Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse.
So much has been said about Texas—its sunny seacoast to mile-high mountains, dense forests to cactus-studded desert, great cities to small villages and towns, rich and diverse history, and the hallowed Shrine that represents her birthplace.
The Alamo is sacred to every Texan, and the state’s number one tourist attraction.
For 175 years, the words, “Remember the Alamo,” have inspired passions and politics. The 13-day siege resulting in a battle to the death for its defenders is truly the stuff of legend and untold movies.
On a recent visit we watched the thousands as they entered the doors of this monumental artifact of Texas history, and couldn’t help but wonder how many truly know the saga that unfolded within the walls and under their feet? How many actually think about the struggle for freedom and liberty and the cost involved in the fight against tyranny and suppression?
The story of the birth of the Texas Republic is one of great drama and personal sacrifice.
The Alamo was defended by slightly fewer than 200 men. All were killed or executed.
The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city.
Though the old Spanish mission may not be the biggest building on the block, it still casts a giant shadow across the Great State of Texas.
Originally named Misión San Antonio de Valero by Father Damien Massanet for the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padova, the Alamo served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years.
First located along the banks of San Pedro Creek, construction began on the present site in 1724. There it became one of the five links in Spanish Mexico’s chain of northern hinterlands where Franciscan priests worked to bring Christianity to the native tribes that were scattered throughout the hills.
In 1793, Spanish officials secularized San Antonio’s five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents. These men and women continued to farm the fields and participated in the growing community of San Antonio.
In the early 1800s, the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission. The soldiers referred to the old mission as the Alamo (the Spanish word for “cottonwood”) in honor of their hometown Alamo de Parras, Coahuila. The post’s commander established the first recorded hospital in Texas in the Long Barrack.
But the change from mission to military post was only the beginning for the Alamo. In the 1810s and 1820s, Mexico fought for its independence from Spain, and the old mission in the embattled town of San Antonio was pulled from one side to the other until Mexico finally won in 1821.
Texas Spoken Friendly
In the southern part of Texas, in the town of San Antone,
There’s a fortress all in ruin that the weeds have overgrown.
You may look in vain for crosses and you’ll never see a one,
But sometime between the setting and the rising of the sun,
You can hear a ghostly bugle as the men go marching by;
You can hear them as they answer to that roll call in the sky:
Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett and a hundred eighty more;
Captain Dickenson, Jim Bowie, present and accounted for.
Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis:
“Get some volunteers and go fortify the Alamo.”
Well, the men came from Texas and from old Tennessee,
And they joined up with Travis just to fight for the right to be free.
Indian scouts with squirrel guns, men with muzzle loaders,
Stood together heel and toe to defend the Alamo.
“You may never see your loved ones,” Travis told them that day.
“Those that want to can leave now, those who’ll fight to the death, let ‘em stay.”
—The Alamo, sung by Donovan (to be continued tomorrow)
- Remember the Alamo: 13 Fateful Days
- The Alamo Celebrates Landmark Anniversary
- The Alamo Revisited: A Landmark Anniversary
- Our Grand Circle Tour
- Place in the Rocks: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ
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