Remember the Alamo! This saying had little meaning to me until recently, when we visited the Alamo in San Antoino, TX. This was a prime turning point in the battle between non-Mexican residents of Mexico and the Mexican government that ultimately resulted in the independent Republic of Texas (recognized by the US government, but not by the Mexican one). The annexation of Texas, as it would later become, was one of the primary reasons for the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 which ultimately resulted in the USA winning, by battle and purse, over 50% of Mexican soil and landing the entire southern portion of modern-day America, including the gold found the following year in California.
Having visited Palo Alto, a battle where the Mexican army was turned away due to superior American military equipment, seeing the Alamo, where the Mexican army used sheer numbers to overwhelm a fortified mission, was in stark contrast. Ill-equipped Texans defended the mission they had only recently won themselves by battle, and held out for 13 days with nearly all 182-250 defenders lost, including the famous Davy Crockett, and James Bowie. The Mexican Army spared the women and children hiding in the mission.
One shocking event, though there were many in this troubled time, was the Mier Expedition of 1842. Santa Anna continued to attack Texas after the treaty of Velasco (where Texas became an independent republic.) in hopes of gaining back Mexican territory. On one event 500 Mexican troops attacked and killed 54 Texans in the Dawson Massacre. Texans responded by counter attacking with their militia in the Somervell Expedition. After retaking the lost land, the Texans were disbanded, all but a few captains and their men went home. Those Texans camped on the Texan side of the Rio Grande. They were ordered to pull back by Somervell, who knew that they had no serious Texan force to defend against a real attack, but the rogue captains did not, unaware that some 3,000 Mexican troops were in the area. The small party of 261 soldiers were met by the full force of Santa Anna’s army, and surrendered after heavy fighting. They were marched to Matamoros for punishment but 181 of them escaped, with 176 being recaptured. To punish them for the deaths they caused in their escape attempt, Santa Anna declared that every 10th man be executed. He initiated the ‘Black Bean Lottery’ where a jar of 159 white beans and 17 black ones was passed around, with each man drawing his own fate. Those who drew the black bean were executed the following day. Those who survived either died later or were released in 1844, along with a few survivors of the Dawson Massacre. This episode, like many in the Texan Independence War and the Mexican-American War, are largely unknown while the Alamo remains a rallying cry and historical strong point in Texan stubbornness and fortitude.
For more information on the Alamo, visit their official website.