Will Travis was sent by Governor Smith
To Bexar, near San Antonio,
And the fortress there called the Alamo.
His orders were simple and direct:
To Colonel Jim Bowie pay his respects,
Then pull the powder and canons back
To fortify Fannin at Goliad.
Bowie thought Texas had won the war;
In December, barely two months before,
Milam attacked San Antonio
And captured the guns of the Alamo.
General Cos gave up the Alamo
And went with his troops back to Mexico.
The Texan’s hubris, though, had one flaw:
Cos was Santa Anna’s brother-in-law.
Bowie was confident however
That the war with Mexico was over.
His Cajun elan could not admit
That they’d the fuse of a powder keg lit.
Whether Travis of that was convinced
Or preferred the Alamo for defense
We never shall know; but this we know:
He agreed to stay in the Alamo.
Now the Napoleon of the West
Leading an army composed of the best
Troops in the country of Mexico,
Is fording the river at Laredo.
Over the creeks and rivers in flood –
Over the raw earth the color of blood,
Burned bare of grass his horses to slow –
Santa Anna rides to the Alamo.
Scout comin’ in,” the gate picket cried;
Travis and Bowie both hurried outside.
Then through the gate, a rider dashed in
And reined up his pony in front of them.
“Mexican scouts – ’bout three miles away,”
He said with a curse, “and headin’ this way.”
“Bring in the other scouts,” Travis said,
“Then issue the troopers powder and lead.”
“We’ve no choice now but to stay and fight.
They’ll cut us to pieces if we take flight.
Besides,” he said, “there’s nowhere to go.
So we’ll stay right here in the Alamo.”
With canon and powder for their horns,
Thirty beeves and ninety bushels of corn,
And a spring that in the courtyard flowed,
They felt quite secure in the Alamo.
On February the twenty-third,
Santa Anna by flag of truce sent word:
“Surrender or to the sword be put.”
And Travis answered with a canon shot.
From Travis to Smith this note went out:
“The enemy numbers a thousand now.
Send reinforcements, but if you can’t,
We’ll hold the Alamo to the last man.
I like a soldier shall die,” wrote he,
“For honor and Texas and liberty.”
These fatal words his temper bespeak:
“I shall never surrender or retreat.”
James Butler Bonham, courier brave,
To Goliad rode to enlist their aid;
When he returned to the Alamo,
The message he brought from Fannin was “no.”
But in Gonzales, they heard the call
And mustered thirty-two rifles in all.
Under Kimball, to glory they rode,
And fought their way into the Alamo.
As February wore into March,
More and more soldiers arrived at Bexar,
Until three thousand muskets or more
Surrounded a hundred and eighty-four.
Far to the east, on the Brazos bank,
The second of March dawned frigid and damp;
In Washington there, that fateful morn,
The great Republic of Texas was born.
Back in the Alamo on that day,
The sky and the mood of the men were gray.
The enemy, now three thousand strong
And growing, would storm the walls before long.
Then in the blind night a rider sped
With a plea to Fannin at Goliad.
Captain Seguin, bold ambassador,
Succeeded where Bonham had failed before.
James Fannin left the Presidio
With five hundred men for the Alamo;
But four miles out, a wagon broke down,
And Fannin took his army back to town.
(Twenty days later, at Goliad,
James Fannin with four hundred men and staff
Would be massacred – by the same foe
He’d refused to fight at the Alamo.)
The sixth of March dawned misty and cold –
Then Mexican bands struck up “Deguello,”
And Santa Anna’s two-hundred score
Advanced on a hundred and eighty four.
For five bloody hours, the battle raged –
Texas rifles against muskets and blades –
And when the gunsmoke had cleared, the score
Was sixteen hundred to one-eighty-four.
Sam Houston avenged the Alamo
On the grassy plains at the San Jacinto;
The future of Texas was secured –
At a cost almost too much to endure.
Bowie, Kimball, Crocket, and Travis,
And those less famous, we promise you this:
As long as there’s a Texas, you’ll know
We’ll honor the men of the Alamo.
Reprinted from Belshazzar and Antigone by G, E. Kruckeberg, Kindle Edition.
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