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Did Davy Crockett surrender at the Alamo

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Initial post: Aug 21, 2008 6:45:55 PM PDT
Colonel Enrique de la Pena wrote of his service under Santa Ana that a few Texas prisoners were rounded up at the end of the fight at the Alamo. One of these fellows bore some resemblence to Mr. David Crockett. What do you think? Does it make a difference.

Ron Braithwaite

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 5:09:11 AM PDT
7 & 7 IS says:
I was told 30 years ago that David Crockett was caught by the Mexican army trying to sneak out of the Alamo.And was killed on the spot.I don't know if it's true.It sounds realistic.I remember being very upset about it at the time.As a child I was obsessed with the battle of the Alamo.Still Am.But once the Mexicans broke through and swarmed the place...I guess self preservation comes to mind.In one book I read,it said that the defenders were bayonneted,lifted off the ground,and were then pitched like hay from bayonet to bayonet(s).I think I would have wanted to run.But if I did stay to slug it out,I would have very quickly turned into Daffy Duck [gone loco].I'm sure it makes a big difference to alot of people to this day.I don't think there were any cowards at the Alamo.Regardless.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 7:25:29 AM PDT

I agree with you. I don't know whether or not David Crockett surrendered but, at least according to one version of de la Pena's report, a handful of revolutionaries were rounded up at the end of the battle. When Santa Ana saw them, he was outraged and had some of his officers saber them to death. His orders were 'no quarter' and he meant it.

I try to picture myself at Alamo. I've fired my rifle and maybe had a chance to reload and fire it several times before there are so many enemy swarming around to make it impossible to reload another time [it takes maybe 60 seconds, or maybe a little more to reload a flintlock under these conditions]. I'm essentially dissarmed and have a bayonet at my throat. What do I do? Spit in his eye? I doubt it. I probably stop resisting and hope I'll be taken prisoner. Whether or not I'm taken prisoner now has little to do with me. It has to do entirely with the mindset of the Mexican soldier with the bayonet.

At the same time, the general order was 'no quarter'. Would any of the Mexicans been willing to face the wrath of their superiors by taking prisoners? I don't know. I do know that de la Pena's account was written down for him while dying in a Santa Ana prison in Mexico. De la Pena truly hatred Santa Ana. Apparently he wrote pages equivalent to two books and there has been some question as to whether he actually wrote the "Texas prisoners" account. He also wrote, confirmed by Gen. Filisola's account, that some of the Mexican soldiers at Alamo 'disgraced' themselves by committing some kinds of atrocities. They refused to be descriptive because they were ashamed of the conduct of their troops. I don't know what the atrocities might have been but the obvious answer would be torture and/or mutiliation of the dead. Would Mexican soldiers committing atrocities have permitted prisoners?

I agree, though. There we no cowards at Alamo.


In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 7:28:39 PM PDT
Seekz says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 7:47:31 PM PDT

Following San Jacinto, most Texas soldiers wanted to hang Santa Ana for Alamo but especially for the mass murders at Goliad. I'm no Houston aficionado, but he wasn't totally stupid. He had el Presidente de Mexico in custody and he reckoned on Santa Ana's cowardice. He pointed to the limb of an oak tree and he pointed to a paper giving Texas independence. Santa Ana quickly made his choice. He gave away his country to save his yellow neck.

Col. Enrique de la Pena makes exactly the same point. He was no fan of the Texas revolutionaries...but..."Travis was a land thief and rebel but he died for his country. Santa Ana, when given the same opportunity to die for his flag, proved himself a total coward."

Santa Ana's being sent to Washington was Houston's gesture to rub in Santa Ana's and Mexico's defeat.


In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 10:19:02 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 4, 2008 10:49:45 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 10:33:34 PM PDT
Bobby33x says:
Ron, there is some evidence, though not altogether conclusive, that Crockett and several other Alamo defenders were captured at the end of the seige. It is alleged that several Mexican officers pleaded with Santa Ana to show mercy, but he, instead had them executed on the spot. All the bodies of the Alamo defenders were then burned.

What little was Left of Santa Ana's army (he lost nearly 2,000 of his 7,000 men at the Alamo) was routed at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Sam Houston's army literally caught the Mexicans "napping." Before the battle was over, Houston's army had killed more than 800 Mexican troops, while losing less than a dozen, their rallying cry was "Remember Goliad & Remember the Alamo!". Santa Ana was caught cowering in some reeds - wearing a private's jacket - sic semper the "Napolean of the West!" Q: What happened at Goliad?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 10:36:25 PM PDT
Bobby33x says:
Dear Trotter, and Mexico has such a wonderful history of treating its people like s**t. With morons like you around, who needs Democrats!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 10:53:30 PM PDT
Mexicanas? You are a lady? You don't write like a lady. Mexico permitted 99 year indentured servanthood. Comprende?


In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2008 11:02:42 PM PDT

Goliad was the real atrocity in Texas. Col. Fannin commanded approximately 400 troops at Goliad, about 100 miles South of San Antonio. Unlike Alamo, it actually was a fortified, defensible place. Fannin was indecisive and was ordered by Houston to retreat back on Houston's main force at San Felipe to the East. Fannin retreated too late and was caught in the open by Urrea's fast cavalry. There was a fight with casualties, but Fannin could have still retreated to a defensible position in a nearby treeline. He refused because he would have to leave his wounded. There was a parley.

Urrea agreed to accept Fannin's surrender with guarantees to their safety. When Santa Ana found out he was outraged. They all must die! The men were broken into three or four columns [for easier deception and disposal] and shot, clubbed and bayoneted to death. Four hundred died and a handful survived to tell the tale.

In my opinion, Goliad is the number one reason for poor Mexican-Texas relations. Goliad begat atrocities by Texans during the War with Mexico which begat an incessant low grade warfare along the Texas-Mexico border to the present day.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2009 6:27:43 AM PST
7 & 7 IS says:

What are,in your opinion,the very best books written on the seige of the Alamo?
And if anyone is interested in purchasing a poster of Henry Arthur McArdle's 1905 painting 'Dawn at the Alamo'.They're available from the Texas State Capitol gift shop [online]for app.$16.99.I hope they will soon make available Robert Jenkins Onderdonk's 1903 painting 'The Fall of the Alamo' as a poster.I'd also love to have the Chapman painting of Colonel David Stern Crockett in poster format.
Conteco has made several Alamo 'playsets'.Each one consisting of various walls of the fort,etc.Pricey,but by the looks of them,well worth it.
Does anyone know where I can find an authentic version of 'The deguello' aka (the cut-throat song) on audio cd?
And sorry if this post is based on marketplace rather than history.I'm just a consumer with a lifelong interest,not an historian.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2009 9:08:35 AM PST

I have a terrible memory but I've reviewed at least half a dozen books on Alamo and the Texas Revolution on Amazon. If you click on my name that will be shown over this post you'll come to my Amazon site. Scroll down and you'll find books and movies I've reviewed. I've reviewed 219 thus far so it might take you some time [maybe ten or fifteen minutes max] to go through all of them and pick out the books on Alamo. I've discussed each book critically and awarded each one up to five stars depending on how helpful I thought it was.

One of the books I found most helpful was by de la Pena, a colonel with Santa Ana. He has a writhing hatred of his Presidente and ended up dying in a Santa Ana prison. This book is especially good because it writes of the travails of being in Santa Ana's army and documents S.A.'s incompetence. He is the one who said that prisoners were taken and executed and one of them may have been Crockett. These are obviously controversial lines and some workders don't think de la Pena wrote them himself. There is a recent book called 'Goliad' and is good but primarily a rehash of the Texas Revolution with some emphasis on the defense of Goliad, the battle and subsequent executions. Another interesting book I had was written by Filasola, the Italian second in command to Santa Ana. Judging by his writings, Filasola was every inch a detail man and much of the detail comes out in the the second in command who ordered the Mexican Army [that still greatly outnumbered the victorious Texas forces] back to Mexico. His book is very much a defense of his own questionable actions.

Anyway, I am fascinated by what happened at Alamo and the fact that the Texans, against all odds and expectations, proved ultimately victorious. It's stranger than fiction. I am neither an Alamo debunker or, on the other hand, do I believe that the defenders at Alamo were extraordinary men. They were just like you and I, which adds to the mystery and glory of the whole thing. Yes, initially the men expected reinforcements which might help them outlast the Mexicans...but...there came a moment when these same men knew they were doomed. They could have run and most would have lived but they refused. Truly amazing.

I'll plug myself a little bit, too. I have two novels out, 'Skull Rack' and 'Hummingbird God' on the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. If you like history and you want to find out how Mexico got started down the wrong path, you'll probably enjoy them.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2009 12:18:42 PM PST
Ky. Col. says:
Ron Braithwaite,
From what I've read Crockett's capture and execution are very possible but uncertain. La Pena did mention the account and I don't see any major historical issues with the Mexicans taking some prisoners and then executing them. The Mexican army often executed captured rebels, sometimes after having them draw lots but this incident doesn't have the drawing lots. To my knowledge, accounts also exist of Crockett dying in battle but these could likewise be flavored by political or other reasons. Thus we are left with the possibility and perhaps likelyhood of Crockett's capture and execution, but we may never really know from the historical evidence. A somewhat interesting parallel is the image of General Gordon being killed at Khartoum. Some accounts have him going down fighting as a warrior while the most famous story is of him standing unarmed at the top of the governor's house steps waiting patiently for the Mahdists to strike him down.

Militarily, Santa Anna's army at San Jacinto was so weak because he had split up his forces. It would have been even weaker had General Cos not marched his tired troops to join him. Santa Anna compounded the problem by not properly picketting and otherwise guarding his camp. The Texans should not have won at San Jacinto but a number of factors combined to create a highly one sided Mexican disaster.
As to the Alamo, the final storming operations may have involved roughly 1500-1700 Mexicans (remember that Santa Anna's entire army would not have made the final attack) against roughly 189-257 Texans (depending on one's sources). As to Mexican death toll, if one counts deaths from wounds and infections later on, then you could potentially get a high of up to around 600. I don't know the number of wounded who could not continue military duties. The Alamo was a costly battle but it in itself far from fatally weakened Santa Anna's force. Santa Anna should still have defeated the main Texas army (especially after the relatively easy but very infamous destruction of Fannin's force). He didn't play his cards correctly.

Jason Kyle Richie

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2009 1:00:35 PM PST

Santa Ana made an ancient military mistake. I has been made many times in the past and will be made many times in the future. Santa Ana failed to respect his enemies. He'd slaughtered the Texians of Alamo and Goliad...which according to Santa Ana...amounted to little. The surviving Texians, under Houston, were running like scared rabbits. Santa Ana was never worried about suffering defeat. He was only concerned that the Texians might escape. He therefore set out a three-prong dragnet in which he hoped to bag Houston before he crossed into Louisiana.

Houston, in fact, may have retreated into Louisiana but his troops, most of whom had lost family and friends at Alamo and Goliad, absolutely refused to retreat further. Their refusal came as a shock to Houston and even a greater shock to Santa Ana. Thank God.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2009 7:05:47 PM PST
Leslie Funk says:
Hello Ron...I am glad to have caught this discussion, and at the moment have 3 books on the Alamo coming from Amazon. I have heard somewhere that one contributing factor in the Alamo's collapse, was the thickness of one of the walls. The defenders could not shoot directly down at the Mexican attacking force, thereby leaving them vunerable as the the walls were breached. I think I saw this on Discovery channel some time back. Cheers, Les

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2009 7:42:35 PM PST

The primary defensive problem at Alamo is that there were simply too few men to adequately defend the wall. Worse, sometime before the battle a Dr. Grant managed to lure most of the garrison away to attack Matamoros. Grant's expedition failed but it was too late to regain the lost troops. Consequently Travis had only 100 men initially to try to reinforce the crumbling mission.

Some of the walls were too short, especially on the north side. Also, during the previous battle for Alamo, the Mexicans holed up in Alamo and the Texians themselves entertained themselves by shooting cannon balls at the walls and the walls were significantly weakened. The Mexicans, under Gen. Cos, were obliged to surrender and were permitted to leave with their arms, under the promise they'd not fight the Texians, again. Cos went back on his words and joined Santa Ana in the final fight at Alamo.

It's true that, once the Mexican attackers got close to the wall, the Texian defenders were forced to stand up and fully expose themselves to get off shots. A number were apparently shot down at this time. At the same time, the Mexicans bunched up under the walls and were butchered with grape shot.

When it comes right down to it, there we simply too few defenders. I think the standard defense formula for a walled garrison is one man per yard of wall. The Alamo compound was several acres and the wall was defended extremely thinly. The result was probably inevitable.

Be good, Ron

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 7:29:28 AM PST
7 & 7 IS says:
At the bottom of page 89 of The Alamo by Frank Thompson,there is a section entitled THE MEN WHO RAN.In It is described reports that perhaps as many as 100 defenders of the fort-fled and were killed in the open ground.Two or three groups late-in-the-game Allegedly jumped wall and skidaddled.It did'nt work out well for them.The lancer patrol supposedly cut them all down quickly.This,according to reports by several Mexican officers-Almonte,Pena,Ramirez y Sesma.Captain Manuel Loranca reported that "sixty-two Texians who sallied from the east side of the fort were recieved by the lancers and all killed.Only one of these made resistance;a very active man,armed with a double barrel gun and a single barrel pistol,with which he killed a corporal of the lancers named Eugenio.These were all killed by the lance,except one,who ensconced himself under a bush and it was necessary to shoot him."One Texian was discovered much later in the day hiding under a bridge.A local woman doing her washing saw him and reported him to some nearby soldiers,who immediately killed him.Another puzzling story,one of Henry Warnell,who died 3 months later,in Port Lavacca,on the Gulf Coast of Texas.a sworn statement in an 1858 land claim says that he died of wounds recieved at the battle of the Alamo.No other details!And also a Tejano defender,Brigido Guerrero,who somehow convinced the Mexican soldiers confronting him that he had been captured by the Texians and held prisoner in the Alamo.And they believed him and let him go.And then there is the story of Crockett's surrender and execution.
I-Don't-Know.If 100 or 62 defenders ran-scared,that would have probably only left Mrs.Dickinson and Joe left to mind the fort.Iiiiiii think,it's mostly attempts at deception by the Mexican officers.But,let's suppose it's all true.I,for one,adamantly refuse to label any of them a coward.In a pitched hand-to-hand battle against an insurmountable enemy at close quarters,so what if they ran.Anyone of us,had we been there that morning,and witnessed what they witnessed,would have very likely done the same.They had run out of room to stand.I don't label and I am not about to judge.I was'nt there and I need more proof in order to actually begin to believe any of these reports.(Remember that Santa Ana falsely reported that there had been 600 rebels killed at Alamo.)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 8:29:18 AM PST

I'm familiar with the story that horsemen fled the Alamo to be killed by lancers placed widely around the perimeter of the primary attack. I've never heard the figure of 100, which would be half the defenders of Alamo.

Most workers discount the idea that many Texians died on the ends of lances. The Alamo was being thickly attacked by around 1,500 trained regulares. Considering the fact that all the defenders would have been heavily engaged and the depth of the Mexican battleline, a breakout by a significant number of men is unlikely. Is it possible that some had a go at it and a few lived to die by lancer? Yep. We'll never really know...there were so many conflicting stories told by Mexican officers. Santa Ana reported to Mexico, immediately after the battle, that his own casualties as something like 60. Some Mexicans captured at San Jacinto gave the number of Mexican dead at Alamo as over 1,000. Both figures are untrue. Santa Ana had obvious reasons for undercounting. Mexican captives, who feared for their lives, overcounted to please their vindictive captors...and angry and vindictive the Texians were. 200 or so died at Alamo but most died fighting. Goliad was an entirely different matter. Over 400 Texians were murdered in cold blood. This event more than any other fanned hatred between Texas and Mexico. A few years later socalled Texas Rangers joined the American forces during the Mexican-American War. They exacted the full measure of vengeance and Mexicans remember and resent it to this day.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 8:42:09 AM PST
"But I must warn you, I am a screamer."

One of the many things I appreciated in the recent "The Alamo" film was the depiction of Crockett's execution. Billy Bob Thornton IS Crockett, imho. The film allowed de la Penya's version, including pleading to spare him. "They all must die!" I thought it was an unexpectedly accurate portrayal of the siege and characters, etc....

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 9:56:31 AM PST

I thought the most recent film was the best yet produced...and...I believe that the producers/directors made a serious effort to get it historically 'right.' At the same time, however, nobody really knows what 'right' is. Crockett and others may have died by execution but the testimony is imperfect. Physical descriptions of the man who may have been Crockett [at the time of the supposed execution] don't line up with the actual appearance of Crockett. Even his apparel is suspect. Despite common impression, and even common impression at the time, Crockett never wore a coonskin cap. The man described as 'Kwockey' was described a very tall but broken old man wearing a coonskin cap. For that matter, I don't think Crockett was all that tall and, in his mid-forties, he should have been in the prime of life. It is suspicious that the 'witnesses' to the execution may have been familiar with dime-novel descriptions of the Congressman.

That prisoners were initially taken should come as absolutely no surprise...out of ammunition, outnumbered, terrified and with a bayonet at your throat...everyone of us would attempt surrender. It's a function of the aggression of the individual Mexican soldier. It is NOT a function of the courage of the trapped Texian.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 11:43:20 AM PST
C. Harvey says:
Thanks for that last post Ron. I never read the de la Pen~a text, so it helps.
David Stern Crockett was a relative of mine. He was not tall. In fact, even in the times, he was considered a bit short. And he would not have looked old at the time.

Chuck Harvey (of the Granbury, TX Crocketts)
Glen Rose, TX

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 12:26:27 PM PST
Thanks, Harv. I appreciate the information.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 1:15:05 PM PST
pclaudel says:
Although most accounts of the Alamo's fall bear witness to Crockett's death near the battle's end, some recent historians have argued that Crockett survived the battle and was executed as a prisoner of war (that is, illegally and in cold blood). Their theory is based on the so-called memoir of a Mexican lieutenant, José Enrique de la Peña, that some scholars consider a forgery (the authenticity of this memoir is still hotly disputed). In any event, a far more reliable source for the events of March 6, 1836, is the eyewitness account of Susanna Dickinson (c. 1814-1883; her husband, Captain Almaron Dickinson, an artillery officer, also perished at the Alamo). Susanna's account of the Alamo's fall is a primary source of great historical significance. Mrs. Dickinson wrote that, before the Mexican commander Santa Anna arrived and demanded to be shown the bodies of the important men, she saw Colonel Crockett, "his peculiar cap by his side . . . lying dead and mutilated" outside the chapel door. Several journal entries by Mexican officers (including Don Rafael Sandaña) confirm this version of events.

In the ongoing war of words over the Peña memoir, the primary combatants are Thomas Ricks Lindley, Bill Groneman, and James Crisp (Crisp is a history professor, the others are mere mortals). For different reasons Lindley and Groneman are Peñaphobes, and Crisp is a Peñaphile. Much though by no means all of the academic establishment sides with Crisp, but Lindley's case--that the handwriting of the Peña memoir is not that of documents known for a certainty to be in Peña's hand--has attracted much attention, support, and opposition.

Crockett may be dead, but the manner of his death will probably supply cash for food, shelter, and clothing for some time to come.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 1:24:34 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on May 8, 2009 12:17:43 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2009 2:17:00 PM PST

WIlliam C. Davis' book on the Alamo Campaign written as the triple biography. found Mexican reports of the 60 odd men who tried to break out and were killed outside of the walls in addition to the 190-200 or so inside the fort. His research was the first I have seen that ups the number of defenders to the 250-260 range and is based on Mexican accounts he fould researching in their archives in Mexio City. I think he said the break out group were killed by cavalry which Santa Ana placed around the post for just this purpose.

I would like to state that the Mexican accounts may or may not be completely accurate but they are the only accounts we can base post-battle things on since no Texican defenders survived. Susanna Dickinson was not in a place to see much. I compare this to the Indian accounts of Custer's Last Stand which all stated that Custer's column hit the center of their village and then fought a running retreat back to last stand hill dropping off rear guard lines as they went. White historians ignored them until the big brush fires there in the 1980's whereupon an archealogical dig was done in the park and the relics they found completely supported what the Indians had been saying since 1876.

I did see the TV show that did the same thing to prove the De La Pena diary accurate so we need to keep what the Mexicans (maybe not so much Santa Ana himself) had to say.

I would be interested in your take on this.

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