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American History
Remember the Alamo
contributed by Lu Hickey


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.  



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