Saturday, February 26, 2011

Texas Tidbits: The Siege of the Alamo, Days 4 & 5

The End is Near
The Siege of the Alamo was now entering its fourth day. Colonel Travis' urgent appeals for help were still unanswered, while the number of men underthe command of General Santa Anna was growing almost daily. The first three days of the siege were mostly uneventful, however the battle yet to come was building to a crescendo. It would be a mere five days more and the Battle of the Alamo would be one of the most famous military engagements in the history of mankind. Several hundred Mexican troops and every defender of the Alamo would lay dead.

In what seems a bit odd, the townspeople of Bexar were allowed to come and go near or into Alamo. Juan Seguin even had his meals made and brought to him while holed up in the Alamo. The Mexican Army had lobbed a couple of hundred cannon shots into the coutryard of the Alamo and the Texians would retrieve them and then later use them against the Mexicans. This is stuff I never had neard of before today. I mean here we are in the middle of arguably the most famous military skirmishes ever and people were coming and going into the battle zone as they saw fit! Things would soon get serious. Dead serious. Wikipedia picks up the story from here:
Although the Texians had matched Mexican artillery fire, on February 26, Travis ordered the artillery to stop firing to conserve powder and shot. Crockett and his men were encouraged to keep shooting, as they rarely missed and thus didn't waste shot.[72] Through the early days of the siege, the Texians didn't bother to take cover, as the Mexicans were too far out of their range to cause harm with their muskets; any Mexican soldier who ventured within 200 yards (180 m) of the Alamo, however, risked death or injury.[73] A blue norther blew in that evening and dropped the temperature to 39 degrees F.[72] Neither army was prepared for the cold temperatures.[59] Several Texians ventured out to gather firewood but returned empty-handed after encountering Mexican skirmishers.[72] On the evening of February 26, the Texians burned more huts, these located near the San Luis Potosi Battalion.[62] Santa Anna sent Colonel Juan Bringas to engage the Texians, and according to Edmondson, one Texian was killed.[74] On February 26, news of the siege finally reached acting governor James W. Robinson, who immediately sent a courier to find Sam Houston.[75] Travis's messengers were having small successes. Albert Martin had reached Gonzales, the most westerly community of Texians, on February 25, the day after Sutherland and Smith had arrived with Travis's first message.[72][76] As couriers delivered the messages to other settlements, reinforcements assembled in Gonzales, waiting for Fannin to arrive with more troops so they could travel together.[77] In Gonzales itself, Robert "Three-Legged Willie" Williamson began a recruitment drive.[78] In Bastrop, Edward Burleson began organizing a militia, which likely left for Gonzales on February 27,[79] arriving the following day.[80]
Unbeknownst to the Texians, Colonel James Fannin had finally decided to ride to their relief.[81] Historian Robert Scott suggests that the trip was initiated after Fannin's objections were overridden by his officers.[82] On the morning of February 26, he set out with 320 men, 4 cannon, and several supply wagons for the 90 miles (140 km) march from Goliad to the Alamo.[81] The Goliad garrison had no horses to move the wagons and artillery and were forced to rely on oxen.[62] Barely 200 yards (180 m) into their journey, one of the wagons broke down, and the expedition stopped for repairs.[81] The group then took six hours to cross the waist-deep water of the San Antonio River. By the time they reached the other side it was dark, and the men camped along the river. The cold front reached Goliad that evening, and the poorly-dressed soldiers were "quickly chilled and miserable" in the driving rain.[83] On awakening, Fannin realized that all of the Texian oxen had wandered off, and that his men had neglected to pack food for the journey.[84] It took most of the day for the men to round up the oxen; after two days of travel, Fannin's men had not even ventured 1 mile (1.6 km) from their fort.[85] In a letter to Acting Governor James Robinson, Fannin said that his officers approached him to ask that the rescue trip be cancelled, as they had received word that General Urrea's army was marching towards Goliad.[83] The officers and men in the expedition claimed that Fannin decided on his own to abort the mission. Several of the men agreed with the decision, with Dr. Barnard writing in his journal, "With but three or four hundred men, mostly on foot, with but a limited supply of provisions, to march a distance of nearly one-hundred miles through uninhabited country for the purpose of relieving a fortress beleaguered by five-thousand men was madness!"[86]
Before initially leaving Goliad, Fannin sent a courier to Gonzales to instruct Williamson to rendezvous at Cibolo Creek, halfway between Gonzales and Goliad.[78] On February 28, about 60 men, including Captain Albert Martin, travelled the 20 miles (32 km) from Gonzales to Cibolo Creek to wait for Fannin and his men.[80][87] Lindley speculates that Fannin sent an advance relief for under Captain John Chenoweth and Francis de Sauque to scout the area around Bexar. The advance force reached as far as the Seguin ranch, gathering corn, cattle, horses, and mules, then turned back to wait along Cibolo Creek for the remainder of Fannin's force.[78][88]
Several residents had seen Fannin march from Goliad and sent messengers to Bexar to inform Santa Anna that Fannin and 300 men were headed for the Alamo. Santa Anna ordered Colonel Juan Almonte and 800 dragoons to intercept the Texian relief force.[89] Unaware of Fannin's aborted relief mission, Travis sent James Bonham to Goliad to persuade him.[90] Bonham was asked to tie a white handkerchief around his hat when he returned so that the Texians would know to open the gates for him.[91]
Much of the Mexican army's provisions were in the rear of the convoy with Gaona and Filisola. Santa Anna had hoped to restock his army's supplies in Bexar, but were unable to find much.[92] He finally asked a local citizen, Manuel Menchaca, to help them find food; Menchaca led the army to the Seguin and Florez ranches and liberated all of their corn, beef, and hogs.[93] Santa Anna sent more couriers to Gaona and Filisola to urge them to hury; Filisola was still at the Rio Grande.[92]
During the day the Mexican army tried to block the irrigation ditch leading into the Alamo. Texian Green Jameson tasked the men in the Alamo with finishing a well at the south end of the plaza. Although the men hit water, they weakened an earth and timber parapet by the low barracks; the mound collapsed, leaving no way to fire safely over that wall.[94] The same day Texians spotted a Mexican general surrounded by aides and dragoons and fired, but did not hit any of them.[73] The Texians did not realize it was Santa Anna.

The Texas Revolution would soon reach a fevered pitch and the fall of the Alamo would be a rally cry for the Texian Army, for the Battle of San Jacinto and Independence for Texas were less than two months away.

Remember the Alamo! And God bless Texas!

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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker