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Did Anyone Survive The Alamo | Remember The Alamo? Did They All Die? Were There Any Survivors Of The Battle At The Alamo? 210 Most Correct Answers

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Remember the Alamo? Did they all Die? Were there any Survivors of the Battle at the Alamo?

The famous quote attributed to Edward Burleson, “Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat; the Alamo had none,” only reinforces the misconception that there were no survivors from the defense of the Alamo.

The siege of the Alamo began on February 23, 1836, when the army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna surrounded the San Antonio mission. It proved to be a key event in the Texas struggle for independence from Mexico. Fewer than 200 volunteers defended the Alamo for 13 days against Santa Anna’s estimated 6,100 troops. They were led by William B Travis and included such famous names as knife man Jim Bowie, and adventurer and former Congressman Davy Crockett. By sunrise on March 6th, 1836, though, the Alamo had fallen, and virtually all the Texans bearing arms lay dead or dying.

Although the exact number of survivors is not entirely clear, documents indicate that as many as 20 women, children, and slaves survived the famous battle. Some of the defenders had brought family members into the Alamo, and a number of them were spared by the conquering Mexican Army. For example, Susanna Dickinson, the 22 year-old wife of Almaron Dickinson, was spared along with her baby daughter. Santa Anna sent her to Gonzales to warn other Texans that they faced the same fate as the Alamo Defenders if they continued their pursuit of Independence.

Several defenders survived who had been sent out as couriers at various times during the seige to rally reinforcements at Gonzales. Several slaves owned by members of the volunteer army also survived the siege. One member of the Alamo Rebels, a former Mexican Soldier, survived the battle by claiming to have been a prisoner of the Texan volunteers.

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Who survived the Alamo? – HISTORY

When Mexican troops stormed the former mission known as the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa …

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Date Published: 4/4/2022

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Survivor Stories | American Experience | Official Site – PBS

On March 6, 1836, nearly 1800 soldiers in the Mexican army of Antonio López de Santa Anna attacked the Alamo after a 13-day siege.

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Date Published: 10/22/2022

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List of Texian survivors of the Battle of the Alamo – Wikipedia

When the Battle of the Alamo ended at approximately 6:30 a.m. on March 6, 1836, fewer than fifty of the almost 250 Texians who had occupied the Alamo …

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Date Published: 3/10/2021

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Susanna Dickinson – Texas Monthly

How d Susanna Dickinson survive the Battle of the Alamo, and who played her in John Wayne’s movie?

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Date Published: 5/10/2022

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Alamo Survivors – Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas

The battle of the Alamo is often sa to have had no survivors: that is, no adult male Anglo-Texan present on March 6, 1836, survived the attack. However, …

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Date Published: 6/19/2022

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It’s Time to Correct the Myths About the Battle of Alamo

Santa Anna had told Mexico City he expected to take San Antonio by March 2; he ended up doing so on March 6. In the end, the siege at the Alamo …

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Date Published: 2/21/2021

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15 Facts About the Battle of the Alamo – ThoughtCo

Mexican general Santa Anna appeared in short order at the head of a massive army and la siege to the Alamo. He attacked on March 6, 1836, …

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Date Published: 8/1/2021

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The truth behind the legend of the Alamo examined | Britannica

Transcript. NARRATOR: The battle of the Alamo was a famous fight in the Texas revolution—the struggle for Texas independence from Mexico. The story of the …

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Who survived the Alamo?

When Mexican troops stormed the former mission known as the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna ordered that no prisoners be taken. Did anyone at the Alamo survive?

Santa Anna’s Mexican army killed virtually all of the roughly 200 Texans (or Texians) defending the Alamo, including their leaders, Colonels William B. Travis and James Bowie, and the legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett. But as the smoke cleared after the bloody battle, around 15 survivors of the battle on the Texan side remained. Some controversy and debate has surrounded the exact number and their identity, but most were wives, children, servants and slaves whom the Alamo’s defenders had brought with them into the mission for safety after Santa Anna’s troops occupied San Antonio.

A few of the survivors later gave chilling eyewitness accounts of the battle. Enrique Esparza, son of Alamo defender Gregorio Esparza, told of how Mexican troops fired a hale of bullets into the room where he was hiding alongside his mother and three siblings. Juana Navarro Alsbury, the adopted sister of Bowie’s wife and the niece of Texian leader José Antonio Navarro, survived the battle with her young son and her sister, Gertrudis. (Her husband, Dr. Horace Alsbury, had left the fort in late February, likely in search of a safe place for his family.) Another survivor was a former Mexican soldier named Brigido Guerrero, who fought with the defenders but apparently escaped death by convincing the Mexicans he had been taken captive. A woman named Andrea Castañón Villanueva, better known as Madam Candelaria, later made a career of claiming to be a survivor of the Alamo, but many historians doubt her story.

Perhaps the most well known Alamo survivor was Susanna Dickinson, wife of defender Almaron Dickinson, who spent the battle hiding in a small dark room with her infant daughter, Angelina. After the battle, Santa Anna sent Susanna and Angelina to Sam Houston’s camp in Gonzales, accompanied by one of his servants and carrying a letter of warning intended for Houston. Along the way they crossed paths with another survivor, a man named Joe, who had been William Travis’ slave. While fighting alongside Travis and the other defenders, Joe was shot and bayoneted but lived, becoming the only adult male on the Texan side to survive the Alamo. He was one of several slaves spared by the Mexicans, who opposed slavery, after the battle. Texas authorities later returned Joe to the Travis estate, but he escaped to freedom barely a year later.

American Experience

On March 6, 1836, nearly 1800 soldiers in the Mexican army of Antonio López de Santa Anna brutally attacked the Alamo after a 13-day siege. Fewer than 200 men stood inside to defend the fort, accompanied by a small number of wives, children, and slaves. Miraculously, at least fourteen people lived through the battle, and a few would later provide chilling eyewitness accounts of what happened.

Enrique Esparza

Enrique Esparza was the son of Alamo defender Gregorio Esparza and Ana Salazar Esparza. He, his mother, and two siblings survived the attack. In 1902 he told the story of his experiences to a reporter for the San Antonio Express:

“On the last night my father was not out, but he and my mother were sleeping together in headquarters. About 2 o’clock in the morning there was a great shooting and firing at the northwest corner of the fort, and I heard my mother say:

“Gregorio, the soldiers have jumped the wall. The fight’s begun.”

He got up and picked up his arms and went into the fight. I never saw him again. My uncle told me afterwards that Santa Anna gave him permission to get my father’s body and that he hound it where the thick of the fight had been.

We could hear the Mexican officers shouting to the men to jump over, and the men were fighting so close that we could hear them strike each other. It was so dark that we couldn’t see anything, and the families that were in the quarters just huddled up in the corners. My mother’s children were near her. Finally they began shooting through the dark into the room where we were. A boy who was wrapped in a blanket in one corner was hit and killed. The Mexicans fired into the room for at least fifteen minutes. It was a miracle, but none of us children were touched.”

Esparza grew up to become a farmer and the father of seven children.

Susanna Dickinson

Susanna Dickinson, the young wife of Alamo defender Lieutenant Almeron Dickinson, hid with their infant daughter Angelina in a small dark room inside the mission. The Dickinsons were relative newcomers, having arrived in Texas from Tennessee in 1831.

She remembered the siege and battle in an 1874 interview:

“A few days before the final assault three Texans entered the fort during the night and inspired us with sanguine hopes of speedy relief, and thus animated the men to contend to the last.

A Mexican woman deserted us one night, and going over to the enemy informed them of our very inferior numbers, which Col. Travis said made them confident of success and emboldened them to make the final assault, which they did at early dawn on the morning of the 6th of March.

Under the cover of darkness they approached the fortifications, and planting their scaling ladders against our walls just as light was approaching, they climbed to the tops of our walls and jumped down within, many of them to immediate death.

As fast as the front ranks were slain, they were filled up again by fresh troops.

The Mexicans numbered several thousands while there were only one hundred and eighty-two Texans.

The struggle lasted more than two hours when my husband rushed into the church where I was with my child, and exclaimed: “Great God, Sue, the Mexicans are inside our walls! All is lost! If they spare you, save my child.”

Then, with a parting kiss, he drew his sword and plunged into the strife, then raging in different portions of the fortifications.

Soon after he left me, three unarmed gunners who abandoned their then useless guns came into the church where I was, and were shot down by my side. One of them was from Nacogdoches and named Walker. He spoke to me several times during the siege about his wife and four children with anxious tenderness. I saw four Mexicans toss him up in the sir (as you would a bundle of fodder) with their bayonets, and then shoot him. At this moment a Mexican officer came into the room, and, addressing me in English, asked: “Are you Mrs. Dickinson?” I answered “Yes.” Then said he, “If you wish to save your life, follow me.” I followed him, and although shot at and wounded, was spared.

As we passed through the enclosed ground in front of the church, I saw heaps of dead and dying…

I recognized Col. Crockett lying dead and mutilated between the church and the two story barrack building, and even remember seeing his peculiar cap lying by his side.”

After the battle, Mrs. Dickinson was taken to see Santa Anna and then released. Struggling to survive on the frontier with little income, she would remarry four times, ultimately settling in Austin.

Juana Navarro Alsbury

Mrs. Juana Navarro Alsbury, sister-in-law of Colonel James Bowie and niece of José Antonio Navarro, hid in the Alamo, accompanied by her son and sister Gertrudis, for protection and to nurse Bowie, who was ill. Juana’s husband, Dr. Horace Alsbury, had left the Alamo on February 23, the day the Mexicans arrived, probably seeking a safe place for his family. The couple reunited after the fall of the Alamo, though Horace would be killed during the MexicanAmerican a little over a decade later.

Juana Navarro Alsbury shared her memories with Texas history enthusiast John S. Ford in the 1880s, and he subsequently recorded them in his memoirs:

“Mrs. Alsbury and her sister were in a building not far from where the residence of Colonel Sam Maverick was afterwards erected. It was considered quite a safe locality. They saw very little of the fighting. While the final struggle was progressing she peeped out and saw the surging columns of Santa Anna assaulting the Alamo on every side, as she believed. She could hear the noise of the conflict — the roar of the artillery, the rattle of the small arms, the shouts of the combatants, the groans of the dying, and the moans of the wounded.

The firing approximated where she was and she realized the fact that the brave Texians had been overwhelmed by numbers. She asked her sister to go to the door and request the Mexican soldiers not to fire into the room, as it contained women only. Senorita Gertrudis opened the door, she was greeted in offensive language by the soldiers. Her shawl was torn from her shoulders and she rushed back into the room. During this period Mrs. Alsbury was standing with her one-year-old son strained to her bosom, supposing he would be motherless soon. The soldiers then demanded of Senorita Gertrudis: “Your money or your husband.” She replied: “I have neither money nor husband.” About this time a sick man ran up to Mrs. Alsbury and attempted to protect her. The soldiers bayoneted him at her side. She thinks his name was Mitchell.

After this tragic event a young Mexican, hotly pursued by soldiers, seized her by the arm and endeavored to keep her between himself and his assailants. His grasp was broken and four or five bayonets plunged into his body and nearly as many balls went through his lifeless corpse. The soldiers broke open her trunk and took her money and clothes, also the watch of Colonel Travis and other officers.

A Mexican officer appeared on the scene. He excitedly inquired, “How did you come here? What are you doing here any how? Where is the entrance to the fort? He made her pass out of the room over a cannon standing nearby the door. He told her to remain there and he would have her sent to President Santa Anna. Another officer came up and asked: “What are you doing here?” She replied: “An officer ordered us to remain here and he would have us sent to the President.” “President the devil. Don’t you see they are about to fire that cannon? Leave.” They were moving when they heard a voice calling “Sister.” “To my great relief Don Manuel Perez came to us. He said: ‘Don’t you know your own brother-in-law?’ I answered: ‘I am so excited and distressed that I scarcely know anything.” Don Manuel placed them in charge of a colored woman belonging to Colonel Bowie and the party reached the house of Don Angel Navarro in safety.

Mrs. Alsbury says to the best of her remembrance she heard firing at the Alamo till twelve o’clock that day.”

Travis’ Slave, Joe

William Travis brought his slave, Joe, with him into the Alamo. Joe fought valiantly and became the only adult male survivor of the battle, though he was shot and bayonetted during the attack. A U.S. army officer later heard Joe’s story of the assault. Joe never wrote his own account or told it to a journalist or historian, but the officer retold Joe’s story from memory in a letter written in May 1836:

“The Garrison was much exhausted by hard labour and incessant watching and fighting for thirteen days. The day and night previous to the attack, the Mexican bombardment had been suspended. On Saturday night, March 5, the little Garrison had worked hard, in repairing and strengthening their position, until a late hour. And when the attack was made, which was just before daybreak, sentinels and all were asleep, except the officer of the day who was just starting on his round.

There were three picket guards without the Fort; but they too, it is supposed, were asleep, and were run upon and bayonetted, for they gave no alarm that was heard. The first that Joe knew of it was the entrance of Adjutant Baugh, the officer of the day, into Travis’ quarters, who roused him with the cry — “the Mexicans are coming.” They were running at full speed with their scaling ladders, towards the Fort, and were under the guns, and had their ladders against the wall before the Garrison were aroused to resistance. Travis sprung up, and seizing his rifle and sword, called to Joe to take his gun and [uncertain]. He mounted the wall, and called out to his men — “Come on Boys, the Mexicans are upon us, and we’ll give them Hell.” He immediately fired his rifle.

Joe followed his example. The fire was returned by several shots, and Travis fell, wounded, within the wall, on the sloping ground that had recently been thrown up to strengthen the wall. There he sat, unable to rise. Joe, seeing his master fall, and the Mexicans coming over the wall and thinking with Falstaff that the better part of valor is discretion, ran, and ensconsed himself in a house, from the loop holes of which, he says, he fired on them several times after they had come in.

After the Alamo fell, Joe was taken to Santa Anna, and then returned to the Travis estate. A little over a year later, Joe took two horses and escaped to freedom.”

Read more about Alamo survivors:

Matovina, Timothy, ed. The Alamo Remembered: Tejano Accounts and Perspectives. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Hansen, Todd, ed. The Alamo Reader: A Study in History. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2003.

List of Texian survivors of the Battle of the Alamo

When the Battle of the Alamo ended at approximately 6:30 a.m. on March 6, 1836, fewer than fifty of the almost 250 Texians who had occupied the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas, were alive.[1] The conflict, a part of the Texas Revolution, was the first step in Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna’s attempt to retake the province of Texas after an insurgent army of Texian settlers, native “Tejanos”, and adventurers from the United States had juan driven out all Mexican troops the previous year.[2]

Santa Anna led an army to San Antonio de Bexar, arriving on February 23, 1836, and immediately initiating a siege of the Alamo, which housed Texian Army troops.[3] As the Mexican Army had approached San Antonio, several of the Alamo defenders brought their families into the Alamo to keep them safe.[4][5] During the twelve days of the siege, Alamo co-commander William Barret Travis sent multiple couriers to the acting Texas government, the remaining Texas army under James Fannin, and various Texas communities, asking for reinforcements, provisions, and ammunition.[6]

The siege culminated in an early-morning assault by Mexican troops which left almost all of the defenders dead.[7][8] Some reports claimed that several Texians surrendered but were quickly executed on Santa Anna’s orders.[8] Of the Texians who fought during the battle, only two survived: Travis’s slave, Joe, was assumed by the Mexican soldiers to be a noncombatant,[9] and Brigido Guerrero, who had deserted from the Mexican Army several months before, convinced the Mexican soldiers that he had been taken prisoner by the Texians.[10] Alamo co-commander James Bowie’s freedman, Sam, was also spared, although it is not known if he participated in the fighting.[9]

During the battle, most of the women and children had gathered in the sacristy of the church.[11] As Mexican soldiers entered the room, a boy, thought to be the son of defender Anthony Wolf, stood up to rearrange a blanket around his shoulders. Mistaking him for a Texian soldier, the Mexican soldiers bayoneted him.[12] In the confusion, at least one of the women was lightly wounded.[9] Bowie’s family, including Gertrudis Navarro, Juana Navarro Alsbury and her son, were hiding in one of the rooms along the west wall. Navarro opened the door to their room to signal that they meant no harm.[13] A Mexican officer soon arrived and led the women to a spot along one of the walls where they would be relatively safe.[14] All of the women and children were eventually placed under the protection of an officer and escorted out of the Alamo and imprisoned in the home of the Musquiz family.[12]

On March 7, Santa Anna interviewed each of the survivors individually.[15][16] He was impressed with Susana dickson, the young widow of Alamo artillery captain Almaron Dickinson, and offered to adopt her infant daughter Angelina and have the child educated in Mexico City. Susanna Dickinson refused the offer, which was not extended to Juana Navarro Alsbury for her son who was of similar age.[15]

Santa Anna ordered that the Tejano civilian survivors be allowed to return to their homes in San Antonio. Dickinson and Joe were allowed to travel towards the Anglo settlements, escorted by Ben, a former slave from the United States who served as Mexican Colonel Juan Almonte’s cook.[15] Each woman was given $2 and a blanket and was allowed to go free and spread the news of the destruction that awaited those who opposed the Mexican government. Before releasing Joe, Santa Anna ordered that the surviving members of the Mexican Army parade in a grand review,[17] in the hopes that Joe and Dickinson would deliver a warning to the remainder of the Texian forces that his army was unbeatable.[15]

When the small party of survivors arrived in Gonzales on March 13 they found Sam Houston, the commander of all Texian forces, waiting there with about 400 men.[18][19] After Dickinson and Joe related the details of the battle and the strength of Santa Anna’s army, Houston advised all civilians to evacuate[18] and then ordered the army to retreat.[20] This was the beginning of the Runaway Scrape, in which much of the population of Texas, including the acting government, rushed to the East to escape the advancing Mexican Army.[21]

List of survivors [ edit ]

See also [ edit ]

Notes [ edit ]

a b c d e f g h i j k l m Some Tejanos were part of the Bexar military garrison, but others were part of Seguin’s volunteer scout company and were in the Alamo on or before Feb 23. Enrique Esparza, who was inside the fortress as the son of defender Gregorio Esparza, later recalled that Santa Anna offered a three-day amnesty to all Tejano defenders. According to Esparza, Tejanos discussed the matter with Bowie who advised them to take the amnesty. It is believed most of the Tejanos left when Seguin did, either as couriers or because of the amnesty. Poyo (1996), p. 53, 58 Efficient in the Cause (Stephen L. Harden); Lindley (2003), pp. 94, 134

References [ edit ]

Susanna Dickinson

SHE BECAME AN INSTANT HEROINE by surviving the fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. Susanna Dickinson was only 21 and the mother of a baby daughter when she sought shelter inside the walls of the mission-turned-fort, where her husband, Almeron, captained the artillery. During the thirteen days of the siege, Susanna cooked for the defenders and cared for the wounded and sick; her eyewitness account of the battle’s aftermath remains a touchstone for Alamo historians. Her husband’s last words, she recalled, were “Great God, Sue, the Mexicans are inside the walls! All is lost! If they spare you, save our child!” Mexican soldiers found her huddled in the chapel and hauled her before General Santa Anna; he spared her life and the baby’s, then dispatched them to the Texas army in Gonzales with broadsides boasting of his military might. Thus the Alamo did indeed have its messenger of defeat.

S he was born Susanna Wilkerson in 1814 in Hardeman County, Tennessee. Her exact birth date is unknown; so is the spelling of her first name.

S usanna was not the only survivor of the Alamo. She and her daughter, Angelina, were the only Anglos who escaped the carnage, but one black man and several Mexican women and children also survived.

A s she exited the Alamo, a bullet tore through her leg. Because of that injury, Santa Anna supplied her with a horse to reach Gonzales.

I nevitably, historians embroidered Susanna’s tale. For example, one claimed she gave birth during the siege. Even John Wayne, in The Alamo (1960), dispensed with the leg wound, providing actress Joan O’Brien (in high heels) with the ultimate dramatic exit.

A fter the war, Susanna moved to Houston and embarked on a series of ill-fated marriages. One ended in widowhood, again, and two in divorce (a shocking rarity in those days). Husband number four charged Susanna with adultery and “opening another kind of house.” Indeed, she had once worked (perhaps, to give her the benefit of the doubt, as a laundress) at a Houston brothel. Because of the scandal, some members of the First Baptist Church objected to her attendance there. She voluntarily left.

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S usanna never had another child, and Angelina died first, at age 35 in a cholera epidemic. She was buried in Galveston; her grave site was lost in the Great Storm of 1900.

I n 1857 Susanna was happily married at last, to Joseph Hannig, a German immigrant twenty years her junior. They lived in Austin, where she died in 1883.

It’s Time to Correct the Myths About the Battle of Alamo

Imagine if the U.S. were to open interior Alaska for colonization and, for whatever reason, thousands of Canadian settlers poured in, establishing their own towns, hockey rinks and Tim Hortons stores. When the U.S. insists they follow American laws and pay American taxes, they refuse. When the government tries to collect taxes, they shoot and kill American soldiers. When law enforcement goes after the killers, the colonists, backed by Canadian financing and mercenaries, take up arms in open revolt.

As an American, how would you feel? Now you can imagine how Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna would have felt in 1835, because that’s pretty much the story of the revolution that paved the way for Texas to become its own nation and then an American state.

If that’s not the version of history you’re familiar with, you’re not alone. The version most Americans know, the “Heroic Anglo Narrative” that has held sway for nearly 200 years, holds that American colonists revolted against Mexico because they were “oppressed” and fought for their “freedom,” a narrative that has been soundly rebutted by 30-plus years of academic scholarship. But the many myths surrounding Texas’ birth, especially those cloaking the fabled 1836 siege at the Alamo mission in San Antonio, remain cherished in the state. Even as the nation is undergoing a sweeping reassessment of its racial history, and despite decades of academic research that casts the Texas Revolt and the Alamo’s siege in a new light, little of this has permeated the conversation in Texas.

Start with the Alamo. So much of what we “know” about the battle is provably wrong. William Travis never drew any line in the sand; this was a tale concocted by an amateur historian in the late 1800s. There is no evidence Davy Crockett went down fighting, as John Wayne famously did in his 1960 movie The Alamo, a font of misinformation; there is ample testimony from Mexican soldiers that Crockett surrendered and was executed. The battle, in fact, should never have been fought. Travis ignored multiple warnings of Santa Anna’s approach and was simply trapped in the Alamo when the Mexican army arrived. He wrote some dramatic letters during the ensuing siege, it’s true, but how anyone could attest to the defenders’ “bravery” is beyond us. The men at the Alamo fought and died because they had no choice. Even the notion they “fought to the last man” turns out to be untrue. Mexican accounts make clear that, as the battle was being lost, as many as half the “Texian” defenders fled the mission and were run down and killed by Mexican lancers.

Nor is it at all clear that the Alamo’s defenders “bought time” for Sam Houston to raise the army that eventually defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto the following month. Santa Anna had told Mexico City he expected to take San Antonio by March 2; he ended up doing so on March 6. In the end, the siege at the Alamo ended up costing him all of four days. Meaning the Alamo’s defenders, far from being the valiant defenders who delayed Santa Anna, pretty much died for nothing.

So why does any of this matter? What’s the harm in Texans simply embracing a myth?

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Census data indicates that Latinos are poised to become a majority of the Texas population any year now, and for them, the Alamo has long been viewed as a symbol of Anglo oppression. The fact that many Tejanos — Texas Latinos— allied with the Americans, and fought and died alongside them at the Alamo, has generally been lost to popular history. The Tejanos’ key contributions to early Texas were written out of almost all early Anglo-authored histories, much as Anglo Texans ran Tejanos out of San Antonio and much of South Texas after the revolt. For too long, the revolt has been viewed by many as a war fought by all Anglos against all of Mexican descent.

“If you’re looking at the Alamo as a kind of state religion, this is the original sin,” says San Antonio art historian Ruben Cordova. “We killed Davy Crockett.”

It’s a lesson many Latinos in the state don’t learn until mandatory Texas history classes taught in seventh grade. “The way I explain it,” says Andres Tijerina, a retired history professor in Austin, “is Mexican-Americans [in Texas] are brought up, even in the first grade, singing the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance and all that, and it’s not until the seventh grade that they single us out as Mexicans. And from that point on, you realize you’re not an American. You’re a Mexican, and always will be. The Alamo story takes good, solid, loyal little American kids and it converts them into Mexicans.”

And Mexican-American history isn’t the only piece of the past that’s distorted by the Alamo myth. Academic researchers long tiptoed around the issue of slavery in Texas; active research didn’t really begin until the 1980s. Since then, scholars such as Randolph Campbell and Andrew Torget have demonstrated that slavery was the single issue that regularly drove a wedge between early Mexican governments—dedicated abolitionists all—and their American colonists in Texas, many of whom had immigrated to farm cotton, the province’s only cash crop at the time.

His correspondence shows conclusively that Stephen F. Austin, the so-called “Father of Texas,” spent years jousting with the Mexico City bureaucracy over the necessity of enslaved labor to the Texas economy. “Nothing is wanted but money,” he wrote in a pair of 1832 letters, “and Negros are necessary to make it.” Each time a Mexican government threatened to outlaw slavery, many in Austin’s colony began packing to go home. In time, as we know now, they put away their suitcases and brought out their guns.

This, by and large, is not the Texas history many of us learned in school; instead, we learned a tale written by Anglo historians beginning in the 19th century. What happened in the past can’t change. But the way we view it does—and, as a state and a country, now is the time to teach the next generation our history, not our myths.


Bryan Burrough and Jason Stanford are, with Chris Tomlinson, the authors of Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, available now from Penguin Press.

More from TIME History

The History You Didn’t Learn: Black Wall Streets

Correction, June 21

The original version of this story misstated the name of the President of Mexico in 1835. It was Antonio López de Santa Anna, not Jose Lopez de Santa Anna.

Contact us at [email protected].

15 Facts About the Battle of the Alamo

Mexican general Santa Anna appeared in short order at the head of a massive army and laid siege to the Alamo. He attacked on March 6, 1836, overrunning the approximately 200 defenders in less than two hours. None of the defenders survived. Many myths and legends have grown about the Battle of the Alamo , but the facts often give a different account.

The basic story of the Alamo is that rebellious Texans captured the city of San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio, Texas) in a battle in December 1835. Afterward, they fortified the Alamo, a fortress-like former mission in the center of town.

When events become legendary, facts tend to get forgotten. Such is the case with the fabled Battle of the Alamo.

01 of 16 The Alamo Battle Was Not About Texan Independence General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Public Domain/WikiCommons Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, and at the time, Texas (or rather Tejas) was part of Mexico. In 1824, Mexico’s leaders wrote a federalist constitution, not much different from that of the United States, and thousands of people from the U.S. moved into the region. The new colonists brought enslavement with them. In 1829, the Mexican government outlawed the practice, specifically to discourage that influx since it was not an issue there. By 1835, there were 30,000 Anglo-Americans (called Texians) in Texas, and only 7,800 Texas-Mexicans (Tejanos). In 1832, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna took control of the Mexican government. He annulled the constitution and set up centralist control. Some Texians and Tejanos wanted the federalist constitution back, some wanted centralist control to be based in Mexico: That was the main basis for the turmoil in Texas, not independence.

02 of 16 The Texans Weren’t Supposed to Defend the Alamo Sam Houston, circa 1848-1850. Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress San Antonio was captured by rebellious Texans in December 1835. General Sam Houston felt that holding San Antonio was impossible and unnecessary, as most of the settlements of the rebellious Texans were far to the east. Houston sent Jim Bowie to San Antonio: his orders were to destroy the Alamo and return with all of the men and artillery stationed there. Once he saw the fort’s defenses, Bowie decided to ignore Houston’s orders, having become convinced of the need to defend the city.

03 of 16 The Defenders Experienced Internal Tension QuesterMark/WikiCommons The official commander of the Alamo was James Neill. However, he left on family matters leaving Lt. Col. William Travis (a ne’er-do-well and enslaver who had no military reputation before the Alamo) in charge. There was a problem with that, though. About half of the men there were not enlisted soldiers, but volunteers who technically could come, go, and do as they pleased. These men only listened to Jim Bowie, who disliked Travis and often refused to follow his orders. This tense situation was resolved by three events: the advance of a common enemy (the Mexican army), the arrival of the charismatic and famous Davy Crockett (who proved very skilled at defusing the tension between Travis and Bowie), and Bowie’s illness just before the battle.

04 of 16 They Could Have Escaped Had They Wished Santa Anna’s army arrived in San Antonio in late February 1836. Seeing the massive Mexican army on their doorstep, the Texan defenders hastily retreated to the well-fortified Alamo. During the first couple of days, however, Santa Anna made no attempt to seal the exits from the Alamo and the town: the defenders could very easily have slipped away in the night if they had so desired. But they remained, trusting their defenses and their skill with their lethal long rifles. In the end, it would not be enough.

05 of 16 The Defenders Died Believing Reinforcements Were on the Way Lieutenant Travis sent repeated requests to Col. James Fannin in Goliad (about 90 miles to the east) for reinforcements, and he had no reason to suspect that Fannin would not come. Every day during the siege, the defenders of the Alamo looked for Fannin and his men but they never arrived. Fannin had decided that the logistics of reaching the Alamo in time were impossible and, in any event, his 300 or so men would not make a difference against the Mexican army and its 2,000 soldiers.

06 of 16 There Were Many Mexicans Among the Defenders he Alamo Cenotaph, also known as the Spirit of Sacrifice, is a monument in San Antonio, Texas, United States, commemorating the Battle of the Alamo, which was fought at the adjacent Alamo Mission. Creative Credit/Getty Images It’s a common misconception that the Texans who rose up against Mexico were all settlers from the U.S. who decided on independence. There were many native Texans—Mexican nationals referred to as Tejanos—who joined the movement and fought every bit as bravely as their Anglo companions. Both sides included prominent Mexican citizens. Among the 187 men in Travis’s forces who died were 13 native-born Texans, 11 of Mexican descent. There were 41 Europeans, two African Americans, and the rest were Americans from states in the United States. Santa Anna’s forces included a mix of former Spanish citizens, Spanish-Mexican criollos and mestizos, and several indigenous young men sent from the interior of Mexico.

07 of 16 They Weren’t Fighting for Independence Many of the defenders of the Alamo believed in independence for Texas, but their leaders had not declared independence from Mexico yet. It was on March 2, 1836, that delegates meeting in Washington-on-the-Brazos formally declared independence from Mexico. Meanwhile, the Alamo had been under siege for days, and it fell early on March 6, with the defenders never knowing that independence had been formally declared a few days before. Although Texas declared itself an independent republic in 1836, the Mexican state did not recognize Texas until the signing of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

08 of 16 No One Knows What Happened to Davy Crockett Davy Crockett. Fotosearch/Getty Images Davy Crockett, a famous frontiersman and former U.S. congressman, was the highest-profile defender to fall at the Alamo. Crockett’s fate is unclear. According to Jose Enrique de la Pefia, one of Santa Anna’s officers, a handful of prisoners, including Crockett, were taken after the battle and put to death. The mayor of San Antonio, however, claimed to have seen Crockett dead among the other defenders, and he had met Crockett before the battle. Whether he fell in battle or was captured and executed, Crockett fought bravely and did not survive the Battle of the Alamo.

09 of 16 Travis Drew a Line in the Dirt. . .Maybe The remains of William Travis, David Crockett and James Bowie are entombed in a marble coffin at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas. Robert Alexander/Getty Images According to legend, fort commander William Travis drew a line in the sand with his sword and asked all of the defenders who were willing to fight to the death to cross it: only one man refused. Legendary frontiersman Jim Bowie, suffering from a debilitating illness, asked to be carried over the line. This famous story shows the dedication of the Texans to fight for their freedom. The only problem? It probably didn’t happen. The first time the story appeared in print was in 1888, in Anna Pennybackers’ “New History for Texas Schools.” Pennybacker included a later often-quoted speech by Travis, with a footnote reporting that “Some unknown author has written the following imaginary speech of Travis.” Pennybacker describes the line-drawing episode and puts in another footnote: “The student may wonder if none escaped from the Alamo, how we know the above to be true. The story runs, that this one man, Rose by name, who refused to step over the line, did make his escape that night. He reported the events…” Historians are doubtful.

10 of 16 Not Everyone Died at the Alamo Not everyone in the fort was killed. Most of the survivors were women, children, servants, and enslaved people. Among them was Susanna W. Dickinson, widow of Capt. Almeron Dickinson and her infant daughter, Angelina: Dickinson later reported the fall of the post to Sam Houston in Gonzales.

11 of 16 Who Won the Battle of the Alamo? Santa Anna Mexican dictator and general Antonio López de Santa Anna won the Battle of the Alamo, taking back the city of San Antonio and putting the Texans on notice that the war would be one without quarter. Still, many of his officers believed he had paid too high a price. Some 600 Mexican soldiers died in the battle, compared to roughly 200 rebellious Texans. Furthermore, the brave defense of the Alamo caused many more rebels to join the Texan army. And in the end, Santa Anna lost the war, going down in defeat within six weeks.

12 of 16 Some Rebels Snuck into the Alamo Some men reportedly deserted the Alamo and ran off in the days before the battle. As the Texans were facing the whole Mexican army, desertions are not surprising. Rather, what is surprising is that some men snuck into the Alamo in the days before the fatal attack. On March 1, 32 brave men from the town of Gonzales made their way through enemy lines to reinforce the defenders at the Alamo. Two days later, on March 3, James Butler Bonham, who had been sent out by Travis with a call for reinforcements, crept back into the Alamo, his message delivered. Bonham and the men from Gonzales all died during the battle.

13 of 16 The Source of “Remember the Alamo!” A color guard carries flags from each state that lost people in the battle of the Alamo March 6, 2001 during the Annual Memorial Service at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty Images After the Alamo battle, the soldiers under Sam Houston’s command were the only obstacle between Santa Anna’s attempt to reincorporate Texas into Mexico. Houston was indecisive, lacking a clear plan to meet the Mexican army, but by either chance or design, he met Santa Anna at San Jacinto on April 21, overtaking his forces and capturing him as he retreated south. Houston’s men were the first to shout. “Remember the Alamo!”

14 of 16 The Alamo Was Not Preserved in Place In early April 1836, Santa Anna had the structural elements of the Alamo burned, and the site was left in ruins for the next several decades, as Texas became first a republic, then a state. It was rebuilt by Maj. E. B. Babbitt in 1854, but then the Civil War interrupted. Not until the late 1890s did two women, Adina De Zavala and Clara Driscoll, collaborate to preserve the Alamo. They and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas started a movement to rebuild the monument to its 1836 configuration.

The truth behind the legend of the Alamo examined

SHARE: Deconstruct the myth shrouding the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution Overview of the siege of the Alamo. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


NARRATOR: The battle of the Alamo was a famous fight in the Texas revolution—the struggle for Texas independence from Mexico. The story of the battle has become an enduring piece of American folklore. But how much of the legend is fact, and how much is myth?

A popular telling of the battle holds that in early 1836 a small group of brave Texans defended the mission-fort known as the Alamo against thousands of Mexican soldiers, knowing it meant certain death. These men included famed frontiersman Davy Crockett and inventor of the Bowie knife, James Bowie, who was confined to bed but still managed to kill a few enemy soldiers. Every Texan man fought to his last breath, until only the women and children remained.

Many points of this story hold true. The Texans were vastly outnumbered: estimates have their numbers at roughly 200 men, while the Mexican army had anywhere from 1,800 to 6,000 soldiers. The Texan fighters did recognize that they were likely to die defending the Alamo. On the second day of the siege, Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis addressed a letter to “the People of Texas & All Americans in the World,” in which he wrote that he would never surrender or retreat. He and his men would face victory or death. But these men were not looking to be martyrs. The letter was also a request for help, as Travis implored other Texans to come to their aid.

Additionally, not every defender died fighting, though most of them did. Eyewitness accounts suggest that some Texans did try to surrender once defeat was imminent, but the Mexican commander, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, refused to take prisoners, and these men were executed immediately. One defender of Mexican descent was able to persuade the Mexican army that he was a prisoner of the Texans, not one of their fighters, so the soldiers spared his life. Several black slaves also survived the battle, at least one of whom, a man named Joe, had fought in the Alamo’s defense.

The image of Bowie fighting from his sickbed may also be pure legend. Some witnesses, including a woman who claimed to be his nurse, stated that he had been too ill to even raise his gun by that point.

No matter where the line between truth and legend lies, it is certain that the battle of the Alamo and the sacrifice of its defenders inspired Texans as a symbol of heroic resistance. Two months later, at San Jacinto, General Sam Houston led a Texan army against Mexican forces that outnumbered them nearly 2 to 1. The Texan fighters shouted, “Remember the Alamo!” as they fought their way to victory, earning independence for Texas.

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