¡Recuerda El Alamo!?

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Shortly before Santa Anna’s speech an unpleasant episode had taken place, which, since it occurred after the end of the skirmish, was looked upon as base murder and which contributed greatly to the coolness that was noted. Some seven men had survived the general carnage, and, under the protection of General Castrillón, they were brought before Santa Anna. Among them was one of great stature, well proportioned, with regular features, in whose face there was the imprint of adversity but in whom one also noticed a degree of resignation and nobility that did him honor. He was the naturalist David Crockett, well known in North America for his unusual adventures, who had undertaken to explore the country and who, finding himself in Béjar at the very moment of surprise, had taken refuge in the Alamo, fearing that his status as a foreigner, might not be respected. Santa Anna answered Castrillón’s intervention in Crockett’s behalf with a gesture of indignation and addressing himself to the sappers, the troops closest to him, ordered his execution. The commanders and officers were outraged at this action and did not support the order, hoping that once the fury of the moment had blown over, these men would be spared; but several other officers who were around the president and who, perhaps, had not been present during the moment of danger became noteworthy by an infamous deed, surpassing the soldiers in cruelty. They thrust themselves forward, in order to flatter their commander, and with swords in hand fell upon these unfortunate, defenseless men just as a tiger leaps upon his prey. Though tortured before they were killed, these unfortunates died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers. It was rumored that General Sesma was one of them; I will not bear witness to this, for though present I turned away horrified in order not to witness such a barbarous scene. Do you remember, comrades, that fierce moment which struck us all with dread, which made our souls tremble, thirsting for vengeance just a few hours before? Are your resolute hearts not stirred and still full of indignation against those who so ignobly dishonored their swords with blood? As for me, I confess that the very memory of it makes me tremble and that my ear can still hear the penetrating, doleful sound of rhe victims.

 

To whom was this sacrifice useful? And what advantage was derived by increasing the number of victims? It was paid for dearly, though it could have been otherwise had these men been required to walk across the floor, carpeted with the bodies over which we stepped; had they been rehabilitated generously and required to communicate to their comrades the fate that awaited them if they did not desist from their unjust cause. They could have informed their comrades of the force and resources that the enemy had. According to documents found among these men and to subsequent information, the force within the Alamo consisted of 182 men; but according to the number counted by us it was 253. In any case the number is smaller than that referred to by the commander in chief in his communiqué, which contends that in the excavations and the trenches alone more than 600 bodies had been buried. What was the object of this misrepresentation? Some believe that it was done to give greater importance to the episode; others, that it was done to excuse our losses and to make it less painful.

Death united in one place both friends and enemies; within a few hours a funeral pyre rendered into ashes those men who moments before had been so brave that in a blind fury they had unselfishly offered their lives and had met their ends in combat. The greater part of our dead were buried by their comrades, but the enemy bodies were burned. I have heard that the great pyre of their dead has been attributed to our hatred. I, for one, wishing to count the bodies for myself, arrived at the moment the flames were reddening, ready to consume them.

When calm opens the way for reflection, what sad and cruel thoughts rush to the sensitive soul contemplating the field of battle! Would anyone be the object of reproach who, after risking his life to comply with his duty and honor, for a brief period unburdens his feelings and devotes some time to charitable thoughts?

The reflections after the assault, even a few days after it had taken place, were generally well founded; for instance, it was questioned why a breach had not been opened. What had been the use of bringing up the artillery if it were not to be used when necessity required, and why should we have been forced to leap over a fortified place as if we were flying birds? Why, before agreeing on the sacrifice, which was great indeed, had no one borne in mind that we had no means at our disposal to save our wounded? Why were our lives uselessly sacrificed in a deserted and totally hostile country if our losses could not be replaced? These thoughts were followed by others more or less well based, for the taking of the Alamo was not considered a happy event, but rather a defeat that saddened us all. In Béjar one heard nothing but laments; each officer who died aroused compassion and renewed reproaches. Those who arrived later added their criticism to ours, and some of these, one must say, regretted not having been present, because those who obeyed against their own judgment nonetheless attained eternal glory.