- Historic Sites
¡Recuerda El Alamo!?
October 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 6
Among the defenders there were thirty or more colonists; the rest were pirates [i.e., volunteers from the United States rather than Texans], used to defying danger and to disdaining death, and who for that reason fought courageously; their courage, to my way of thinking, merited them the mercy for which, toward the last, some of them pleaded; others, not knowing the language, were unable to do so. In fact, when these men noted the loss of their leader and saw that they were being attacked by superior forces, they faltered. Some, with an accent hardly intelligible, desperately cried, “Mercy, valiant Mexicans”; others poked the points of their bayonets through a hole or a door with a white cloth, the symbol of cease-fire, and some even used their socks. Our trusting soldiers, seeing these demonstrations, would confidently enter their quarters, but those among the enemy who had not pleaded for mercy, who had no thought of surrendering, and who relied on no other recourse than selling their lives dearly would meet them with pistol shots and bayonets. Thus betraved, our men rekindled their anger, and at every moment fresh skirmishes broke out with renewed fury. The order had been given to spare no one but the women, and this was carried out; but such carnage was useless, and had we prevented it, we would have saved much of our own blood. Those of the enemy who tried to escape fell victims to the sabers of the cavalry, which had been drawn up for this purpose, but even as they fled they defended themselves. An unfortunate father with a young son in his arms was seen to hurl himself from a considerable height; both perished at the same blow.
This scene of extermination went on for an hour before the curtain of death covered and ended it. Shortly after six in the morning it was all finished. The corps were beginning to reassemble and to identify themselves, their sorrowful countenances revealing the losses in the thinned ranks of their officers and comrades, when the commander in chief appeared. Santa Anna could see for himself the desolation among his battalions and that devastated area littered with corpses, with scattered limbs and bullets, with weapons and torn uniforms. Some of these were burning together with the corpses, which produced an unbearable and nauseating odor. The bodies, with their blackened and bloody faces disfigured by a desperate death, their hair and uniforms burning at once, presented a dreadful and truly hellish sight. What trophies—those of the battlefield! Quite soon some of the bodies were left naked by the fire; others had been stripped naked by a disgraceful rapacity among our men. The enemy could be identified by their whiteness, by their robust and bulky shapes. What a sad spectacle, that of the dead and dying! What a horror, to inspect the area and find the remains of friends—! With what anxiety did some seek others, and with what ecstasy did they embrace one another! Questions followed one after the other, even while the bullets were still whistling around, in the midst of the groans of the wounded and the last breaths of the dying.
The general then addressed his crippled battalions, lauding their courage and thanking them in the name of their country. But one hardly noticed in his words the magic that Napoleon expressed in his, which, I’ve been told, was impossible to resist. The vivas were seconded icily, and silence would hardly have been broken if I—seized by one of those impulses triggered by enthusiasm or else formed to avoid reflection, which conceals the feelings—had not addressed myself to the valiant chasseurs of Aldama, hailing the republic and them, an act that, carried out in the presence of the commander on whom so much unmerited honor had been bestowed, proved that I never flatter those in power.