David Crockett - The Alamo
The fortress of Alamo is just outside of the town of Bexar, on the San
Antonio River. The town is about one hundred and forty miles from the
coast, and contained, at that time, about twelve hundred inhabitants.
Nearly all were Mexicans, though there were a few American families. In
the year 1718, the Spanish Government had established a military outpost
here; and in the year 1721, a few emigrants from Spain commenced a
flourishing settlement at this spot. Its site is beautiful, the air
salubrious, the soil highly fertile, and the water of crystal purity.
The town of Bexar subsequently received the name of San Antonio. On the
tenth of December, 1835, the Texans captured the town and citadel from the
Mexicans. These Texan Rangers were rude men, who had but little regard for
the refinements or humanities of civilization. When Crockett with his
companions arrived, Colonel Bowie, of Louisiana, one of the most desperate
of Western adventurers, was in the fortress. The celebrated bowie-knife
was named after this man. There was but a feeble garrison, and it was
threatened with an attack by an overwhelming force of Mexicans under Santa
Anna. Colonel Travis was in command. He was very glad to receive even so
small a reinforcement. The fame of Colonel Crockett, as one of the bravest
of men, had already reached his ears.
"While we were conversing," writes Crockett, "Colonel Bowie had occasion
to draw his famous knife, and I wish I may be shot if the bare sight of it
wasn't enough to give a man of a squeamish stomach the colic. He saw I was
admiring it, and said he, 'Colonel, you might tickle a fellow's ribs a
long time with this little instrument before you'd make make him laugh.'"
According to Crockett's account, many shameful orgies took place in the
little garrison. They were evidently in considerable trepidation, for a
large force was gathering against them, and they could not look for any
considerable reinforcements from any quarter. Rumors were continually
reaching them of the formidable preparations Santa Anna was making to
attack the place. Scouts ere long brought in the tidings that Santa Anna,
President of the Mexican Republic, at the head of sixteen hundred
soldiers, and accompanied by several of his ablest generals, was within
six miles of Bexar. It was said that he was doing everything in his power
to enlist the warlike Comanches in his favor, but that they remained
faithful in their friendship to the United States.
||Early in the month of February,
1836, the army of Santa Anna appeared before the town, with
infantry, artillery, and cavalry. With military precision they
approached, their banners waving, and their bugle-notes bearing
defiance to the feeble little garrison. The Texan invaders, seeing
that they would soon be surrounded, abandoned the town to the enemy,
and fled to the protection of the citadel. They were but one hundred
and fifty in number. Almost without exception they were hardy
adventurers, and the most fearless and desperate of men. They had
previously stored away in the fortress all the provisions, arms, and
ammunition, of which they could avail themselves. Over the
battlements they unfurled an immense flag of thirteen stripes, and
with a large white star of five points, surrounded by the letters
"Texas." As they raised their flag, they gave three cheers, while
with drums and trumpets they hurled back their challenge to the foe.
The Mexicans raised over the town a blood-red banner. It was their
significant intimation to the garrison that no quarter was be expected.
Santa Anna, having advantageously posted his troops, in the afternoon sent
a summons to Colonel Travis, demanding an unconditional surrender,
threatening, in case of refusal, to put every man to the sword. The only
reply Colonel Travis made was to throw a cannon-shot into the town. The
Mexicans then opened fire from their batteries, but without doing much
In the night, Colonel Travis sent the old pirate on an express to Colonel
Fanning, who, with a small military force, was at Goliad, to entreat him
to come to his aid. Goliad was about four days' march from Bexar. The next
morning the Mexicans renewed their fire from a battery about three hundred
and fifty yards from the fort. A three-ounce ball struck the juggler on
the breast, inflicting a painful but not a dangerous wound.
Day after day this storm of war continued. The walls of the citadel were
strong, and the bombardment inflicted but little injury. The sharpshooters
within the fortress struck down many of the assailants at great distances.
"The bee-hunter," writes Crockett, "is about the quickest on the trigger,
and the best rifle-shot we have in the fort. I have already seen him bring
down eleven of the enemy, and at such a distance that we all thought that
it would be a waste of ammunition to attempt it." Provisions were
beginning to become scarce, and the citadel was so surrounded that it was
impossible for the garrison to cut its way through the lines and escape.
Under date of February 28th, Crockett writes in his Journal:
"Last night our hunters brought in some corn, and had a brush with a scout
from the enemy beyond gunshot of the fort. They put the scout to flight,
and got in without injury. They bring accounts that the settlers are
flying in all quarters, in dismay, leaving their possessions to the mercy
of the ruthless invader, who is literally engaged in a war of
extermination more brutal than the untutored savage of the desert could be
guilty of. Slaughter is indiscriminate, sparing neither sex, age, nor
condition. Buildings have been burnt down, farms laid waste, and Santa
Anna appears determined to verify his threat, and convert the blooming
paradise into a howling wilderness. For just one fair crack at that
rascal, even at a hundred yards' distance, I would bargain to break my
Betsey, and never pull trigger again. My name's not Crockett if I wouldn't
get glory enough to appease my stomach for the remainder of my life.
"The scouts report that a settler by the name of Johnson, flying with his
wife and three little children, when they reached the Colorado, left his
family on the shore, and waded into the river to see whether it would be
safe to ford with his wagon. When about the middle of the river he was
seized by an alligator, and after a struggle was dragged under the water,
and perished. The helpless woman and her babes were discovered, gazing in
agony on the spot, by other fugitives, who happily passed that way, and
relieved them. Those who fight the battles experience but a small part of
the privation, suffering, and anguish that follow in the train of ruthless
war. The cannonading continued at intervals throughout the day, and all
hands were kept up to their work."
The next day he writes: "I had a little sport this morning before
breakfast. The enemy had planted a piece of ordnance within gunshot of the
fort during the night, and the first thing in the morning they commenced a
brisk cannonade, point blank against the spot where I was snoring. I
turned out pretty smart and mounted the rampart. The gun was charged
again; a fellow stepped forth to touch her off, but before he could apply
the match, I let him have it, and he keeled over. A second stepped up,
snatched the match from the hand of the dying man, but the juggler, who
had followed me, handed me his rifle, and the next instant the Mexican was
stretched on the earth beside the first. A third came up to the cannon. My
companion handed me another gun, and I fixed him off in like manner. A
fourth, then a fifth seized the match, who both met with the same fate.
Then the whole party gave it up as a bad job, and hurried off to the camp,
leaving the cannon ready charged where they had planted it. I came down,
took my bitters, and went to breakfast."
In the course of a week the Mexicans lost three hundred men. But still
reinforcements were continually arriving, so that their numbers were on
the rapid increase. The garrison no longer cherished any hope of receiving
aid from abroad.
Under date of March 4th and 5th, 1836, we have the last lines which
Crockett ever penned.
"March 4th. Shells have been falling into the fort like hail during the
day, but without effect. About dusk, in the evening, we observed a man
running toward the fort, pursued by about half a dozen of the Mexican
cavalry. The bee-hunter immediately knew him to be the old pirate, who had
gone to Goliad, and, calling to the two hunters, he sallied out of the
fort to the relief of the old man, who was hard pressed. I followed close
after. Before we reached the spot the Mexicans were close on the heels of
the old man, who stopped suddenly, turned short upon his pursuers,
discharged his rifle, and one of the enemy fell from his horse. The chase
was renewed, but finding that he would be overtaken and cut to pieces, he
now turned again, and, to the amazement of the enemy, became the assailant
in his turn. He clubbed his gun, and dashed among them like a wounded
tiger, and they fled like sparrows. By this time we reached the spot, and,
in the ardor of the moment, followed some distance before we saw that our
retreat to the fort was cut off by another detachment of cavalry. Nothing
was to be done but fight our way through. We were all of the same mind.
'Go ahead!' cried I; and they shouted, 'Go ahead, Colonel!' We dashed
among them, and a bloody conflict ensued. They were about twenty in
number, and they stood their ground. After the fight had continued about
five minutes, a detachment was seen issuing from the fort to our relief,
and the Mexicans scampered of, leaving eight of their comrades dead upon
the field. But we did not escape unscathed, for both the pirate and the
bee-hunter were mortally wounded, and I received a sabre-cut across the
forehead. The old man died without speaking, as soon as we entered the
fort. We bore my young friend to his bed, dressed his wounds, and I
watched beside him. He lay, without complaint or manifesting pain, until
about midnight, when he spoke, and I asked him if he wanted anything.
'Nothing,' he replied, but drew a sigh that seemed to rend his heart, as
he added, 'Poor Kate of Nacogdoches.' His eyes were filled with tears, as
he continued, 'Her words were prophetic, Colonel," and then he sang in a
low voice, that resembled the sweet notes of his own devoted Kate:
'But toom cam' the saddle, all bluidy to see, And hame came the steed, but
hame never came he.'
He spoke no more, and a few minutes after died. Poor Kate, who will tell
this to thee?
|The romantic bee-hunter had a sweetheart by the
name of Kate in Nacogdoches. She seems to have been a very
affectionate and religious girl. In parting, she had presented her
lover with a Bible, and in anguish of spirit had expressed her
fears that he would never return from his perilous enterprise.
The next day, Crockett simply writes, "March 5th. Pop, pop, pop!
Bom, bom, bom! throughout the day. No time for memorandums now. Go
ahead! Liberty and Independence forever."
Before daybreak on the 6th of March, the citadel of the Alamo was
assaulted by the whole Mexican army, then numbering about three thousand
men. Santa Anna in person commanded. The assailants swarmed over the works
and into the fortress. The battle was fought with the utmost desperation
until daylight. Six only of the Garrison then remained alive. They were
surrounded, and they surrendered. Colonel Crockett was one. He at the time
stood alone in an angle of the fort, like a lion at bay. His eyes flashed
fire, his shattered rifle in his right hand, and in his left a gleaming
bowie-knife streaming with blood. His face was covered with blood flowing
from a deep gash across his forehead. About twenty Mexicans, dead and
dying, were lying at his feet. The juggler was also there dead. With one
hand he was clenching the hair of a dead Mexican, while with the other he
had driven his knife to the haft in the bosom of his foe.
The Mexican General Castrillon, to whom the prisoners had surrendered,
wished to spare their lives. He led them to that part of the fort where
Santa Anna stood surrounded by his staff. As Castrillon marched his
prisoners into the presence of the President, he said:
"Sir, here are six prisoners I have taken alive. How shall I dispose of
Santa Anna seemed much annoyed, and said, "Have I not told you before how
to dispose of them? Why do you bring them to me?"
Immediately several Mexicans commenced plunging their swords into the
bosoms of the captives. Crockett, entirely unarmed, sprang, like a tiger,
at the throat of Santa Anna. But before he could reach him, a dozen swords
were sheathed in his heart, and he fell without a word or a groan. But
there still remained upon his brow the frown of indignation, and his lip
was curled with a smile of defiance and scorn.
And thus was terminated the earthly life of this extraordinary man. In
this narrative it has been the object of the writer faithfully to record
the influences under which Colonel Crockett was reared, and the incidents
of his wild and wondrous life, leaving it with the reader to form his own
estimate of the character which these exploits indicate. David Crockett
has gone to the tribunal of his God, there to be judged for all the deeds
done in the body. Beautifully and consolingly the Psalmist has written:
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear
him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."
Back to: Biography of David
Source: David Crockett: His Life and
Adventures by John S. C. Abbott
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