On March 2, 1836, in the midst of a 13-day siege of the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas, a delegation met in Washington-on-the-Brazos for a convention in which the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed, creating the Republic of Texas.
In the early morning darkness of March 6, the Alamo fell to a fierce assault as Mexican soldiers scaled the walls with superior numbers and killed nearly everyone inside. All the men defending the Alamo died—accounts vary from approximately 180 to 250—while some women, children, slaves, and civilians survived. Survivors’ accounts tell varying stories and much has spun into legend.
American heroes included Colonel William Barret Travis, commander of the soldiers at the Alamo. He was only 26 and placed in charge when Colonel James C. Neill left a month prior for much-needed supplies and reinforcements. Travis penned a letter at the beginning of the siege in which he wrote, "I shall never surrender or retreat," a self-fulfilled prophecy. (Travis' son, Charles E. Travis, became a cavalry soldier. In 1857, he wrote a letter to the Adjutant General, asking to be reinstated after a dishonorable discharge.)
Kentucky-born James Bowie had a fighter's reputation and was famous for the knife he used in many successful encounters, now known as the Bowie knife. He served in the War of 1812, later became a Mexican citizen, and was in charge of volunteers at the Alamo. He was confined to bed when he became ill and feverish. His sick bed ultimately became his death bed when Mexican soldiers killed him in his room during the battle.
Davy Crockett was born in Tennessee. He served under General Jackson in the Creek Indian War, but fought his last battle at the Alamo where he died at 49. He is remembered as a pioneer, politician, and soldier, and perhaps most famously known for his coonskin hat.
The infamous Antonio López de Santa Anna emerged as the Mexican victor. However, a month later, Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna and his troops at the Battle of San Jacinto where the famous cry, "Remember the Alamo" was first shouted by Texas soldiers during the battle.
The Battle of the Alamo was an historic event bathed in legend. The battle and the men who fought continue to be remembered as important to U.S. and Texas history. Alamo was the first of many deadly encounters that shaped Texas and defined its borders, even after independence was declared. Although Texas became a state in 1845, some of the land we recognize now as Texas territory was gained after the Mexican American War, 1846-48. Fold3 has published a growing collection of Mexican War Service Records.