The Alamo, officially named the San Antonio de Valero Mission, is a former mission and military fort in San Antonio, Texas. It is now a museum drawing people interested in Texas history. When people say “Remember the Alamo”, they are referring to a significant battle in Texas’s Revolution against Mexico. The entire event lasted for thirteen days in February and March of 1836. It is famous for heavy rebel losses and illustrious participants, including the Mexican President Santa Anna and David Crockett.
This mission was first conceived of in 1716 and a Spanish viceroy authorized its construction. As the first in a chain of missions along the San Antonio River, it was intended as a vocational school for Native Americans after their conversion to Christianity. Training options included cattle-raising, weaving, carpentry, and stone masonry. However, the church was not completed until 1757, and mission activity was already waning by the mid-1760s! The Church abandoned the site by the 1790s.
Spanish soldiers, noting the defensive potential of the mission’s 12-foot walls, took over in 1803. In the coming years, Spain and Mexico would battle for control of land in North America. After the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, Texas became part of Mexican territory; it was part of a new state called “Coahila y Tejas”.
The Mexican government encouraged people from the US to settle this land. Hundreds of families, both American and Mexican, accepted the invitation. However, after the land became settled and colonists formed provincial governments, the Mexican government increased centralization of power.
Settlers became uncomfortable with President Santa Anna’s centralizing of government. In their view, the 1824 Constitution of Mexico guaranteed stronger states’ rights. Meanwhile, part of the centralization plan included dividing Coahila y Tejas into two states, one of which was Tejas.
Coahila soon seceded to become part of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande. Tejas declared its independence on March 2, 1835 and named itself the Republic of Texas. Settlers provoked the Mexican government early on by taking over military positions in La Bahia and San Antonio. In response, Santa Anna assembled 6,500 soldiers and led many to San Antonio’s Alamo Mission. Thousands of men may have deserted before arrival, but still, they greatly outnumbered the rebels fortressed in the Alamo.
Although they received reinforcements, the Texan rebels were outnumbered and could not sustain more than two weeks of attacks which inside their fortress. Ultimately, the Mexicans penetrated the old mission and killed most of the remaining soldiers through hand-to-hand combat. When the fighting was over, the Mexican forces left only sixteen alive. Most of these survivors were women, slaves, and children.
Although the revolutionaries did not win the Battle of the Alamo, their battle benefited the rebels’ cause overall. Emotionally, the battle stirred up settlers all across Texas and increased their resolve against President Santa Anna. Strategically, Santa Anna’s troops were stalled at the Alamo for two weeks. This allowed General Houston to assemble soldiers and supplies for a critical upcoming battle. Houston would later defeat Mexico in the decisive Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna would be captured while sneaking off the next day, and the revolutionaries would go on to win their independence. From 1836 to 1845, the Republic of Texas would be a sovereign state between the US and Mexico.