Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Fall of the Alamo

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Fall of the Alamo

By Thomas Hart Benton (1782–1858)

[In Benton’s Speech on Texas Independence. U. S. Senate. 1836.—From Thirty Years’ View; or, A History of the Working of the American Government for Thirty Years. 1854.]

UNHAPPY day, for ever to be deplored, that Sunday morning, March 6, 1836, when the undaunted garrison of the Alamo, victorious in so many assaults over twenty times their number, perished to the last man by the hands of those, part of whom they had released on parole two months before, leaving not one to tell how they first dealt out to multitudes that death which they themselves finally received. Unhappy day, that Palm Sunday, March 27, when the five hundred and twelve prisoners at Goliad, issuing from the sally-port at dawn of day, one by one, under the cruel delusion of a return to their families, found themselves enveloped in double files of cavalry and infantry, marched to a spot fit for the perpetration of the horrid deed—and there, without an instant to think of parents, country, friends, and God—in the midst of the consternation of terror and surprise, were inhumanly set upon, and pitilessly put to death, in spite of those moving cries which reached to heaven, and regardless of those supplicating hands, stretched forth for mercy, from which arms had been taken under the perfidious forms of a capitulation. Five hundred and six perished that morning—young, vigorous, brave, sons of respectable families, and the pride of many a parent’s heart—and their bleeding bodies, torn with wounds, and many yet alive, were thrown in heaps upon vast fires, for the flames to consume what the steel had mangled. Six only escaped, and not by mercy, but by miracles. And this was the work of man upon his brother; of Christian upon Christian; of those upon those who adore the same God, invoke the same heavenly benediction, and draw precepts of charity and mercy from the same divine fountain. Accursed be the ground on which the dreadful deed was done! Sterile, and set apart, let it for ever be! No fruitful cultivation should ever enrich it; no joyful edifice should ever adorn it; but shut up, and closed by gloomy walls, the mournful cypress, the weeping willow, and the inscriptive monument, should for ever attest the foul deed of which it was the scene, and invoke from every passenger the throb of pity for the slain, and the start of horror for the slayer. And you, neglected victims of the Old Mission and San Patricio, shall you be forgotten because your numbers were fewer, and your hapless fate more concealed? No! but to you also justice shall be done. One common fate befell you all; one common memorial shall perpetuate your names, and embalm your memories. Inexorable history will sit in judgment upon all concerned, and will reject the plea of government orders, even if those orders emanated from the government, instead of being dictated to it. The French National Convention, in 1793, ordered all the English prisoners who should be taken in battle to be put to death. The French armies refused to execute the decree. They answered, that French soldiers were the protectors, not the assassins, of prisoners; and all France, all Europe, the whole civilized world, applauded the noble reply.