At the Alamo

San Antonio, Tex.

We spent Tuesday night in Austin with friends, Scott and Barbara, who had relocated from Lake Ridge last year. We enjoyed the chance to get caught up with them and get their sense of the area, because we weren’t going to spend time in Austin, at least on this trip. Scott still is a charter member of our Lake Ridge running group, the THuGs (cryptically means Thursday-Gold’s, because the group started meeting at the Gold’s Gym to run at 5:00 AM on Thursdays).

Sandy and I were feeling a little schedule pressure. We have to be back to Lake Ridge for my appointment Sept. 26, but want to visit our daughter Laura in New Orleans, who’s posting these blog entries, and second daughter Marie, son-in-law Mike, and grandsons Noah and Patrick in South Carolina.

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The Alamo, in San Antonio, still was in front of us. We headed down I-35, passing some of those Hill Country places, San Marcos and New Braunfels, that we would have to miss on this trip.

The Alamo, site of the tragic battle of 200 Texans, Tennesseans, and others against a 1,500-man Mexican force on March 6, 1836, is reverently preserved in the heart of the city. The original mission church is only part of the complex of fortifications built several hundred feet out from and behind the church, which stretched the defenders thinly against the final Mexican assault. The names of all the defenders who are known are engraved on gold plaques, with some extra recognition given to the most famous, Davie Crockett, and original co-commanders, Jim Bowie and Col. William Travis.

Because Bowie was ill, he ceded command to Travis, a South Carolina native, 26 years old, who had brought his wife to Texas, hoping to set up a law practice. He was appointed counsel for Texas by “Father of Texas” Stephen F. Austin, then commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Legion of Texas by the governor and ordered to recruit a militia. He arrived at the Alamo with 18 men, joined by Bowie’s 30 men. Other volunteers trickled in, including Crockett’s 30 Tennesseans. On Feb. 24, as the Mexican siege began, Travis wrote, in a letter seeking reinforcements: “I am determined to sustain myself and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his honor and that of his country. VICTORY OR DEATH.”

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The rest of the story is well-known. The reinforcements never arrived. On March 6, after a 13-day siege, the Mexican army overwhelmed the defenders, taking no prisoners. On April 12, the Texans, under Gen. Sam Houston, defeated the much larger Mexican army in the Battle of San Jacinto, an 18-minute fight that led to the establishment of the Republic of Texas.

Heartened by the spiritual substance that emerges from story of the Alamo’s defense, we left reluctantly. Across North Alamo Street one finds the famous San Antonio River Walk, an exercise in conventional American tourism. We hiked a short way down the Walk, mostly to say we saw it, then headed back to the van, found I-10 and got out of town. Next stop: New Orleans. No, wait: Galveston.

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