After the Alamo Fell
A Mexican’s eyewitness account of the hours after the storming of the Alamo…
You probably know the often told story of the Battle of the Alamo which began in earnest on February 25th, 1836 and ended on March 6th. But do you know how the story ended AFTER the siege concluded with the successful storming of the Alamo by General Santa Anna and his Mexican forces?
On that day, March 6, 1836, a banner, red as blood, flew above the church in Bejar and in the Mexican’s camp—a silent warning that the battle was one of vengeance against the rebels. They would all be put to the sword. And as you know, they were.
But this post is about what happened next, and it is told through the eyes of a Mexican—Francisco Antonio Ruis, the alcalde or mayor of Behar (San Antonio) who was charged by General Santa Anna to dispose of the bodies on both sides of the battle. There is some speculation that giving the task to Ruis was punishment. Despite the fact that Ruis had pledged neutrality, others in his family, including his father, were active in the revolution on the Texan’s side.
Here is Ruis’ Report:
Quote…“On the 6th of March 1836, at 3 a. m., General Santa Anna at the head of 4,000 men advanced against the Alamo. The infantry, artillery and cavalry had formed about 1000 varas (approxiately 1000 yards) from the walls of the same fortress. The Mexican army charged and were twice repulsed by the deadly fire of Travis’s artillery, which resembled a constant thunder. At the third charge the Toluca battalion commenced to scale the walls and suffered severely. Out of 830 men only 130 of the battalion were left alive.”
Ruis goes on to say that as the Mexican army entered the walls of the Alamo he and several other local officials who had been ordered by Santa Anna to assist with the wounded when the battle ended, gathered and started to walk toward the Alamo.
His report continues “…about 100 yards from the same, a party of Mexican dragoons fired upon us and compelled us to fall back on the river to the place that we had occupied before.
“Half an hour had elapsed when Santa Anna sent one of his aides-de-camp with an order for us to come before him. He directed me to call on some of the neighbors to come with carts to carry the (Mexican) dead to the cemetery and to accompany him, as he desired to have Colonels Travis, Bowie, and Crockett shown to him. On the north battery of the fortress convent, lay the lifeless body of Colonel Travis on the gun carriage, shot only through the forehead. Toward the west and in a small fort opposite the city, we found the body of Colonel Crockett. Colonel Bowie was found dead in his bed in one of the rooms on the south side.
“Santa Anna, after all the Mexican bodies had been taken out, ordered wood to be brought to burn the bodies of the Texans. He sent a company of dragoons with me to bring wood and dry branches from the neighboring forests. About three o’clock in the afternoon of March 6, we laid the wood and dry branches upon which a pile of dead bodies was placed, more wood was piled on them, then another pile of bodies was brought, and in this manner they were all arranged in layers. Kindling wood was distributed through the pile and about 5 o’clock in the evening it was lighted.
“The dead Mexicans of Santa Anna were taken to the grave-yard, but not having sufficient room for them, I ordered some to be thrown into the river, which was done on the same day.
“The gallantry of the few Texans who defended the Alamo was really wondered at by the Mexican army. Even the generals were astonished at their vigorous resistance, and how dearly victory was bought.
“The (Texans) burnt were one hundred and eighty-two. I was an eyewitness, for as alcalde of San Antonio, I was with some of the neighbors, collecting the dead bodies and placing them on the funeral pyre.”
Signed —Francis Antonio Ruiz.
And so it was that 182 Texas defenders of the Alamo were burned, their ashes scattered to the wind, but their sacrifice and their names not forgotten. They are writ large in the history of Texas.
Source of this translation by Amelia Williams: Texas State Historical Association & Barker, Eugene C. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 37, July 1933 – April, 1934, pages 39-40, periodical, 1934; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101094/m1/47/: accessed March 11, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.
This has been Laurie Moore-Moore with the Texas Brave and Strong Podcast. Tune in every other week for tidbits of Texas history you didn’t learn in school. Ya’ll come back.