Battle of the Alamo: Martyrs for Texas Freedom

After a 13-day siege of the Texians (American settlers in Texas) defending the Alamo, Mexican troops under General Santa Anna quietly prepared for a final assault at midnight, 5 March 1836. In the early morning hours of March 6, over 2,000 Mexican troops stormed the crumbling adobe mission where approximately 200 defenders awaited the attack, willing to give their lives for the cause of freedom and Texas independence.

Illustration: “The Fall of the Alamo; or, Crockett’s Last Stand,” by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk
Illustration: “The Fall of the Alamo; or, Crockett’s Last Stand,” by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk. Credit: Texas State Archives; Wikimedia Commons.

Two waves of attackers were beaten back during desperate fighting, but the third assault came pouring over the walls and killed all but two of the Alamo’s defenders, including such famous figures as James Bowie, Davy Crockett and William B. Travis. Their leader, Colonel Travis, had sent out urgent letters pleading for reinforcements, but the defenders knew their situation was dire and probably hopeless.

Illustration: "Dawn at the Alamo," by Henry Arthur McArdle
Illustration: “Dawn at the Alamo,” by Henry Arthur McArdle, hanging in the Senate Chamber of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas. Credit: The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Hopeless for them, perhaps, but not for the cause of Texas freedom. Their martyrdom inspired the fledgling Republic of Texas to “Remember the Alamo!”

The Battle of the Alamo was a significant turning point in the Texas Revolution that had begun 2 October 1835. While the Alamo was under siege, delegates at the Convention of 1836 declared independence and formed the Republic of Texas on 2 March 1836.

After the Alamo garrison was wiped out March 6, more and more Texians and adventurers from the United States rallied to the cause of Texas independence. In a surprise attack on April 21 that lasted only 18 minutes, the ragtag Texan army defeated the Mexican troops at the Battle of San Jacinto and captured Santa Anna, victoriously ending the Texas Revolution.

These reports of the Battle of the Alamo were published by the New Orleans Bulletin and the New Orleans Bee, and reprinted by the Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser.

An article about the Battle of the Alamo, Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser newspaper article 11 April 1836
Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 11 April 1836, page 2

Here is a transcription of this article:

From the New Orleans Bulletin.



The following important documents were placed in our hands by a gentleman just arrived from Texas. The news is melancholy, indeed; and here is opened another field of action for the noble hearts now returning triumphant, and covered with laurels won on the banks of the Withlacoochie, against foes less savage, perhaps, than Santa Anna’s merciless Mexican bands.

Our informant met the express bearing the news we give, and from him procured copies to be published for the information of the people on this side of the Sabine whose relations and friends, kin and countrymen, are now the victims of Mexican barbarity. Col. Bowie, it is said, shot himself; and Col. Travis stabbed himself to escape the cruelness of the enemy. Nobly they fought; dearly they sold their lives, but none escaped of the whole garrison of San Antonio.

From the New Orleans Bee of March 28.


…Between the 25th February and 2d March the Mexicans were employed in forming entrenchments around the Alamo and bombarding the place; on the 2d March Col. Travis wrote that 200 shells had been thrown into the Alamo without injuring a man. On the 1st March the Garrison of Alamo received a reinforcement of 32 Texians from Gonzales [who] forced their way thro’ the enemy’s lines making the number in the Alamo consisting of 180 men.

On the [5th] March about midnight, the Alamo was assaulted by the whole Mexican army commanded by Santa Anna in person. The battle was desperate until daylight, when only 7 men belonging to the Texian garrison were found alive, who cried for quarters, but were told that there was none for them. They then continued fighting until the whole were butchered. One woman (Mrs. Dickinson) and a negro of Col. Travis’ were the only persons whose lives were spared. We regret to say that Col. David Crockett, his companion Mr. Benton, and Col. Bonham of S.C. were among the number slain. Colonel Bowie was murdered in his bed, sick and helpless. Gen. Cos on entering the fort ordered the servant of Col. Travis to point out the body of his master; he did so, when Cos drew his sword and mangled the face and limbs with the malignant feelings of a Comanche savage. The bodies of the slain were thrown into a heap in the centre of the Alamo and burned.

…The flag used by the Mexicans was a blood-red one in place of the constitutional one. Immediately after the capture Gen. Santa Anna sent Mrs. Dickinson and the servant to Gen. Houston’s camp, accompanied by a Mexican with a flag, who was bearer of a note from Gen. Santa Anna offering the Texians peace and a general amnesty if they would lay down their arms and submit to his government. Gen. Houston’s reply was – “True, sir, you have succeeded in killing some of our brave men, but the Texians are not yet conquered.”

Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers. Were any of your ancestors involved in the Texas Revolution? Please share your stories with us in the comments section.

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