night came, and with it the most sober reflections. Our soldiers, it was said, lacked the cool courage that is demanded by an assault, but they were steadfast and the survivors will have nothing to be ashamed of. Each one individually confronted and prepared his soul for the terrible moment, expressed his last wishes, and silently and coolly took those steps that precede an encounter. It was a general duel from which it was important to us to emerge with honor. No harangue preceded this combat, but the example given was the most eloquent language and the most absolute order. Our brave officers left nothing to be desired in the hour of trial, and if anyone failed in his duty, if anyone tarnished his honor, it was so insignificant that his shortcomings remained in the confusion of obscurity and disdain. Numerous feats of valor were seen in which many fought hand to hand; there were also some cruelties observed.
The Alamo was an irregular fortification that a wise general would have taken with insignificant losses, but we lost more than three hundred brave