THE FALL OF THE ALAMO
"The combat deepens. On, ye brave!
Who rush to glory or the grave."
"To all the sensual world proclaim:
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name."
"Gashed with honorable scars,
Low in Glory's lap they lie;
Though they fell, they fell like stars,
Streaming splendor through the sky."
The passing-by of Santa Anna and the Mexican army, though it
had been hourly expected for nearly three days, was an event
which threw the Senora and her daughters into various
conditions of mental excitement. They descended from the roof
to the Senora's room, where they could move about and converse
with more freedom. For the poor lady was quite unable to
control her speech and actions, and was also much irritated by
Antonia's more composed manner. She thought it was want of
"How can you take things with such a blessed calmness,"
she asked, angrily. "But it is the way of the Americans,
no doubt, who must have everything for prudence. Sensible!
Sensible! Sensible! that is the tune they are forever playing,
and you dance to it like a miracle."
"My dear mother, can we do any good by exclaiming and weeping?"
"Holy Virgin! Perhaps not; but to have a little human nature
is more agreeable to those who are yet on the earth side of purgatory."
"Mi madre," said Isabel, "Antonia is our good angel. She
thinks for us, and plans for us, and even now has everything
ready for us to move at a moment's notice. Our good angels
have to be sensible and prudent, madre."
"To move at a moment's notice! Virgin of Guadalupe! where
shall we go to? Could my blessed father and mother see me in
this prison, this very vault, I assure you they would be unhappy
even among the angels."
"Mother, there are hundreds of women today in Texas who would
think this house a palace of comfort and safety."
"Saints and angels! Is that my fault? Does it make my
condition more endurable? Ah, my children, I have seen great
armies come into San Antonio, and always before I have been
able to make a little pleasure to myself out of the event.
For the Mexicans are not blood-thirsty, though they are very
warlike. When Bravo was here, what balls, what bull-fights,
what visiting among the ladies! Indeed there was so much to
tell, the tertulia was as necessary as the dinner. To be
sure, the Mexicans are not barbarians; they made a war that
had some refinement. But the Americans! They are savages.
With them it is fight, fight, fight, and if we try to be agreeable,
as we were to that outrageous Sam Houston, they say thank you,
madam, and go on thinking their own cruel thoughts.
I wonder the gentle God permits that such men live."
"Dear mother, refinement in war is not possible.
Nothing can make it otherwise than brutal and bloody."
"Antonia, allow that I, who am your mother, should know what
I have simply seen with my eyes. Salcedo, Bravo, Martinez,
Urrea--are they not great soldiers? Very well, then, I
say they brought some pleasure with their armies; and you will
see that Santa Anna will do the same. If we were only in our
own home! It must have been the devil who made us leave it."
"How truly splendid the officers looked, mi madre. I dare say
Senora Valdez will entertain them."
"That is certain. And as for Dorette Valdez--the coquette--it
will certainly be a great happiness to her."
Isabel sighed, and the Senora felt a kind of satisfaction in the sigh.
It was unendurable to be alone in her regrets and her longings.
"Yes," she continued, "every night Senora Trespalacios will
give a tertulia, and the officers will have military balls--
the brave young men; they will be so gay, so charming, so
devoted, and in a few hours, perhaps, they will go into the
other world by the road of the battlefield. Ah, how pitiful!
How interesting! Cannot you imagine it?"
Isabel sighed again, but the sigh was for the gay, the
charming Luis Alveda. And when she thought of him, she
forgot in a moment to envy Dorette Valdez, or the senoritas of
the noble house of Trespalacios. And some sudden, swift touch
of sympathy, strong as it was occult, made the Senora at the
same moment remember her husband and her sons. A real sorrow
and a real anxiety drove out all smaller annoyances. Then
both her daughters wept together, until their community of
grief had brought to each heart the solemn strength of a
divine hope and reliance.
"My children, I will go now and pray," said the sorrowful wife
and mother. "At the foot of the cross I will wait for the
hour of deliverance; and casting herself on her knees, with
her crucifix in her hand, she appeared in a moment to have
forgotten everything but her anguish and her sins, and the
Lamb of God upon whom, with childlike faith, she was
endeavoring to cast them. Her tears dropped upon the ivory
image of the Crucified, and sympathetic tears sprung into
Antonia's and Isabel's eyes, as they listened to her imploration.
That night, when all was dark and still, Ortiz returned with
the wagon. In the morning Antonia went to speak to him.
He looked worn-out and sorrowful, and she feared to ask him
for news. "There is food in the house, and I have made you
chocolate," she said, as she pitifully scanned the man's
"The Senorita is kind as the angels. I will eat and drink at
her order. I am, indeed, faint and hungry."
She brought him to the table, and when he refused to sit in
her presence, she said frankly, "Captain Ortiz, you are our
friend and not our servant. Rest and refresh yourself."
He bent upon one knee and kissed the hand she offered, and
without further remonstrance obeyed her desire. Isabel came
in shortly, and with the tact of true kindness she made no
remark, but simply took the chair beside Ortiz, and said, in
her usual voice and manner: "Good morning, Captain. We are
glad to see you. Did you meet my brother Thomas again?"
"Senorita, God be with you! I have not seen him. I was at Goliad."
"Then you would see our brother Juan?"
"Si. The Senor Juan is in good health and great happiness.
He sent by my willing hands a letter."
"Perhaps also you saw his friend, Senor Grant?"
"From him, also, I received a letter. Into your gracious
care, Senorita, I deliver them."
"I thank you for your kindness, Captain. Tell us now of the fortress.
Are the troops in good spirits?"
"Allow me to fear that they are in too good assurance of
success. The most of the men are very young. They have not
yet met our Lady of Sorrows. They have promised to themselves
the independence of Texas. They will also conquer Mexico.
There are kingdoms in the moon for them. I envy such
exaltations--and regret them. GRACE OF GOD, Senorita!
My heart ached to see the crowds of bright young faces.
With a Napoleon--with a Washington to lead them--they would do
"What say you to Houston?"
"I know him not. At Goliad they are all Houstons. They
believe each man in himself. On the contrary, I wish that
each man looked to the same leader."
"Do you know that Santa Anna is in San Antonio?"
"I felt it, though I had no certain news. I came far around,
and hid myself from all passers-by, for the sake of the wagon
and the horses. I have the happiness to say they are safe.
The wagon is within the enclosure, the horses are on the
prairie. They have been well trained, and will come to my
call. As for me, I will now go into the city, for there will
be much to see and to hear that may be important to us.
Senoritas, for all your desires, I am at your service."
When Ortiz was gone, Isabel had a little fret of disappointment.
Luis might have found some messenger to bring her a word
of his love and life. What was love worth that did
not annihilate impossibilities! However, it consoled her a
little to carry Jack's letter to his mother. The Senora had
taken her morning chocolate and fallen asleep. When Isabel
awakened her, she opened her eyes with a sigh, and a look of
hopeless misery. These pallid depressions attacked her most
cruelly in the morning, when the room, shabby and unfamiliar,
gave both her memory, and anticipation a shock.
But the sight of the letter flushed her face with expectation.
She took it with smiles. She covered it with kisses. When
she opened it, a curl from Jack's head fell on to her lap.
She pressed it to her heart, and then rose and laid it at the
feet of her Madonna. "She must share my joy," she said with
a pathetic childishness; "she will understand it." Then, with
her arm around Isabel, and the girl's head on his shoulder,
they read together Jack's loving words:
"Mi madre, mi madre, you have Juan's heart in your heart.
Believe me, that in all this trouble I sorrow only for you.
When victory is won I shall fly to you. Other young men have
other loves; I have only you, sweet mother. There is always
the cry in my heart for the kiss I missed when I left you. If
I could hold your hand to-night, if I could hear your voice,
if I could lay my head on your breast, I would say that the
Holy One had given me the best blessings He had in heaven.
Send to me a letter, madre--a letter full of love and kisses.
Forgive Juan! Think of this only: HE IS MY BOY! If I
live, it is for you, who are the loveliest and dearest of
mothers. If I die, I shall die with your name on my lips.
I embrace you with my soul. I kiss your hands, and
remember how often they have clasped mine. I kiss your eyes,
your cheeks, your dear lips. Mi madre, remember me! In your
prayers, remember Juan!"
With what tears and sobs was this loving letter read by all
the women; and the Senora finally laid it where she had laid
the precious curl that had come with it. She wanted "the
Woman blessed among women" to share the mother joy and the
mother anguish in her heart. Besides, she was a little
nervous about Jack's memento of himself. Her superstitious
lore taught her that severed hair is a token of severed love.
She wished he had not sent it, and yet she could not bear to
have it out of her sight.
"Gracias a Dios!" she kept ejaculating. "I have one child
that loves me, and me only. I shall forgive Juan everything.
I shall not forgive Thomas many things. But Juan! oh! it is
impossible not to love him entirely. There is no one like him
in the world. If the good God will only give him back to me,
I will say a prayer of thanks every day of my life long.
Oh, Juan! Juan! my boy! my dear one!"
Thus she talked to herself and her daughters continually.
She wrote a letter full of motherly affection and loving
incoherencies; and if Jack had ever received it he would
doubtless have understood and kissed every word, and worn the
white messenger close to his heart. But between writing
letters and sending them, there were in those days intervals
full of impossibilities. Love then had to be taken on trust.
Rarely, indeed, could it send assurances of fidelity and affection.
Jack's letter brightened the day, and formed a new topic of
conversation, until Ortiz returned in the evening. His
disguise had enabled him to linger about the Plaza and monte
table, and to hear and observe all that was going on.
"The city is enjoying itself, and making money," he said,
in reply to question from the Senora. "Certainly the San
Antonians approve of liberty, but what would you do? In Rome
one does not quarrel with the Pope; in San Antonio one must
approve of despotism, when Santa Anna parades himself there."
"Has he made any preparations for attacking the Alamo?
Will the Americans resist him?"
"Senorita Antonia, he is erecting a battery on the river bank,
three hundred yards from the Alamo. This morning, ere the
ground was touched, he reviewed his men in the Plaza. He
stood on an elevation at the church door, surrounded by his
officers and the priests, and unfurled the Mexican flag."
"That was about eleven o'clock, Captain?"
"Si, Senorita. You are precisely exact."
"I heard at that hour a dull roar of human voices--a roar like
nothing on earth but the distant roar of the ocean."
"To be sure; it was the shouting of the people. When all was
still, Fray Ignatius blessed the flag, and sprinkled over it
holy water. Then Santa Anna raised it to his lips and kissed
it. Holy Maria! another shout. Then he crossed his sword
upon the flag, and cried out--"Soldados! you are here to
defend this banner, which is the emblem of your holy faith and
of your native land, against heretics, infidels and ungrateful
traitors. Do you swear to do it? And the whole army answered
`Si! si! juramos!' (yes, we swear.) Again he kissed the
flag, and laid his sword across it, and, to be sure, then
another shout. It was a very clever thing, I assure you, Senora,
and it sent every soldier to the battery with a great heart."
The Senora's easily touched feelings were all on fire at the
description. "I wish I could have seen the blessing of the
banner," she said; "it is a ceremony to fill the soul. I have
always wept at it. Mark, Antonia! This confirms what I
assured you of--the Mexicans make war with a religious feeling
and a true refinement. And pray, Captain Ortiz, how will the
Americans oppose these magnificent soldiers, full of piety and
"They have the Alamo, and one hundred and eighty-three men in it."
"And four thousand men against them?"
"Si. May the Virgin de los Remedios be their help! An
urgent appeal for assistance was sent to Fanning at Goliad.
Senor Navarre, took it on a horse fleet as the wind. You will
see that on the third day he will be smoking in his balcony,
in the way which is usual to him."
 The Virgin appealed to in military
"Will Fanning answer the appeal?"
"If the answer be permitted him. But Urrea may prevent.
Also other things."
Santa Anna entered San Antonio on Tuesday the twenty-third of
February, 1836, and by the twenty-seventh the siege had become
a very close one. Entrenched encampments encircled the doomed
men in the Alamo, and from dawn to sunset the bombardment went
on. The tumult of the fight--the hurrying in and out of the
city--the clashing of church bells between the booming of
cannon--these things the Senora and her daughters could hear
and see; but all else was for twelve days mere surmise. But
only one surmise was possible, when it was known that the
little band of defiant heroes were fighting twenty, times
their own number--that no help could come to them--that the
Mexicans were cutting off their water, and that their
provisions were getting very low. The face of Ortiz grew
constantly more gloomy, and yet there was something of triumph
in his tone as he told the miserably anxious women with what
desperate valor the Americans were fighting; and how fatally
every one of their shots told.
On Saturday night, the fifth of March, he called Antonia
aside, and said, "My Senorita, you have a great heart, and so
I speak to you. The end is close. To-day the Mexicans
succeeded in getting a large cannon within gunshot of the
Alamo, just where it is weakest. Senor Captain Crockett has
stood on the roof all day, and as the gunners have advanced to
fire it he has shot them down. A group of Americans were
around him; they loaded rifles and passed them to him quickly
as he could fire them. Santa Anna was in a fury past
believing. He swore then `by every saint in heaven or hell'
to enter the Alamo to-morrow. Senor Navarro says he is raging
like a tiger, and that none of his officers dare approach him.
The Senor bade me tell you that to-morrow night he will be
here to escort you to Gonzales; for no American will his fury
spare; he knows neither sex nor age in his passions. And when
the Alamo falls, the soldiers will spread themselves around
for plunder, or shelter, and this empty house is sure to
attract them. The Senorita sees with her own intelligence how
things must take place."
"I understand, Captain. Will you go with us?"
"I will have the Jersey wagon ready at midnight. I know the
horses. Before sun-up we shall have made many miles."
That night as Antonia and her sister sat in the dark together,
Antonia said: "Isabel, tomorrow the Alamo will fall. There
is no hope for the poor, brave souls there. Then Santa Anna
will kill every American."
"Oh, dear Antonia, what is to become of us? We shall have no
home, nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep. I think we shall die.
Also, there is mi madre. How I do pity her!"
"She is to be your care, Isabel. I shall rely on you to
comfort and manage her. I will attend to all else. We are
going to our father, and Thomas--and Luis."
Yes, and after all I am very tired of this dreadful life. It
is a kind of convent. One is buried alive here, and still not safe.
Do you really imagine that Luis is with my father and Thomas?"
"I feel sure of it."
"What a great enjoyment it will be for me to see him again!"
"And how delighted he will be! And as it is necessary that we
go, Isabel, we must make the best of the necessity. Try and
get mi madre to feel this."
"I can do that with a few words, and tears, and kisses.
Mi madre is like one's good angel--very easy to persuade."
"And now we must try and sleep, queridita."
"Are you sure there is no danger to-night, Antonia?"
"Not to-night. Say your prayer, and sleep in God's presence.
There is yet nothing to fear. Ortiz and Lopez Navarro are
watching every movement."
But at three o'clock in the morning, the quiet of their rest
was broken by sharp bugle calls. The stars were yet in the
sky, and all was so still that they thrilled the air like
something unearthly. Antonia started up, and ran to the roof.
Bugle was answering bugle; and their tones were imperative and
cruel, as if they were blown by evil spirits. It was
impossible to avoid the feeling that the call was a
PREDESTINED summons, full of the notes of calamity. She
was weighed down by this sorrowful presentiment, because, as
yet, neither experience nor years had taught her that
PREDESTINED ILLS ARE NEVER LOST.
The unseen moving multitudes troubled the atmosphere between
them. In wild, savage gusts, she heard the military bands
playing the infamous Dequelo, whose notes of blood and fire
commingled, shrieked in every ear--"NO QUARTER! NO
QUARTER!" A prolonged shout, the booming of cannon, an awful
murmurous tumult, a sense of horror, of crash and conflict,
answered the merciless, frenzied notes, and drowned them in
the shrieks and curses they called for.
It was yet scarcely dawn. Her soul, moved by influences so
various and so awful, became almost rebellious. Why did God
permit such cruelties? Did He know? Would He allow a handful
of men to be overpowered by numbers? Being omnipotent, would
He not in some way, at least, make the fight equal? The
instinct of her anglo-American nature revolted at the
unfairness of the struggle. Even her ejaculations to heaven
were in this spirit. "It is so unjust," she murmured; "surely
the Lord of Hosts will prevent a fight which must be a massacre."
As she went about the simple preparations for their breakfast,
she wept continuously--tears of indignation and sorrow--tears
coming from the strength of feeling, rather than its weakness.
The Senora could eat nothing. Isabel was white with terror.
They wandered from window to window in the last extremity of
About seven o'clock they saw Ortiz pass the house. There were
so many people on the road he could not find an opportunity to
enter for some time. He had been in the city all night. He
had watched the movement of the troops in the starlight. As
he drank a cup of chocolate, he said:
"It was just three o'clock, Senorita, when the Matamoras
battalion was moved forward. General Cos supported it with
two thousand men.
"But General Cos was paroled by these same Americans who are
now in the Alamo; and his life was spared on condition that he
would not bear arms against them again."
"It is but one lie, one infamy more. When I left the city,
about four thousand men were attacking the Alamo. The
infantry, in columns, were driven up to the walls by the
cavalry which surrounded them."
"The Americans! Is there any hope for them?"
"The mercy of God remains, Senorita. That is all. The Alamo
is not as the everlasting hills. What men have made, men can
also destroy. Senor Navarro is in the church, praying for the
souls that are passing every moment."
"He ought to have been fighting. To help the living is better
than to pray for the dead."
Permit me to assure you, Senorita Antonia, that no man has
done more for the living. In time of war, there must be many
kinds of soldiers. Senor Navarro has given nearly all, that
he possesses for the hope of freedom. He has done secret
service of incalculable value."
"Secret service! I prefer those who have the courage of their
convictions, and who, stand by them publicly."
"This is to be considered, Senorita; the man who can be silent
can also speak when the day for speaking arrives." No one
opposed this statement. It did not seem worth while to
discuss opinions, while the terrible facts of the position
were appealing to every sense.
As the day went on, the conflict evidently became closer and
fiercer. Ortiz went back to the city, and the three lonely
women knelt upon the house-top, listening in terror to the
tumult of the battle. About noon the firing ceased, and an
awful silence--a silence that made the ears ache to be
relieved of it--followed.
"All is over!" moaned Antonia, and she covered her face with
her hands and sobbed bitterly. Isabel had already exhausted tears.
The Senora, with her crucifix in her hand, was praying for the
poor unfortunates dying without prayer.
During the afternoon, smoke and flame, and strange and
sickening odors were blown northward of the city, and for some
time it seemed probable that a great conflagration would
follow the battle. How they longed for some one to come! The
utmost of their calamity would be better than the intolerable
suspense. But hour after hour went past, and not even Ortiz
arrived. They began to fear that both he and Navarro had been
discovered in some disloyalty and slain, and Antonia was
heartsick when she considered the helplessness of their situation.
Still, in accordance with Navarro's instructions, they dressed
for the contemplated journey, and sat in the dark, anxiously
listening for footsteps. About eleven o'clock Navarro and
Ortiz came together. Ortiz went for the horses, and Navarro
sat down beside, the Senora. She asked him, in a low voice,
what had taken place, and he answered:
"Everything dreadful, everything cruel, and monstrous, and
inhuman! Among the angels in heaven there is sorrow and anger
this night." His voice had in it all the pathos of tears, but
tears mingled with a burning indignation.
"The Alamo has fallen!"
"Senorita Antonia, I would give my soul to undo this day's work.
It is a disgrace to Mexico which centuries cannot wipe out."
"Are all with the Merciful One."
"Not one saved?"
"I will tell you. It is right to tell the whole world such an infamy.
If I had little children I would take them on my knee and teach them
the story. I heard it from the lips of one wet-shod with their blood,
dripping crimson from the battle-- my own cousin, Xavier.
He was with General Castrillon's division. They began their attack
at four in the morning, and after two hours' desperate fighting
succeeded in reaching a courtyard of the Alamo.
"They found the windows and doors barricaded with bags of
earth. Behind these the Americans fought hand to hand with
despairing valor. Ramires, Siesma and Batres led the columns,
and Santa Anna gave the signal of battle from a battery near
the bridge. When the second charge was driven back, he became
furious. He put himself in front of the men, and with shouts
and oaths led them to the third charge. Xavier said that he
inspired them with his own frenzy. They reached the foot of
the wall, and the ladders were placed in position. The
officers fell to the rear and forced the men to ascend them.
As they reached the top they were stabbed, and the ladders
overturned. Over and over, and over again these attempts were made,
until the garrison in the Alamo were exhausted with the struggle."
Navarro paused a few minutes, overpowered by his emotions.
No one spoke. He could see Antonia's face, white as a spirit's,
in the dim light, and he knew that Isabel was weeping and that
the Senora had taken his hand.
"At last, at the hour of ten, the outer wall was gained.
Then, room by room was taken with slaughter incredible. There
were fourteen Americans in the hospital. They fired their
rifles and pistols from their pallets with such deadly aim
that Milagros turned a cannon shotted with grape and canister
upon them. They were blown to pieces, but at the entrance of
the door they left forty dead Mexicans."
"Ah Senor, Senor! tell me no more. My heart can not endure it."
"Mi madre," answered Isabel, "we must hear it all. Without
it, one cannot learn to hate Santa Anna sufficiently"; and her
small, white teeth snapped savagely, as she touched the hand
of Lopez with an imperative "Proceed."
"Colonel Bowie was helpless in bed. Two Mexican officers
fired at him, and one ran forward to stab him ere he died.
The dying man caught his murderer by the hair of his head, and
plunged his knife into his heart. They went to judgment at
the same moment."
"I am glad of it! Glad of it! The American would say to the
Almighty: `Thou gavest me life, and thou gavest me freedom;
freedom, that is the nobler gift of the two. This man robbed
me of both.' And God is just. The Judge of the whole earth
will do right."
"At noon, only six of the one hundred and eighty-three were
left alive. They were surrounded by Castrillon and his
soldiers. Xavier says his general was penetrated with
admiration for these heroes. He spoke sympathizingly to
Crockett, who stood in an angle of the fort, with his
shattered rifle in his right hand, and his massive knife,
dripping with blood, in his left. His face was gashed, his
white hair crimson with blood; but a score of Mexicans, dead
and dying, were around him. At his side was Travis, but so
exhausted that he was scarcely alive.
"Castrillon could not kill these heroes. He asked their lives
of Santa Anna, who stood with a scowling, savage face in
this last citadel of his foes. For answer, he turned to the
men around him, and said, with a malignant emphasis:
`Fire!' It was the last volley. Of the defenders of the
Alamo, not one is left."
A solemn silence followed. For a few minutes it was painful
in its intensity. Isabel broke it. She spoke in a whisper,
but her voice was full of intense feeling. "I wish indeed the
whole city had been burnt up. There was a fire this
afternoon; I would be glad if it were burning yet."
"May God pardon us all, Senorita! That was a fire which does
not go out. It will burn for ages. I will explain myself.
Santa Anna had the dead Americans put into ox-wagons and
carried to an open field outside the city. There they were
burnt to ashes. The glorious pile was still casting lurid
flashes and shadows as I passed it."
"I will hear no more! I will hear no more!" cried the Senora.
"And I will go away from here. Ah, Senor, why do you not make
haste? In a few hours we shall have daylight again. I am in
a terror. Where is Ortiz?"
"The horses are not caught in a five minutes, Senora.
But listen, there is the roll of the wagon on the flagged
court. All, then, is ready. Senora, show now that you are of
a noble house, and in this hour of adversity be brave, as the
Flores have always been."
She was pleased by the entreaty, and took his arm with a
composure which, though assumed, was a sort of strength. She
entered the wagon with her daughters, and uttered no word of
complaint. Then Navarro locked the gate, and took his seat
beside Ortiz. The prairie turf deadened the beat of their
horses' hoofs; they went at a flying pace, and when the first
pallid light of morning touched the east, they had left San Antonio
far behind and were nearing the beautiful banks of the Cibolo.
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