Alamo History

Alamo History


The Alamo is widely recognized as a symbol of heroic courage in the struggle against oppression. It began as a simple Spanish mission, run by Franciscan missionaries, strategically placed on the El Camino Real - the King's Highway. What follows is an illustrated chronology of the Alamo that may help readers understand its historical importance and how it became the Alamo of today.


    1716~The Viceroy of New Spain, the Marqués de Valero, authorizes the relocation of the Mission of San Francisco Solano from the Rio Grande to the San Antonio River.

    1718~Mission San Antonio de Valero is founded by Franciscan missionaries from the College of Querétaro, led by Antonio de San Buenaventura Olivares. The site chosen for the mission is on San Pedro Creek, west of the San Antonio River. Formal ceremonies are performed by the Governor of Coahuila and Texas, Martín de Alarcón. The area is frequented by numerous native bands and tribes whose members are recruited as Christian converts and settlers by the missionaries.

    1719~The mission is moved to the east side of the River.

    1720~A second mission, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, is established on the river, south of San Antonio de Valero.

    1724~Following a severe storm, San Antonio de Valero is moved a short distance north, to its final site.

    1731~Three missions in East Texas, Nuestra Señora Purísima Concepción de Acuña, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada, are moved to the San Antonio River. A group of settlers from the Canary Islands arrives to form a new civil settlement, San Fernando de Béxar

    1744~cornerstone is laid for a church at San Antonio de Valero. Church construction continues for several years.

    1758~The keystone for the church at San Antonio de Valero.

    1793~By the order of the King of Spain, the San Antonio de Valero Mission is secularized, its ranch properties distributed among the civilian population.

    1801~Irish-American trader Philip Nolan, leader of several earlier expeditions to Spanish territory, enters northeast Texas to hunt wild horses. Spanish troops are sent from Nacogdoches to capture Nolan and his followers, and Nolan is killed in the ensuing battle. His surviving followers are marched to San Antonio, where they are held for three months before being transported to Chihuahua and imprisonment.

    1803~The San Antonio de Valero Mission is used as a military post. The arrival of the Second Company of San Carlos de Parras from the vicinity of the town of El Alamo in Coahuila is the possible source for the popular name of the former mission. A church parish is established and the remains of the church are used for services for soldiers at the post.

    1806~Part of mission is used as a military hospital.

    1807~Zebulon Pike, arrested by Spanish authorities near the headwaters of the Rio Grande, is cordially received in San Antonio by the governor. Pike later reports that the town is laid out on a "grand plan," and notes the "station of the troops"-the Alamo-east of the river.

    1811~Soon after the initiation of the Mexican independence movement, factions in San Antonio become involved in the struggle. Juan Bautista de las Casas takes control of local troops, seizes government officials, and proclaims allegiance to the independence cause of Father Miguel de Hidalgo y Costilla. The success of the uprising is short-lived; just over a month later, loyalist residents under Juan Manuel Zambrano retake San Antonio for the King. Las Casas and other leaders of the insurrection are tried and executed.

    1813~A filibustering army under Mexican native José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara and former U.S. Army officer Augustus Magee enters Texas from Louisiana, and advances toward San Antonio. After defeating royalist troops outside the town, the rebel army takes San Antonio. Spanish governor Manuel Salcedo and other officials are executed. The victorious Gutiérrez declares Texas' independence and drafts a constitution, although he is soon forced from power and removed from the province. Again, the revolutionary triumph is fleeting; a Spanish royalist army under General José Joaquín de Arredondo crushes the republican army at the Medina River, and recaptures San Antonio. The years of fighting leave San Antonio economically devastated.

    1817~Francisco Xavier Mina launches a military expedition against Mexico from Galveston Island.

    1819~San Antonio is damaged by a flood of San Pedro Creek.

    1821~The Plan of Iguala assures Mexican independence. In July, San Antonio officials swear allegiance to the new, independent nation of Mexico.

    Carrying out his father's plan, Stephen F. Austin brings his first colonists to Texas.

    1823~Agustín Iturbide abdicates as Emperor of Mexico. Mexican leaders soon begin work on a national constitution.

    1824~Under the new constitutional government, Coahuila y Texas becomes a single state, with the capital in Saltillo.

    1825~Texas becomes a department under state government, with a political chief residing in San Antonio.

    1826~The Republic of Fredonia is declared in Nacogdoches; failing to obtain broad support, its organizers flee Texas.

    1830~Alarmed by the growth in numbers of colonists from the United States, the Mexican government seeks to slow immigration into Texas from the north, while introducing more new residents from Mexico and Europe. On April 6, a law passed by the Mexican Congress prohibits settlement in Texas by immigrants from the United States, and cancels all colonization contracts. Although repealed in 1833, this article remains a sore point with the growing immigrant population.

    1832~June - The Turtle Bayou Resolutions are adopted by colonists, accusing the Mexican government of constitutional violations.

    October - A convention meeting at San Felipe de Austin draws up a list of grievances against the government. San Antonio officials decline to participate, but leading citizens of the town later protest the colonization law.

    1833~A second convention at San Felipe de Austin proposes more changes in government; Stephen F. Austin presents its resolutions in Mexico. The government of new president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna responds to the complaints, reorganizing local government and granting Texas greater representation in the state legislature.

    1835~October - The refusal of Gonzales residents to return a cannon to the Mexican army leads to an exchange of gunfire. In response, Santa Anna sends troops under Martin Perfecto de Cos to San Antonio. The Alamo becomes part of the defenses of the city.

    October-December~Led by Austin, an army of untrained and often unruly settlers lay seige to the Mexican army, which held positions in the Alamo and the plazas of the town. The Texan forces were victorious in a skirmish near Concepción mission, and in the "Grass Fight," but the siege dragged on into November with no agreement on how to proceed. Called to serve as a commissioner to the United States, Austin leaves San Antonio in November, and opinion is divided on how to proceed until Ben Milam rallies the force to an attack on December 5. After five days of fighting, during which Milam is killed, the Battle of Bexar concludes with the surrender of Mexican forces. Cos agrees to withdraw to the south, leaving Texas under the control of the rebel army.

    1836~February 3 - William Barret Travis and a small group of reinforcements arrive at the Alamo, then under the command of James C. Neill.

    1836~February 8 - Former Tennessee congressman David Crockett arrives at the Alamo with a group of volunteers.

    February 12 - With the departure of Neill, Travis is elected commander of the regular army forces at the Alamo, while Jim Bowie is chosen to lead the volunteers.

    February 23 - The Mexican army under Antonio López de Santa Anna reaches San Antonio. The Texian force retreats into the walled Alamo compound.

    March 1- Thirty-two men from Gonzales join the besieged forces at the Alamo.

    March 2 - Texas Declaration of Independence is approved by delegates meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

    March 6 - The attack upon the fortified Alamo begins before dawn. When the fighting ends, all of its occupants other than women, children, and Travis' slave Joe, are dead. Losses to the attacking Mexican army are estimated to be at least 600.

    March 20 - Following a battle near Coleto Creek, the Texian force led by James W. Fannin is captured.

    March 27 - On the order of General Santa Anna, Fannin and a force of almost 350 men are executed at Goliad.

    April 21 - After retreating eastward for more than a month, the Texian Army defeats the larger Mexican force at the Battle of San Jacinto, capturing General Santa Anna and securing Texas' independence.

    May 14 - The Treaties of Velasco are signed by Santa Anna, promising the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Mexican troops to below the Rio Grande.

    September - The Constitution of the Republic of Texas is approved by vote; Sam Houston is elected president.

    October - First Congress of the Republic of Texas convenes.

    November - Santa Anna is released by the Texians and travels to Washington to meet with United States officials.

    1837~February - Colonel Juan Nepomuceno Seguín, military commander at San Antonio, presides over the burial of the ashes of the defenders of the Alamo. The battered mission and fortress then stood virtually abandoned, a symbol of the brief but bloody struggle. San Antonio is incorporated and Bexar County is created.

    1840~The frontier town of Austin is chosen as the capital of Texas. Negotiations in San Antonio between the Texas government and Comanche leaders erupt into violence when the Texans attempt to take the Comanche into custody, resulting in over 40 deaths.

    1841~The Santa Fe expedition sets out from the Austin area on an ill- fated mission to extend Texas' economic and political influence into New Mexico. The Republic of Texas concludes that the Church of the Alamo and any mission outbuildings belong to the Catholic Church.

    1842~September - San Antonio is briefly occupied by Mexican troops and several local men are taken prisoner. Forces from San Antonio and Gonzales engage the invading army at the Battle of Salado.
    November-December - The Somervell and Mier expeditions into Mexico are organized.

    1845~The annexation of Texas is approved by Congress in December

    1846~Texas formally joins the United States on February 19. The U.S. Government occupies the Alamo, using it as a quartermaster and commissary depot, under a lease from the Catholic Church. The buildings are repaired and renovated, the now-familiar facade added to the church in 1850, along with a new roof.

    1847~ Alamo Lodge No. 44, the first Masonic lodge in San Antonio, is organized at a meeting in the second story of the Alamo convento. Eight charter members are led by Captain James H. Ralston, Assistant Quartermaster for the recently-arrived U.S. Army.

    1850~The City of San Antonio files suit against Bishop John Odin and Maj. E.B. Babbitt, seeking the title to the Alamo property. A verdict is returned in favor of the defendant, finding the church's claim to the site is valid. The decision is upheld on appeal to Texas Supreme Court in 1855.

    1861~Texas secedes from the Union and joins the Confederate States of America. The Confederate army takes over military facilities at the Alamo with the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

    1862~A battle begins New Year's eve which results in the recapture of Galveston by Confederate forces.

    1863~An attempted invasion of Texas at Sabine Pass is repulsed by Confederate forces.

    1865~The last land battle of the Civil War is fought near Brownsville in May. The U.S. Army resumes use of the Alamo.

    1871~Bishop Claude-Marie Dubuis sells a small tract in Alamo Plaza, the "Galera," to the City of San Antonio, for $2,500.

    1877~Bishop of San Antonio Anthony D. Pellicer sells a portion of the mission property containing the convent building to Honore Grenet for $20,000. The church retains control of the Alamo church.

    1879~A charter is issued to the Alamo Monument Association, a group formed to raise money for a monument to the defenders of the Alamo. Though a monument design is developed, the project is unsuccessful. The U.S. Army Quartermaster moves from the Alamo to the newly-constructed military post on Government Hill, later to be named Fort Sam Houston.

    1883~Bishop John C. Neraz sells the remainder of the Alamo property, containing the church, to the State of Texas for $20,000.

    1885~The State of Texas formally grants custodianship of the Alamo church to the City of San Antonio.

    1886~The estate of Honore Grenet sells the Alamo convent property to Charles Hugo, Gustav Schmeltzer, and William Heuermann for $28,000.

    1893~A San Antonio women's group led by Adina De Zavala affiliates with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and makes preservation of the Alamo one of its goals.

    1905~The Texas Legislature appropriates $65,000 for the purchase of convent property, to be delivered with the Alamo church, to the custody and care of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. At the request of the state, conditions regarding the use of the property are removed. Clara Driscoll conveys the convent property to State of Texas for $65,000. Claims to the property are relinquished by the Catholic Church, the City of San Antonio, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The title to the convent property is then conveyed from Clara Driscoll to the State of Texas, and custody is granted to the DRT.

    1908~Fearing commercial development of Alamo property, Adina De Zavala, granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala, the Mexican-born vice president of the Republic of Texas, barricaded herself in the convento, drawing national attention to the site. She desired that the mission period of the Alamo be emphasized and proposed that a two-story, arcaded convento be constructed as the principal structure (see above). Ladies led by Clara Driscoll supported a plan emphasizing the Texas revolutionary period, with the church as the principal structure.

    Governor Oscar B. Colquitt also favored a full-scale restoration of the convento and cancelled the order granting custody of the Alamo property to the DRT. The proposal to reconstruct the convento was abandoned when the lieutenant governor engineered the removal of the structure's second story during one of Colquitt's absences from the state. Led by Clara Driscoll, the DRT obtained an injunction preventing the state from initiating any reconstruction work on the property. Their case was upheld on appeal in 1913, allowing the DRT to remain as custodians of the site.

    1912~The Alamo Heroes Monument Association is formed with the intent of building a monument to the Alamo defenders. The group proposes an 800 foot high tower on Alamo Plaza, but fails in the attempt to raise the two-million-dollar construction cost.


    The centennial of Texas independence is observed. Over 10,000 people attend day-long ceremonies at the Alamo marking the one hundredth anniversary of the March 6 battle.

    Excavations within San Fernando Cathedral uncover a small coffin containing human remains. Debate ensues over their identity; the Archbishop of San Antonio, Arthur J. Drossaerts, concludes that the remains are of the Alamo defenders, and orders their ceremonial reburial in San Fernando two years later.

    1940~The Alamo Cenotaph, a memorial designed by San Antonio sculptor Pompeo Coppini, is completed and dedicated.

    1960~The Alamo is designated a National Historic Landmark.

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