Friday, March 6, 2009
Note: I feel the need to explain myself. This is a special tribute for this site and not the usual material. I chose this special tribute simply because this day is the 173rd anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo. This battle is one that I have been drawn to since I was able to read, so I felt the need to write about it. What is going to follow is historical fiction. The events of the day may or may not exactly coincide with what I have written. This is simply how I see it going down through the eyes of the ones living it. Even though I toned it down and paraphrased it, this post will still be a bit on the long side. I will truly understand if this is not your cup of tea and you decide to skip on by it.
However, this was something I felt the need to write. For those that want to wade through my attempt at historical fiction, I hope it was worth the time you invested. First Five Friday will be back next week.
March 6, 1836, approximately 5:30AM
For almost the twelfth straight hour, silence was the only thing hitting the Alamo. The Mexican guns had taken time off for reasons unknown. The men of the fort had many ideas as to why. "They're runnin' out of ammo." "They're takin' a long siesta." Probably the one that was the most ominous...and probably the most true was "This here is the calm before the storm."
As the small Texan force waited out their final hours, outside the gates three thousand men were moving silently into position for the final attack. Homemade ladders were seen here and there scattered throughout the lines as the men tried to quietly assemble for a surprise attack. As the Texans lay sleeping, the Mexican soldiers began to prepare for the Alamo defenders' ultimate demise.
"Viva Santa Anna!!" A Mexican soldier suddenly screamed...obviously overwhelmed by the moment and the answer, "VIVA SANTA ANNA", spread throughout the lines. The commander, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna cursed.
So much for a surprise attack.
The soldiers ran toward the walls as the defenders sluggishly reported to their posts. The commander of the Alamo, Colonel William Barrett Travis, rushed to his north wall post. One look immediately told him that this was not a probing attack, but the main one. Months before, Travis had left his wife and young baby boy in South Carolina. A couple of weeks before he had defiantly answered Santa Anna's surrender demand with a cannon shot. Days before he had asked all the soldiers if they were willing to die with him. Now, it looked like this might be that moment.
Outside, in front of the chapel, former Tennessee Senator David Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers were dropping soldiers left and right defending the small area between the main plaza and the church. This area was known as the palisade. The Mexican soldiers had tried to keep a respectful distance from the sharpshooters, but the accuracy of the defenders was deadly. However, Crockett looked honestly at the situation that was developing. Years of political battles and even Indian wars hadn't prepared him for this type of conflict. Nope, he never counted on this type of odds. Davey Crockett had come to Texas to become President of Texas. He'd come to Texas to live. Each time a fellow Texan or Tennessean fell, the odds went down a little more.
Inside the chapel, Susannah Dickinson could hear the battle raging on the outside. It seemed to her to be like a hellish thunderstorm. Twice it seemed that the storm died down. The thunder of the cannons diminished and the sounds of men's shouts slowed. Then, without warning the din would increase again. She looked at her baby girl, Angelina, and held her tightly. All she and Maria Esparza could do is wait with the kids and see what happens.
Travis had seen his men fight back this force for over twelve days. He had just seen them hold off two charges valiently. His heart felt warmness at the effort and the bravery they had shown, even though his brain told him they couldn't hold out forever. As he watched the Mexicans line up for the third charge, he grimly took hold of his shotgun. In their panic, two columns of soldiers collapsed into each other at the base of the north wall where Travis held steady.
Unfortunately, the north wall also had the only hole the Mexican cannon were able to create in the entire fort during their eleven days of shelling the Alamo. As Travis shot into the mass of soldiers down below him, he suddenly and calmly knew that this was it. He and the few men he had would not be able to stem the tide of this many soldiers. He thought quickly to his boy...the lasting picture of his baby's smiling face engulfed him as a sharp pain briefly hit his head just above his temple....and then blackness.
The Mexican Army poured through the north wall like a flood. The Texans still manning cannons turned the barrels inward and tried to fill the breach with as many dead soldiers as possible. Soon, the few left on the walls were picked off or overwhelmed from behind. Within minutes all walls of the plaza were absent of Texan defenders. Chaos reigned.
The Alamo men, still left in the plaza, forted up in the long barracks along the walls. As the Mexican soldiers invaded room after room, each small battle would leave almost a squad of Mexican soldiers dead with the eight or nine Texans in each room. Finally, a Mexican Sargeant ordered a couple of the cannons off the walls to blast open the remaining barracks. Soon, only dead or dying Texans remained in the plaza of the Alamo.
Crockett and his men barricaded the entrance from the palisade to the main plaza. He looked around at his thirty men. Some had been with him since they left Tennessee. Some had just vacated the plaza and were fighting tooth and nail for survival. Crockett remembered that Travis thought that they'd sell their lives dearly. At the time it seemed a bit over dramatic, but now, Crockett thought, they'd done just that. As the men under his command were slowly picked off, what was left retreated into an area just outside the church. They were penned down now with only six remaining, as they waited for the final rush. As Crockett looked around, it looked like the whole world was garbed in Mexican soldier . "No way we can fight'em all." he reasoned. Then a thought came to him. "Hell, what do we got to lose?" He slowly lifted his hands skyward as the men with him followed suit. The squad of Mexican soldiers roughly disarmed them, but pulled them away from the action.
In the chapel, the wounded were attacked ruthlessly as the blood lust began to rage wild throughout the Mexican Army. Texans, lying on cots were used as pin cushions for bayonets as the ruthless soldados showed no mercy for the lame and injured. A solitary figure, in his own room befitting his rank, waited for the end...almost gladly. James Bowie had come down with tuberculosis. He was a living legend, but in the greatest fight of his life, he could play no part. He just was laying waiting for the inevitable. Armed with his famous knife and a couple of dueling pistols, Bowie waited as the sounds of battle grew steadily closer. Soon, he thought wistfully, he would no longer be a 'living legend'.
Susannah Dickinson knew something was horribly wrong as the cannons stopped firing. The screams began to be intense as the staccato of the small arms fire was almost constant and nearing her hideaway. Then, suddenly, she saw her husband Almeron. He had slipped back to see her one last time. "Great God, Sue!!" He exclaimed, "The Mexicans are inside our walls!! If they spare you, save our child!!" Then he was gone. The tears fell down her face as she cradled Angelina. "Only a little longer." She kept whispering into the ears of her crying child. Maria Esparza and Susannah shared a look. She could hear as Bowie's door was broken down a couple of rooms away. Screams pierced the air as the ruckus could be heard above the clamor outside.
Almeron Dickinson, Gregorio Esparza, and James Bonham had barricaded themselves near the entrance of the church. As the Mexican army advanced they fired the big eighteen pound cannon bowling over half a dozen. Gregorio tried not to look into the eyes of his former countrymen advancing as he fired his rifle. His brother was among this throng of soldiers. This was going to be hard enough, he thought, without seeing Francisco's face. The soldiers charged over the barricade overwhelming the three remaining defenders. Dickinson saw a gleam of bayonet near his eye as he fired his rifle one last time. Within a few frantic moments it was over. The three lay partially covered with almost a dozen soldiers. Even though the Mexican Soldiers would continue firing for another ten minutes, the resistance was over. The Alamo had fallen.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna viewed the carnage stoically. He knew that he was signing the death warrant of many of his men with a full frontal attack. But, it mattered not. The only way to salvage his pride from the insult of these pirates was blood. His men, theirs, either or both would do. General Castrillon had just approached him with a ridiculous claim. It seemed that they had captured seven Notre Americanos. Santa Anna smiled in exasperation as he said, "Does the meaning of the red flag escape you, my dear General? It means no quarter...no prisoners."
"His Excellency, one of the prisoners is Senator Crockett."
Santa Anna paused at this wonderful bit of irony. Then he walked past Castrillon to where the seven prisoners stood by themselves awaiting his judgment. A small smile fell on his lips as Santa Anna gazed at the man with the funny coonskin hat. The two locked eyes. Between the two of them the message was passed silently. Crockett gave Santa Anna a grim smile back. "Shit," Crockett breathed as Santa Anna turned to the nearest soldiers.
"Matelos!" Gunshots filled the plaza one last time as the seven Texans were extinguished.
Susannah Dickinson and Angelina had met briefly with Santa Anna. It gave her no pleasure, but to save the life of her child, she was willing to humor the dictator. She listened as emotionless as she could, as Santa Anna detailed the message she would take to Sam Houston and anyone else that would listen. It was simply, 'Leave or die.' She was even was somehow able to keep her temper as the beast offered to adopt Angelina. She knew that her child's life depended on her actions. Finally, after accepting an offer from El Presidente of a horse, Susannah and her child were then escorted out.
As she and Angelina left the fort, Susannah noticed the fires burning outside the plaza. She wept openly as she led the horse given to her by the Mexican Army out of the fort. The bodies of those left to be burned lie haphazardly all over the fort usually surrounded by two or three soldiers of Santa Anna's army. She saw Crockett and his weird coonskin hat nearby. The young lawyer Daniel Cloud was barely recognizable as he lay several yards from opening to the plaza. More and more friends and acquaintances she saw as she walked by. The scene was so surreal her brain could not fit it all inside. These men, hours before, were talking, had thought. Almeron, also, she thought as a ragged wave of sadness caught her again. When she looked up again, she saw Maria with a Mexican Soldier hoisting Gregorio's body into a wagon just outside the mission. "That must be Francisco." She thought. This soldier was exceedingly careful with the body of Gregorio, unlike the other faceless men of Santa Anna's army. Santa Anna must've shown a small measure of mercy and let them bury Gregorio, she mused.
At this, Susannah was reminded her of what fate awaited her husband's body. His and the Texans bodies would not be buried in the cemetery in San Antonio. No, Almeron was to be burned along with the other remaining defenders on a funeral pyre. He was not to have a Christian burial.
As she finally sat sideways on the pony, she trotted away from the stench of gunpowder, smoke, and death that blasphemed this mission. Angelina was abnormally quiet as the two of them rode up a hil overlooking the Alamo. Susannah turned around to gaze at the mission one last time. The soldiers were still working at burying the dead, burning the enemy, and treating their wounded. She wanted this scene to be burned into her head forever. She wanted to remember what occured here for the rest of her life.
She wanted to remember the Alamo.
Posted by Lane at 5:30 AM