Early one Sunday Morning

by david on March 6, 2017

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March 6, 1836

It was an early Sunday morning when the massive final attack came in San Antonio.  Both sides were weary and so very bone tired it was hard to muster the strength for one more skirmish.  But this time it seemed different.  The bugles were playing deguello, the song of no quarter.  The same notes.  Over and over and over.

At the start of the battle in late February, there were five bands which played marches of the day.  As it became clear the defenders would never surrender, the song played was the same.  El Deguello.  The song itself was centuries old and of Moorish origin.

It meant every defender of the Mission San Antonio de Valero was to be put to the sword.  The word deguello  in that time meant throat cutting.  Slitting.  It meant that no quarter would be given and no surrender would be accepted.  This would be a fight to the death.  The attackers had also flown a flag with the same meaning.  There was no mistaking the intention of the attacking army  that had come to San Antonio 181 years ago.

General Santa Anna had come to San Antonio to teach the Texians a lesson.  The upstarts had humiliated the General’s brother-in-law and old Ben Milan and his force of Texans commanded by Texas General Burleson had captured General Cos, liberated San Antonio, and sent General Cos back to Mexico City.  Santa Anna was also humiliated by the loss.  He wasted no time in gathering his army for an ill-advised winter march to avenge his loss of pride.

The winter march from Mexico to San Antonio was devestating to the common soldados.  It was an unusual winter that year with snow and freezing rain in northern Mexico.  Many of them were conscripts wearing tropical weight clothing. They died in heaps, frozen to death in piles along the way.  Their suffering was ignored by the dictator Santa Anna as he rushed to avenge his wounded pride.

Santa Anna and his army arrived in San Antonio on February 24 and began an immediate bombardment of the fortress.  This bombardment lasted until the final battle on this day 181 years ago, March 6, 1836.  That day in March marked the 13th day of the seige and battle of the Alamo.

The defenders of the Alamo held on.  They had been holding on for the previous twelve days.  A letter had been written by the Commandant William B. Travis, but help was not to come.  There were a very brave 32 men from Gonzales who fought their way into the Alamo. No others.

Attack after attack had been repulsed.  The defenders had their own canons.  They also had long rifles and marksmen who were very accurate shots.  The Mexican canons continued to bombard unceasingly.  Much of the rock walls surrounding the compound had been reduced to rubble.  For twelve days the cannons had boomed night and day.  Sleep was found only by soldiers who were so tired that they did not fear the explosive ball that would have to land just where they were sleeping.  If it was meant to be, it was meant to be.  They had no control over where the next artillery shell would fall.

The Mexican soldados were also tired.  The conscripts from Yucatan, those who had survived the brutal winter march to San Antonio, were among the first to fall at the start of the battle.  The long rifles of the defenders could reach 300 yards.  The conscripts were often not even armed and those who were had almost unusable weapons with only a 70 yard range.  They died by the dozens as they were forced to attack.  The experienced soldados watched as the conscripts were sent to their deaths.

On this final morning, the experienced soldados were massed for an attack that could not be repulsed.  The fighting ended up being building to building.  Man against man.  Man against bayonet.

It was said that the defender known as Bowie was held aloft by many bayonets stabbed through him.  Others said it was Crockett who had died such a death.  It was Crockett’s men, the volunters from Tennessee, who defended the area in front of the remaining chapel we know now as ‘The Alamo‘.

Bravery was displayed everywhere.  From those who were forced to fight and from those who chose to fight.

Nearly every square foot of the compound was wet with the blood of both sides of the battle.  Not just the remaining chapel Texans now revere as the cradle of Texas liberty.  But the entire compound for hundreds of yard surrounding the chapel.

Today, every step many tourists take was once wet with the blood of those who took part in the battle.

For years, I would make the trek from to this site which is considered Holy by many Texans.  I would arrive around 5:00 a.m. and sit on a low wall across from the Alamo in an area known as Alamo Plaza.  Some years it was a cold morning.  Some years it was foggy and drizzly.  At tiimes,  I thought I could see figures moving against the mist obscured rock walls that were once blasted apart by a continuous bombardment from Santa Anna’s canons.

As the dawn provided light, I would read a letter sent by the Commandant of the Alamo asking for help that never came.  In that letter he said:

I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. VICTORY OR DEATH.

He was 26 years old.

I was also once that age sitting on a low wall in front of the Alamo on March 6.  My thought was ‘would I ever do anything so important as what Travis did that morning?’

And all the other Texas heroes.  Gregoria Esparza fought and died for Texas liberty that day.  His brother, Francisco Esparza, fought with Santa Anna’s army.  Toribio Losoya was an Alamo defender as was Juan Abamillo.  They fought alongside Crockett, Travis, and Bowie.  There are meaningful stories on both sides of this battle.

As I would sit there on that rock wall in contemplation of the events of that day, I often wondered if I was living my life in a productive way, worthy of the sacrifices made by so many, so long ago.  And in later years, I also reflected on the sacrifices of our veterans who continue to defend our freedoms.  Have we all ‘earned this?’  Have we lived in such a way as to honor those who have sacrificed their lives?

It’s an age-old question many of us ask ourselves.  It was a question also for the defenders of the Alamo on that day so long ago.

There are efforts underway to fundamentally change and improve the area of The Alamo in San Antonio.  Architects from the U.S. as well as Mexico are involved in the process of creating a very meaningful area we remember so fondly.

Most of us have childhood memories of visiting the Alamo and some of us have visited multple times.  There are still activities in San Antonio commemorating the experience from Texas Independence Day on March 2nd on through the day the Alamo fell on March 6th, the Goliad Massacre on March 27th, and the date of the victory at San Jacinto on April 21st.

There are some who just don’t ‘get’ Texas and Texans and that is fine.  We love freedom.  Just ask Juan Abamillo, Toribio Loysoya, Gregoria Esparza, James Bowie, William B. Travis, and David Crockett and many more whose names are now an indelible part of our history.

Now that Ramona and I live in the San Antonio metro area, I am able to personally attend many more events of interest concerning the Alamo and other historical and literary events.

Ever since the 150th or so anniversary of the fall of the Alamo on March 6th, there has been an event called Dawn at The Alamo.  It starts at 6:00 a.m.  Event organizers have been having the formal event since 1986.  I attended many years before 1986.  Here are some more events for this auspcious day:

  • 6:00 a.m.  Dawn at the Alamo
  • 10:00  After the fall.  Sons of the Republic of Texas will feature remarks by author Lee Spencer White, co-author of Joe:  The slave who became an Alamo legend.  Joe was a survivor of the battle.
  • 2:30 p.m.  Annual Memorial Service organized by Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  They pay tribute to the 189 known defenders every year on the anniversary of the battle.
  • 6:00 p.m.  Dusk at The Alamo.  Alamo re-enactors commemorate the lighting of the funeral pyres.  The memorial service was first conducted by Colonel Juan Seguin in 1837 to honor his fallen comrades.  That first ceremony was held one year after the battle. The remarks will be recited in English and Spanish.

We remember them all.  We will never forget.  See you next year at 6:00 a.m. at Alamo Plaza.

I’m David out in Real Texas

Remembering the Alamo…..March 6, 1836


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lu WorshamNo Gravatar March 7, 2017 at 8:53 am

My eyes are a bit misty after reading this.
Perhaps it is allergy related or a powerful dose ofTexas and its history. Thanks David


Bren HollandNo Gravatar March 7, 2017 at 10:33 am

Awesome story, well told!!!!


Herbie Ross TaylorNo Gravatar March 7, 2017 at 11:04 am

Thanks. We need to remember.


Ann BoldenNo Gravatar March 7, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Born in Texas, but I now reside in California. Whenever I speak of Texas, I always refer to it as home. To open your blog today and read this wonderful message on the Alamo was especially appreciated. I remember many trips we would make to San Antonio from Cisco to visit relatives, and it always included time spent at the Alamo. Thank you for allowing me to start off my time on the computer today with such an appropriate message.


Tommy Hayes, Jr.No Gravatar March 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm

‘ might be your best work ever. Thanks a bunch!


Laura Riley Lucero,a Daughter of TexasNo Gravatar March 7, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Just want to remind everyone about the position of the Alamo and the Governors Palace..actually nothing more then a small house today.Where Santa Anna was enjoying a young Mexican maiden for those 13 days..Because today there are so many buildings one cannot see what the Alamo could see.. but in 1836 if you stood at the San Fernando Cathedral or the Governors Palace you could see everything that was going on inside the Alamo Walls and viceversa..So when Santa Anna raised the DeGuello flag at the top of the Cathedral ..one mile away..The Alamo men knew just what was going to happen..The distance is about one mile..I think..and they fought so very bravely..


john kiddNo Gravatar March 7, 2017 at 9:44 pm

David, I agreed with one of your contributors, this was your best work….Going to the Alamo was always a hallowed expierence for me. Like you, I would sit for hours and fight the battle all over again. In fact, one time I was going thru the chapel and a yankee had his cap on as he strolled around looking at the artifacts…..I had to walk up to him and take it off of his head and let him know that he was in a spiritual place….SHOW RESPECT !!!!….I would encourage you and your readers to visit the San Jacinto(sp)battle field. That event (battle) took us all day, and the original fight took no longer than 40 minutes….thanks for your history lesson, it was great


Laura Riley Lucero,a Daughter of TexasNo Gravatar March 8, 2017 at 12:58 am

Also David Crockett played the fiddle and another man played the bagpipes everyday for 13 days..It drove Santa Anna crazy..They would return with the trumpets but not near as noisy..and the sound of those pipes must have carried all over the county.. it was fitting because there were many Scots in that battle .


Ann CroftonNo Gravatar March 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Such a worthy memorial. Texas, our Texas! Fought for by the best. I just hope we will keep the flame glowing.


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