“It is evident to me that both the design, planning and execution of the project is badly off track. . . . Nothing defines the independent and the courageous spirit of Texas more than our iconic Alamo and, like most Texans, I treasure it. The history of the Alamo is a personal passion of mine. I do not intend to sit quietly and see this project fail.
I have seen two architectural renderings so far, including the latest one a few weeks ago, and neither are anything close to what the people of Texas are expecting. The latest looks like a massive urban park with hundreds of trees – more like Central Park in New York City than Alamo Plaza.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick slamming Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush yet again on the ongoing renovation of the Alamo area in downtown San Antonio.
How can Red lose in a fight between these two fearless defenders of our Texas heritage. Patrick’s surrogates have been promoting the idea that George P. is going to try to honor the Mexican soldiers as well because of his Mexican heritage on his mother’s side. George P. pushes back that these attacks are tinged with racism.
Red wants to point out a couple of things. Any battlefield historic site almost anywhere in the world talks about both sides. How can you tell the story of the Alamo without talking about the Mexican soldiers and their incompetent leadership in Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna? Second, Patrick clearly sees George P. as a potential rival for the Governorship when and if OPIG Abbott steps down. Patrick views this as a weak point for Bush and will press and press the issue regardless of the facts. Third, who can be surprised that any project a Bush takes on has a decent chance of being completely bungled. Finally, the current plan is infinitely better than the hodgepodge of shameful tourist attractions that now dominate a large part of the historic site.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, Jim Bowie arrived at the Alamo in San Antonio. Bowie was notorious as an Indian fighter, duelist and land speculator. He was actually involved in one of the largest attempted land swindles in U.S. history in Louisiana, but was never able to complete the scheme. He was not only a slave owner and trader, but a slave smuggler as well with a scheme that made him rich off of smuggling, buying and selling slaves. After coming to Texas, he renounced his U.S. citizenship, became a Mexican citizen and married into the influential Veramendi family of San Antonio.
He arrived at the Alamo with about 30 volunteers and initially was of the mind that the crumbling mission was indefensible against the Mexican Army on the march. He later became convinced that San Antonio must be held at all costs – most likely by the commander James Neill. One of his cadre, James Bonham circulated a resolution decreeing that The Alamo must be held and Bowie signed it. It would be his death warrant along with the other defenders of The Alamo.
From the Annals of the Frontier – In 1786, David Crockett was born in Tennessee. Crockett was an authentic frontiersman and hunter as a young man. When he embarked on a political career, his legend grew. Crockett was reputed to be uncomfortable with his portrayal in the popular media of the time and took exception to the unauthorized biography Sketches and Eccentricities of Colonel David Crockett of West Tennessee. But his popular persona helped him gain election to the Tennessee state house. From there his political career moved to Washington where served three terms as a U.S. congressman from eastern Tennessee. He was arguably among the two or three most famous Congressmen in U.S. history (Henry Clay and Sonny Bono might even agree). His stance against Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act likely caused him to lose his congressional seat and set him in motion towards Texas. In 1835, Crockett set out for Texas with 30 Tennesseans. Along the way he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds. Crockett still had political ambitions and likely viewed himself as a potential president of an independent Texas. Based on his previous experience, he was probably not interested in serious military activity in support of the Texas revolution and not interested in becoming a dead military hero. The circumstances of his death at the Alamo have been hotly debated. Credible accounts establish that he was among a handful of survivors who were executed after the fighting ceased. That in no way detracts from the heroism of this true American icon.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, the San Antonio de Valero Mission better known as the Alamo, was stormed after a 13 day siege by the Mexican army. The Mexican troops were under command of General Antonio Lòpez de Santa Anna who had pledged no quarter to the rebels. The early morning assault caught the defenders of the makeshift fortress relatively unaware. The battle lasted only 90 minutes during which time the Alamo was taken and all the Texian forces were killed. The crumbling chapel – which is the iconic symbol of Texas Independence – fell last. The historians debate whether the most famous Alamo defender David Crockett – who had arrived in San Antonio days before the siege – was killed or captured along with a handful of survivors. Crockett did not fancy himself a military figure and was likely surprised to be among the fighters in a hopeless situation. Santa Anna might have been anxious to take a valued captive. Regardless of whether Crocket was killed or executed after the battle, his sacrifice and the sacrifice of the other 185 defenders inspired the continued fight for independence from Mexico.
A romanticized version of Crockett’s death from Robert Onderdonk’s The Fall of the Alamo – at the Texas State Archives.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, Col. William Barret Travis wrote his famous letter addressed “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World.” Travis, a failed lawyer and largely considered to be an inept military commander, achieved his moment of greatness with the stroke of his pen. Writing from the besieged garrison at the Alamo in San Antonio, Travis relayed the dire circumstances he and the unfortunate forces under his command were facing. He called out for help. “I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.” Travis either knew that his situation was hopeless or was hoping against hope for a miracle that did not exist. Inspired by his letter, some 32 men from Gonzales and the DeWitt Colony reached the Alamo in the early morning hours of March 1. They were killed along with the other defenders when the Mexican Army assaulted the crumbling fort days later. Col. James Fannin, another hopeless military incompetent, began a march towards the Alamo but deterred by the presence of Gen. Urrea’s forces moved into an indefensible position, surrendered and was later killed in the mass execution of his troops. The most famous lines of Travis’ letter pledged that he would “never surrender or retreat” and swore “Victory or Death” most likely knowing that the latter was the only possible outcome. His prediction was correct as Travis was among the first to die in the final battle.
Researchers working to restore the Alamo have unearthed Spanish colonial adobe bricks at a dig site in Alamo Plaza. What is not yet known is whether those bricks may have comprised part of the historic shrine’s original western wall. More analysis may reveal the architectural function of the colonial-era bricks.
According to archaeologist Nesta Anderson, there is a possibility that the bricks uncovered only two feet below the surface are part of the original mission because they clearly form part of a larger wall structure . “Because we’ve got something from the Spanish colonial period, we know we are digging in the right place. Now we know we can get information from the ground over here that will support the master plan and the reinterpretation.”
The dig is part of a plan by the state and local officials to restore and refurbish the Alamo. According to the officials in charge of the Alamo project, their work will hopefully unearth the original western and southern walls. In December, the state purchased three buildings on Alamo Plaza that housed tourist traps such as Guiness World Records Musuem and a Ripley’s Odditorium. The purchase was the first step by the Alamo Endowment Board and the city of San Antonio to move forward with plans to de-campify the area around the historic mission. Last October, the endowment, city and Texas signed an agreement to develop a master plan for the district with a focus on historic preservation and a dignified treatment for the site.
Discovery of the bricks on Friday marked a major step toward uncovering the construction history of the world-famous Texas landmark.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, the siege of the Alamo began when Mexican troops under the command of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna entered San Antonio de Bexar and began to encircle the crumbling mission. Despite knowledge that the Mexican Army was on the move, the Texian troops at the Alamo commanded by the inexperienced Col. William B. Travis were almost completely surprised by their arrival. Historians have speculated that the Texians were still recovering from an all night party celebrating George Washington’s birthday. The Mexican troops were no more than 1.5 miles from Bexar when they were finally spotted by a sentry in the San Fernando Church bell tower. Advance Mexican cavalry under the command of Gen. Joaquin Ramirez y Sesma would likely have taken the mission in a surprise attack but were delayed by rains which flooded the Medina River. At the time, the Texians had only 156 able-bodied troops in the Alamo and almost no provisions. They were able to herd a few cattle into the compound and scrounged enough corn from local houses to last for maybe a month. By late afternoon, Béxar was occupied by about 1500 Mexican troops, who quickly raised a blood-red flag signifying “No Quarter.” Travis answered Santa Anna’s request for a parlay with a cannon shot. Believing that Travis had acted foolishly, James Bowie who was in command of the volunteers at the Alamo, sent Green B. Jameson to meet with Santa Anna. The General refused but did allow Jameson to meet with some of his officers. The Mexican officers conveyed the following message: “I reply to you, according to the order of His Excellency, that the Mexican army cannot come to terms under any conditions with rebellious foreigners to whom there is no recourse left, if they wish to save their lives, than to place themselves immediately at the disposal of the Supreme Government from whom alone they may expect clemency after some considerations.”
From the Annals of the DRT – In 1891, the organizational meeting of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas was held in the Houston home of Mary Jane Briscoe.
Mary S. M. Jones, widow of Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas, was selected to serve as president. The rather awkward first name chosen for the new association was the Daughters of Female Descendants of the Heroes of ’36. The group quickly changed its name to the Daughters of the Lone Star Republic, then Daughters of the Republic of Texas at the first annual meeting in April 1892. The stated objectives of the association are to perpetuate the memory and spirit of the people who achieved and maintained the independence of Texas, to encourage historical research into the earliest records of Texas, especially those relating to the revolutionary and republic periods and to promote Texas Honor Days. However, membership is limited to descendants of ancestors who “rendered loyal service for Texas” prior to February 19, 1846, the date the Republic ceased to exist and Texas became part of the U.S. The DRT was most famous for its custody of the Alamo – but it has now been displaced by the state of Texas.
Photo of DRT members in 1932 at Laguna Gloria, home of notable member Clara Driscoll from KayKeys.
From the Annals of the Collectors – In 2014, British rock-pop-prog star Phil Collins donated his expansive collection of Alamo and Texas Revolution-related artifacts to a new museum planned for the Alamo complex in San Antonio. The “Phil Collins Alamo Collection” section of the museum will house a number of rare items – including a rifle owned by former Congressman Davy Crockett, a fringed leather pouch carried by Crockett and an original Bowie knife which Jim Bowie had in his possession during the 1836 siege. Collins’ collection is believed to be the largest of its kind, with over 200 total items and is valued at as much as $100 million. Collins’ fascination with the Alamo began as a child and has obviously continued. The collection started more than 20 years ago when he received Alamo courier John W. Smith’s saddle receipt as a gift. That launched Collins on a worldwide search for artifacts which he documented in his 2012 book, The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey.