Archive for Thursday, April 2, 2009

Remember the Alamo

April 2, 2009

They were a ragtag group who had little or no training, and yet what they did was nothing short of miraculous and their heroic, yet fatal, stand still captivates us. Their battle site is known around the world, and each year is visited by millions of tourists.

Of course, I am talking about the Alamo where, for 13 days in 1836, a determined band of Texans held off a trained and well equipped Mexican army. More than 180 citizen volunteers died, yet their sacrifice paved the way for Texas’ independence and, later statehood. Their deaths created one of America’s best remembered battle cries, “Remember the Alamo.”

To me the Alamo is one of those places that gives a history buff an almost haunting feeling. You know you are walking on ground where men died for what they believed and were willing to sacrifice everything for freedom and independence. What they did is typical of the fabric of our nation and our independent spirit.

A couple of weeks ago, we were in Texas to visit our grandchildren, and we took a side trip to San Antonio, home of the Alamo, the famous river walk and a variety of other historic buildings. It is a great place for a mini-vacation. And, yes, there are wonderful restaurants including some great Mexican cuisine.

Just a short stroll from the river walk and past a variety of gaudy tourist attractions is the Alamo. The historic site is operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and there is no admission fee. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas have operated the Alamo since 1905 and depend solely on donations.

This was my second visit to the Alamo with the first coming in the late 1960s. They have modernized without taking away any of the historic meaning of the building. As you enter, you are reminded that this is a shrine and visitors are asked to respect those who died there.

The grounds were well maintained with attractive landscaping and informative historic markers.

So, exactly what happened at the Alamo? If you recall, Texas was then part of Mexico and had been opened up to immigration from the fledgling United States. When Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became the ruler of Mexico, he abolished the constitution and began putting pressure on the Texans.

In December 1835, volunteers drove the Mexican army out of what is now San Antonio and occupied the Alamo. On Feb. 23, 1836, the Mexican army estimated at 6,000 or more arrived to retake the town. Alamo defenders were led by three well-known men: Davy Crockett, former Tennessee congressman and frontier legend, Jim Bowie, frontiersman and creator of the Bowie knife, and Col. William B. Travis. The small band of defenders knew their fate and according to legend, only one person left when given the chance. Since Santa Anna ordered there would be no quarter and no prisoners taken, they knew they would die.

They held on for 13 days. The final assault came just before dawn on March 6. The first Mexican attack was repulsed, however, the Alamo was overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The defenders fought to the last man, and the Mexican army suffered casualties of 70 dead and 300 wounded.

Santa Anna’s victory didn’t last long. Within a couple of weeks, Gen. Sam Houston launched a surprise attack on the Mexican army at San Jacinto, and in only a few minutes won a decisive victory. Unlike Santa Anna, Houston was a man of mercy, and he sent the Mexican army back across the river. Instead of hanging Santa Anna, he forced him to sign documents freeing Texas. Santa Anna was sent home, and later led the Mexican army in its losing efforts in the war against the United States.

Yes, the Alamo remains impressive — It is a symbol of the courage and sacrifice of those who established our nation. They gave all that they had for the cause of freedom, and we owe them an eternal debt of thanks and appreciation.

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