The Heroes of the Alamo
The Alamo is a fort in the town of San Antonio, Texas. It was built by the early Spaniards for a Mission; though the walls were strong and thick, they were only eight feet high, and ill-adapted for defense. Unsuitable as it was for warlike purposes, the Alamo was destined to be the center of one of the most heroic conflicts in American history.
Soon after Texas had declared her independence of Mexico, and had became a Republic, the Texans drove the Mexicans out of San Antonio, and took possession of the town. Santa Anna, the President of Mexico, swore vengeance against the rebels, and sent an army to punish them. It would have been well if the Texans had retreated, for they were few in strength, and poorly provided with food and ammunition, while the Mexican army numbered thousands.
But the Texans were heroes, and had no thought of retreating. When Santa Anna appeared near the town, the little force of two hundred Texans, under command of Colonel Travis, withdrew into the Alamo, and prepared for defense. The Colonel wrote a letter to his friends, in which he said, "I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible, and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor or that of his country."
Among the defenders of the fort was David Crockett, the famous hunter of West Tennessee. He possessed wonderful skill with his rifle, which he called "Old Betty," and rarely missed a shot. Besides that, he was always in good humor, with lots of fine stories of his own adventures to tell. No wonder he was greatly beloved by all who knew him. Another defender of the Alamo was Colonel James Bowie, the inventor of the Bowie knife, a terrible weapon in the hands of a strong and resolute man.
Santa Anna planted his cannon around the Alamo, and began a steady bombardment. He waved a blood-red flag before the town to show the Texans what they might expect if they were overcome. Knowing their fate, the band of two hundred began their stout resistance.
At the close of the third day, Santa Anna's forces had increased to four thousand men, and the Texans were already worn out by excessive toil and watching. The end was not far off. The brave defenders knew that an assault would carry the fort; they were doomed. Travis called his soldiers, and assigned them their places.
"Men, you are worn out by three days of fighting, with little rest, and scant food. Outside are thousands of Mexicans thirsting for your blood and mine. They are getting ready to make an assault upon this fort. All I ask of you is to fight to the very last, and die like men."
They went to their posts, grimly determined to slay as many Mexicans as they could before they, themselves, were slain. All night long the watch was kept up. At daybreak the Mexicans advanced with scaling ladders, which they placed against the walls. Up these ladders, the Mexican soldiers clambered, only to be hurled back by the defenders at the top. Again and again the Mexicans rushed up, and again and again were they met with bullet, knife, and club. Hundreds fell, but there were still hundreds to take their places.
After several hours, the defenders were exhausted; the assailants by hundreds climbed over the walls, and attacked them from all sides. James Bowie, too ill to stay in the fight, had crept to his rooms and his bed. Here some Mexicans found him, and cruelly stabbed him to death; then they mutilated his body.
Davy Crockett stood in one room, surrounded by dozens of his enemy, his rifle in hand. He had long since fired his last bullet, and had brought down dozens of his foes. Now, using his gun as a club, he laid about him, right and left, felling Mexicans at every blow. At length, the brave hunter fell, pierced with many bullets. Not far away Colonel Travis was doing noble service. With a dozen Mexicans surrounding him, he hurled his great gun about his head, and mowed them down like grain. But he could not withstand the numbers, and fell amidst his victims.
It was soon over. All the defenders, to a man, were slain, not one being left alive. But of the Mexicans, more than five hundred died on that bloody day. A thrill of horror went through Texas and the whole country, when news of this tragedy became known. In the subsequent battles between Texas and Mexico, the battle-cry of the Texans was, "Remember the Alamo! Remember the Alamo!"