2200 hours, D-1, one hundred and seventy-seven years ago General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna ordered that the artillery barrage which had fallen upon the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Bexar for twelve days be halted.
As he suspected, the exhausted defenders soon fell into a deep sleep, for most, the only sleep that they had managed during the course of the siege.
Just after 0000 hours, 06 MAR 1836, 1800 hundred Mexican infantry troops formed into four columns. 500 Mexican cavalry rode into position around the besieged mission, to prevent the escape of, well, anyone — be they Texan defenders, or Mexican troopies.
At about 0530 hours, the three Texan sentries posted outside of the walls were silently killed, followed by the music of the Mexican bugles sounding the charge. This woke the defenders, and for the next fifteen minutes it really sucked to be a Mexican soldier. The columns they were arranged in only allowed the front line of troops to fire safely. Those firing muskets from any position behind the front line, often as not fired through the front line of Mexican soldiers. Their own artillery behind them inflicted massive blue-on-blue casualties, while the defenders opened up with their own cannon — loaded with nails, chopped horse-shoes and even the hinges from the doors of the building.
Not to say that they were all ineffective. Colonel William B. Travis was killed during this time by a lucky shot to the head as he stood on top of the wall to get a better shot into the massed formation below him with his shotgun.
Pushed on by their reinforcing elements, the Mexicans mounted three different assaults, finally getting General Juan Amador over the wall, where he got a postern door open, which allowed the attackers to swarm the Mission.
One band of defenders — Davy Crockett for certain, and probably his frontiersmen volunteers — took up a position behind a low wall in front of the chapel, and made the Valkyries earn their overtime pay. When the Mexicans pressed too close to reload, the frontiersmen swung their rifles as clubs or switched to tomahawks and knives and exacted a terrible toll before being overrun.
An American slave named Ben, who was a cook for the Mexican army during the attack, states that Crockett went down swinging his rifle and was found surrounded by sixteen dead Mexican soldiers.
For the next hour or so, the Mexican army discovered exactly how bad Military Operations in Interior Urban Environments sucks, as they fought room-to-room in the Alamo. Just the attempt to replace the Texas flag on the roof of one building cost four Mexicans the ferryman’s fee, before the fifth finally managed to replace the flag of Texas with the flag of Mexico.
Room by room, in the dark and confusion, the Mexicans died, but replacements kept coming, sparing no defenders. Colonel Jim Bowie, too sick to rise from his bed, still managed to kill three or four Mexican troops with his pistols and famous knife, before being shot and bayoneted.
At about 0630 hours 06 MAR 1836, the last 11 defenders of the Alamo were killed manning the pair of 12-pounder cannon stationed in the chapel.
Surveying the scene after the bullets stopped banging and the bodies quit bouncing, General Santa Anna remarked, “It is but a small affair.” Hearing this, a staff officer stated, “Another victory like this, and we’ll go to the devil.”
When Jim Bowie’s mother was informed of his death, she very calmly announced: “I’ll wager no wounds were found in his back.”
189 defenders of the Alamo died this day 177 years ago. They took a full third of the attacking force with them.
When news of the Alamo got out, men flocked to the Texas army, and on the afternoon of 21 APR 1836, Texas remembered the Alamo, and took a full 18 minutes to toad-stomp the crap out of the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto, taking General Santa Anna prisoner in the process.
We still remember the Alamo.