Our first day in San Antonio was spent on the Grand City Tour. It was a full day of exploring Old Spanish missions, a river boat ride on the San Antonio River, a Japanese Sunken Garden and much more. It was very overcast and threatening rain but we were intrepid souls determined to see the sights in spite of the weather.
Of course no visit to San Antonio would be complete without a stop at the Alamo, the Cradle of Texas Liberty, so that was where our tour began.
In some ways the Alamo was a bit of a let down. The iconic facade that everyone recognizes was blocked by modern equipment while a master stone mason worked to restore the entrance.
We all realize that these historical buildings need maintenance so they don’t crumble away but of course we all wished it could have been done “on someone else’s tour”.
Inside the chapel section was considered sacred ground so no photos were allowed. It’s a small area but you could almost feel the weight of the atmosphere…the impact of what had happened here. A docent was available to answer questions and a model of the original mission as it would have looked in 1836 was prominently placed.
A side room held displays of artifacts including a rifle purported to have belonged to Davy Crockett, himself.
Outside of the Chapel, but still within the walls of the Alamo we could take photos to our hearts content. We saw the monument erected to the only men that came to reinforce the defenders, led by Colonel William Travis, when he sent out a call for help.
32 men from the nearby town of Gonzales perished in a futile attempt to dispel Santa Anna’s forces.
A narrator in period clothing demonstrated the flint lock rifle that was in use at the time. He did a good job from making humorous observations about how one could injure oneself before even going to battle to showing us the spark the flint made that hopefully set off the powder allowing the gun to fire. Ever heard the phrase “flash in the pan”?
The court yard was surrounded by the mostly original walls.
Access was gained through a sally port.
Back outside we marveled at the Cenotaph. Towering 60 feet high and located adjacent
to the surviving buildings of the Alamo itself, San Antonio’s “Alamo Cenotaph” pays tribute to the men who died defending the ancient mission in 1836 rather than surrender to overwhelming odds.
According to tradition the Alamo Cenotaph marks the spot where the slain defenders of
the fortified mission were piled after the battle and burned in great funeral pyres.
There are no remains under the marker rather the ashes were collected and are said to be interred in a marble casket in San Fernando Cathedral.
The universal opinion seems to be that Santa Anna was cruel and despicable but I was surprised to learn that he offered to let everyone leave if they would surrender. The heroes refused and the rest, as they say, is history. After the battle Santa Anna did allow the women and children to leave. It is from the recount of events by these survivors that historians have pieced together the events of that day.
It is amazing to think that a handful of defenders, probably less than 200 , held the mission for 13 days against an army that is said to be both battle hardened and greatly out numbering those in the mission.
David Bowie, Davy Crockett, William Travis are the most often remembered heroes but a full roster of those who fought and died can be found at http://www.thealamo.org/history/the-1836-battle/the-defenders/index.html