Today is the 175th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo. An article in The Century magazine in 1884 gave the following evocative, if fanciful, description of that fabled last stand:
"Thermopylae had her messengers of death; the Alamo had none." The last one of the garrison went down under the violence of the Mexicans. Colonel Bowie, who was sick in bed at the fall of the fort, fired from his bed until his last shot was gone and he had a wall of dead about him; the Mexicans dared not approach, but shot him from a window, and, as the enemy came to his bed, nerving himself for a last effort, the dying Bowie plunged the deadly knife which bears his name to the vitals of the nearest foe, and expired. The gallant Colonel Travis fell mortally wounded, but was able on the approach of the foe to sit up. A Mexican officer attempted to cut off his head with a saber. Travis, with a death grasp, drew his sword, which he plunged into the body of his antagonist, both dying at the same moment. General Castrillon took Colonel Crockett, who stood alone in an angle of the fort, the barrel of his shattered gun in his right hand, in his left his huge bowie-knife, dripping blood. There was a fearful gash across his head, and at his feet a cordon of nearly twenty foemen, dead and dying. His captor, who was brave and not cruel, took his silvery-haired prisoner to Santa Anna, who flew into a rage, and at his command a file of soldiers shot down the dauntless Crockett. Santa Anna had given the most imperative orders that no prisoners should be taken.As there are no known first-hand accounts of the death scenes of each of these heroes, the author evidently felt free to imagine the most dramatic scenes possible and then jot them down as history.
The line quoted by the author--"Thermopylae had her messengers of death; the Alamo had none"--is inscribed on the monument at the Alamo, and comes from a speech written by Thomas Jefferson Green on the fifth anniversary of the battle. It implies that there were no survivors, but in fact there were a number of them, as this reference points out: "nearly twenty women and children, who experienced the twelve days of siege leading to the final assault, were spared and allowed to return to their homes. The survivors also included Joe, the slave of William B. Travis. The best known Alamo survivor, Susanna Dickinson, was sent to Gonzales by Santa Anna with a warning to the Texans that the same fate awaited them if they continued their revolt.