Classic Gunfights

Did Davy Really Die?

Davy Crockett vs Santa Anna’s Army


March 6, 1836

Did He Go Down Swinging or Surrendering?

Just after midnight, Gen. Santa Anna orders his 2,064 troops to move toward their assault positions. Select soldados (soldiers) stealthily sneak up on the Tejano sentries, who lie in dugouts positioned away from the Alamo, and slit the guards’ throats.

Just before sunrise (around 5 a.m.) a soldado from the second column yells out “Viva Santa Anna!” His comrades echo the cry. Furious that he has lost the element of surprise, Santa Anna orders his musicians to sound the attack. A rocket battery fires the signal to start the assault.

Four separate Mexican columns surge out of the darkness toward the shadowed walls of the Alamo. Awakened by the shouts, the Texans quickly man their cannons and commence a furious enfilade fire from the church and corral batteries, forcing the attackers coming in from the east to move north.

Musket and cannon fire pour from the walls of the Alamo, and three attacking columns stall at the north wall. The Texans are holding their own and laying down a deadly fire.

Momentum lost, Santa Anna commits his reserves. Grenidiers (grenediers) and zapadores (sappers) charge into the fight and finally succeed in breaching the Texan defense. At the same time, the cazzadores (light infantrymen) breach the Alamo’s southwest corner from the west side. The Texans fighting there are quickly overwhelmed and fall back, taking refuge in the adobe apartments, convent and church. Mexican troops pour into the compound unchecked, while others seize the abandoned batteries, turn them around and fire at the retreating Texans with their own cannons.

Hand-to-hand combat is fierce, and the fighting turns especially bloody as the Mexican troops go room to room, overwhelming each pocket of resistance and shooting and bayoneting everything that moves.

Some 60 defenders break out of the Alamo, heading east on Gonzales Road, but Santa Anna’s cavalry is waiting and cuts them down.

An hour after the initial attack, Davy Crockett stands alone, still proudly and tenaciously defending his diminished position (see map, p. 49). A frightful gash angles across his forehead. Holding the barrel of his shattered rifle in his right hand and a Bowie knife dripping with blood in his left, Crockett faces his attackers with the courage of a lion. Twenty dead or dying Mexicans lay beneath his buckskin-clad feet.

The man from Tennessee crouches, daring his attackers to take him. As they move in for the kill, Davy swings wildly with everything he has, until he finally falls, fighting with savage ferocity to his last dying breath. The fight is over.

Well, not exactly

That’s how we in the United States celebrated the death of “The King of the Wild Frontier” for a good part of the 20th century. Exemplifying the Texas creed that...

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