Battle of the alamo

The 1836 Battle of the Alamo is perhaps the most striking event in the history of Texas.  It was an event that changed the Texans’ lives.  Its battle cry “Remember the Alamo” is one the more famous war cries in the country.  To understand the importance of the Battle of the Alamo, it is important to trace back the events that took place prior to it.

Alamo is a mission-fortress in San Antonio Texas. Founded in 1718, it was initially known as the Franciscan mission of San Antonio de Valero.  It was speculated that the name was changed to Alamo because a military group from Alamo del Parras in Coahuila State once made it its base. Another theory was that there was an abundance of cottonwood or Alamo trees in the area.[1]

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Following the war in 1821, Mexico was granted its independence from Spain and made Texas, New Mexico and California their territories. About 4000 Mexicans settled in three towns in Texas- Goliad, Nacogdoches, and San Antonio. Furthermore, around 8000 Apache Indians also made Texas their home.[2]
Texas’ vast land, which could be planted with corn and cottonseeds made it attractive to outsiders, especially those from the South and Southwest part of the country. [3]Thus, Mexico began offering public land grants to people with the condition that the settlers would adhere to Mexican laws, which included embracing the Roman Catholic religion.[4]
Moses Austin, an American cotton planter, received a land grant from the Mexicans and led Americans in the state.  When he died, his son Stephen took charge, guiding 300 families to settle near the Brazos River. Each family was granted 200 acres of farm land and around 4000 acres of stock grazing.  Each family paid Austin 12 ½ centavos per acre for his services[5]. At that time, the US government was charging $1.25 per acre.[6]
With the growing number of Anglos or English-speaking whites, the difference between the Americans and Mexicans had started to surface.
Texas, as a territory of Mexico, was subjected to Mexican laws.  As such, Americans living in Texas had to abide with the laws. However, some Americans objected to some of it.  One example is the presence of slaves. While Mexican government deemed slavery as illegal, Americans believed otherwise. [7]
Mexico had long wanted to eradicate slavery but its efforts remained futile. By 1830, there were around 1000-1500 slaves in Texas.[8] Differences in religion also became a problem in Texas.  Mexico was a Roman Catholic country and the US was a Protestant.  But since the Mexican government was lenient, these problems were manageable.
While Americans and Mexicans lived peacefully in Texas, US’ expansion fever had started to rise.  Expansion was Americans’ way of expressing freedom. There were many reasons for this new mood: 1. Expansion would mean getting their own farms; 2. Expansion would open new markets for merchants; 3. Expansion would help find living areas for the country’s growing population;
4. Expansion would mean expanding trade with other countries; 5. Expansion would allow people to have their “fresh start”; and 6. Expansion would allow Americans to extend their government system[9]. Moreover, this new mood was often referred to as “manifest destiny”.[10] The term was used to pertain to United States expansion.
In 1829, Spain attempted to regain Mexico as its colony. Spain’s effort proved futile as Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna successfully led a Mexican army in crushing the Spanish.[11] Santa Anna soon became Mexico’s president in 1832.  Before Santa Anna became a president, the Mexican government ordered its soldiers to come to Texas and make the settlers obey them.[12]
This resulted in more friction between American settlers and the Mexicans. Soon, the Mexican government closed the border to immigration from the US.[13] By this time, the settlers had started to feel the need for independence. They sought the same rights American citizens in other states had, they wanted to be included in government decisions, they longed to have a freedom in religious expressions, and they desired to bring in slaves to help them.[14]
Appointed as the group’s representative, Stephen Austin went to Mexico City carrying petition allowing Texas to become a separate state. The petition was not only rejected and Austin was sent to jail for treason.[15] Chaos ensued, with protest meetings exploding in Texas. Austin was able to return to Texas in 1835.[16]
A new breed of settlers had come into Texas: people with strong personalities. Among them were Sam Houston, a former congressman from Tennessee, the brothers James and Rezin Bowie, the inventor of the fifteen-inch single-edge knife and Davy Crockett, a pioneer who served in Congress.[17] These men believed that Texas should have been under the constituent of the United States and not Mexico.
The Battle of the Alamo would not have happened without the little cannon that started it all. The Battle of Gonzales served as a prelude to the grand Battle of the Alamo.  In 1831, the Mexican government allowed the people of Gonzales to the use iron cannon as defense against Indian attacks.[18] When the Mexican soldiers sought to take back the cannon, the people refused to.
Some women even made a battle flag, inscribed with a picture of the cannon and the words “Come and Take it.”[19] Later on, around 300 Texans overthrew a Mexican army out of San Antonio. The group, led by Benjamin R. Milam, drove out around 1,100 soldiers including Mexican General Martin Perfecto de Cos. [20]
The defeat of General Cos distressed Santa Anna, causing him to send 6,000 Mexican soldiers to San Antonio.[21] Around 145 Texans were left in San Antonio, including Colonel William Travis and James Bowie who knowing that they were outnumbered, retreated to the Alamo. [22] The Alamo fort used to be a Mexican military headquarters but was captured by Texans in December 1835.[23]

[1] David Vigness, “Texas,” in The Encyclopedia Americana, International ed.
 [2] Winthrop Jordan, Miriam Greenblatt, and John Bowes, The Americans The History of a People and a Nation (McDougal, Littell and Company, 1988), 296.
 [3] Dale Weisman, “Texas,” in Compton’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 23
 [4] Jordan, Greenblatt and Bowes, 296.
[5]Ernest May, A Proud Nation (Illinois: McDougal, Littell and Company,

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