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181 years ago yesterday

You don’t have to have Texas roots — though The Legal Genealogist does, and deep ones — to be moved by the story.

It began on February 24, 1836, with the battle cry: “Victory or death!”1

The outcome was pretty much a foregone conclusion even when those words were uttered, by Colonel William Barrett Travis.

Dusk at the Alamo,
6 March 2017

A small band of Texans defending an outpost in the city of San Antonio called the Alamo against a much larger Mexican Army… fewer than 250 men total inside the walls against more than 4,000 outside.

And, 181 years ago yesterday, the story came to its inevitable end.

The walls were breached. The Mexican Army overcame the defenders. And the Texans gave their lives.2

Exactly how many were in the Alamo when it fell, how many died during the battle, is a matter of debate. Combining multiple sources, Wikipedia lists 213 who died during the siege of the Alamo or of wounds received during the battle.3

There may be a few more or a few less than what’s listed. But what is known for certain is that the bodies of all but one of the defenders (who had a brother in the Mexican Army who was allowed to take his body for burial) were piled together and burned in a single pyre.4

And what is beyond debate is the emotional impact of their loss — and the way they were treated in defeat — on the Texas independence movement, On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston and some 800 Texans defeated Santa Anna’s Mexican force of 1,500 men at San Jacinto, shouting “Remember the Alamo!” as they attacked.5

Today, there is a marble sarcophagus in the Cathedral of San Fernando in San Antonio with what are believed to be the remains from the funeral pyre of the men of the Alamo.

And, every March 6th, there is the ceremony.

Conducted by the San Antonio Living History Association, it begins at dawn — the same time that the final assault on tha Alamo began, 181 years ago.

Re-enactors from across the United States, representing both the Mexican Army and the army of the Texian and Tejano defenders, participate in the ceremonies, which include the reading of eyewitness accounts, the laying of wreaths, lighting of candles to symbolize the days of the siege, a Mexican bugle call and a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.”

At dusk, a second ceremony is held to commemorate the lighting of those funeral pyres… 181 years ago.

There are research resources if you have roots in the Texas Republic, or in the Alamo defense itself. Start with the official website of The Alamo itself. Go on to the Handbook of Texas Online and its Alamo-related resources. There are published histories and other resources available on the Resources for Educators page at the Portal to Texas History.

And whether you have ancestors directly involved or not… it’s an amazing moment in history.

A powerful episode in history.

One remembered even today, 181 years later…


  1. See “The Travis Letter – ‘Victory or Death’,” Texas Heritage Society ( : accessed 6 Mar 2017).
  2. Wikipedia (, “Battle of the Alamo,” rev. 5 Mar 2017.
  3. Wikipedia (, “List of Alamo defenders,” rev. 2 Jan 2017.
  4. Wikipedia (, “Battle of the Alamo,” rev. 5 Mar 2017.
  5. The Alamo,” ( : accessed 6 Mar 2017).
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