“Ya’ll can go to hell, I’m goin’ to Texas!” – That is the famous quote from one of my childhood heroes, Davy Crockett, upon his election loss in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Tennessee native, best portrayed on TV by Fess Parker, spent his career fighting and defending liberty and what he perceived as abuses of governments on individual freedom.
The quote came from his final days on the House floor where frustrated by what he considered a violation of the Constitution by Congress, he declared his intent to go aid in the fight for Texas independence against Mexico at the Alamo – a place I had never seen myself until last weekend.
My wife Lisa and I were in San Antonio for the annual National Newspaper Association convention and high on my priority list for the trip was to visit the site of Crockett’s last stand.
As so many had warned me in advance, it was much smaller than you would imagine, but absorbing its historical significance didn’t disappoint. The Alamo, which sits in the middle of downtown San Antonio, has a long history dating back to 1724 when it was established by the Spanish as a mission to convert many of the area’s native Americans to Catholicism and ultimately taken over by Mexico.
Over the next century it served as the first ever hospital in Texas, but mostly a military garrison that fought off Apaches from the west, Comanches from the north, and the French from the east (Louisiana). It was the Americans, however, that continued moving into Texas by the droves that ultimately cost Mexico its governance of Texas.
The last official duties of the Alamo Company was a mission to retrieve a small cannon loaned by the Mexican government to the town of Gonzales for protection against hostile Comanche. In their effort to retrieve the cannon, the Mexican soldiers encountered resistance from the American colonists who refused to give it up. They taunted the soldiers with the call to “Come and Take It!” The incident sparked the Texas Revolution in 1835. I couldn’t resist buying a t-shirt in the Alamo gift shop featuring a cannon and the famous line.
It didn’t take long for the American colonists to take over San Antonio and the Alamo from the Mexicans, which prompted General Antonio López de Santa Anna to lead his Army to San Antonio for the battle the Alamo is best known for today.
Badly outnumbered, the Texian rebels withdrew across the San Antonio River into the safety of the Alamo. Santa Anna’s forces surrounded the old mission and raised the red flag signaling no quarter would be given to traitors inside. It was then that Alamo commander William Barret Travis wrote for help in his famous “Victory or Death” letter.
Davy Crockett was among those who responded. The final attack came before dawn on March 6, 1836. As Mexican troops charged toward the Alamo in the pre-dawn darkness, defenders rushed to the walls and fired. Travis was killed early in the fight. Historical accounts suggest that Jim Bowie, who was ill at the time, was most likely killed in his bed, but Crockett’s death is a mystery.
Some accounts suggest he survived the initial attack but was executed by the Mexicans soon afterwards.
A month later, General Sam Houston and his forces surprised Santa Anna near present day Houston defeating them to the cries of “Remember the Alamo!”
We were in San Antonio for three and a half days and I visited the Alamo, only a few blocks from the hotel, three different times. Rubbing my hands on its walls, walking its grounds and taking pictures from Crockett Street, I tried envisioning what it was like in 1830.
Having read so many books, watched several movies and some TV shows on the subject, the visit gave me a better perspective to bring it all to life so that I will forever “Remember the Alamo.”