American history is full of battles waged to fight for life and liberty. The battle of the Alamo ranks high on the list as a motivational yet memorable defeat. Though sorely outnumbered, the small group of men managed to hold out for 13 days against unimaginable odds, fighting till the very end and taking some 600 foes with them. Here are a few things we can take away from the battle.
Never Underestimate the Value of Fortification and Cover
Originally, the Alamo had been fortified to withstand native tribe attacks, not an army stocked with artillery. The surrounding walls were almost 3 feet thick, ranging from 9 to 12 feet high with almost 1320 feet to defend. Months before the arrival of Santa Anna, catwalks had been built around the perimeter to hold the 19 cannons left by the previous tenants, Mexican soldiers. These fortifications delayed the inevitable. Notably, the wall was flawed by exposing the upper half of the defenders bodies, making them more vulnerable to infantry fire. In the end, the cannons were used to destroy the door to the long house where the Texans (or Texians as they were then called) had holed up after being overrun.
Never Cut Yourself Off from Backup
Santa Anna had positioned his troops in strategic locations around the fort, cutting off any chance for reinforcements to get through. Although riders previously had been sent out to General Sam Houston to beg for help, it never came. The newly created Texas government was in disarray, and military resources were spread thin. The fate of the Alamo’s defenders was sealed.
Desperate Fighters are Dangerous Fighters
One of the volunteers at the Alamo was Tennessee native David Crockett, known for his heroism and fighting skills. According to Ben, an American slave who cooked for one of Santa Anna’s officers, Crocket’s body was found among 16 slain Mexican troops. Crockett had refused to stop fighting while he yet had breath. You have never known terror until you have cornered a warrior.
You Can’t Appease an Alligator
Santa Anna had a bone to pick with the Texians. He was bound and determined to squash the Texas independence revolution. His troops had previously been chased out of the Alamo and sent home packing and he was out for blood, bringing 4,000-6,000 troops to take back the mission.
When attempting to resolve political disputes, we rightly see violence as the last resort. But in today’s political environment, too many players are willing to unilaterally take the possibility of a violent solution off the table. You don’t get the option to talk softly unless you also carry the big stick. And when your interlocutor is as hellbent on making you bleed as Santa Anna was, negotiations have already failed–it’s time for the stick.
The Warrior with the Fiercest Purpose Fights the Hardest
When faced with death or the death of family, sheepdogs will give everything they have, fighting tooth and nail until the very end. Although almost all of the Texians perished at the Alamo, they took 600 of Santa Anna’s soldiers with them. Modern Americans are used to better loss exchange ratios than the Texians’ 2-1 (or 3-1, depending on the estimate). But given the military technology available to the Texans and tactical situation on the ground, that’s a massacre! Like the Greeks at Thermopylae, the Texans had a bigger why than the enemy, and they made the enemy pay dearly for their victory.
The siege on the Alamo is a reminder that not every mission is accomplished. But even though the defenders perished, their example did compel the fledgling nation to rise up and defeat Santa Anna at San Jacinto, prompting the creation of the Republic of Texas and its subsequent inclusion in the United States. In the same way, our individual safety, autonomy, and liberty depend on our learning the lessons of history and applying them to our own personal defense response plans. I guess what I’m saying is, remember the Alamo (and visit it too, it’s a pretty cool historical landmark).