LATE JANUARY, 1836
General Antonio Lopez "Napoleon of the West" de Santa Anna stung from the insult of his brother-in-law General Cós' defeat at Béxar, arrived in Saltillo with an army of over 6,000 men. He gave orders for a 1,500 man brigade under General Sesma to form a vanguard and proceed to Béxar. Santa Anna would follow with the main body of the army, some 3,800 men and six large cannon. He sent General Don José Urrea with 600 men and one cannon to meet a battalion at Matamoros, find the Matamoros Expeditions, and destroy them. Urrea was then to roll up the flank by way of Goliad and join Santa Anna in Béxar.
The Texans never suspected Santa Anna was marching. This was because they underestimated him, and by alienating the Mexicans in and around the border, were denied the intelligence of his approach. Conversely, Santa Anna knew the Texans had split their forces, and how many men were placed where.
General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna
Santa Anna marched to Monclova where he met General Cós and what was left of his men and incorporated them into his army. From Monclova on, the Mexican troops were placed on half rations. This coupled with the unusually cold and wet weather in Texas and the fact many of the Mexican units, especially those from the southern climes such as the Yucatán, did not have adequate clothing for a campaign in Texas in such weather, played a part in the eventual outcome of the campaign.
General Sam Houston arrived in Refugio and attempted to convince Johnson and Grant to quit the Matamoros campaign. Similarly Houston went to Goliad and Fannin, but received no cooperation. He decided to bring his case to the men and addressed them directly with his reasons why the Matamoros Expedition was not in the best interests of Texas, and why they should quit it and join with him. He reminded them Texas could not sustain an attack so far from the established settlements of Texas. Even if they were successful in their initial attack on Matamoros, their could be no sustaining support from Texas.
Houston was successful in that many of the Johnson-Grant men did join him. Houston moved the men that followed him back to Gonzales. Houston sent Jim Bowie to the Alamo to evaluate conditions there. Houston left his men at Gonzales while he went to make the treaty with the Cherokee Indians. Johnson and Grant moved what remained of their men from Refugio to San Patricio.
Fannin's men stayed with Fannin at Goliad. Fannin must have heard something in Houston's plea because after Houston left, Fannin moved his men into the old fort of La Bahía and began to rebuild the fortifications. Fannin's men renamed the fort, Fort Defiance, and flew Joanna Troutman's flag.
Bowie arrived at the Alamo to find Colonel James Neill in command of 104 men, none of them Texans. Bowie brought 20 Texans with him making the total of men at the Alamo, 124 men. By his own admission in a letter to Governor Smith, Bowie stated it would take 1,000 men to adequately defend the Alamo, but he went on to state: "...we will rather die in these ditches than give them up...."
The Alamo complex showing the front of the mission in the inset and where it was in the Presidio complex (right hand corner). The Alamo aequia are also shown. Note there is no roof on the Alamo.
Among the men fortifying the Alamo was 29 year old Irishman Green Jameson. Jameson was in charge of building the palisades for the cannon and other fortification projects.
Settlements in Texas voted for representatives to the convention to be held at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 1.
Santa Anna's main force crossed the Rio Grande at Laredo. His army was stretched out several miles long. His supplies were being carried in slow moving ox-carts. Cold rain made their movement even slower. His big guns became bogged down on the rain clogged roads.
Travis arrives at the Alamo to relieve Colonel Neill. Travis brings with him 20 more Texans bringing the total men at the Alamo to 144 men. Problems developed regarding command. The Americans looked to Jim Bowie as their leader, while the Texans considered Travis as their leader. The two Irishmen resolved the matter by agreeing to a joint command.
Travis sent out a message asking for reinforcements. Davey Crockett arrived with twelve Tennessee riflemen which brought the total number of men in the Alamo 157. Davey Crockett's father and mother were both of Irish ancestry. Davey Crockett was almost 50 years old when he arrived at the Alamo. A legend in Tennessee, he left when fortune favored others. The famous frontiersman had risen from the backwoods hunter to be a Magistrate, Colonel in the Tennessee militia, member of the Tennessee Legislature, and then a member of the United States Congress representing Tennessee. In the U. S. Congress he spoke out against the monetary policies of President Andrew Jackson. Jackson was from Tennessee and very popular, it cost Crockett his seat in Congress to oppose Jackson's policy. Crockett decided to leave Tennessee after the election. He told his enemies he was going to Texas, and they could go to Hell!
<Davey Crockett wrote on this drawing that he considered it the most like him that he had seen
Santa Anna ordered a surprise calvary attack on the Alamo. General Sesma was unable to carry it out because of rising water in swollen creeks that prevented his unit from crossing.
The men of the Alamo, oblivious to the approaching army, took a break in the building of fortifications to celebrate George Washington's Birthday in the city. Ten men were left to guard the Alamo.
Elements of the Mexican cavalry arrived in San Antonio, followed quickly by ever increasing numbers of Mexican soldiers and units. Texan scouts alerted the Texans and Americans of the arrival of Santa Anna's army. The party was over. The Texans and Americans rushed back to the Alamo just as the Mexican Cavalry pushed into view. Within hours the Alamo was surrounded.
The Cherokees -
Houston in the meantime, successfully concluded the treaty with theCherokee that would grant them title to the land they occupied, if they agreed to stay out of the impending conflict. Houston was aided in the negotiations by fellow Celts: Peter Ellis Bean, John Forbes, and Dr. John Cameron.
Back in San Antonio ...
Santa Anna arrived at San Antonio. He had the red flag raised indicating no quarter would be given.
Santa Anna chose to not by-pass the Alamo because he did not want such a large force of men under arms in his rear. He also chose to not lay siege to San Antonio as the Texans did just two months earlier because he wanted to crush the revolt in Texas quickly. His obvious superiority in numbers would most certainly give him and his men a victory over the Texans. A victory in the first battle would raise the morale of his men and give them confidence for other battles.
Jim Bowie became ill with typhoid-pneumonia and turned full command over to Colonel William B. Travis. Both these Irishmen had red hair, a Gaelic badge they wore proudly. Ben Milam who died only months earlier in the first battle for the Alamo, also had red hair. It is interesting to note, the last commanders of the Alamo were all Celtic: Johnson, Neill, Bowie, and Travis.
The evening of the 23rd the Mexican cannon bombardment began.
The Texans answered with a single cannon firing one round. On the 24th the bombardment continued. Later that evening, Travis, as pictured in a drawing to the right, wrote his famous appeal:
Commandancy of the Alamo Bejar, Feby. 24th, 1836
To the people of Texas & all Americans in the world-
Fellow citizens & compatriots-
I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna- I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison is to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country.
VICTORY OR DEATH
William Barrett Travis
Lt. Col. Comd't.
The Mexicans made approaches and sallies against the Alamo. The incessant cannon fire continued.
James Butler Bonham, a boyhood friend of Travis, served as a courier from the Alamo to Texas settlements. He brought Travis' appeal to Goliad twice and then each time fought his way back in to the Alamo with the responses. Another courier was John Sutherland, whose family came from Scotland. He was sent on a mission that kept him from the Alamo on its fateful day. He later founded the town of Sutherland Springs.
Fannin began to move out of Fort Defiance to go to the aid of the Alamo.
General Urrea with over 1,000 men advanced up from Matamoros. He sent an advance group forward to locate the forces of Johnson and Grant.
Johnson and about thirty five men are in San Patricio. Grant and a few men are working out of San Patricio rounding up horses.
Fannin's volunteers requested a Council of War. The cannon carriage and the supply wagons had broken down. It was learned Urrea was close by. They did not want to proceed with out the cannon, nor abandon it to Urrea. The leaders of the volunteers also made the point that they did not think it wise to let Urrea have Fort Defiance nor the supplies known to be enroute to the fort. It was decided to return to the fort.
Grant's men run into a small party of Mexican soldiers led by a Captain Rodriguez, as there was no loss of life, Grant has them disarmed and paroled on foot after they pledge to stay out of the fight.
............................................James Fannin >
BATTLE OF SAN PATRICIO
Urrea's advance party attacks Johnson's men in a driving rain at San Patricio. 700 Mexicans against 35 Texans. Ten Texans are killed. No Mexicans are killed. As the Mexican Army was about to execute another eighteen of those captured in the Battle of San Patricio, Father Malloy of San Patricio intercedes and saves their lives. The men are sent under guard to Matamoros. Among those sent were: Phineas Jenks Mahan, Samuel McKneely, John Bryan, Lucius Kerr, Irish born Thomas Mitchell, and a man named Neill. Mahan was bayoneted, lanced, and ordered shot five times before he was eventually released eleven months later.
Word reached the Mexican Army in San Antonio of Urrea's success. The number and ferocity of the bombardment of the Alamo increased. Santa Anna became impatient, he wrote Urrea to not send the prisoners to Matamoros, he was to shoot them!
Frank W. Johnson escaped capture at the Battle of San Patricio and rode to Goliad to inform Fannin. The Battle of San Patricio is another one of those battles of the Texas Revolution so often forgotten, perhaps because it was lost by the Texans.
At the Alamo, Davey Crockett entertained the troops with his fiddle. The men of the Alamo are exhausted, resisting probes day and night. Scottish McGregor plays the pipes.
General Urrea decided to pause in San Patricio and let his long column consolidate. He told his officers to quarter themselves in the homes of the settlers. His second in command was a Greek in Mexican service, Colonel Garay. Colonel Garay stopped at the home of Irishman, Edward O'Boyle and asked permission to spend the night. The O'Boyles consented. In the morning Colonel Garay asked O'Boyle's daughter, Mary, if there was any service he could offer to return the hospitality. Mary O'Boyle told him that her brother, Andrew O'Boyle was with Colonel James Fannin at La Bahía, and that if in the fortunes of war, he could do him a favor, that was all she asked. Colonel Garay made a note of Mary's request.
32 men from Gonzales fight their way into the Alamo, among them are Tom Jackson, Tom Mitchell, and Wash Cottle. There are now 189 men defending the Alamo.