Created Tuesday, 06 March 2007 23:23

Prelude to Battle of the Alamo

Written by Randy Watson

In the heart of downtown San Antonio lies an old church with a bloody history. It is a history of a battle that wrote history as we know it, and redrew the map of North America. It was a battle where the defenders of the mission died to the last man, but held on long enough for their general to gather enough troops and eventually win the war. It was the war that won the independence of Texas from Mexico, forming the Republic of Texas.

The Alamo, as it is now known, was the Mission of San Antonio de Valero Mission. It was one of several sites established by the Spanish to colonize Texas, convert the natives to Christianity and prevent the French from encroaching in through Louisiana. In the 1800s, the Spanish stationed a cavalry unit at the mission. The soldiers referred to the place as the Alamo, in honor of their hometown of Alamo de Parras, Coahuila.

When Mexico became independent in 1824, Texas became the northern part of the state of Coahuila y Tejas. 1n 1835, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna abolished the Mexican Constitution of 1824, and proclaimed a new one that dismissed the state legislatures, diminished the powers of the individual states and increased the powers of the central government. Several Mexican states went into open rebellion, but of these states only the portion of Coahuila y Tejas that will become the Republic of Texas formally voted to separate from Mexico. The other states only wanted to return to the old constitution of 1824, and not to form independent republics.

Hostilities in Texas began with the Battle of Gonzales on October 1, 1835, after which the Texian rebels quickly captured Mexican positions at La Bahía and San Antonio.

In December 1835, Ben Milam led Texan and Tejano volunteers against Mexican troops quartered in the city. After five days of house-to-house fighting, they forced General Marín Perfecto de Cós and his soldiers to surrender. The victorious Texans then occupied the Alamo. Santa Anna had personally quashed Zacatecas state\'s rebellion in May 1835, and then marched into Texas the following winter to reclaim the renegade state. Santa Anna\'s arrival almost caught the Republican Texans and Tejanos by surprise, and the prepared to defend the Alamo. Santa Anna\'s army arrived in San Antonio de Béxar in February 23 1836.

The Alamo defenders were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Travis, who was sent by General Sam Houston to destroy it. The defenders of the Alamo included men from all over, native Tejanos, Texan settlers, volunteers from Tennessee which included David Crockett, another group of volunteers led by Jim Bowie, a group called the New Orleans Greys, Indians, and other men from a total of 28 different states and countries. All these men were willing to sacrifice themselves in defense of the Alamo, for they knew that the Alamo was crucial to the defense of Texas. It was the only thing standing between Santa Anna\'s invading forces and Sam Houston who was still regrouping the Republican Army.