On this day in 1836, Mexican forces under the command of President General Antonio López de Santa Anna, after a 13 day siege, breached the walls of the Alamo. Horrific though the fighting had been up until this point, the Mexican soldiers were now able to experience the very special hell that is close quarters combat. When it was all over*, the defenders of the Alamo were dead to the last man. Though they had been outnumbered at least 7 to 1, they managed to take at least a full third of the enemy with them. Of particular interest are reports regarding Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Ben, a former American slave who cooked for one of Santa Anna’s officers, noted that when the body of Crockett, who when unable to reload because of close quarters had resorted to using his rifle as a club, was surrounded by no less than 16 dead Mexican soldiers. Bowie, according to historian Wallace Chariton, though he had been too sick to join the forces outside, likely died on his cot, “back braced against the wall, and using his pistols and his famous knife.” He killed the first two Mexican soldiers that entered the room with his pistols and one or two more with his knife before he was finally bayoneted to death. It is said that when his mother was informed of his death she said “I’ll wager there were no wounds on his back.” Word.
Without speculating as to the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the events that led up to the battle, I’m impressed with the willingness of the defenders to fight a hopeless battle for what they thought mattered. There are times we must face our responsibility to stand for what we believe to be right and true. It is better, I submit, to do it now, while there is still the possibility of success with less effort and pain for all involved, rather than later when we must do it simply because we must. Winston Churchill put it this way:
“If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed;
if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may
come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”
The question for me, for all of us, I believe is this. What am I willing to sacrifice? What am I willing to endure? What are the things that matter to me that much? Is there anything? When it comes to freedom, for instance, do the words of John F. Kennedy ring true? Am I (are we) willing to
“…pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty”
or do I value my comfort and ease, more than what is right? Am I complacent about things that matter?
*It wasn’t really over. On April 21, still outnumbered 1360 to 910, the Texian army under the command of Sam Houston attacked the Mexican army, killing 630 soldiers and capturing the rest, including Santa Anna himself the next day. Only 9 Texians were killed in this curb stomp of a battle that lasted only 18-20 minutes.
Remember the Alamo.