|"REMEMBER THE ALAMO".....
A cry of victory and defeat, heard around the world
for centuries, the last fatal attempt by a handful of frontiersman trained only to hunt
with a squirrel rifle and a Bowie knife who came from all parts of the eastern territories
and gave their lives for freedom's call.
Texas was only known as "Tejas"
it had not become a state of the union but only a territory that had been governed under
the flags of six different countries. A river divided it from the strong hold of
Mexico and the brilliant General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the president of Mexico who
fought against Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto..
Santa Anna was born of middle class Spanish
parents in Vera Cruz in 1794 and at age sixteen became a cadet in an infantry unit
policing Indian tribes. After working through the ranks, he gained promotion to
brigadier general by supporting Emperor Agustin de Iturbide. He became the military
governor of Yucatan and after retirement to civilian life, governor of Vera Cruz. In
1829, he defeated the Spanish at Tampico and four years later was elected president of
Mexico. In 1834 he declared Mexico not ready for democracy and characterized himself
as the : "Napoleon of the West." He defeated the liberal Zacateracans in
1835 but lost Texas to Sam Houston the following year. After failing to negotiate an
agreement between Mexico and the United States about Texas, he returned to Mexico.
He helped defend his country against the
French in 1838 and lost a leg in battle. He became acting president of Mexico in
1839 and dictator from 1841 to 1845. Overthrown for his excesses, he went into exile
in Cuba. Then, with the United States at war with Mexico, he reentered Mexico through
American lines, supposedly to bring peace. Instead, he took command of the Mexican
forces only to be defeated by Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Buena Vista and by Winfield
Scott at the Battle of Cerro Gordo.
After the fall of Mexico City he returned
to exile only to be recalled by conservatives to head the government from 1853 to
1855. This time he was overthrown for selling the Mesilla Valley to the United
States as the Gadsden Purchase. He schemed unsuccessfully to return to power and
finally officials allowed the now harmless old man to return to Mexico City in 1874.
Santa Anna died peacefully in obscurity in 1876.
As a maker of history, General Antonio
Lopez de Santa Anna is a controversial figure. There has been no tide of nostalgia
rising up to obscure the details of his life. Instead, clouds of controversy
continue to surround him, making it difficult to distinguish truth from legend. Too
little is know of him to analyze fully the impact of his involvement in the political and
military events which shaped the destiny of Mexico and North America.
The first publication in English of his
handwritten autobiography should provide fresh insight and a renewal of interest in the
events which led to his political eclipse. His own expression of the burdens of a
man forced to measure his own achievements has been criticized as an example of
exaggeration and as evidence of a stubborn unwillingness to admit personal error on any
level. This type of criticism, though certainly in some measure true, should
decrease in the light of more information and mature historical investigation after the
period of partisan emotions has finally passed. Never have a nation and its own
historians been more shackled by these emotions than Mexico.
In 1835, the colonists of Tejas, citizens
of the United States, declared themselves in open revolution and proclaimed independence
from Mexico. These colonists were in possession of the vast and rich lands which an
earlier Mexican Congress had given them. In declaring themselves independent, the
claimed that other favors not granted had been given.
They had no difficulty in receiving aid
from New Orleans, Mobile and other parts of the United States. The filibusters combined in
such great numbers that the commanding general of Texas, Martin de Cos, found himself
imperiled in San Antonio de Bexar and was force to capitulate leaving the colonists
and filibusters in possession of the entire state.
Santa Anna, eager to fulfill his duties of
country, declared to maintain the territorial integrity what ever the cost. The
would make for a necessary and tedious campaign under the capable leadership of said
Santa Anna's crossing into Tejas. This came as a great surprise to the
filibusters for the believed that Mexican soldiers would not cross the border again.
Frightened by the invasion, the Texas
frontiersman ran into a fortress called the Alamo, a solid fortress built by the
Spaniards. A garrison of six hundred men under the command of Colonel Travis, a
leader of some renown among the filibusters, mounted eighteen cannons of various
calibers. confident that aid would come, Travis replied . "I would rather die
than surrender to the Mexicans!!"
The self styled General Sam Houston said to
the celebrated Travis in a letter that was intercepted my Santa Anna's men, "Take
courage and hold out are all risk, as I am coming to your assistance with two thousand men
and eight cannons:"
General Santa Anna ordered an immediate
attack on the filibusters as was his plan, and they defended themselves
relentlessly. Not one soldier showed signs of desiring to surrender and with
fierceness and valor the died fighting. Their determined defense lasted for four
hours and Santa Anna had to call in reserve forces to defeat them. When the
battle was over, there was not a single soul alive in the Alamo. There were
over a thousand dead or wounded Mexicans. At the battle's end, the fort was a
terrible sight to see and General Houston hearing of the massacre rapidly retreated and
went back to Washington on the Brazos to reconnoiter and prepare for the final conflict,
the Battle of San Jacinto and freedom for the Texicans.