Category Archives: The Alamo

The Alamo

We went to the Alamo during our stay in San Antonio.  There were a lot of reviews about how underwhelming it is, comments on how it took them 30 minutes to go through the whole thing, but that it was the Alamo, and free, so you have to make a stop.  Based on those reviews, I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, it’s smaller than I thought it would be.  It takes up roughly one city block, including the gardens and all the buildings.  The Alamo used to be set up similarly to a commune.  It had quite a few long barracks that people lived in together, a church, an infirmary, farmlands, etc.  It was basically set up to be very self sufficient.  Although there was mention that having travelers stop on their way through was often appreciated because these travelers would have different skills, such as a blacksmith, who might trade room and board, etc for fixing a few items on the mission.

Being someone who hated history in school, I didn’t really know about the Alamo.  As an adult, I have learned far more about history as we go along in life. This is no exception.  First, I thought the Alamo was the site of a victory.  Turns out that wasn’t exactly the case.  Of course, now the term “remember the Alamo” now makes sense!  The Alamo was one of quite a few missions and military camps that were attacked by Mexico in a war over control of Texas.  In the Alamo, there were roughly 200 people, and there were approximately 1500 Mexican soldiers who attacked.  about 180 Texians were killed, with Mexican casualties estimated at 500.  The battle lasted 13 days, and it seems to me, the Texians put on a good fight!  Finally, the Mexicans launched thre attacks in succession and on the third, the Texians weren’t able to withstand.  The Mexicans climbed the walls and the Texians retreated to interior rooms within the mission.  The men who surrendered were said to be executed regardless.  About 20 women and children were spared, along with 2 slaves.  Thus, when the Texians as a whole were able to revamp their troops and go forward, they had the mantra of “remember the Alamo” as a way of inspiring the troops to win the war.

Some common myths surround the Alamo, some based on books and movies, some based on public opinion at the time.  For example, the General for the Mexican side has alternately been seen as both saint and pariah, depending on whatever current political dogma is being pushed.  I won’t attempt to talk about the Mexican side, as I don’t know much about it.  Also, I don’t believe there was a bad guy or a god guy.  it was a war over land.  Period.  They were both technically fighting for the same thing.  One side won.  That’s what happens in wars.  But I will say I’m grateful for Mexican influence in this amazing state as a whole, and specifically, the Tejanos who fought for Texas!  For these people, the Texians and the Tejanos, this was their home.  This was their church, their family, their doctors and nurses.  So to have war come upon it must have seemed like the worst type of heresy.  Especially having culture in common with the Mexicans.  It must have been a horrible thing to witness.

Myth number one: The generals at nearby camps weren’t nice because they didn’t send more help.

When the people of the Alamo sent word of the attacks and begged for reinforcements, less than 100 men arrived in response.  The fact of the matter is that close camps were also defending themselves against Mexico’s attacks.  In nearby Gonzales, there were more than 400 men.  Unfortunately, in order for them to survive, they needed every single one of them.  And in fact, when news of Alamo’s fall reached Gonzales, it was these men who later formed the heart of the army that eventually defeated the Mexicans.  It was unfortunate that so many camps were under attack at once.

 

Myth number two: The people at the Alamo could’ve left because they were volunteers.

In the vast majority of the US history of wars, soldiers were volunteers.  But they never took that promise with any less dedication than paid soldiers do today.  A soldier who has promised to protect, with his life if needed, is a soldier.  It doesn’t matter what they are paid, as you can see with our current military.  Those men of the Alamo, and the soldiers that have come before and after, are ALL worthy of the honor we should give them.  They stay when others wouldn’t. They fight so we don’t have to.  They lay down their lives so we can sleep in peace.  I write this a few days before Veteran’s Day, so excuse the waxing on poetically for our troops.  But regardless of the war, our soldiers don’t know how to quit.  They only know how to endure, how to be brave in that face of certain death.

Myth number 3: William B Travis wasn’t liked by the garrison.

He was in fact very liked and respected.  Unfortunately, there was a philisophical dispute between the regulars and the volunteers.  So they elected James Bowie, who wasn’t a “regular”, even though Lt. Col Travis was well liked and respected by everyone.

 

Alright, so that’s the history of the Alamo.  When you get to the Alamo, there’s someone there who will take your picture in front, so that you can spend money later to buy it as a souvenir.  I took my own picture.  Then you go into the main building, the Shrine.  This used to be the mission proper.  It’s a large open room that reminds you of a small church, with a few small rooms to the sides.  The small rooms currently house some larger aritfacts.  The rooms are roped off, with signs telling you not to touch the walls.  So you can stand in the doorway and look at the items inside.  The Shrine has a roof, but didn’t originally have a roof, but was open.  Anyone with an appreciation for antique architecture will appreciate the stone work as well as the heavy doors with their ancient hardware.  After the Shrine, you step out into the gardens, walking through a path that is lined with 7′ tall boards, that run about 50 feet.  They have the entire history of the mission there, along with some other related history, like Sam Houston.  Interesting, but with two young children who were not interested in this at that very moment, we both ended up just skimming through it.  Half of it, I’d recently learned about when we visited Sam Houston Museum in Huntsville. So that made it a bit easier.  But I would’ve liked to spend a bit more time reading.  Some people were not interested in reading and skimmed through the first few feet and then just walked to the next thing.

After that, you arrive in a small courtyard that has a few artifacts such as cannons and plaques dedicated to the brave men who fought during the Alamo, and later on, in her honor.

To the north side of the courtyard is a barrack that has been turned into a museum of sorts.  It houses all sorts of interesting artifacts, it goes into a bit more explanation of how life was like when the mission was up and working.

After that, we walked around the rest of the gardens, which were pretty enough.  There’s an old, but working, library on the grounds, but it was closed and we figured it wasn’t something we’d be able to go into anyways.  Gabe and I would’ve LOVED to be able to check it out, though.  Finally, the last building was turned into a gift shop.  There’s a few artifacts in the center of the room, along with a miniature recreation of the battle of the Alamo.  At the gift shop, there were a lot of typical souvenirs, along with a few overly priced replicas of things like knives and guns.

This mission, that once covered much of the land that the city of San Antonio is currently on, is now three buildings and a garden on a block of Riverwalk area.  It took us about 2 hours, and we didn’t stop to look at things as much as we would’ve liked due to two grumpy children.  Yes it was smaller than I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it and would like to visit it again.

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