Remember (the Guns of ) The Alamo

AlamoToday marks the anniversary of the start of The Battle of the Alamo – General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón’s (a.k.a, for obvious reasons, Santa Anna) assault on the Alamo Mission.  On February 23, 1836, Santa Anna led approximately 1,500 troops – under a red “no quarter” flag – into San Antonio de Béxar as a step toward putting down the Texas Revolution.  Although William B. Travis – who had been stationed at the Alamo Mission for only 20 days – had been writing letters pleading for reinforcements, few arrived to supplement the approximately 100 men garrisoned at the Alamo, the 30 men that James Bowie brought and the 18 regulars who came with Travis weeks earlier.

Over the course of the following ten days, as several skirmishes unfolded, Santa Anna’s forces were reinforced to several thousand men while Texian fighting forces numbered only a couple of hundred.  Despite the extremely lopsided numbers, the Texians fought bravely until their eventual defeat.  According to some sources, Mexican casualties numbered 400-600 – nearly a third of their forces involved in the final assault on the Alamo while the number of Texians killed is believed to be between 182 and 257, as Santa Anna purportedly killed survivors of the battle, including any who may have surrendered.  Santa Anna’s viciousness inspired many Texians to join the Texian Army.  Under cries of “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad,” the Texian Army defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto on April 21, bringing an end to the Texas Revolution.  The rest, as they say, is history.  This, however, is not a history website – it is a gun website, so let’s take a look at some of the arms thought to have been used during the Battle of the Alamo.

Although the rebel forces of the Texas Revolution were, in many cases, well regulated, the arms that they used were not necessarily uniform throughout.  It is because of this, and the fact that there were no real records of arms used during the siege, that we speak of the arms “thought to have been used” here.  Only sparse eyewitness accounts and unreliable reports from the Mexican Army of the weapons confiscated after the battle exist to bolster best-guesses of typical arms of the era that may have been used.

CannonWhat is know is the number and types of cannon used to defend the Alamo.  Texian forces made use of 18 cannon including the famous 18-pounder, an iron 16-pounder, an iron 12-pound gunnade, a 9″ pedrero, two iron 8-pounders, six 6-pounders, four 4- pounders (three iron and one brass or bronze) and two 3-pounders.  The number and size of these cannon – and the difficulty in transporting them – are one of the primary reasons why there were Texian forces there that late February.  Without the forces necessary to defend it, Jim Bowie had been sent to remove the artillery and demolish the complex – however, he also lacked the manpower and draft animals necessary to move the tons of weapons.

CannonInfoBeyond that knowledge of the heavy guns in place at the Alamo, there is not much known about the small arms used by the Texians.  It is known that Travis was armed with his double-barreled shotgun – a weapon that he advocated for, so some of his men may have had similar arms with them.  The battle happened during an interesting transitional period as firearms were migrating from flintlocks to percussion or caplock ignition systems.

Kentucky Long Rifles (source:Antique Military Rifles)

Kentucky Long Rifles (source:Antique Military Rifles)

Texian forces almost certainly included long rifles such as the Kentucky and Pennsylvania rifles, which may have had their stocks and barrels shortened to better accommodate use on the plains.  Likely also were Model 1817 rifles, mountain rifles, Indian Trade Rifles and the British Brown Bess and Baker rifles.  As a fair number of the fighters had come from the Gulf region around Louisiana, the likelihood of French arms such as the .69 caliber Fusil de Chasse, or Tulle, and the .65 caliber Fusil Fin being involved in the battle is also high.  Historians believe that scatterguns such as the Blunderbuss – popular among Spaniards – as well as the Kentucky Fowler may have also been among the long arms used.

GonzalesPistols and melee weapons were also likely put to use as the fighting moved inside the walls of the Alamo and into the Long Barracks.  Pistols used may include Kentucky pistols, British horse pistols and Harper’s Ferry pistols.  Melee weapons would have included tomahawks, belduques, long knives, and, of course, James Bowie’s namesake Bowie Knife.  Bayonets were available for a number of the long arms and were also likely implemented during the fighting.

Following the siege, the Mexican Army reported that the had confiscated 816 muskets, rifles and pistols, 200 bayonets, 21 cannon, and nearly 15,000 cartridges.

FalloftheAlamoArms of the Mexican Army would have been similar to those used by the Texians, albeit likely more uniform throughout the forces.  Large numbers of British arms were purchased through the 1820s, so it is likely that many of Santa Anna’s men were carrying British hardware.  Their arms were likely to have included India pattern 3rd model Brown Bess rifles and carbines and Baker rifles along with their .59 caliber light infantry Tercerlo muskets.

To learn more about the Alamo, visit the official website at http://www.thealamo.org.  If you have never been to visit and you find yourself in San Antonio, it is well worth your time to stop in and learn about the history.

And, for good measure, even though it’s origins lie in Gonzales months before the battle of the Alamo:

GonzalesComeAndTakeIt

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