The Alamo March 6, 1836 -- Dawn, by Bob Reece

The Storming of the Alamo, March 1986

artist -- Eric von Schmidt

The Texas night covets the men like the comforting embrace of a nurturing mother. The night is silent except for the occasional yelps of coyotes coming from the hills to the west. The cool air sinks heavy upon the Texians as they sleep their first sleep for many days. Some huddle together to retain body heat, others scrounge whatever they can find for cover. It doesn’t matter—they are sleeping; how much they missed this. Even the watchmen have succumbed to this unexpected privilege.

They have endured days and nights of artillery shells landing inside the plaza with the heavy thud of iron or striking hard, heavy blows against the thick walls that protect them. They dodged behind any obstacle they could find to avoid the exploding shells sending shrapnel into the dirt and walls of the plaza and the Chapel. This went on into the deep hours of the night, every night increasing exhaustion for each man. It is the sudden gift of silence that overpowers these men as they sleep soundly about 4:30 in the morning of March 6, 1836.

Santa Anna's Army Advances

There grows a distant sound—not loud enough to wake the men, but it resonantes as it draws closer to the Alamo. It is the sound of hundreds of men, marching in formation from four points around the compound. They halt just beyond the walls; they wait silently as the soothing sounds of the coyote take over. They can hear snoring coming from inside the walls. The Mexican army of Santa Anna has waited 13 days to rid their country of these rebel Texians and now the time has come to be done with it! Any moment the signal will announce when they should begin the long surge against the walls.

Crockett, Bowie, Travis

Somewhere in the compound sleeps Davy Crockett—probably near the southeast palisade that he and his Tennesseans guard (the only section of the compound without an extensive wall) or even inside the Chapel to escape what best he can of the cold air. No roof adorns this ancient chapel since its collapse. At least it can protect him from the north air.

James Bowie is fighting a debilitating illness laying sweating from fever in his room somewhere within the south wall—his curandero nearby. He will probably die in a few days anyway.

William Travis sleeps inside his office at the West Wall. We must always wonder what letter he may have penned that night—another letter asking for assistance from the people of Texas? Maybe one last letter to his son? Or, maybe he was just too damn tired to write.

The Mexicans Attack

The men are suddenly jolted from their deep sleep with the shout, “The Mexicans are upon us!” The stomping of hundreds of feet grow louder; the bodies come out of the dark streaming against the walls like a ranging, flooding river. The Mexicans turn their carbines toward the Texians, standing on the walls, flashes of red and yellow blinding the Texians for a moment.

The mighty Texas cannons let go their canister into the heart of the mass of Mexican soldiers, ripping them to shreds. One Mexican soldier fires a shot hitting Travis squarely in the head -- falling, Travis tumbles down from the wall dying instantly. No more letters to write—no more calling upon all, who would listen, to do their duty and protect their freedom to choose. The hand that wrote such potent but elegant prose lies dead upon the dirt inside the plaza of the Alamo.

The Tennesseans Hold The Wall

The wave of attackers hit every corner outside the Alamo plaza. Coming toward Crockett and his Tennesseans the Mexicans find the fire unbearable and impenetrable. Crockett rallies his men, encourages them on, “Boys, let them have it!”  The Mexicans are forced to move west of there, away from this intense fire—many falling wounded or dead in the process.

The dark night becomes heavy with smoke and the smell of black powder. The cries of the fighting and the dying ring out all around and inside the plaza as the Mexican soldiers breach the North Wall, their flood enveloping the entire plaza. The time has come for the last stand. The time for Texas to begin anew begins at this moment. The battle rages for nearly 1-½ hours before the last of the fighting Texians are done with. The Texas sun ascends as the last bullets are fired, as the last Bowie knife flashes its cold steel and as Crocket drops “Ole Betsy” to the ground.

Fires At Night

The funeral pyres of the 200 plus Texians burn for days and nights as if the men continually cry out, refusing to let go of their duty, refusing to let go of the fight.

The Battle of the Alamo has endured for 167 years; it is known worldwide. It has been portrayed in countless paintings, books and movies. All of them never quite relating the truth or the magnitude of what really happened there. Disney pictures began production of a new theatrical film in January 2003 in Texas starring Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett—believe me, he’ll make John Wayne look like Santa Anna!!

The Storming of the Alamo

There is one painting, though, that does capture the moment just before the final stand in the Chapel and Long Barracks. The Storming of the Alamo hangs in the University Library of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. It stands 23 feet long! The magnitude of its scope and its portrait adores the vastness of the legend of The Alamo without compromising accuracy. The artist is Eric von Schmidt—a historical artist whose other works include Osceola and Here Fell Custer, all authentic in every detail.

Bob Reece

March 2003

The Rest of the Story of the Battle of the Alamo

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