A line in the sand – The fall of the Alamo and the Rise of Texas — David Skillen – 25th July 2016.

David Skillen is a bat­tle­field guide for the Towton Battlefield Society where one of Britain’s blood­i­est days occurred at the Battle of Towton in 1461 during the War of the Roses.

Today’s talk from David was about the second biggest State in the U.S.A., Texas, which is over twice the area of the UK, and has less than half its pop­u­la­tion. A huge land between the Rio Grande and the Red River. It bor­ders Mexico and has a coast­line on the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas had been nearly always Spanish, ever since Spain claimed it in 1519, when the Indians roamed free. When Mexico broke with Spain in the early 1800s, a new Constitution was writ­ten by the Mexicans in 1824 to include Texas with Mexico. The people of Texas were not happy.

By 1835, the pop­u­la­tion of Texas was around 20,000, and Texas was push­ing for inde­pend­ence from Mexico, for the right to govern them­selves, and to join the U.S.A.  Many people were coming into the ter­rit­ory, because of cheap land, no taxes for 10 years, min­imum gov­ern­ment, and the Catholic reli­gion. This cre­ated 2 dis­tinct types of people – the Tejano of Spanish origin and the Texans from other ori­gins.

The Alamo became the ral­ly­ing point for the fight for inde­pend­ence which was brew­ing. It was ori­gin­ally a Catholic mis­sion sta­tion built in 1716, but had served its pur­pose and closed by 1793: it re-opened as a fort in 1803. The name came from the name of a com­pany not a place. What remains of the fort, which includes the church and the inner court­yard are now a Heritage site and shrine with 2.5 mil­lion vis­it­ors each year, in the middle of todays San Antonio (7th biggest city in the U.S.A.)

In 1835, the Alamo was defen­ded by an insuf­fi­cient force of 200, who were a motley crew, but motiv­ated to fight for inde­pend­ence. Davy Crocket, a coun­try back­woods man, who was naïve but an honest good speaker and who had been in Congress until 1835, also joined them that year.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, an oppor­tun­ist Mexican General came across the Rio Grande and arrived at The Alamo on 23rd Feb. 1836 with 1800 men who were good sol­diers.

Jim Bowie, a man who had been affected by the loss of all his family to chol­era, and who had become a drunk, a fighter, fraud­ster, slave trader etc., and was prob­ably escap­ing from the law, was ini­tially in charge of the forces in the fort, but fell ill and retired to his bed.

William Barret Travis, a modest, cha­ris­matic man, took com­mand.

He drew a line in the sand and asked the men who wished to fight to step over the line. Only one refused, Moses Rose.

Battle com­menced at 5am on 6th March 1836, and with only 30 rein­force­ments being able to gain access to the fort and Travis killed whilst lead­ing the defence, Davy Crocket took com­mand. With super­ior num­bers and con­tin­ued cannon fire aimed at the walls, the Mexicans gained access to the outer fort. The Texans did not spike their own guns, so these were used against them on the inner fort and the Mexicans were able to over­come  Jim Bowie and Davy Crocket, whilst they were defend­ing, in heroic cir­cum­stances. At 6.30, the battle was over. 20 people escaped but even­tu­ally, all the defend­ers were killed. The Mexicans lost 400 to 600 men. However, the women and chil­dren were spared, along with the slaves. One of the women lived until she was 70.

General Santa Anna then rode east­wards to try and con­quer Texas. At Goliad he came across James Walker Fannin and his men, who had been unable to reach the Alamo in time to help, but they were cap­tured whilst defend­ing their pos­i­tion and were all executed.

Anger amongst the Texan people now moun­ted suf­fi­ciently for the impres­ario found­ing fath­ers of Texas, Stephen Austin and Sam Houston to gather a force and coun­ter­at­tack to beat Santa Anna at San Jacinto, where there is a monu­ment. Santa Anna was well beaten there and retreated to Mexico.

Texas then became a state of the U.S.A.27

Santa Anna tried again in the 1840s to con­quer Texas but was this time beaten by the U.S. Army.

Texas joined the Confederate Army during the American Civil War in 1861, and then re-joined the U.S.A. after the war.

With our know­ledge of this bit of his­tory mostly con­fined to a John Wayne/Davy Crocket film and song, it was a most enter­tain­ing and enlight­en­ing morn­ing with a prom­ise of fur­ther talks by David.