Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Military History and Warfare: Alamo Village, Brackettville: Texan War of Independence

I apologise for not adding new material to this site for over a month. However, the good news is that having been away travelling over December and January, I have now accumulated lots of new material for 2009.

This week we will be having a look at the Alamo Village, located some 130 miles from the site of the real Alamo in San Antonio. Somewhat 'off the beaten track', the Alamo village was originally constructed for the 1960 John Wayne epic 'The Alamo'. The village consists of the full-scale film set used for the film, including a full-scale replica of both San Antonio and the Alamo compound circa. 1836. The village is unique in that its building have no false fronts. All are fully functional, thus allowing Brackettville to boast Texas' first permanant outdoor movie set. Since 1960, the set has been in some 200 different productions.

For the military historian, the Alamo village also presents the opportunity to look at (and run around in) a recreation of one of the most famous battles in history. Of course, the value of any such exercise is entirely dependent upon the accuracy of the recreation. Whilst it is impossible to judge with any certainty as the accuracy of the set it can be said that the carpenters and set designers were working from a map which is widely believed to accurately represent the true state of affairs at the mission in 1836. At the very least, the set gives us an appreciation of some of the challenges facing the Texian defenders as well as their Mexican attackers.

The Alamo garrison had access to at least eighteen pieces of artillery (and possibly twenty-one according to some sources). In order to equip each one with a full firing team, half of the garrison would have to have been deployed manning cannons. Assuming that each gun team was therefore under strength, this still leaves very few men for protecting the compound perimeter. The complex itself sprawled over 3 acres with almost 1,320 feet of perimeter to defend. With fewer than two-hundred men, the Alamo desperately needed reinforcements.

The final Mexican assault occured on March 6 and consisted of four columns. Despite their advantage in numbers, the advancing Mexicans were extremely vulnerable to cannon shot. Only the first few ranks of soldiers were able to fire without hitting the men in front. The cannons of the defenders were therefore able to tear holes through the tightly packed columns of attacking infantry. However, once over the wall, the Mexicans were able to use their weight in numbers to overwhelm individual groups of defenders. As the photos demonstrate, once the walls had been breached, the inner compound was simply too large to prevent the defenders from being overwhelmed.

Section of the wall defended by Crockett.

Front gate

Cross section of the southern defences.

No comments: