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San Antonio

San Antonio
Getting There
Mexican Marketplace
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The Alamo. All those other attractions make San Antonio a great city to visit --- AFTER you've spent the first day at The Alamo. In the final analysis, THIS is why you come to San Antonio. It has been almost 200 years and walking these grounds, thinking about what happened here, still sends chills down the spines of Americans. The incredible heroics displayed here seem all the more unbelievable seeing The Alamo today, a peaceful park in the middle of a busy city, the grounds lush with beautiful subtropical plants, the sounds of traffic and the Riverwalk totally gone. But this is Sacred Ground, and it has its effect. Buses of grade school, middle school and high school students unload and they walk across the plaza displaying the usual youthful mischief, shouting and talking and having fun. Then they approach the outbuildings and the chapel, and they fall silent. No teacher, chaperone or parent tells them to. They just do. It's the same silence one sees at The Old North Bridge, at Lexington Green, at Valley Forge and Yorktown.
It was an unlikely place and an unnecessary confrontation. San Antonio had been colonized by Spain and when Mexico revolted, Tejas became part of Mexico. Since it was mostly populated by Spanish colonists and Mexicans migrating north, that was fine. Even after Americans began drifting into Tejas, they understood they were leaving America. They became Tejans without complaint. When the ruthless Santa Anna became president of Mexico, Mexicans everywhere resented his vicious regime. But the Tejans were far from Mexico City and mostly ignored him. They had only one request : Since they were so far away from Sonora, they wanted to be granted statehood, to become Mexico's northernmost state. Just like King George of England could have easily settled colonial unrest by granting New England a few simple requests, Santa Anna might have granted the statehood and solved the problem. But instead, he chose to ride north with his army and make an example of these peasants, show the people that he did not need suggestions from poor farmers and ranchers.
Who Are These People ? ---Santa Anna

Sam Houston to the north began organizing an Army to oppose Santa Anna, but would need more time. So a handful of 153 Tejans under Ben Milam attacked the Mexican army outpost at La Villitas (the original village which would become San Antonio) and after five days of fighting defeated them without losing any men. The Mexicans signed a surrender and the Tejans allowed them to withdraw down to the Rio Grande River. In a few days they were met by Santa Anna riding north, and joined him. Milam rode north to let Houston know what was happening, while Colonel William B. Travis and the Tejans set up camp in the old mission known as The Alamo. Over the next few days they were joined by Davy Crockett and George Russell and a group of 13 Tennesseans, and 32 volunteers from Gonzales. This left Travis 200 men. Santa Ann had 10,000.

The old mission then was much larger. A historically accurate model has been built west of San Antonio for moviemaking purposes, and these two photographs were taken there. The huge courtyard shown at right occupies the land now taken by the street and row of buildings across the street. Notice the well just left of center. They had plenty of water.

This picture, also historically correct and made from authentic diagrams and maps of 1830 and verified by diaries and journals of the men, shows the heavy log fence running from the front right corner of the alamo across what is now grass to the street, where a wall then extended down to the Long Barrack. This was the inner structure. Behind us as we stand where this picture is taken would be the large courtyard shown above. So there were two walls, the large outer wall surrounding the compound, and the tight inner walls, plus this fence.

There were two more wells inside the compound, one facing the Long Barrack and one facing the Officers Quarters. These wells were critically important because they meant Santa Anna could not cut off the men's water supply.

Why Won't These Men Just Surrender? What Is It They Want So Badly? --- Santa Anna
This scene from the 1960 movie shows Jim Bowie, left, and Davy Crockett, right. One of the reasons the Alamo gained such national prominence was the presence of these two men, who had both become legends before they ever rode into Tejas. Both were great frontiersmen but they used different weapons. Bowie was the most skilled knife wielder in American history. He could kill anybody or anything with a knife from 50 yards. To make sure his knives had the proper balance and throwing accuracy, he made his own, which became famous as the Bowie Knife and are still sold today. His personal knives are on display at The Alamo. Bowie, however, was also a great shot with a pistol. Had he lived, he might have become one of the great gunslingers in Western history. Crockett was the greatest rifle shot in America. Over the years he had customized his own rifle, Old Betsy, and at 100 yards was a dead shot. If he had time to aim he never missed. If he was hurried and had to just raise and fire, he was about 90% accurate. These men were the best of their breed, but the men Crockett brought from Tennessee were almost as good as he was. They had to rely on their shooting skills to put food on the table, they all had their own guns and knew how to care for them and use them. Mexican soldiers, on the other hand, did not own or use weapons before joining the army, and were issued guns before each battle. They were poor shots.
Although the Alamo had been built as a Spanish Mission, it had been abandoned by the church, and had been occupied by the Spanish and then Mexican Army for decades. They had installed several dozen cannon and strongly fortified the compound. When the Tejans drove out the Mexican Army and moved into the Alamo, they inherited the cannon. Colonel Travis conducted drills for a week to make sure his men knew how to load, aim and fire the cannon and how to clean and care for them. Santa Anna brought cannon with him, but so that they could be easily transported, they were smaller and lighter and did not have the range of the Alamo's. And his Mexican soldiers were not skilled in using them.
What Manner of Men Fight Like This ? ---- Santa Anna
This photo shows the Long Barrack well. Notice the stone foundation and the wood frame. If you look carefully through the leaves, you can see a whole row of doors into the barracks. The one clearly visible just to the right of the well was Jim Bowie's room. Only a few days into the siege he came down with a serious illness, whether influenza or something worse we have never been able to determine. He was dizzy and weak and spent most of the final 10 days bedridden in this room. It infuriated Bowie and whenever Travis would call a meeting Bowie insisted on having his bed hauled out so he could be there with everyone else. Had he been healthy, he would not have been able to change the final outcome, but he would certainly have helped inflict far worse losses on Santa Anna's army.
This was the Granary. It is only a few steps from the chapel, the building most people think of as the Alamo, not realizing that the whole compound was called the Alamo because of all the Cottonwood trees. Alamo is Spanish for Cottonwood. But the Granary became critically important. Colonel Travis discovered a tremendous storehouse of food in this building. Along with the water supply, it meant they could last almost indefinitely. Thirst or hunger would not be a factor. Today, the Granary is a combined museum and gift shop run by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. This is where Bowie's knife collection is displayed. The centerpiece of the modern museum is a tremendous scale model of the final battle, with every historical detail accurate and every man on both sides accounted for.
What Are They Fighting For That They Face Death So Fearlessly ? --- Santa Anna
These are the Officers Quarters. They are at the far rear of the compound. Colonel Travis quartered here, along with Ben Milam. Travis appointed Crockett an officer, moved him into a room and placed him in charge of the Tennessee delegation. Bowie was originally housed here but when he became ill was moved to the Long Barrack. It had been equipped by the Spanish as a medical facility, so was better prepared to care for a sick man. The far left side of this building butts up against the South Wall, which faced La Villita, the village where Santa Anna set up his headquarters. Travis frequently stepped up to the lookout platform here and used his telescope to check on Santa Anna's activities.
This Cenitaph stands in the plaza in front of the compound, in the middle of what used to be the large courtyard. It honors the men who died here. All of their names and sculpted likenesses of the more prominent ones are displayed along the sides.
We Outnumber These Men 20 to l and Still We Cannot Breach These Walls ? --- Santa Anna
This is the view of Long Barrack from the main courtyard. This was what Santa Anna's men would have seen as they finally breached the front wall and dropped into the main courtyard. Colonel Travis placed his strongest defense at this barrack and took personal charge of it, assigning Crockett and the Tennesseans the log wall, which would be out of the picture to our right. So for the Mexicans to get to the chapel, they had to fight past both the top commanders and the best fighting units.
This is the South Wall. The Officers Quarters butts against the far right section of this wall. This was the highest, thickest and strongest built wall at the Alamo. The Pennsylvania delegation defended it, and it was the second last to be breached. Just under that large tree, inside the courtyard, the Alamo Library holds the document collection scholars from around the nation come to use in studying this battle. It is one of America's greatest collections involving a single event. There are letters, diaries, journals, maps, messages, notes, sketches, drawings, lists and financial accounts.
If I Had Men Like These In My Own Army I Would Rule The World. --- Santa Anna
This was the first of the west walls. The other end of this wall connected to the front right corner of the chapel. From there, the log wall extended out to the main west wall. The Kentucky delegation was assigned to defend this wall. At the far end of this wall, Crockett and his Tennesseans were assigned to defend the log wall. Crockett tried to stay at the corner, where he had a direct line of sight down the log wall and down this wall. He had four rifles plus his own Old Betsy, and he had two men continually loading and handing him rifles. The Pennsylvania Long Rifles which the Tennesseans used had more range than the Mexican rifles, and Crockett and his Tennesseans were able to pick off Mexicans along both walls before they could get close enough to fire back. Santa Anna was on horseback during most of the battle, and he positioned himself almost directly behind where we are taking this picture. He could see Crockett picking off his men, and kept ordering Mexicans to target him. Every time one would shoot at him, Crockett would fire back and kill him. Twice Santa Anna eased forward and Crockett landed bullets at the feet of his horse, forcing Santa Anna to retreat.
It is important to note that the Tejans were not overwhelmed because they were outnumbered. The Mexicans were able to finally overcome them because the Tejans ran out of ammunition. They went down fighting hand to hand. Jim Bowie had a "brace" of pistols and a "set" of knives. When the Mexicans reached his door he emptied all the pistols and then, still from his bed, one by one threw the knives, killing one Mexican with each one. When the final Mexican shot Bowie, he tore the rifle from his hands, pulled the bayonet off and stabbed the Mexican with it before he died. When they found Bowie there were 17 dead Mexican soldiers in his room and his pistols and knives scattered around on the floor. Santa Anna's own report of the battle identifies Crockett as the last man standing and credits him with killing over 150 Mexicans.
We Must Leave No Trace Of These Men, Lest The Tejans Make Heroes Of Them And Fight Us In Their Honor --- Santa Anna
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