Mr. Speaker, it was in the cold, dark, damp, moldy walls of a beat-up old Spanish mission that was already 100 years old at the time. He was a 27-year-old lawyer from South Carolina and also from Alabama. He was the commander of 187 volunteers from 13 countries and most of the States in then the United States. His men were surrounded by several thousand of the enemy. It was the Alamo . It had been turned into a makeshift fort, and the commander was William Barret Travis.
Mr. Speaker, he wrote the following letter 179 years ago this very night, February 24, 1836. It is entitled Commander of the Alamo , February 24, 1836:
To all the people of Texas and all Americans in the world, fellow citizens and compatriots:
I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannon fire for over 24 hours, but I have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at its discretion; otherwise, the fort will be put to the sword. I have answered that demand with a cannon shot, and the flag still waves proudly over the north wall. I shall never surrender or retreat.
I call upon you in the name of liberty and patriotism and everything dear to our character to come to my aid with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to 3 or 4,000 in 4 or 5 days.
If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible and die like a soldier that never forgets his honor and that of his country. Victory or death.
Signed, William Barret Travis, Commander of the Alamo.
Besides Travis, there were other famous people: Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Jim Bonham, and many others. Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that all of these people were volunteers. They came from most States, 13 foreign countries. They were black, they were brown, and they were white.
Mr. Speaker, I include for the Record the names of the 187 volunteers who were at the Alamo and died on March 6, 1836.
?, John, Unknown, A Black Freedman, Unknown; Abamillo, Juan, Unknown, Garrison Member, Texas; Allen, James L., 21, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Andross, Miles DeForest, 27, Garrison Member, Vermont; Autry, Micajah, 43, Garrison Member, North Carolina; Badillo, Juan Antonio, Unknown, Garrison Member, Texas; Bailey, Peter James, 24, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Baker, Isaac G., 32, Garrison Member, Arkansas; Baker, William, Unknown, Garrison Member, Missouri; Ballentine, John J., Unknown, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Ballentine, Richard W., 22, Garrison Member, Scotland; Baugh, John J., 33, Captain, Virginia; Bayliss, Joseph, 28, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Blair, John, 33, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Blair, Samuel, 29, Captain, Tennessee; Blazeby, William, 41, Captain, England; Bonham, James, 29, Second Lieutenant, South Carolina; Bourne, Daniel, 26, Garrison Member, England; Bowie, James, 40, Colonel, Kentucky; Bowman, Jesse, 51, Garrison Member, Tennessee.
Brown, George, 35, Garrison Member, England; Brown, James Murry, 36, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Brown, Robert, 18, Garrison Member, Unknown; Buchanan, James, 23, Garrison Member, Unknown; Burns, Samuel E., 26, Garrison Member, Ireland; Butler, George D., 23, Garrison Member, Missouri; Cain, John, 34, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Campbell, Robert, 26, Lieutenant, Tennessee; Carey, William R., 30, Captain, Virginia; Clark, Charles Henry, Unknown, Garrison Member, Missouri; Clark, M. B., Unknown, Garrison Member, Mississippi; Cloud, Daniel William, 22, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Cochran, Robert E., 26, Garrison Member, New Hampshire; Cottle, George Washington, 25, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Courtman, Henry, 28, Garrison Member, Germany; Crawford, Lemuel, 22, Garrison Member, South Carolina; Crockett, David (Davy), 50, Colonel, Tennessee; Crossman, Robert, 26, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Cummings, David P., 27, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Cunningham, Robert W., 32, Private, New York.
Darst, Jacob C., 43, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Davis, John, 25, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Day, Freeman, 30, Garrison Member, Unknown; Day, Jerry C., 18, Garrison Member, Missouri; Daymon, Squire, 28, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Dearduff, William, Unknown, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Dennison, Stephen, 24, Garrison Member, England or Ireland; Despallier, Charles, 24, Garrison Member, Louisiana; Dewall, Lewis, 24, Garrison Member, New York; Dickinson, Almaron, 36 Captain, Pennsylvania; Dillar, John Henry, 31, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Dimpkins, James R., Unknown, Sergeant, England; Duvalt, Andrew, 32, Garrison Member, Ireland; Espalier, Carlos, 17, Garrison Member, Texas; Esparza, Gregorio, 34, Garrison Member, Texas; Evans, Robert, 36, Garrison Member, Ireland; Evans, Samuel B., 24, Garrison Member, New York; Ewing, James L., 24, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Fauntleroy, William H., 22, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Fishbaugh, William, Unknown, Garrison Member, Unknown.
Flanders, John, 36, Garrison Member, Massachusetts; Floyd, Dolphine Ward, 32, Garrison Member, North Carolina; Forsyth, John Hubbard, 38, Captain, New York; Fuentes, Antonio, 23, Garrison Member, Texas; Fuqua, Galba, 16, Garrison Member, Alabama; Garnett, William, 24, Garrison Member, Virginia; Garrand, James W., 23, Garrison Member, Louisiana; Garrett, James Girard, 30, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Garvin, John E., 27, Garrison Member, Unknown; Gaston, John E., 17, Garrison Member, Kentucky; George, James, 34, Garrison Member, Unknown; Goodrich, John C., 27, Garrison Member, Virginia; Grimes, Albert Calvin, 19, Orderly Sergeant, Georgia; Guerrero, José María, Unknown, Garrison Member, Texas; Gwynne, James C., 32, Garrison Member, England; Hannum, James, 21, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Harris, John, 23, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Harrison, Andrew Jackson, 27, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Harrison, William B., 25, Commanding Officer, Ohio; Haskell, Charles M., 23, Garrison Member, Tennessee.
Hawkins, Joseph M., 37, Garrison Member, Ireland; Hays, John M., 22, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Herndon, Patrick Henry, 32, Garrison Member, Virginia; Hersee, William Daniel, 31, Sergeant, England; Holland, Tapley, 26, Garrison Member, Ohio; Holloway, Samuel, 28, Garrison Member, Philadelphia; Howell, William D., 39, Garrison Member, Massachusetts; Jackson, Thomas, Unknown, Garrison Member, Ireland; Jackson, William Daniel, 29, Lieutenant, Ireland; Jameson, Green B., 27, Lieutenant, Kentucky or Tennessee; Jennings, Gordon C., 56, Corporal, Connecticut; Jiménez, Damacio, Unknown, Garrison Member, Unknown; Johnson, Lewis, 23, Private, Virginia; Johnson, William, Unknown, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Jones, John, 26, Lieutenant, New York; Kellogg, John Benjamin, 19, Lieutenant, Kentucky; Kenny, James, 22, Garrison Member, Virginia; Kent, Andrew, Unknown, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Kerr, Joseph, 22, Garrison Member, Louisiana; Kimbell, George C., 33, Lieutenant, Pennsylvania.
King, William Philip, 16, Garrison Member, Mississippi; Lewis, William Irvine, 30, Garrison Member, Virginia; Lightfoot, William John, 31, Third Corporal, Kentucky; Lindley, Jonathan, 22, Garrison Member, Illinois; Linn, William, Unknown, Garrison Member, Massachusetts; Losoya, José Toribio, 27, Private, Texas; Main, George Washington, 29, Second Lieutenant, Virginia; Malone, William T., 18, Garrison Member, Virginia or Alabama; Marshall, William, 28, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Martin, Albert, 28, Garrison Member, Rhode Island; McCafferty, Edward, Unknown, Lieutenant, Unknown; McCoy, Jesse, 32, Garrison Member, Tennessee; McDowell, William, 42, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; McGee, James, Unknown, Garrison Member, Ireland; McGregor, John, Unknown, Second Sergeant, Scotland; McKinney, Robert, 27, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Melton, Eliel, 38, Lieutenant, Georgia; Miller, Thomas Redd, 31, Garrison Member, Virginia; Mills, William, 20, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Millsaps, Isaac, 41, Private, Tennessee.
Mitchasson, Edward F., 30, Private, Virginia; Mitchell, Edwin T., 30, Private, Unknown; Mitchell, Napoleon B., 32, Private, Tennessee; Moore, Robert B., 30, Garrison Member, Virginia; Moore, Willis A., 28, Garrison Member, North Carolina; Musselman, Robert, 31, Sergeant, Ohio; Nava, Andrés, 26, Sergeant, Texas; Neggan, George, 28, Garrison Member, South Carolina; Nelson, Andrew M., 27, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Nelson, Edward, 20, Garrison Member, South Carolina; Nelson, George, 31, Garrison Member, South Carolina; Northcross, James, 32, Garrison Member, Virginia; Nowlan, James, 27, Garrison Member, England or Ireland; Pagan, George, 26, Garrison Member, Unknown; Parker, Christopher Adams, 22, Garrison Member, Unknown; Parks, William, 31, Garrison Member, North Carolina; Perry, Richardson, 19, Garrison Member, Texas or Mississippi; Pollard, Amos, 32, Garrison Member, Massachusetts; Reynolds, John Purdy, 29, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Roberts, Thomas H., Unknown, Garrison Member, Unknown.
Robertson, James Waters, 24, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Robinson, Isaac, 28, Fourth Sergeant, Scotland; Rose, James M., 31, Garrison Member, Ohio; Rusk. Jackson J., Unknown, Garrison Member, Ireland; Rutherford, Joseph, 38, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Ryan, Isaac, 31, Garrison Member, Louisiana; Scurlock, Mial, 26, Garrison Member, North Carolina; Sewell, Marcus L., 31, Garrison Member, England; Shied, Manson, 25, Garrison Member, Georgia; Simmons, Cleveland Kinloch, 20, Lieutenant, South Carolina; Smith, Andrew H., 21, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Smith, Charles S., 30, Garrison Member, Maryland; Smith, Joshua G., 28, Sergeant, North Carolina; Smith, William, 25, Garrison Member, Unknown; Starr, Richard, 25, Garrison Member, England; Stewart, James E., 28, Garrison Member, England; Stockton, Richard Lucius, 19, Garrison Member, New Jersey; Summerlin, A. Spain, 19, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Summers, William E., 24, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Sutherland, William DePriest, 17, Garrison Member, Unknown.
Taylor, Edward, 24, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Taylor, George, 20, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Taylor, James, 22, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Taylor, William, 37, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Thomas, B. Archer M., 18, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Thomas, Henry, 25, Garrison Member, Germany; Thompson, Jesse G., 38, Garrison Member, Arkansas; Thomson, John W., 29, Garrison Member, Virginia; Thurston, John M., 23, Second Lieutenant, Pennsylvania; Trammel, Burke, 26, Garrison Member, Ireland; Travis, Wlliam Barret, 26, Lieutenant Colonel, South Carolina; Tumlinson, George W., 22, Garrison Member, Missouri; Tylee, James, 41, Garrison Member, New York; Walker, Asa, 23, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Walker, Jacob, 36, Garrison Member, Tennessee; Ward, William B., Unknown, Sergeant, Ireland; Warnell, Henry, 24, Garrison Member, Unknown; Washington, Joseph G., 28, Garrison Member, Kentucky; Waters, Thomas, 24, Garrison Member, England; Wells, William, 47, Garrison Member, Georgia; White, Isaac, Unknown, Sergeant, Alabama or Kentucky.
White, Robert, 30, Captain, Unknown; Williamson, Hiram James, 26, Sergeant-Major, Pennsylvania; Wills, William, Unknown, Garrison Member, Unknown; Wilson, David L., 29, Garrison Member, Scotland; Wilson, John, 32, Garrison Member, Pennsylvania; Wolf, Anthony, 54, Garrison Member, Spain; Wright, Claiborne, 26, Garrison Member, North Carolina; Zanco, Charles, 28, Garrison Member, Unknown.
Mr. Speaker, this hardy band of frontiersmen and patriots, shopkeepers, lawyers were a frightful sight to see. They did not wear uniforms. They wore what they worked in. They entered the Alamo , and they stood there for 13 days, fought here at this place, and all died for Texas freedom.
They fought against a dictatorship, a dictator by the name of Santa Anna. He had abolished the Constitution of Mexico. Texas was a part of Mexico at the time. He had abolished the Constitution and set up a dictatorship.That is what started the Texas war of independence against Mexico.
You notice that the flag that is flying over the Alamo is the Mexican flag. The Mexican eagle has been removed, and it has the date 1824 on it. That is the date that the Republic of Mexico established a Constitution. Thedefenders of the Alamo were hoping to reestablish a democracy in Mexico, which Texas was a part of.
After the Alamo fell, after 13 days and all 187 of the Texans were killed, other Texans went ahead and rallied for Texas independence from Mexico. As I said, the defenders of the Alamo were from all races. Nine, maybe 11 were Tejanos. Tejano is a uniquely Texas name. Those are individuals of Mexican or Spanish descent that were born in Texas, thus the name Tejano.
The Alamo was important for a lot of reasons, but, one, it stopped Santa Anna's invasion of Texas. Texas was one of several states in Mexico that had rebelled against Santa Anna's dictatorship.
On this other chart here, there are numerous states in Mexico that were established, but several of those, including Texas, Coahuila y Tejas, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Yucatan, all of them rebelled about the same time against Mexico, in 1835, 1836, because Santa Anna established a dictatorship and abolished the democracy.
None of these other states that rebelled were successful in creating independence except Texas. Santa Anna used his army and went through his own country, destroying and defeating any resistance to his dictatorship, and he had taken all of these states back, so to speak, when he invaded what is now the State of Texas. So he had well-seasoned troops when he came into the State of Texas in 1836.
It all started, really, in the year of 1835. In October of 1835, the Mexican Army had come upon a small town in Gonzales, Texas, and had demanded that the townspeople turn over to the Mexican Army a small cannon that they had to defend themselves from Indians in the area. The locals, the Texans, refused to turn over the cannon.
They, in fact, made a flag. They called it the Come and Take It flag, that had a white background and then painted in a cannon that said, ``Come and Take It.'' That is the famous Come and Take It flag that was used,the first flag that was used in the Texas war of independence.
After a skirmish where several shots were fired by both sides--I don't think anybody was hurt very bad--the Mexican Army left, but most importantly they left without taking the arms, the cannon from the Texas people who lived in Gonzales. That was the spark that started the Texas war of independence and revolution.
There were several other skirmishes, and by February of 1836, Travis and his band of volunteers had found themselves in the Alamo to thwart the invasion of the larger army of Santa Anna that was coming from thesouth. Their defense of the Alamo for 13 days gave the rest of Texas time to build another army to eventually fight Santa Anna. That army was, of course, led by General Sam Houston at the time.
So they were in the Alamo for many reasons, but the primary reason was to fight for liberty for Texas and Texas independence. When Travis realized that he wasn't getting any aid except for a small band of individuals from Gonzales, Texas, that came and volunteered when Travis sent out that first letter, he penned this letter on March 3, 1836. Travis addressed his last letter to the Council at Washington-on-the -Brazos that was not far from the Alamo or San Antonio, Bexar--what it was called at that time--in hopes that they would understand his plight.
His battered walls, according to T. R. Fehrenbach, the noted Texas historian, were still show defenses, still flew the flag. His men were on duty and in combat that day and every day and night. They were exhausted. Travis expected no rescue, and he wrote, according to Fehrenbach, apparently to stir his countrymen into action that the country might be saved. He was speaking of Texas.
Here is what he said in that last letter:
I shall have to fight the enemy on its own terms. I will do the best I can. The victory will cost the enemy so dear that it will be worse for him than defeat. I hope your honorable body will hasten reinforcements. Our supply of ammunition is limited. God and Texas. Victory or death.
William Barret Travis.
Then on March 6, 1836, a few days later, they were all killed in the Alamo , even though they inflicted tremendous losses against the invasion by Santa Anna. But Travis was right, victory would cost the enemy more than defeat. It did give Sam Houston and other Texas volunteers enough time to assemble another army. Not a large army, it was only 600 individuals.
Santa Anna, still with a larger force, met Sam Houston and his 600 volunteers, which once again included men from several countries, included men from several States, and had numerous Tejanos involved fighting fromthe side of the Republic of Texas, including Juan Seguin, Captain Seguin and his volunteers, his cavalry that was there.
It is interesting to note that before the battle took place on April 21, 1836, on the plains of San Jacinto--you have never heard of that, Mr. Speaker, but it is near what is now Houston, Texas, down on the gulf coast, inthe marsh area--Juan Seguin made sure that he had all of his Tejanos, the cavalry, put playing cards in the hatbands of their hats so that they wouldn't be mistaken for the enemy. In those days, apparently, the playing cards that were used to gamble were much larger than the small ones we have. So they placed these playing cards in their hatbands so they could be recognized as fighting on the side of the Texas volunteers because, once again, they didn't wear uniforms.
The battle that took place that Travis was able to delay the army of Santa Anna in reaching this battle was an interesting military feat. Most battles take place, have taken place throughout history, in the early hours ofthe day. At sunrise, two armies get together and fight it out. They have done that for thousands of years. Even still today in World War II, Vietnam, battles were fought at dawn.
This battle--the Battle of San Jacinto--did not take place at dawn; it took place in the middle of the afternoon on April 21 because Santa Anna and his army were taking a siesta in the middle of the day. They didn't expect the battle until the next morning.
Sam Houston and his other commanders didn't want to wait until the next day--the troops were getting restless, as they say--so they decided to have that battle in the afternoon. They lined up in a single column acrossthe high ground and marched in broad daylight.
Santa Anna had not put out pickets, so he had no one to warn him that the Texans were charging. They came down the hill, and the battle began.
In 18 minutes, Mr. Speaker, it was all over. Santa Anna had been completely defeated. More of the enemy were killed than were in the Texas Army. The rest were captured. Only a handful--13 Texans--were killed, and thebattle lasted 18 minutes. Santa Anna was captured. He was pretending to change clothes, and he put on the uniform of a Mexican private. He was captured and held.
Travis enters the Alamo on February 23, 1836, and writes this famous letter. He and the defenders were killed on March 6. In between that, on March 2, 1836, Texas had declared independence. Then, just a few weeks later, on April 21, about 200 miles or so from the Alamo , the Battle of San Jacinto took place. Sam Houston won that battle, and Texas became a free and independent country.
We have this map here, Mr. Speaker. You may not have seen something like this. This is what Texas claimed when Texas became an independent country--what is now modern-day Texas--and you see that here on this map; but it also had claimed parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and parts of Wyoming. Texas claimed all of this area when Texas became the Republic of Texas.
Sam Houston was the first President of the Republic of Texas. Texas was an independent country for 9 years, and then it decided to request to join the United States. Even how Texas joined the United States was an interesting phenomena.
Not all of the States wanted Texas to become a part of the United States. Finally, after several tries and failures to become a State in the United States. Finally, after several tries and failures to become a State in the United States,on a joint resolution--not a treaty--Texas became a State in the United States by one vote when, apparently, a Louisiana Senator changed his mind and voted to annex Texas and make it the next State in the United States.
That took place in 1845. Ever since then, Texas gave up its sovereignty as a republic and became a State. Some say that we still act like we are a foreign country, a sovereign country.
Under Texas law that allowed it to become a part of the U.S., the Texas flag always is supposed to fly level with the American flag, since we were a republic. Texas can divide into five states. I don't ever see that happening, but Texans can make that decision and split the State up to make it five different states.
We have a unique history, as all of America has a unique history, and it goes back to the fact that Texans did not want to live under a dictatorship no matter who it was.
That is why people of all races were at the Alamo . All races fought for Texas independence, for freedom, and for liberty--very similar to the actions that took place with the Thirteen Colonies in how they were being oppressed by Great Britain.
Nobody ever thought they could whip Great Britain--the most powerful empire that had ever existed at the time--and very few people thought that Texas could defeat Mexico. After all, Santa Anna had defeated all of these other parts of Mexico that were in rebellion. He had not lost any battles when he came and invaded Texas.
People were surprised that Texas could defeat them, but it did because some things are worth fighting for and giving their lives for. That is why those 187 individuals from all walks of life, from different parts of theworld--Brown, Black, and White--stood together as volunteers to defend the Alamo and help freedom ring in a part of the world that we call Texas.
Mr. Speaker, I think you are probably old enough to have heard of Marty Robbins. Maybe you haven't. Marty Robbins, years ago, the singer, wrote a ballad in honor of the people who stayed and defied tyranny and gave their lives fighting for freedom, for Texas.
It goes like this:
In the southern part of Texas in the town of San Antone,
There's a fortress all in ruin, and the weeds have overgrown.
You may look in vain for crosses, and you'll never see a one, but sometime between the setting and the rising of the Sun,
You can hear a ghostly bugle as men go marching by;
You can hear them as they answer to that roll call in the sky:
Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett, and 180 more;
Captain Dickinson, Jim Bowie stand present and accounted for.
Back in 1836, Sam Houston said to Travis, ``Get some volunteers, and go and fortify the Alamo .''
Well, the men came from Texas and from old Tennessee and a lot of other places.
They joined up with Travis just to fight for the right to be free.
Indian scouts with squirrel guns and men with muzzle loaders,
Stood together, heel and toe, to defend the Alamo .
``You may never see your loved ones,'' Travis told them that day.
``Those who want to can leave now. Those who fight to the death, let 'em stay.''
So, in the sand, he drew a line with his army sabre;
Out of 185, not a soldier crossed the line.
With his banners a-dancin' in the dawn's golden light,
Santa Anna came prancin' on a horse that was black as the night.
He sent an officer to tell Travis to surrender.
Travis answered with a shell and a rousin' yell.
Santa Anna said, ``I will show them no quarter. Everyone will be put to our sword.''
185 holding back 5,000.
5 days, 6 days, 8 days, 10 days, Travis kept holding again and again.
Then Travis sent for replacements for his wounded and lame,
But the troops that were comin' never came, never came.
So twice Santa Anna charged and then blew recall,
But on that fatal third time, Santa Anna breached the wall, and he killed them one and all.
Now the bugles are silent, and there is rust on each sword,
And the small band of soldiers lies asleep in the arms of the Lord.
In the southern part of Texas, near the town of San Antone,
Like a statue on his pinto rides a cowboy all alone.
He sees the cattle grazin' where a century before,
Santa Anna's guns were blazin' and the cannons used to roar.
His eyes turn a little misty, and his heart begins to glow,
And he takes his hat off slowly to those men of the Alamo ,
To the 13 days of glory at the siege of the Alamo .
And that is just the way it is.