Remember The Alamo

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat

The soldier's last tattoo;

No more on life's parade shall meet

That brave and fallen few.

On fame's eternal camping-ground

Their silent tents are spread,

And glory guards with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

* * *

The neighing troop, the flashing b

The bugle's stirring blast,

The charge, the dreadful cannonade,

The din and shout are past;

Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal

Shall thrill with fierce delight

Those breasts that never more may feel

The rapture of the fight.

--Theodore O'Hara.

"Thermopylae had its messengers of death, but the Alamo had none." These

were the words with which a United States senator referred to one of

the most resolute and effective fights ever waged by brave men against

overwhelming odds in the face of certain death.

Soon after the close of the second war with Great Britain, parties of

American settlers began to press forward into the rich, sparsely settled

territory of Texas, then a portion of Mexico. At first these immigrants

were well received, but the Mexicans speedily grew jealous of them, and

oppressed them in various ways. In consequence, when the settlers

felt themselves strong enough, they revolted against Mexican rule, and

declared Texas to be an independent republic. Immediately Santa Anna,

the Dictator of Mexico, gathered a large army, and invaded Texas. The

slender forces of the settlers were unable to meet his hosts. They were

pressed back by the Mexicans, and dreadful atrocities were committed

by Santa Anna and his lieutenants. In the United States there was great

enthusiasm for the struggling Texans, and many bold backwoodsmen and

Indian-fighters swarmed to their help. Among them the two most famous

were Sam Houston and David Crockett. Houston was the younger man, and

had already led an extraordinary and varied career. When a mere lad he

had run away from home and joined the Cherokees, living among them for

some years; then he returned home. He had fought under Andrew Jackson in

his campaigns against the Creeks, and had been severely wounded at the

battle of the Horse-shoe Bend. He had risen to the highest political

honors in his State, becoming governor of Tennessee; and then suddenly,

in a fit of moody longing for the life of the wilderness, he gave up his

governorship, left the State, and crossed the Mississippi, going to join

his old comrades, the Cherokees, in their new home along the waters

of the Arkansas. Here he dressed, lived, fought, hunted, and drank

precisely like any Indian, becoming one of the chiefs.

David Crockett was born soon after the Revolutionary War. He, too, had

taken part under Jackson in the campaigns against the Creeks, and had

afterward become a man of mark in Tennessee, and gone to Congress as a

Whig; but he had quarreled with Jackson, and been beaten for Congress,

and in his disgust he left the State and decided to join the Texans. He

was the most famous rifle-shot in all the United States, and the most

successful hunter, so that his skill was a proverb all along the border.

David Crockett journeyed south, by boat and horse, making his way

steadily toward the distant plains where the Texans were waging their

life-and-death fight. Texas was a wild place in those days, and the old

hunter had more than one hairbreadth escape from Indians, desperadoes,

and savage beasts, ere he got to the neighborhood of San Antonio, and

joined another adventurer, a bee-hunter, bent on the same errand as

himself. The two had been in ignorance of exactly what the situation in

Texas was; but they soon found that the Mexican army was marching toward

San Antonio, whither they were going. Near the town was an old Spanish

fort, the Alamo, in which the hundred and fifty American defenders of

the place had gathered. Santa Anna had four thousand troops with

him. The Alamo was a mere shell, utterly unable to withstand either a

bombardment or a regular assault. It was evident, therefore, that those

within it would be in the utmost jeopardy if the place were seriously

assaulted, but old Crockett and his companion never wavered. They were

fearless and resolute, and masters of woodcraft, and they managed to

slip through the Mexican lines and join the defenders within the walls.

The bravest, the hardiest, the most reckless men of the border were

there; among them were Colonel Travis, the commander of the fort, and

Bowie, the inventor of the famous bowie-knife. They were a wild and

ill-disciplined band, little used to restraint or control, but they were

men of iron courage and great bodily powers, skilled in the use of their

weapons, and ready to meet with stern and uncomplaining indifference

whatever doom fate might have in store for them.

Soon Santa Anna approached with his army, took possession of the town,

and besieged the fort. The defenders knew there was scarcely a chance

of rescue, and that it was hopeless to expect that one hundred and

fifty men, behind defenses so weak, could beat off four thousand trained

soldiers, well armed and provided with heavy artillery; but they had no

idea of flinching, and made a desperate defense. The days went by, and

no help came, while Santa Anna got ready his lines, and began a furious

cannonade. His gunners were unskilled, however, and he had to serve the

guns from a distance; for when they were pushed nearer, the American

riflemen crept forward under cover, and picked off the artillerymen.

Old Crockett thus killed five men at one gun. But, by degrees, the

bombardment told. The walls of the Alamo were battered and riddled; and

when they had been breached so as to afford no obstacle to the rush of

his soldiers, Santa Anna commanded that they be stormed.

The storm took place on March 6, 1836. The Mexican troops came on well

and steadily, breaking through the outer defenses at every point,

for the lines were too long to be manned by the few Americans. The

frontiersmen then retreated to the inner building, and a desperate

hand-to-hand conflict followed, the Mexicans thronging in, shooting

the Americans with their muskets, and thrusting at them with lance and

bayonet, while the Americans, after firing their long rifles, clubbed

them, and fought desperately, one against many; and they also used their

bowie-knives and revolvers with deadly effect. The fight reeled to and

fro between the shattered walls, each American the center of a group of

foes; but, for all their strength and their wild fighting courage, the

defenders were too few, and the struggle could have but one end. One by

one the tall riflemen succumbed, after repeated thrusts with bayonet and

lance, until but three or four were left. Colonel Travis, the commander,

was among them; and so was Bowie, who was sick and weak from a wasting

disease, but who rallied all his strength to die fighting, and who, in

the final struggle, slew several Mexicans with his revolver, and with

his big knife of the kind to which he had given his name. Then these

fell too, and the last man stood at bay. It was old Davy Crockett.

Wounded in a dozen places, he faced his foes with his back to the wall,

ringed around by the bodies of the men he had slain. So desperate was

the fight he waged, that the Mexicans who thronged round about him

were beaten back for the moment, and no one dared to run in upon him.

Accordingly, while the lancers held him where he was, for, weakened

by wounds and loss of blood, he could not break through them, the

musketeers loaded their carbines and shot him down. Santa Anna declined

to give him mercy. Some say that when Crockett fell from his wounds, he

was taken alive, and was then shot by Santa Anna's order; but his fate

cannot be told with certainty, for not a single American was left alive.

At any rate, after Crockett fell the fight was over. Every one of the

hardy men who had held the Alamo lay still in death. Yet they died well

avenged, for four times their number fell at their hands in the battle.

Santa Anna had but a short while in which to exult over his bloody and

hard-won victory. Already a rider from the rolling Texas plains, going

north through the Indian Territory, had told Houston that the Texans

were up and were striving for their liberty. At once in Houston's mind

there kindled a longing to return to the men of his race at the time of

their need. Mounting his horse, he rode south by night and day, and was

hailed by the Texans as a heaven-sent leader. He took command of their

forces, eleven hundred stark riflemen, and at the battle of San Jacinto,

he and his men charged the Mexican hosts with the cry of "Remember the

Alamo." Almost immediately, the Mexicans were overthrown with terrible

slaughter; Santa Anna himself was captured, and the freedom of Texas was

won at a blow.