May 03 2015

As Texians came to understand their victory against Mexico was not assured, fewer than one hundred men were garrisoned at the Alamo. The mission’s commander, Lt. Colonel James Neill sent word to the provisional government, by way of the road through Gonzales, that they were desperately in need of troops and supplies should they need to defend the mission.  

By February 23rd, when Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio fewer than one-hundred men had reinforced the defenders’ ranks. These reinforcements included the troops brought by the mission’s new commanders William Barret Travis and James Bowie. As Santa Anna’s army laid siege to the Alamo the defenders became aware of their dire circumstances. On February 24th Colonel William Barret Travis penned the following letter:

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 cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country. VICTORY or DEATH.
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.
P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

Albert Martin carried this letter to Gonzales. Men from the Gonzales Company of Mounted Volunteers answered Travis’ call and returned with Martin. They entered the Alamo under cover of darkness on March 1st, and were the last reinforcements to arrive before the siege ended.

The flag flown by the defenders of the Alamo

After having laid siege for thirteen days, Santa Anna’s anger had not cooled. During the siege, he had raised the notorious ‘no quarter’ flag at the San Fernando Church, letting all within the Alamo know that they should expect only death. On the morning of March 6th, a Mexican bugler played El Degüello signaling all would be put to the sword. A fierce battle commenced. By the day’s end, Santa Anna had made good on his threat, as all of the Alamo defenders had been slain.

Unaware that the Alamo had fallen, troops continued to pour into Gonzales in preparation of marching to the aid of the Alamo defenders. Sam Houston arrived in Gonzales on the 11th of March, now commander-in-chief of all the land forces in Texas. Without information regarding the Alamo’s fate, Houston dispatched spies to ‘ascertain [their] true status’. Perhaps the most capable of the dispatched Texian spies was Erastus ‘Deaf’ Smith whose home was near the Cibolo crossing of the San Antonio to Gonzales Road. On the 13th of March, Deaf Smith returned to Gonzales with the widow of Gonzales resident Almaron Dickinson. The event was described:

…My correspondence of yesterday was interrupted by the arrival in camp of the wife of Mr. Dickinson of the Alamo. Deaf Smith and company had intercepted her just west of Gonzales and brought her into camp about 8 p.m. She confirmed the most horrible of truths about the fall of the Alamo and the total loss of life. Although they gave their lives in our gallant cause, they inflicted extremely high causalities among the enemy before they perished.
Following up on the Alamo news, it was learned that General Sesma of the Mexican Army was within 40 miles of Gonzales and in full march to our location.
General Houston immediately ordered a retreat…. 
Respectfully yours, Alexander Horton, aide-de-camp.