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.


Fall of the Alamo

At 5.30am on the 6th March 1836 the fortified mission at San Antonio was stormed by Generalissimo Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican Army killing most of the Texan garrison inside.  The Alamo had held out since the 23rd February with its garrison enduring bombardment and skirmishes before the Mexican Army launched its final attack in the early hours of the 6th March. The Alamo was captured when Mexican troops breached the walls and made an escalade (ladder assault) on the walls. 

Heavily outnumbered by the 1,300 strong assault the Texan commanders William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett and most of their men were killed in a final stand.  The attacking Mexican troops suffered 600 killed or wounded, heavy losses for Santa Anna’s small army.  The stand at the Alamo bought valuable time for the Texan army to concentrate, just a month later at the Battle of San Jacinto Santa Anna was defeated and captured ending the Texan Revolutionary War.


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Compared to the current shape of Texas that people everywhere know so well, the shape of the former Republic of Texas (1836-1845) looks a little strange. There was no stout panhandle like we have today; instead, the Republic featured a scrawny stovepipe that meandered, awkwardly, in a narrow, northwesterly stretch through Colorado all the way into southern Wyoming.

Photo © No. 4 St. James

Daniel Webster to Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Texas, 4/10/1841

File Unit: Communications to Foreign Sovereigns and States, Volume 1, 1829 - 1846Series: Communications to Foreign Sovereigns and States, 1829 - 1877Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, 1763 - 2002

Dated 175 years ago, this letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Texas can be transcribed in the National Archives Catalog.


Challenge 47: Currency: Republic of Texas

Texans love to talk about seceding from the United States (we’re always joking… for the most part) so I saw this challenge as a perfect opportunity to create the future currency for my Republic of Texas.

Each dollar represents a different aspect of our rich culture and diverse wildlife. The one dollar bill has a quilt pattern from the 1800s, representing the families who began to migrate to Texas ranch lands, and a White Tail Deer. The five dollar bill shows a Mexican Rose pattern, paying tribute to our beautiful hispanic heritage, and the state bird, a Mockingbird. And finally, the ten dollar bill carries a pattern inspired by the woven baskets of the Apache people– some of the true native keepers of Texas land– alongside an armadillo, one of our most beloved animals, especially in Austin.


In the 1800s, Anglos migrated illegally into Texas, which was then part of Mexico, in greater and greater numbers and gradually drove the tejanos (native Texans of Mexican descent) from their lands, committing all manner of atrocities against them. The Battle of the Alamo, in which the Mexican forces vanquished the whites, became, for the whites, the symbol for the cowardly and villainous character of the Mexicans. It became (and still is) a symbol that legitimized the white imperialist takeover. With the capture of Santa Anna later in 1836, Texas became a republic. Tejanos lost their land and, overnight, became the foreigners.
—  Gloria Anzaldúa, “Borderlands / La Frontera”
Feds raid Texas secessionist meeting

It seemed like a typical congressional meeting for the Republic of Texas. Senators and the president gathered in the center of a Bryan, Texas, meeting hall, surrounded by public onlookers, to debate issues of the national currency, develop international relations and celebrate the birthday of one of their oldest members.

But this wasn’t 1836, and this would be no ordinary legislative conference. Minutes into the meeting a man among the onlookers stood and moved to open the hall door, letting in an armed and armored force of the Bryan Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, Agents of the Texas District Attorney, the Texas Rangers and the FBI.

In the end, at least 20 officers corralled, searched and fingerprinted all 60 meeting attendees, before seizing all cellphones and recording equipment in a Valentine’s Day 2015 raid on the Texas separatist group.

Can we talk more about this? ‘Fringe’ elements in this country are under attack – what can be done about it?


It’s become a tradition here on the blog to recognise the week of July 4th, you know, that time of year when Americans celebrate their Americanness with fireworks (invented by the Chinese) and ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ t-shirts (most likely made in China). In past years I’ve you told you about the Liberty Bell of the West, American Freedom Museum and Pioneer Village’s Miracle of America Museum so why not add a random memorial marker to the list? Reading plaques has become my thing lately, so at least you all know one person in the world is paying attention to them.

In case you fell asleep during American History class, Texas won its independence in 1836, and became the Republic of Texas. So the Sabine River on the Texas-Louisiana border was once an international boundary. A survey crew began the demarcation process on May 20, 1840, at the Gulf of Mexico, and completed its work in 1841. Granite markers were placed along the border, but only one survives in Logansport, which means it is the only known international boundary marker within the United States. Unfortunately, any further international territorial disputes ended with the Annexation of Texas in 1845. The marker had a very short life as an international boundary: just four years. But it lives on in a three-acre park with a bronze plaque and fence (to protect it from vandalism) that probably no one even notices, but it survives and that’s all that matters. Because this is AMERICA!!!

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