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Remembering the Alamo: Then and Now

Most people know the Alamo Mission today as a museum. 

As of 2002, the Alamo welcomed over four million visitors each year, making it one of the most popular historic sites in the United States.

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Walking in, it contains a small museum with paintings, weapons, and other artifacts from the era of the Texas Revolution.

A large mural, known as the Wall of History, portrays the history of the Alamo complex from its mission days to modern times. Many, however, don’t know the historic significance of The Alamo in detail.

 

History

The Alamo is a historic Spanish mission and fortress compound founded in the 18th century by Roman Catholic missionaries in what is now San Antonio, Texas, United States.

The Mission San Antonio de Valero, named for St. Anthony of Padua was built by Spanish settlers on the banks of the San Antonio River around 1718.

They also established the nearby military garrison of San Antonio de Béxar, which soon became the center of a settlement known as San Fernando de Béxar which was later renamed, San Antonio.

 

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Battle

It was the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 which lasted thirteen days. The Battle of the Alamo during Texas’ war for independence from Mexico took place from February 23, 1836, to March 6, 1836.

Spanish military troops were stationed in the abandoned chapel of the former mission in the early 1800s. 

On February 23, a Mexican force numbering in the thousands and led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began a siege of the fort. The two hundred Texian troops were no match for the thousands that attacked them.

Nevertheless, The Alamo defenders held down the fort. Though Sam Houston, the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Texan forces, argued that San Antonio should be abandoned due to insufficient troop numbers, the troops held their ground, unphased.

Commanded by James Bowie, William Travis and including the famed frontiersman Davy Crockett, they held out for 13 days before the Mexican forces finally overpowered them.

They were all wiped out by the end of the battle as Santa Anna ordered his men to take no prisoners. Only a small handful of the Texans were spared as well.

The Mexican forces were not spared either as they also suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of the Alamo, losing between 600 and 1,600 men.

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As the Mexican Army retreated from Texas several months later, they tore down many of the Alamo walls and burned some of the buildings.

For Texans, the Battle of the Alamo became an enduring symbol of their heroic resistance to oppression and their struggle for independence, which they won later that year. 

For many Americans, the actual confrontation remains a symbol of the courage of ordinary men placed in extraordinary circumstances. Others see it as emblematic of America’s territorial ambitions in an era of Manifest Destiny.

 

Present Times

The Alamo has been commemorated on everything from postage stamps to the 1960 film The Alamo starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett. 

The Alamo and the four missions in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 5, 2015. Today it is a museum in the Alamo Plaza Historic District and a part of the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site.

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