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THE FALL OF THE ALAMO. A REMINISCENCE OF THE REVOLUTION OF TEXAS By R.M. POTTER. SAN ANTONIO: PRINTED ON THE HERALD STEAM PRESS. 1860.
|Title||The fall of the Alamo : a reminiscence of the revolution of Texas|
|Creator||Potter, Reuben M. (Reuben Marmaduke), 1802-1890.|
|Publication Statement||San Antonio : Printed on the Herald steam Press, 1860.|
|Subject||Alamo (San Antonio, Tex.)|
San Antonio History
|Call Number||F390.P863 1860|
|Digital Publisher||University of Texas at San Antonio|
|Transcript||[Front Cover] THE FALL OF THE ALAMO. A REMINISCENCE OF THE REVOLUTION OF TEXAS By R.M. POTTER. SAN ANTONIO: PRINTED ON THE HERALD STEAM PRESS. 1860. [Map] [MS] Correction S. represents porte cochere or wide passage through the centre of the house (F.) having one room on each side. The dotted lines [sketch] represent a projecting stockade in the front of the large outer door of that passage, which covered a two gun battery. The entrance M was a palisade gate between the east end of the house F and a point of the wall. The largest gun in the works a 12 pounder was planted at the S.W. corner T. [end MS] [TITLE PAGE] THE [MS] To Br. Genl Joseph E. Johnston. U.S. Army with the authors compls. RMP [end MS] FALL OF THE ALAMO A REMINISCENCE OF THE REVOLUTION OF TEXAS By R. M. POTTER. SAN ANTONIO: PRINTED ON THE HERALD STEAM PRESS. 1860. [PAGE 3] FALL OF THE ALAMO. The Fall of the Alamo, whose tragic results are so well known, was an action whose details, so far as the final assault is concerned, have not been fully or correctly given in any of the current histories of Texas. The reason is obvious when it is remembered that not a single combatant from within survived to tell the tale, while the official reports of the enemy were neither circumstantial nor reliable. A trustworthy account of the assault could only be compiled by comparing and combining the verbal narratives of such of the assailants as could be relied on for veracity, and adding to this such light on the matter as may be gathered from military documents of that day. As I was a resident of Matamoros when the event happened, and for several months after the invading army pofurhod thither, I had opportunities for obtaining the kind of information referred to which few persons, if any, still living in Texas have possessed; and I have been urged to puiblish what I have gathered on the subject, as by means of it an interesting fragment of history may be saved. Among the facts which have been perverted by both sides is the number of Mexican troops engaged in the assault and in the campaign. The whole force with which Santa Anna invaded Texas in 1836 probably amounted to about seven thousand five hundred men. It consisted of two regiments of horse and thirteen battalions of foot. It may be well here to observe that the Mexicans apply the term regiment only to Cavalry corps. Those of Infantry of the same size are always called battalions; and the latter term as used by them designates the whole of a Colonel's command of foot, not as with us a subdivision of it. The nominal complement of a Regiment or Battalion is 1500 men; but I have never known one to bo full, or to much exceed a third of that num- [PAGE 4] er. It is seldom attempted to swell them beyond 500 men. for it is only by keeping down the strength to keep up the number of the corps, that the numerous officers entitled to pay and clamorous for commands, can be employed. I saw all the corps which returned from the campaign of '30, and from the size of those which had not been in action, as well as from the remaining bulk of those which had suffered, after allowing for probable loss, I am convinced that their average strength when they entered Texas differed little from five hundred—making the aggregate of' the army as above surmised. That this estimate will apply to the third of it engaged in storming the Alamo I consider very probable, for I paid more attention to the strength of those corps than oi others. At the beginning of the invasion the Mexican officers spake of their army as 10, 000 strong. After its failure Santa Anna, in his letter to Gen. Jackson, referred to his invading force as having numbered six thousand.. This is the usual Mexican style of overrating, as a threat before action, and underrating, as an apology, after defeat. The truth is usually to be found midway between the two estimates.* The main army, commanded by Santa Anna in person, moved from Laredo upon San Antonio in four successive detachments. This was rendered necessary by the scarcity of pasture and water in certain portions of the route. The lower division, commanded by Brigadier General Urrea. moved from Matamoros upon Goliad in one body. It consisted of the Cavalry Regiment of Cuatla, the Infantry battalion of Yucatan, and some companies of permanent militia. The aforesaid battalion, which I counted, numbered three hundred and fifty odd men. The Regiment of Dragoons was of about the same size, and the whole made nine hundred or a thousand.! • When SmM Anna summoned Gen. Taylor to surrender at Buena Vista, he announced his force as being over 20, 000 strong. After his repulse he re- ported it to his government as 10, 000. 18, 000 was probably near the truth. ! This, was the force, leaving out two small detachments, which overtook Fannin at Coleto; but it was reinforced before the surrender by two battalions fron San Antonio, and by others a few days after. [PAGE 5] The advance detachment from Laredo, consisting of the- Dragoon Regiment of Dolores, and one or two battalions, ar- rived at San Antonio in the latter part of February, I think on the 21st. The Alamo was at that time garrisoned by one hundred and fifty-six.men under Lieut. Col. Travis. James Bowie was, I think, considered his second in command. David Crockett of Tennessee also belonged to this garrison, having joined it a few weeks before; but whether he had any command or not I have never beard. One of the most estimable and chivalrous men attached to it was J. B. Bonham Esq.. of South Carolina, who bad recently come to volunteer in the service of Texas; but what his position was in the fortress I am unable to say. Travis had been commis d by the Provisional Government of Texas a Lieutenant Colonel of regular Cavalry: but his corps had not been raised, and the men he now commanded were volunteers. Some of them had been engaged ill the recent siege of San Antonio, when Cos capitulated, and others had more lately arrived from the United States. Among them were only three Mexicans of San Antonio, and what proportion the old residents of Texas bore to the newly arrived among them I am unable to say. No regular scouting service seems to have been kept up from Travis' post; for, though the enemy was expected, his near approach was not known till his advance of Dragoons was seen descending the slope west of the San Pedro. The guard in town is said to have retired in good order to the fort; yet so complete was the surprise of the place that one or more American residents, engaged in mercantile business, fled to the Alamo, leaving their stores open. After the enemy entered the place, a cannon shot from the Alamo was answered by a shell from the invaders; and, I think, little more was done in the way of hostility that day. The fortress was not immediately invested, and the few citizens who had taken refuge in it succeeded in leaving it that night. On the 23d Santa Anna with the second division arrived, * *Yoakum in his History of Texas errs in supposing that the advance division arrived at San Antonio with Santa Anna on the 23d, He was preceded by another as here related. [PAGE 6] and on the same day a regular siege was commenced. Its operations, which lasted eleven days, are I think correctly given in Yoakum's History of Texas, though he did not succeed in getting a true account of the assault. Several batteries were opened on successive days, on the North, South, and East of the Alamo, where there were then no houses to interfere with the operations. The enemy, however, had no siege train, but only light field pieces and howitzers. A breach was opened in the Northern barrier at the point marked (Q) on the diagram; but the buildings seem not to have been severely battered. The operations of the siege consisted of an active though not very effective cannonade and bombardment, with occasional skirmishing by day, and frequent harassing alarms at night, designed to wear out the garrison by want of sleep. No assault was attempted, as has often been asserted, till the final storming of the place. Neither was the investment so close as to prevent the passage of couriers and the entrance of one small reinforcement; for, on the night of the 1st of March a company of thirty-two men from Gonzales made its way through the enemy's lines and entered the Alamo, never again to leave it. This raised the force of the garrison to one hundred and eighty-eight men, as none of the original number had yet fallen. There could have been no great loss on either side till the final assault.* Santa Anna after calling a council of war on the 4th of March fixed upon the morning of Sunday, the 6th, as the time for the final assault. Before narrating it, however I must describe the Alamo as it then existed. It had been founded soon after the first settlement of the vicinity, and being originally built as a place of safety for the settlers *In a letter of Travis, dated March 3d, he says: ''With one hundred and forty-five men I have held this place ten days against a force variously estimated from 1500 to 6000; and I shall continue to hold it till I get relief from my countrymen, or I will perish in its defence. We have had a shower of bombs and cannon balls continually falling among us the whole time; yet none of us have fallen. We have been miraculously preserved." Travis must have alluded to the original force of the garrison before the arrival of the Gonzales company. If its full number was 156, eleven men must have been non-effective from sickness or wounds, as none had been killed. [MS] The dead bodies of the defenders when burned according to the statement of W. Ruiz numbered 192. Granting this as the number of living men in the garrison on the morning of the assault we may fairly estimate that not more than 165 or 170 were effective. [end MS] [PAGE 7] and their property in case of Indian hostility, with sufficient room for that purpose, it had neither the strength nor compactness, nor the arrangement of dominant points, which belong to a regular fortification. * As its area continued between two and three acres, a thousand men would barely have sufficed to man its defences, and before a heavy siege train its [xxxx]s would soon have crumbled, ! From recollection of the locality, as viewed in 1841, I can trace the extent of the outer walls, which were demolished thirteen years ago; and the accompanying Diagram is made from actual measurement. (A) Represents the Chapel of the fortress, which is 75 feet long, 62 wide, and 22 1/2 high, the wall of solid masonry being four feet thick. It was originally in one story, but bad upper windows, under which platforms were erected for mounting cannon in those openings, (B) designates one of those upper windows which I will have occasion to mention, and (C) the front door of the church, (D) is a wall 50 feet long, connecting this church with the long barrack (E E). The latter is a stone house 186 feet long, 18 wide, and 18 high, being of two stories. (F) is a low stone barrack 114 feet long and 17 wide. Those houses, or at least their original walls, which, (except those of the church) are about thirty inches thick, are still standing. They had at the time flat terrace roofs of beams and plank, covered with a thick coat of cement. The present roofs and the adjoining sheds and other woodwork, have been added since the place was converted into a Quartermaster's Depot, (G H I and k) were rooms built against the west barrier, and were demolished with it. Tho (Ls) designate a barrier wall from six to eight feet high and 2 3/4 thick, enclosing an area 154 yards long and 54 wide, which the long barrack fronted on the East, and the low barrack (F) on the South. (M) designates the gate of the area, and the (ns) locate the doors of the several houses * The front of the Alamo Chapel bears the date of 1757; but the other works must have been built earlier. ! Yoakum is entirely mistaken as to the measurement of the place. He seems to confound the length of the large area with that of the long barracks. [MS] Had the enclosure been no longer than he represents the success of the first attack would have been more Doubtful. [end MS] [PAGE 8] which opened upon it. Most of those doors had within each a semi-circular barricade or parapet composed of a double curtain of hides upheld by stakes and filled in with earth. From behind these the garrison could fire front or oblique through the doors. Some of the rooms were also loopholed. (o o) describes a wall from five to six feet high and 2 1/4 thick, which enclosed a smaller area East of the long barrack and North of the church, 63 yards by 34. (P) locates an upper room in the south-east angle of said barrack, —(Q) a breach in the North barrier, and (R) an entrenchment running from the south-west angle of the chapel to the gate. This work was not manned against the assault. According to Santa Anna's report twenty-one guas of various calibres were planted in different parts of the works. Yoakum in his description of the armament mentions but fourteen. Which- ever number be correct, however, has but little bearing upon the merits of the final defence, in which the cannon had little to do. They were in the hands of men unskilled in their use, and owing to the construction of the fort each had a limited range, which the enemy in moving up seem in a measure to have avoided. It was resolved by Santa Anna that the assault should take place at early dawn. The order for the attack, which I have read, but have no copy of, was full and precise in its details, and was signed by Rrig. Gen. Amador as head of the staff. The besieging force consisted of the battalions of Toluca, Jimenes, Matamoros, los Zapadores (or sappers), and another, which I think was that of Guerrero, and the Dragoon Regiment of Dolores. The Infantry were directed at a certain hour, between midnight and dawn, to form at a convenient distance from the fort in four columns of attack and a reserve. This disposition was not made by battalions; for the light companies of all of them were incorporated with the Zapadores to form the reserve, and some other transpositions may have been made. A certain number of scaling ladders and axes were to be borne with particular columns. The Cavalry were to be stationed at different points around the fortress to cut off fugitives. From [PAGE 9] what I have learned of men engaged in the action it seems that these dispositions were changed on the eve of attack, so far as to combine the five bodies of Infantry into three columns of attack. This included the troops designated in the order as the reserve; and the only actual reserve that remained was the Cavalry. The immediate command of the assault was entrusted to Gen. Castrillon, a Spaniard by birth and a brilliant soldier. Santa Anna took his station with a part of his staff and all the Regimental bands at a battery South of the Alamo and near the old bridge, from which the signal was to be given by a bugle note for the columns to move simultaneously at double quick time against different points of the fortress. One composed mainly of the battalion of Toluca was to enter the North breach—the other two to move against the Southern side: one to attack the gate of the large area—the other to storm the chapel. By the timing of the signal it was calculated the columns would reach the foot of the wall just as it became light enough to operate. When the hour came the batteries and the music were alike silent [MS] *1. Error. See note *1 at the end [end MS] and a single blast of the bugle was at first followed by no sound save the rushing tramp of soldiers. The guns of the fortress soon opened upon them, and then the bands at the South battery struck up the assassin note of deguello!* But a few and not very effective discharges from the works could be made before the enemy was under them; ! and it is thought that the worn and wearied garrison was not till then fully mustered. The Toluea column arrived first at the foot of the wall, but was not the first to enter the area. A large piece of cannon at the north-west angle of the area probably commanded the breach. Either this or the deadly fire of the riflemen at that point, where Travis commanded in person, brought the column to a disordered halt, and its leader Col. Duque fell dangerously wounded. [MS] ** [end MS] But, while this was occurring, one of the other columns en- * No quarter. ! A Sergeant of the Zapadores told me that the column he belonged to encountered but one discharge of grape in moving' up, and that passed mostly over the men's heads. [MS] *A leader but not the commander the column. He was the command officer of the battalion of Toluca, but my after-recollection is that Cos or some other general officer commanded the column. [end MS] [PAGE 10] entered the area by the gate or by escalade near it. The defence of the outer walls had now to be abandoned; and the garrison took refuge in the buildings already described. It was probably'while the enemy were pouring in through the breach that Travis fell at his post; for his body was found beside the gun just referred to. All this passed within a few minutes after the bugle sounded. The early loss of the outer barrier, so thinly manned, was inevitable; and it was not till the garrison became more concentrated and covered in the inner works, that the main struggle commenced. They were more concentrated as to the space, not as to unity; for there was no communicating between buildings, nor in all cases between rooms. There was now no retreat- irtg from point to point; and each group of defenders had to fight and die in the den where it was brought to bay. From the doors, windows, and loopholes of the several rooms around the area, the crack of the rifle and hiss of the bullet came fierce and fast: as fast the enemy fell and recoiled in his first efforts to charge. The gun beside which Travis lay was now turned against the buildings, as were also some others; and shot after shot in quick succession was sent crashing through the doors and barricades of the several rooms. Each ball was followed by a storm of musketry and a charge; and thus room after room was carried at the point of the bayonet, when all within them died fighting to the last. The struggle was made up of a number of separate and desperate combats, often hand to hand, between squads of the garrison and bodies of the enemy. The bloodiest spot about the fortress was the long barrack and the ground in front of it, where the enemy fell in heaps. In the mean time the turning of Travis' gun had been imitated by the garrison. A small piece on the roof of the chapel or one of the other buildings wras turned against the area while the rooms were being stormed. It did more execution than any other cannon of the fortress; but after a few effective discharges all who manned it fell under the enemy's fire. Crockett had taken refuge in a room of the low barrack near the gate. He either garrisoned it alone, or was left alone by the fall of his companions. when he sal- [PAGE 11] sallied to meet his fate in the face of the foe, and was shot down. Bowie had been severely hurt by a fall from a platform, and, when the attack came on, was confined to his bed in an upper room of the barrrack marked (P.) He was there killed on his couch, but not without resistance; for he is said to have shot down with his pistols one or more of the enemy as they entered the chamber. The church was the last point taken. The column which moved against it, consisting of the battalion of Jimenes and other troops, was at first repulsed, and took refuge among some old houses outside of the barrier, near its south-west angle, till it was rallied and led on by Gen. Amador. It was soon joined by the rest of the force, and the church was carried by a coup de main. Its inmates, like the rest, fought till the last, and continued to fire from the upper platforms after the enemy occupied the floor of the building. A Mexican officer told of seeing a man shot in the crown of the head in this melee. During the closing struggle Lieut. Dickenson, with his child in his arms, or tied to his back, as some accounts say, leaped from an upper window (B, ) and both were killed in the act. Of those he left behind him the bayonet soon gleaned what the bullet missed; and in the upper part of the church the last defender must have fallen. The morning breeze which received his parting breath probably still fanned his flag above that fabric, ere it was pulled down by the victors.* Tlie Alamo had fallen. The action, according to Santa Anna's report, lasted thirty minutes. It was certainly short; and possibly no longer space passed between the moment the enemy fronted the breach and that when resistance died out. Some of the incidents which have to be related separately no doubt occurred simultaneously, and occupied very little time. The account of the assault which Yoakum and others have adopted as authentic, is evidently one which popular tradi- ! It's a fact not often remembered, that Travis and his men died under the Mexican Federal flag of 1824, instead of the 'Lone Star, ' althouch the Inde pendence of Texas, unknown to them, had been declared four days before. They died for a Republic whose existence they never knew. [PAGE 12] tradition has based on conjecture. By a rather natural inference it assumes that the enclosing wall of the fortress was its principal work, that in storming this the main conflict took place, and that after it was entered nothing more than the death struggles of a few occurred. The truth was, that extensive barrier proved to be nothing more than the outworks, speedily lost, while the buildings constituted the citadel and the scene of the sternest resistance. That Santa Anna himself was under the works urging on the escalade in person is exceedingly fabulous. A negro boy belonging to Travis, the wife of Lieut. Dickinson, Mrs. Alsbury a native of San Antonio, and another Mexican woman, and two children, were the only inmates of the fortress whose lives were spared. The children were those of the two females whose names are given. Lieut. Dickinson commanded a gun in the east upper window of the church. His family was probably in one of the two small upper rooms of the front. This will account for his being able to take one of his children to the rear platform while the building was being stormed. A small irrigating canal runs below the window referred to; and his aim in the desperate attempt at flight, probably was to break his fall by leaping into the water; but the shower of bullets which greeted him rendered the precaution as needless as it was hopeless. [MS] *2 See notes thus marked at the end [end MS] About the time the outer barriers were carried, a few men leaped from them and attempted to escape, but were all cut down by the Cavalry. [MS] ** [end MS] Half an hour or more after the action was over a few men were found concealed in one of the rooms under some matrasses. Gen. Houston, in a letter of the 11th, says as many as seven; but I have generally heard them spoken of as only three or four. The officer to whom they were first reported entreated Santa Anna to spare their lives: but he was sternly rebuked and the men ordered to be shot, which was done. Owing to the hurried and confused manner in which the mandate was obeyed a Mexican soldier was accidentally killed with them. Castrilion was the soul of the assault. Santa Anua remained at the South battery with the music of the whole [MS] ** One of these men concealed himself under a bridge of the irrigation ditch near the fort, & remained hidden till late in the day when he was discovered by some of the camp women who were washing near the bridge. He was dragged out & manacled. [end MS] [PAGE 13] army and a part of his staff, till he supposed the place was nearly mastered, when he moved up with that escort towards the Alamo; but returned again on being greeted by a few rifle balls from the upper windows of the church. He however entered the area towards the close of the scene and directed some of the last details of the butchery. The five Infantry corps that formed the attacking force, according to the data already referred to, amounted to about twenty-five hundred men. The number of Mexican wounded according to various accounts, largely exceeded that of the killed; and the estimates made of both by intelligent men who were in the action, and whose candor I think could be relied on, rated their loss at from one hundred and fifty to two hundred killed, and from three to four hundred wounded. Santa Anna's report is a piece of balderdash dealing mostly in generalities. He sets down his force at fourteen hundred, his loss at sixty killed and three hundred wounded, and the strength of the garrison, all told and all killed, at six hundred. This is about as reliable as the legend of old Texians, that the Alamo was stormed by ten thousand men, a thousand of whom were slain. The real loss of the assailants in killed and wounded probably did not differ much from five hundred men. Gen. Bradburn was of opinion that three hundred men in that action were lost to the service, counting with the killed those who died of wounds or were permanently disabled. This agrees with the other most reliable estimates* Now, if 500 men or more were bullet- stricken in half an hour by one hundred and eighty or less, it was a rapidity of bloodshed almost unexampled, and needs no exaggeration. It was not the carnage of pursuit like that of San Jacinto, nor the sweeping effect of cannon under favorable circumstances like that of Sandusky. The main ° Anselmo Borgara, a Mexican, who first reported the fall of the Alamo to Gen. Houston at Gonzales, and who left San Antonio on the evening after it occurred, stated that the assaulting force amounted to about 2, 300 men, of whom 521 were killed and as many wounded. He had probably either had opportunities of seeing and estimfiting the hulk of the besieging force, or had his information on this point from those who had a tollerably correct idea of its strength. It probably did not exceed 2, 500 men, nor much fall below that number. The loss, however, is evidently exaggerated; because it is simply incredible. We would have to search history closely to find where any troops* [PAGE 14] element of the defence was the individual valor and skill of men who had few advantages of fortificatian, ordnance, discipline, or command. All their deficiencies, which were glanng, serve only to enhance the one merit, in which no veterans could have excelled them. It required bravery even in greatly superior numbers to overcome a resistance so determined. The Mexican troops displayed more of it in this assault than in any other action during the campaign; and they have seldom shown as much anywhere. Santa Anna, when he marched for Texas had counted on finding a fortified position in the neighborhood of San Antonio, but not at the Alamo; for he supposed, with good reason, that the Mission of Concepcion would be selected. The small area of that strong building, which had room enough for Travis' force and not too much, and its compactness, which would have given better range to his cannon, would have made it a far better fortress than the Alamo; and earthworks of no great extent would have covered the garrison's access to the river. The advantages of the position must have been known to Travis, and that he did not avail himself of it was probably owing to his imperfect command of men unwilling to leave their town associations. An attempt to move might break up the garrison. The neglect of scouting service, before referred to, indicates a great lack of subordination, for Travis, who during the late siege of Bexar had been the efficient head of that branch of duty, must have been aware of its importance. On the 24th of February he wrote thus: "When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in the deserted houses eighty or ninety bushels, and got into the walls twenty or thirty head of beeves." This omission to provide, remedied so late by accident, must have been more *have carried a fortress with a loss of more than two-fifths of that number. If there was any basis for this part of the statement, it is probable that 521 was the entire loss of killed and wounded, which at second hand would become that of killed alone, and then it would be assumed that the number of wounded was equal. Gen. Houston seems to have gathered from this man the idea that Travis had only one hundred and fifty effective men out of one hundred and eighty seven. --(Letter of March 11th to Fannin.) But if none had fallen up to the 3d, the effective force could hardly have been reduced so much in the next two days and nights. [PAGE 15] 15 owing to the commander's lack of control and to the occupa- tion of mind incident to it, than to his want of foresight. His men were willing to die by him, but, I infer, not ready to obey in what did not immediately concern fighting. [MS] *3 See note thus marked at the end. [end MS] I am here tempted to speculate briefly on the bearing which it might have had on the campaign, had Travis changed his post to the Mission, strengthened it to the best of his ability, and secured a supply of provisions for a few weeks. The great importance Santa Anna attached to an early blow and rapid movement would probably have induced him to make an assault there as early, or nearly so. as he did at the Alamo; and there even had his force been stronger I am confident the result would have been different. Instead of the panic which the fall of the Alamo spread through the land, sending fugitives to the Sabine, a bloody repulse from Concepcion would have filled Texas with exultation, and sent its men in crowds to Houston's camp. The fortress could then have held out till relieved; and the war would probably have been finished west of the Guadalupe. Its final results could not have been more disastrous to the invaders than they eventually were; but a large extent of country would have been saved from invasion and partial devastation. A military lesson may be derived from the fall of tha Alamo. Among the essential qualities of a perfect soldiar we must consider not only the discipline and subordination which blend him with the mass in which the word of con;. mand moves him; but also the individual self-reliance and efficiency which may restore the battle after the mass is broken. From the lack of the former quality the men of the Alamo were lost; by their possession of the latter they became, in the last struggle, as formidable as veterans and died gloriously, and in a better position they would have been saved by it. Though the latter quality depends more on nature than the former, it admits of development, and the perfection of training neglects neither. Of the foregoing details which do not refer to documentary authority I obtained manly from Gen. Bradburn, who arrived at San Antonio a few days after the action, and gathered them from officers who were in it. A few I had through [PAGE 16] 16 a friend from Gen. Amador. Others again I received from three intelligent Sergeants, who were men of fair education and I think truthful. One of them Serg. Becero, of the battalian of Matamoros, who was captured at San Jacinto, was for several years my servant in Texas. From men of their class I could generally get more candid statements as to loss and other matters than from commissioned officers. I have also gathered some minor particulars from local tradition preserved among the residents of this town. When most of the details thus learned were acquired I had not seen the locality; and hence I have to locate some of the occurrences by inference; which I have done carefully and I think correctly. The stranger will naturally inquire "Where lie the heroes of the Alamo?" and Texas can only reply by a silent blush. A few hours after the action, the bodies of the slaughtered garrison were gathered up by the victors, laid in three piles, mingled with fuel, and burned.* On the 25th of February, near a year after, their bones and ashes were collected, placed in a coffin, and interred with due solemnity and with military honors, by Colonel Seguin and his commtd The place of burial was in what was then a peach orchard outside the town and a few hundred yards from the Alamo. It is now a large enclosed lot in the midst of the Alamo suburb but has fortunately not been built upon. The rude land- marks which once designated the place of burial have long since disappeared, and it would now require diligent search to find the exact locality. It is to be hoped that search will not be delayed till it is too late. The Government of the State of Texas has never secured or preserved but one memento of the Alamo. A small but finely executed monument was made from the stones of the fortress in 1841 by an artist named Nangle; and after lying long neglected it was purchased by the State. It now stands in the hall of the Capitol at Austin, but neither at the Alamo itself, nor at the forgotten grave of its defenders, does any legend or device, like the stone of Termopylae, remind the stranger of those who died for their country's rights. San Antonio, Texas, July 30, 1860. *Their own dead were carted across the San Pedro and buried. [NEWSPAPER ARTICLE PAGE 1] For the San Antonio Herald. THE FALL OF THE ALAMO. The Alamo Express of the 25th publishes from the Texas Almanac for 1860 an account of the fall of the Alamo furnished to that work by Francisco A. Ruiz, Esq., of this city. The editor gives it as a correction of my narrative of the same event lately published: but it is in substance the very account I refer to as adopted by Yoakum and others, which my article was intended to correct. It gives some interesting details of what followed the action, which do not conflict with my narrative, and, it corrects me, I have no doubt, as to the spot where Crockett's body was found, which the writer informs us was on the West instead of the South side of the large enclosure. The essential points in which this article conflicts with mine are as to some particulars of at- ttack and defence, the amount of the Mexican force, and the extent of their loss. While I admit the respectability of the name which avouches this statement, and the truthfulness it aims at, I claim the same credit for my own sources of information; for men who were in the action are likely to know as much about it as those who were only near it. When two respectable but not infallible authorities disagree, their relative claims to correctness must be toted by probability. The assault is briefly related by Mr. Ruiz in the following paragraph : "On the 9th of March at 3 o'clock P.M. Gen. Santa Anna at the head of 4.000 men, advanced against the Alamo. The infantry, artillery and cavalry had formed about 1000 vrs. from the walls of said fortress. The Mexican army charged and were twice repulsed by the deadly fire of Travis' artillerv. which resembled a con stant thunder. At the third charge the Toluca battalion commenced to scale the walls and suffered severely. Out of 800 men. only 130 were left alive." This gives no details, and says nothing of the deadly struggle within, but transfers the main contest from the citadel to the outworks. I use those terms relatively: and any one who consults my diagram and description of the works will perceive that the buildings, not the barriers, must have been the site of strongest resistance. Let us com- pare the above statement with that which I claim to be correct. The columns of attack, choosing their own ground of approach, and favored by the last moments of darkness, moved with a silent rush and reached the foot of the walls with moderate loss ; for cannon in the hands of either regular or militia riflemen may not be destructive under such circumstances.* Had the assailants been extensively mowed down and driven back before they reached the works, I doubt not the attack would have failed. They would have lost their first impetus before the excitement of actunal assault, or their hardest work had begun. The outer walls were entered with considerable loss, after a brave but brief defence. It was necessarily brief because the works were at least four times too extensive for the garrison to cover, and in that defence the rifle did much more than the cannon. It was doubtless in this escalade and breach forcing, and not in approaching the Walls, that Mr. Ruez heard the enemy were repulsed, as he says twice. I mention in my article that the column against the church was repulsed, and that against the North breach brought to a disordered halt, but it was not driven back. It, would be easy for an imperfect recollection to convert those incidents into a repeated repulse of the whole: for the writer speaks as if the enemy moved in one body instead of three. Whether the columns surged back once or twice, however, it is evident the outworks were carried in a short time; for the whole action was short, and the longest and bloodiest portion of it must have been after the outer walls were entered. The buildings had yet to be carried, and in doing that the largest portion of the slain on both sides fell. I am willing that any one who reads my narrative understandingly should compare it with the meagre paragraph above quoted, and decide which is the clearest and most probable. Mr. Ruiz is of opinion that the attacking force numbered 4000 men. Santa Anna had then probably over six thousand on the upper line, but only a part had arrived here. I have given my data for believing that the assaulting force did not exceed 2, 500, and until I know my calculation to be wrong, I must doubt the correctness of the larger amount. Anselmo Borgara, who left San Antonio on the evening after the action, and bore the news to Gen. Houston at Gonzales, estimated the assaulting force at 2, 300. I am compelled to believe his means of know- [NEWSPAPER ARTICLE PAGE 2] knowing were more reliable than those of Mr. Ruiz, for they accord better with probabilities and with all that I could gather on the subject. The same man probably bore also a correct, or nearly correct account of the enemy's loss, 521 killed and wounded. The existing need of making the most of every achievement would convert this into that number of killed, and add an equal number j of wounded. Santa Anna reported the assaulting force at 1400; and when he cuts down in this way for glorification, I have never known him to suppress more than half. It is generally not so much: and in this case an even thousand was a convenient number to suppress. The old story about the enemy's loss, which common report stereotyped for several years, as I have elsewhere observed, is simply incredible; but Mr. Ruiz informs us the Mexican loss was estimated at sixteen hundred. The credulity which can swallow this cannot be relied on for historical data. The assault, according to official reports and local tradition, lasted about half an hour: during that time how many soldiers could be stricken down by an hundred and eighty men who were themselves continually falling? At Jackson's entrenchments how many men did it take to strike down in about the same space two thousand British troeps who could do little else than stand and be shot? At San Jacinto how many Mexicans were killed and wounded in the couitse of an hour by over seven hundred Tcxiaus who had little else to do than to slay without resistance, while not a score of their own number fell. This tale of the 1600 is so obviously incredible, that another equally absurd has been found to account for it. It is not mentioned in Mr. Ruiz's article, but lives in oral tradition. This is, that when the front ranks of the Mexican columns mounted the wall those behind them continued to fije on them from sheer stupidity, and in this way more Mexicans were killed by their companions than by their enemies. To say that well drilled troops with a well instructed officer at the head of each platoon could act thus is simply ridiculous. The exaggerations which acquire a limited belief during times of extreme excitement can only be corrected after it has passed away. Of the contradiction of the tales which originate in the feelings of opposite parties during such times, I will give a specimen : A respectable resident of San Antonio, arrived at Matamoras, where I then resided, a few weeks after the Alamo was taken. His information I believe was perfect- ly reliable, where his credulity had not been wrought on by political feelings; but he was opposed to the revolution of Texas, which he then believed was at an end. I enquired about the taking of the Alamo. "It is soon told, " he said, "the troops moved against it at day break and made short work."' "What was the Mexican loss I inquired. "About eighty, '' he replied, "for there was very little resistance." As I was not imposed on by this absurd story then, I do not know why I should credit an opposite piece of extravagance now. R. M. POTTER. San Antonio, Aug. 28th, 1860. * Whether a cannonade was going on at this time or not, between the beseiging batteries and the fort, It is certain that the movement of the colums, . so far as they were concerned, was a si lent rush. It was an essential point in the plan- of attack that they should get near to the works undiscovered, and in this I have no doubt they succeeded. I am told that for some days before, there had been a comparison between the best watches of the Mexican officers to ascertain which was safest for indicating the moment which was still dark enough for surprise, though near enough to light for action. According to my information, as now remembered, the cannon on both sides were silent when the columns moved. According to the recollection of Mr. Ruiz there seems to have been an active cannonade at that time. He may bo correct, but if so the firing must have been between the besieging batteries and the fort, not between the columns and the latter. If there was such a cannonade, at the time, the besiegers would make it as ac- tive as possible to draw attention from the ap- proach of the columns till the latter were near the works. Mr. Ruiz informs us the enemy formed at a thousand yards distance from the walls. Here also he may be coreect, but there must have been final starting points for the colums much nearer. It is probable that the whole force formed on a ground somewhat distant, from which the columns moved to three nearer points' to await the signal. [MS NOTES PAGE 1] *1 — Since this was published I have learned a few additional particulars from a gentleman who was an officer in the Army of Texas at San Jacinto, and, being a native of San Antonio, was able to converse understandingly with the Mexican officers captured there. I learn[ed] from him that when the columns of attack first moved, and for some time before, the guns on the south side of the fort were answering the battery in front of them. I therefore erred in my stating that the cannon on both sides were at that moment silent. – Mr. Ruiz, who, according to this statement, listened to the din of the operations where he could not see them, seems to have been misled by this cannonade, and, in his recollections twenty odd years after, supposed the fire of the Fort was all directed against storming parties, instead of against the besieging batteries. Hence his idea that a large portion of the Mexican loss was caused by Travis' artillery. — See the Scrap pages which follow this. — My informant above referred to says that the guns on the north side of the Fort had time to make but one fire against the column advancing in that quarter, although it was staggered a short time near the breach. The guns on the south side, when their aim was turned from the besieging batteries to the assaulting force, could not have made more than two discharges before one of the columns on that side entered. The column against the north breach was checked, and that against the chapel repulsed, I presume, at nearly the same moment; and I infer that while the main attention of the garrison was drawn to these two points, the other column entered with less opposition. My informant thinks I have rated the average force of the Mexican corps a fraction too high, and that it fell short of [MS NOTES PAGE 2] five hundred. He is confident the battalion of Toluca contained but four hundred and odd. — Mr. Ruiz in his statement asserts that it numbered 800, out of which only 130 were left alive. — Now if 670 were slain outright, how many were wounded? The remaining 130 would be an incredibly small proportion. The whole corps must have gone to the grave yard and hospital; yet only seven weeks after, a portion of it was killed and taken at San Jacinto, and a small remnant, not in that action, retreated with Urrea to Matamoros. — The Story of the Eight Hundred, equally with that of the 1600, in Ruiz's statement shows what reliance is to be placed on local legends. My San Jacinto informant thinks my estimate of the Mexican loss about right — that is /about/ five hundred killed & wounded, a little more or less. The captured officers who had been in the assault generally rated thereabout, — some above & some below it. — The highest conjecture, made by one officer only, was that the killed and wounded might have approached seven hundred. This though probably in excess indicates that I have not gone too high. *2. — The authenticity of this incident, Dickenson's leap, has been questioned. — I heard it related with doubt on my part in the earliest verbal accounts of the action which I listened to in Texas; but it was afterwards mentioned by my servant ex-Sergeant Becero, who said he witnessed it. His reference to it was not suggested by any inquiry or allusion of mine; and, though he may have heard it spoken of before by others, it, seemed to come up spontaneously among his recollections when he first narrated the assault to me. The leap is generally spoken of as being made from the top of the chapel; but Becero, according to my present recollection, said it was from an upper window of the south side. When I first saw that building in 1841, there was [MS NOTES PAGE 3] at the point referred to, not a window, but a small breach or notch in the upper part of the wall, which may have been knocked out to serve as an embrasure. The opening, which is now converted into a window, is about 15 feet from the ground. *3. - Mr. N. Lewis who remained in San Antonio till the enemy entered the Plaza, & stopped a short time at the Alamo after he left the town, has lately given me some information about the condition of the garrison at that juncture; and its lack of discipline was much greater even than I had supposed. The wonder is, not that officers were unable to move to a better position, but that they had been able to take the command together where it was. There were then two governments in Texas, both mere shadows; and the Volunteers at San Antonio did not fully recognize either. The Governor and the Council had repudiated each other; and each branch set up for itself. Travis was assigned by the Governor to relieve Col. Neill of the command at San Antonio. The garrison were unwilling to receive the former except as Second in command, and clamored for an election of Colonel. Neill, to get over the matter, left a written order for the election of a Lieut. Colonel, and was about leaving town when some of his men, who has ascertained the nature of the order, mobbed him and threatened his life unless he changed the provision to one for Colonels election. He was constrained to comply, and, on the amended order, Bowie was unanimously elected. This was I think about two weeks before the enemy arrived. - It happened that Bowie was disabled early in the siege, & the actual command devolved upon Travis, whose letters are all signed by him as Sr. Col. commanding. When Mr. Lewis visited the Alamo, after the town was in possession of the enemy, the confusion which prevailed there beggared description. Bowie with a detachment was engaged in breaking open deserted houses in the neighborhood and gathering corn. Another squad was driving some cattle into the enclosure (o.o.) east of the Long Barrack. Within the works [MS NOTES PAGE 4] he saw but one officer at his post, an Irish captain named Ward. Though usually one of the greatest drunkards in the crowd, he on that occasion stood with his men by the guns of the south battery, ready to use them. Many of the volunteers who had sold their rifles to obtain the means to dissipation were clamoring for guns of any kind, and the rest appeared at the moment to be without orders, or without obedience. Had the enemy marched over at once, the place could have been taken far more easily than it – afterwards was by a larger force. Yet in the disorder of that hour we hear of no attempts at flight or desertion among the garrison; and the appearance of the enemy, after the first damaging shock was over, seems to have inspired a greater amount of discipline than the men had before thought capable of. RMP|
|Transcript||THE FALL OF THE ALAMO. A REMINISCENCE OF THE REVOLUTION OF TEXAS By R.M. POTTER. SAN ANTONIO: PRINTED ON THE HERALD STEAM PRESS. 1860.|
|Relation-Is Part Of||The fall of the Alamo : a reminiscence of the revolution of Texas|