Remember the Alamo

Today is the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo in 1836. Alamo Day is not celebrated in Mexifornia. It clashes, somehow, with Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates not Mexican independence (which was granted by the United States after the Civil War), but a win over the French in a gunfight (which is why it is celebrated in Los Angeles, but not Mexico).

Alamo Day is not celebrated in Mexifornia, nor is it taught, nor is it mentioned. That’s too bad, because Alamo Day celebrates one of history’s most astonishing displays of bravery and heroism.

The setting was extraordinary enough. The Alamo was originally a mission, whose foundation stone was laid May 8, 1744. The finished structure had walls 22 1/2 feet high and 4 feet thick. Surrounding it was a wall 8 feet tall and varying in thickness from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet.

The building was abandoned. For almost 100 years, it filled with debris and decayed. Then, on October 2, 1835, a group of volunteer Texans, armed with squirrel guns and knives, defeated a Mexican force at the town of Gonzales. The group withdrew to the Alamo.

The Mexicans retreated from Texas, but had been humiliated. In February 1836, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, dictator-president of Mexico, assembled an army and declared: “If the Americans do not beware, I shall march through their own country and plant the Mexican flag in Washington.”

He had thousands of soldiers.

Colonel William Barret Travis, Davy Crockett, and Sam Bowie — all famous— with 148 other volunteers, garrisoned the Alamo. Twenty or thirty noncombatants were also there. The Alamo was the only bar to Santa Anna’s march into the interior.

Santa Anna laid siege to the Alamo on February 23, 1836, with a thousand soldiers. Within days, some 4,000 soldiers came as reinforcements. Colonel Travis, fully aware of his perilous situation, pleaded for aid in a heroic message dated February 24, 1836, which concluded “I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his honor and that of his country. VICTORY OR DEATH.”

Santa Anna had raised the blood-red flag, signifying no quarter.

Five thousand against 150! On March 1, 37 men slipped through the lines to raise the number to 187. Santa Anna fired upon the mission walls day after day without a breach. Non-stop days of non-stop shelling.

Five thousand against 187. And yet: on March 2, Texas declared independence.

At daybreak on March 6, five thousand Mexicans charged the mission en masse. The fire of Mexican cannon was a nonstop thunder. Twice still, the Mexicans were repulsed. On the third attempt they breached one of the walls.

“The Texans defended desperately every inch of the fort,” reported a Mexican soldier, “muzzle to muzzle, hand to hand, musket and rifle, bayonet and bowie knife.” The last survivors withdrew to the stone barracks and former chapel and fought until they were riddled with grapeshot or impaled. James Bowie fired from a cot in the chapel until slain. Davy Crockett died at his post. No male defender survived.

But Texas survived. For almost two weeks, 187 men withstood 5,000 Mexicans and their artillery. The Texans fought to their death. 1,600 Mexicans died. There was no white flag.

Inspired, even astonished by that bravery, Texans rose in fury and defeated Mexico’s entire army the next month. Their battle cry was “Remember the Alamo.”