Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Houston speaks to the men: Remember the Alamo!

For the first and only time Houston forms up the army around him and gives a speech. They are going to fight. He actually uses the words: Remember the Alamo! The army has been ready for some time.

They leave 248 sick and infirm men in the ruins of Harrisburg, cross Buffalo Bayou on a leaky boat and a log raft and force march all night toward Lynchburg. At midnight they collapse in place along the road.

Reveille gets them up at daybreak and they march for two more hours, finally taking a break to brew coffee and slaughter two beeves. They hardly get the steaks on the fire before scouts come in saying the Mexicans have burned New Washington and are heading for Lynch's Ferry. They eat whatever there is while marching and race toward the ferry, arriving and crossing before the Mexicans at mid-morning. They flow into a slightly elevated wood backed by Buffalo Bayou and have lunch courtesy of a captured flatboat full of Mexican provisions. (Coffee, Steak, now Mexican food. The way to the future is clear!)

The Mexicans march in at about 2:00 to the same area. Santa Anna can't see the Texans in the woods but scouts report the location of the Twin Sisters. The Mexicans shake out a skirmish line to probe the rebels with their only cannon, a 12-pounder called 'The Golden Standard" in the center. The Twins and the Golden Standard trade fire with casualties on each side. Texan Artilleriest JC Neill, the man who fortified the Alamo is wounded. The Mexicans begin to withdraw.

Sidney Sherman, leader of the Texian Cavalry is ready to press the issue. With 61 horsemen he rides out on a limited recon that becomes an attack answered by the Mexican Cavalry. Sherman, Texan Secretary of War Thomas Rusk, Mirabaeu B. Lamar and others spur their mounts against the Mexicans. It turns into a horse-ridden melee. The Texans dismount to reload and the Mexicans swarm in with sabres and lances. Against orders and ignoring Houston, Captain Jesse Billingsley leads out his infantry company to rescue the Texan Cavalry. Other units advance piecemeal out of the cover of the trees.

On the field Walter Lane, a 19-year-old Irishman had ridden headlong into the Mexican Cavalry and been lanced off his horse. As the sides separate he staggers to his feet. The Mexican lancers turn back to finish him off and Lamar rides to block them. He shoots a cavalryman off his horse with a pistol. Scout Henry Karnes swoops in and snatches Lane as Lamar holds the Mexicans back. Santa Anna dragoons pull up and applaud Lamar's bravery. Lamar bows and retreats. The whole Texan Army is watching.

Houston is livid. Captains are ignoring his orders. They are lucky to have come off so lightly. His army is nearly in revolt of his leadership. The evening comes with much debate about bravery, leadership, tactics. Houston has about 910 soldiers. There are about 909 opinions of what to do. The 42 year old former Governor of Tennessee and Supreme Commander of the Texan forces stays up late into the night.

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