Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Fall of the Alamo

On this day in the pre-dawn darkness of 1836 the 13-day siege of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas came to an end with the climactic assault of the Mexican army. General Santa Anna had shelled the Alamo nightly since his arrival but his guns fell silent the night before his attack -so that the Texan defenders would sleep heavily after so many nights of nerve-shattering exhaustion. As the Mexican columns swarmed forward Santa Anna ordered his buglers to sound ‘El Deguello’ -an old Spanish signal taken from the Moors that meant “slit the throat” or ‘take no prisoners’. The Texans rushed to the walls and threw back the attackers two to three times, inflicting horrible losses, before Santa Anna committed his reserves and overwhelmed the defenders on the walls. Room by room the Texans were exterminated to the last man and when it was over Santa Anna took his breakfast in the Alamo plaza. His soldiers were buried; the Texans were piled in a heap and burned. Santa Anna had won but the heroism of the Alamo defenders and the mercilessness of the Generalissimo would only inspire more resistance and a desire for revenge.

On the staff of Santa Anna at the Alamo was Colonel Juan Almonte who was sent into the fray during the assault to rally and inspire the men. Almonte would go on to be part of the military junta that seized power after the overthrow of Benito Juarez. As acting head of state for Mexico he supported the restoration of the Mexican Empire. Emperor Maximilian made him one of his generals and dispatched him to Paris as his ambassador. Also at the Alamo, taking command of one of the attacking columns that charged the walls was Lt. Colonel Jose Mariano Salas. He would also go on to be a member of the regency junta, along with Almonte and Archbishop Labastida that invited Maximilian to Mexico to accept the crown. Maximilian later made Salas one of his generals though by then he was too old for active service. Also on hand with the army, though not participating in the battle was the French-born Colonel Adrian Woll, Quartermaster General of the Mexican Army who would also later serve as a general in the army of Emperor Maximilian.

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