DAWN AT THE ALAMO (Illustration) American History Famous People Film Legends and Legendary People Social Studies Famous Historical Events Nineteenth Century Life World History Ethics

Flying a red flag, and apparently playing the El Degüello bugle call, Santa Anna and his troops signaled to the Alamo defenders that no quarter would be given. Put differently, Santa Anna was sending a message that his men would allow no Alamo defender to live. Without reinforcements, the Alamo defenders did not have a chance to survive Santa Anna’s overwhelming firepower. This image depicts a flag of “No Quarter.”


At the start of his Alamo siege, Santa Anna ordered the red flag of 'no quarter' to be flown from the bell tower of San Fernando Church. His objective, of course, was to intimidate the men inside the fort.

Travis had desperately sought reinforcements. Davy Crockett, a frontiersman and former Tennessee congressman - this document certifies his election to that post - joined the Texians with a small group of Mounted Tennessee Volunteers in early February.

Juan Seguin, a highly respected Tejano, was out of the fort the morning of the final assault. (It is thought he may have crossed Mexican lines more than once in his effort to find assistance for the beleaguered defenders.) James Bowie, who had been leader of the volunteers and Alamo co-commander with Travis, was extremely ill with (according to most accounts) typhoid fever.

James Butler Bonham, who was twenty-eight years old at the time, arrived in Texas during late 1835. He served as the chief messenger for the Alamo and left the garrison on February 16, 1836 to seek help. When Bonham returned to the Alamo on March 3rd, it is said he was a Messenger of Defeat since he brought bad news: It appeared the garrison would get no reinforcements and no more help of any kind.

Since no defender lived to tell the tale, we are left with other eyewitness stories. Not surprisingly, they differ in many respects.

During the early morning hours of March 6, 1836, Susanna Dickinson, the wife of one of the defenders, was inside the Alamo with her baby daughter Angelina. (The linked portrait was made years later.) She first learned the fort was in serious trouble when her husband 'rushed into the church' to warn her:

Great God, Sue, the Mexicans are inside our walls! All is lost! If they spare you, save my child. (Eyewitness to the Alamo, page 89.)

Santa Anna allowed her to live - perhaps to warn other resisters what could happen to them. Although she did not witness the fighting firsthand (the link depicts Henry McArdle's painting Dawn at the Alamo), she heard it. The Telegraph and Texas Register used Susanna's observations in the first newspaper account of the Alamo's fall, published on March 24, 1836:

At daybreak...the enemy surrounded the fort with their infantry, with the cavalry forming a circle outside to prevent escape on the part of the garrison. General Santa Ana commanded in person, assisted by four generals and a formidable train of artillery. Our men had been previously much fatigues and harrassed by nightwatching and incessant toil, having experienced for some days past a heavy bombardment and several real and feigned attacks.

Santa Anna's troops were initially unsuccessful, but events dramatically worsened as dawn approached.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: May 02, 2016

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"DAWN AT THE ALAMO" AwesomeStories.com. Mar 01, 2004. Feb 23, 2020.
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