Napoleon of the West: Mexico's General Santa Ana in the Battle of the Alamo

Gen. Santa Ana
Gen. Santa Ana
Artist depiction in 1844
Artist depiction in 1844

The siege at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, succeeded for General Santa Ana and his Mexican Army. Yet, Texas would remain part of Mexico for only another month. Why?

In September, 1835, rebellion was in Texas from the American colonies living under Mexico's Santa Ana. San Antonio, then, was small and had already fallen to the rebellion. Some 300 Americans routed the Mexican garrison there. Once the Mexicans had left, only 100 Americans remained to hold it. Texas at this time was not a state but belonged to Mexico (now, they want it back!). Angry, Santa Ana, who had an ego as big as Napoleon, assembled an army of 5000 and headed to squash the rebellion in January, 1836. He vowed to destroy them.

Weeks before Santa Ana arrived, a SOS had gone out from the Americans who knew Santa Ana was coming. They needed volunteers. Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie arrived, as did others. By the time Santa Ana arrived around Feb. 21st, the Alamo had 150 men. The Alamo was a three acre compound with barracks, church and stables, it was near San Antonio. The Mexican army easily took the small town and starting on Feb.23, began the siege of the Alamo for 12 days. Their artillery pulverized the American garrison. The Americans did received 32 more men. Every Mexican soldier felt sure that this would be an easy win for Mexico and to show the gringos who is superior. With such thinking, he ordered his troops to assault at 0530 on March 6.

As the Mexicans constructed ladders to scale the fort's walls, those in the Alamo were honestly concerned. To hold the Alamo, at least 500 men were needed, not 183. Those inside were free to leave, only one did. The 1500 man assault force managed to breakthrough some of the Alamo's wall. The Americans fell back to defend the barracks, then, the chapel. It looked hopeless to both sides. By 0630, March 7, all Americans were dead. Some tried to surrender only to be shot. Only 20 women and children were spared. Santa Ana had lost 600.

Santa Ana was gloating in victory and had felt sure those gringos would now stop rebelling and become docile under Mexican rule. That was his big error. Despite the defeat, the Texans under Sam Houston gathered from all parts and ambushed Santa Ana's army at San Jacinto on April 21st. In only 18 minutes, Santa Ana's army, who were totally unprepared, had been killed. The Napoleon of the West had fled but was caught the next day.

The nation of Texas now existed until 1845, when it became part of the USA.

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