One of the most important battles in US history was the Battle of the Alamo. While most people know about the outcome of the battle, do you know what happened before the Alamo? Thanks to the glamour of Hollywood cinema, everyone envisions the Alamo as one of the most incredible sieges. The battle is seen as a romanticized epic war between Mexico and some of America's most legendary figures, such as Colonel James Bowie and Davy Crockett.
While the battle was a significant and pivotal moment in American history, the hard facts of the Battle of the Alamo are not as glorious as many people believe. In fact, historic research concludes that the actual fighting only lasted about 20 minutes in total. This is because then-Mexican president Santa Anna and his large army of over 2,000 well-trained soldiers invaded the Alamo mission and massacred the 200 sleeping civilians who occupied the building. This gave the small army very little time to draw weapons or fight properly.
In the end, due to a series of unfortunate events that led up to the beginning of the battle and the downfall of the Alamo, Texans were defeated. But the massacre inspired hundreds of people to take up arms for Texan independence. Take a leap back in time and learn about everything that had to go wrong for the Battle of the Alamo to end as disastrously as it did.
Settlers Snubbed Mexico's Laws
When Southern settlers moved into Texas, they had hopes of owning property to build cotton plantations. At the time, the cotton industry in Mexico was big business. However, the stipulation for settlers to live on the Mexican-owned land was that they had to agree to become Catholics, as well as registered Mexican citizens. Many settlers ignored these stipulations and further angered the Mexican government by bringing slaves for the labor.
Mexico's Government Changes To A Dictatorship Model
Because of practices like slavery and the fact that settlers were claiming territories beyond what was permitted by the Mexican government, Mexico decided to tighten their control. The Mexican government began to shift from the Federalist government model into a dictatorship model. This caused settlers to rebel against the dictatorial policies and the Mexican government.
Texans Refused To Hand Over A Cannon
In October 1835, the Texas Revolution began with the Battle Of Gonzales. However, the catalyst for this battle was actually a small cannon that Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea of the Mexican army wanted retrieved just a few days prior. Little did he realize it would start a skirmish between the Texan settlers living in Gonzales and his Mexican forces.
Texans refused to give the cannon to Mexican forces when they came to fetch it. 18 men put a flag over the cannon, with the words, "Come and take it!" Over two days, the Texan numbers grew to 167. They launched a successful surprise attack on their enemies, and this battle marked the beginning of the Texas Revolution.
The Alamo Was Not Built For Intense Battles
The Alamo building in San Antonio was originally a mission, which is a religious station used as a base for supplies and communication for missionaries. Later, the Mexican army converted the mission into a makeshift fort to protect them from the Native Americans that lived near the area.
Because the building was re-purposed from an old outpost, it wasn’t designed to withstand heavy artillery and was only meant to withstand attacks carried out by native tribes. In addition, the Alamo lacked firing ports for riflemen, so catwalks were constructed to allow defenders to fire over the walls of the building. However, this method left the rifleman's upper torso fully exposed when he stood.
Many Texas Soldiers Bailed Out Early
After the Battle of Gonzales, many of the settlers who had helped defeat the Mexican soldiers stationed in the region went home. The reason behind their departure was simple: they didn’t have adequate provisions to prepare them for a long camp. Because of this, the once large army dwindled down to less than 200 men. Upon their departure, there wasn’t enough manpower, let alone firepower, left that would be needed to secure the Alamo building.
- Photo: Illustration by Charles A. Stephens, book written by William O. Stoddard / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Leadership And Control Wavered
In December of 1835, Sam Houston, Commander-in-Chief of the Texas army, ordered James Neill to take command over the San Antonio mission. However, only a few months into his command, Neill left to care for his ill family and transferred command over to Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis, who was the highest-ranking officer at that time.
Upon hearing this, Bowie and some of the soldiers were not pleased with Travis being the leader and elected Bowie into the role, stating he was a better fit as commander because of his fierce fighting reputation. However, Bowie celebrated his new position by getting very drunk, causing a stir among the soldiers that eventually led him to agree to share joint leadership with Travis.