The Alamo is probably the most memorable symbol of Texas around. Since the famous battle of March 6th, 1836, a lot of myth and legend has risen up surrounding this landmark of San Antonio, but not everyone knows the real story. Today I will not go into a lot of detail about the battle itself. Instead I will discuss some interesting facts about this national historic place and maybe clear up a few of those myths in the process.
It was moved three times.
Known as San Antonio de Valero, this Roman Catholic mission was founded in 1718. Originally a simple mud and brush structure, it moved two times before finally being constructed on its current location. That last move was necessitated after the remains of a hurricane rolled through the San Antonio area, causing flooding along the river and destroying the second mission.
It’s considered a sacred site to Texas.
Though the battle ended in defeat, the site is still considered an important landmark in the Texas war for independence from Mexico. Many Texans now considered it a hallowed site that deserves strong respect. When I visited many years ago, a sign at the door even asked people to remove their hats before entering the main building and museum.
Like many other historical sites, it’s supposedly haunted.
According to one ghost story, the Alamo is defended by the spirits of the original founders. Following the thirteen-day siege on the site, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna allegedly ordered that the place be torn down. Engineers carrying out the task were terrified after ghostly hands emerged from the walls to stop them. An unearthly voice threatened death to anyone who would harm the mission and the engineers were chased away. Legend says this is why the Alamo still stands today.
Several famous people died during the siege.
Among those who lost their lives during the battle of the Alamo is the legendary Davy Crocket, who came to Texas to revive his political career. William B. Travis was a lawyer who became a soldier in the Texas Army, holding the rank of lieutenant colonel when he formed a company to help defend the Alamo. Travis County is named for him. Jim Bowie, a famous frontiersman whose knife bears his name, joined the Texas Revolution in 1832 and held the rank of colonel in the Texas Rangers.
There were actually survivors at the Alamo.
The famous battle at the Alamo consisted of a thirteen-day siege and a final fight on March 6th, 1836. 184 Texan fighters were killed in the final battle, along with approximated 400-600 Mexican soldiers. Contrary to legend, however, there were actually survivors after the fact. Around 20 women and children, plus a slave of William Travis, survived the battle and were released by the Mexican army.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was pretty ruthless.
The general who led the charge against the Alamo has a history of nastiness. My grandmother had a friend named Mickey who had a relative who encountered the man during the Texas fight for independence. He was captured by Santa Anna along with 175 other fighters after staging a raid of Mexican territory. According to her story, the soldiers were forced to draw beans from a jar and those with black beans were executed. Upon research I discovered that this story is true. 176 beans were placed in a jar, with 17 being black beans. Those who drew a black bean were executed by firing squad. Amazingly one of the 17 survived by playing dead.
There were two Battles of the Alamo.
Well, one of them was a battle, the other was an expression. Restoration efforts for the Alamo began in 1910 and resulted in a legal fight. Efforts were raised to build a wall around the Alamo and a park in the area, but these efforts were stopped by legal action. This back and forth continued into the Great Depression and was sometimes referred to as the Second Battle of the Alamo. All these efforts finally paid off. A museum and protective wall were finally built in the 1930s. The Alamo became a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and was first listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
It served many uses in its career.
Aside from a Catholic mission and military outpost, the Alamo was used as a political prison during the Mexican War of Independence. It served as San Antonio’s first hospital between 1806 and 1812. Eventually it was used as a mercantile. Today the building still stands, where it serves as a museum for the historic site.
There is supposedly treasure buried on the site.
Legend says that during the battle, Texans buried their valuables somewhere on the grounds of the Alamo. Though Mexicans supposedly dug up part of the treasure, much of it remains hidden somewhere on the site. According to Unsolved Mysteries, the stash is supposedly buried in a well that was on the site, though other sources say it was buried in a corner of the building itself. Whether the treasure exists or not, people are still hunting for it to this day.
The phrase “Remember the Alamo” is still used today.
No one knows who first said it, but Sam Houston used the expression to rally troops during Texas’s fight for independence. The phrase was eventually made into the title of a 1955 song by Jane Bowers, a Texas folk singer. This song reviewed the events of the battle and was covered by several artists. Among those who have recorded the song are Johnny Cash, the Kingston Trio, and Willie Nelson.
As I said in the introduction, I’ve seen the Alamo once. It’s tucked away somewhere in downtown San Antonio and is partially lost in the bustle of the city, but it makes an impression once you see it. The atmosphere inside the building was quiet and heavy when I visited, and I could sense that something big had once occurred here. I’m no Texan and I don’t view the site in the same way as a Texas resident might, but it is certainly a fascinating historic site and worth the stop. Please visit www.thealamo.org for more information on the actual battle and other stuff. The site is pretty much everything you’d like to know about the Alamo but are afraid to ask.
The Alamo- www.thealamo.org
Texas State Historical Association- www.tshaonline.org
Unsolved Mysteries- www.unsolved.com
America’s Library- www.americaslibrary.gov
The National Directory of Haunted Places, Dennis William Hauck, 1996