James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

March 6

The Defence of the Alamo

By Joaquin Miller (1841–1913)

  • The Alamo was a mission building founded in 1744 at San Antonio, Texas. Until 1793 it was used as a church and subsequently as a fort, being surrounded by strong walls. In February, 1836, it was occupied by Col. W. B. Travis with about 150 men in revolt against the government of Mexico. After withstanding a terrible siege it was taken by assault on March 6th, and the garrison, including Col. Bowie and David Crockett killed. One man had previously made his escape.

  • SANTA ANA came storming, as a storm might come;

    There was rumble of cannon; there was rattle of blade;

    There was cavalry, infantry, bugle, and drum,—

    Full seven thousand, in pomp and parade,

    The chivalry, flower of Mexico;

    And a gaunt two hundred in the Alamo!

    And thirty lay sick, and some were shot through;

    For the siege had been bitter, and bloody, and long.

    “Surrender, or die!”—“Men, what will you do?”

    And Travis, great Travis, drew sword, quick and strong;

    Drew a line at his feet … “Will you come? Will you go?

    I die with my wounded, in the Alamo.”

    The Bowie gasped, “Lead me over that line!”

    Then Crockett, one hand to the sick, one hand to his gun,

    Crossed with him; then never a word or a sign

    Till all, sick or well; all, all save but one,

    One man. Then a woman stopped, praying, and lo

    Took her place to die in the Alamo.

    Then that one coward fled, in the night, in that night;—

    When all men silently prayed and thought

    Of home; of to-morrow; of God and the right,

    Till dawn; then Travis and cannon shot,

    In answer to insolent Mexico,

    From the old bell tower of the Alamo.

    Then came Santa Ana; a crescent of flame!

    Then the red escalade: then the fight hand to hand;

    Such an unequal fight as never had name

    Since the Persian hordes butchered that doomed Spartan band

    All day! and all night! and the morning so slow,

    Through battle smoke mantling the Alamo.

    Then silence! Such silence! Two thousand lay dead

    In a crescent outside! And within? Not a breath

    Save the gasp of a woman, with gory gashed head,

    All alone, all alone there, waiting for death;

    And she but a nurse. Yet when shall we know

    Another like this of the Alamo?

    Shout “Victory, victory, victory ho!”

    I say ’tis not always for the hosts to win;

    I say that the victory, sudden or slow

    Is given the hero who grapples with sin,

    Or legion or single; just asking to know

    When duty fronts death in his Alamo.