Events Leading Up to The Alamo
Mexican Army General Martin Perfecto de Cos had been forced to surrender a garrison of 1,100 and the public property,
guns, and ammunitin stocks of the Mexican Government in the city of San Antonio de Bexar to Texas General Edward Burleson in
the December, 1835 Siege of Bexar. This included the Alamo. Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna realized the strategic
importance of San Antonio and decided to launch an offensive with the aim of recapturing San Antonio. Santa Anna assembled
a force of 6,500 at San Luis Potosi and moved by Saltillo, Coahuila, to Texas.
The Texian forces who had fortified the Alamo in anticipation of the battle were volunteer soldiers of the Provisional
Government of Texas who had signed an oath of allegiance to protect that government and obey the orders of that government's
Shortly after the year 1836 began, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna marched an army across therio
Grande river through inclement weather, including snowstorms in mountain passes, to suppress the Texas rebellion. San
Antonio de Bexar was one of his intermediate objectives; his ultimate objective was to capture the Texas government and restore
the rule of the central Mexican government over a rebellious territory, as he had over the State of Zacatecas the previous
The Alamo, a converted Roman Catholic missionary church, protected the road further northeast into Texas. Although the
Alamo was not designed for military purposes, the Texian militia and regulars fortified the post and mounted 18 cannon,
including an 18-pounder (shooting 8 kg cannonballs). This was the greatest concentration of cannons west of the Mississippi
River. The Mexican forces would not be able to bypass the post and use the road without investing and taking the Alamo.
The defenders of the Alamo came from many places besides Texas. One group, the New Orleans Greys, came
from the city of that name to fight as infantry in the revolution. The two companies comprising The Greys participated in
the Siege of Bexar. Most Greys then left San Antonio but about two dozen remained to fight and die at the Alamo. The Mexicans
captured the company flag. It is now the property of the National Historical Museum in Mexico City.
From Tennessee, came another small group of volunteers led by former Tennessee Congressman david Crockett. The Tennessee
Mounted Volunteers as they were called arrived at the Alamo on February 8, 1836.
The Mexican Army arrived on February 23, 1836 and was a mixed force of regular infantry and cavalry units as well as activo
reserve infantry battalions. They were equipped with the British Brown Bess musket and were well-drilled, though the Mexican
army discouraged individual marksmanship. The initial forces were equipped with several 6 pounder (2.7 kg) cannon. Several
of the Mexican officers were European mercenary veterans, and General Santa Anna was a veteran of Mexican War of Independence.
The Mexican siege was scientific and professionally conducted.
The number of Mexican forces attacking the post was reported as high as 4,000 to 5,000, but only about 1,400 soldiers were
used in the investment and the final assault. 6,500 soldiers did set out from San Luis de Potosi, but illnesses reduced the
force. After a 13-day siege, the Mexican army attacked the post in four columns, starting at 6:30 a.m. on March 6 and took
the Alamo by 8 a.m. that day, using hand-to-hand combat. One of the reasons the siege took 13 days was that the Mexican army
did not have its 12 pounder (5 kg) cannon, needed to breach the walls, until late in the siege.
Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis, commander of the Texas regular army forces, was able to dispatch riders before
the battle and as late as February 25, informing the Texas provisional government of his situation and requesting assistance.
However, the Texas Army was not strong enough to fight through the Mexican Army and relieve the post. Colonel Fannin, commander
of the Texas forces at Goliad, was forced to abort his relief march because he could not take his cannon with him.
Midway though the battle, 32 men were able to make it through Mexican lines and join the defenders.
Before the battle, Santa Anna ordered that a red flag be raised indicating to the defenders that no quarter would be given.
Several defenders who had not been killed in battle were captured and executed. Among its defenders were James Bowie (the
leader of the militia forces), David Crockett, and Wiliam Barret Travis. Two dozen women and children, as well as two slaves
at the Alamo, were released.
Later in the war, General Santa Anna's army was defeated by a Texian force in the Battle of San Jacinto, who used the now-famous
battle cry, "Remember the Alamo."
Map of the Alamo