February 23rd 1836: Battle of the Alamo begins
On this day in 1836, the Battle of the Alamo began between Texan and Mexican soldiers, near the modern city of San Antonio. The Alamo was a former mission founded by Spanish settlers, which, by the nineteenth century, had become a fort for Spanish troops. In the 1820s, Mexico fought a successul war for independence from Spain, which led to increased migration of American citizens into the Mexican province of Texas. As the American population in the area grew, a revolutionary movement gained traction. War eventually broke out in 1835, and early on, Texan volunteer soldiers successfully captured the Alamo garrison from Mexican troops, and with it gained control of San Antonio. While Texas’ commander-in-chief, Sam Houston, was apathetic about keeping the fort, its defenders - including Colonel James Bowie, Lieutenant Colonel William Travis, and famed frontiersman Davy Crockett - insisted on defending the Alamo. Only around 200 soldiers defended the fort, and on February 23rd 1836 were besieged by a formidable Mexican army, numbering thousands of troops, led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Despite overwhelming odds, the Texans managed to repel the attack for 13 days, before being overpowered on March 6th, when most of the defenders were killed. Mexican forces thus regained control of the Alamo fort, but Texans rallied around the incident as a symbol of their resistance against Mexican oppression; “Remember the Alamo!” became a popular war cry. In April, Houston’s army - buoyed by new recruits inspired by the Alamo - defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto, and Texan independence was secured. The Republic of Texas was short-lived, as Texas was annexed as the 28th state of the United States in 1845. The annexation enflamed sectional tensions, as it raised the question of whether the new state would be slave or free. The action also exacerbated underlying tensions between America and Mexico - as Mexico did not recognise Texas’ independence - and led to war in 1846. The Alamo remains a powerful symbolic moment in Texan and American history, having been immortalised in numerous works of fiction; the site of the battle attracts over 2.5 million visitors a year.