Saturday, April 12, 2014

Into the Valley of Death: Texas’s Immortal 32

By Kathleen Rice Adams

Bejar, Feby. 24th. 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World—

Fellow Citizens & compatriots—

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna — I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man — The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken — I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat.  Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch — The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.

William Barrett Travis.
Lt.  Col. comdt.

A stone memorial on the Alamo grounds honors
the Immortal 32. (courtesty TheConduqtor)
At dawn on March 1, 1836, the only reinforcements to respond to Travis’s urgent appeal fought their way into the Alamo. The Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers, a hastily organized cadre of boys and men ages 16 to 54, forged through a line of 4,000 to 6,000 Mexican soldados, dodging fire from their compatriots atop the mission’s walls.

All but three of the rangers rode into history as the Immortal 32.

The story started months earlier in Gonzales, a settlement in DeWitt’s Colony, one of the original empresario land grants in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. Established in 1825, Gonzales became known as “the Lexington of Texas” when the first shot in the Texas Revolution was fired there Oct. 2, 1835. The Battle of Gonzales began over a cannon the Mexican government had given the Texians in 1831 so they could protect themselves from frequent Indian attacks. In September 1835, as disputes between the Texians and the Mexican government heated up, the governor of Coahuila y Tejas sent 100 Mexican soldiers to retrieve the cannon.

The men of Gonzales — all eighteen of them — refused to give up the artillery. Defiant to the core, they told the soldados to “come and take it.” The Mexicans tried, the men of Gonzales — later known as the Old Eighteen — held their ground until reinforcements arrived, and the resulting skirmish went to the Texians.

The Mexican Army did not take the defeat well.

This cannon, displayed at the Gonzales Memorial Museum,
may be the disputed artillery. (courtesy Larry D. Moore)
Four months later, when Travis, already besieged, sent his final appeal, the men of Gonzales and the surrounding area felt honor-bound to go to the defense of the Alamo defenders. Twenty-five men left Gonzales on the evening of Feb. 27. More joined the group as it traveled. When they reached San Antonio de Béxar, they spent two days trying to figure a way past the sea of Mexican troops. At 3 a.m. on March 1 — knowing their chances of survival were slim — the rangers made a mad dash for the mission gates, braving the fire of Mexican soldiers and Alamo sentries who mistook them for enemy combatants.

The Immortal 32 fell with the Alamo on March 6, never to see the wild land for which they died become an independent republic. They composed about 20 percent of the Anglo casualties. Mexican troops burned the bodies of all the Alamo defenders, whom they considered traitors.

The majority of the Immortal 32 were husbands, fathers, and landowners. Five had been among the Old Eighteen, and one was the younger brother of an Old Eighteen member.

The Immortal 32


Isaac G. Baker, 21
John Cain, 34
George Washington “Wash” Cottle, 25 (brother of an Old Eighteen member)
David P. Cummins, 27
Jacob C. Darst, 42 (Old Eighteen)
John Davis
Squire Daymon, 28
William Dearduff, 25
Charles Despallier, 24
Almaron Dickinson (Old Eighteen)
William Fishbaugh
John Flanders, 36
Dolphin Ward Floyd, 32
Galba Fuqua, 16
John E. Garvin, about 40
John E. Gaston, 17
James George, 34
Thomas Jackson (Old Eighteen)
John Benjamin Kellogg II, 19
Andrew Kent, 44
George C. Kimble, 33
William Philip King, 16
Jonathan L. Lindley, 22
Albert Martin, 28 (Old Eighteen)
Jesse McCoy, 32
Thomas R. Miller, 40 (Old Eighteen)
Isaac Millsaps, 41
George Neggan, 28
William E. Summers, 24
George W. Tumlinson, 22
Robert White, 30
Claiborne Wright, 26

A crypt in the San Fernando Cathedral purports to hold the
ashes of the Alamo defenders. Historians believe it is
more likely the ashes were buried near the Alamo.
Three men who rode into the Alamo with the Immortal 32 survived because they were sent out March 3 as couriers or foragers. All three were attempting to return to the Alamo when it fell.

Byrd Lockhart, 54, later served in the Texas army.
John William Smith, 44, became the first mayor of San Antonio.
Andrew Jackson Sowell, 21, became a Texas Ranger.

A monument in the Alamo Shrine commemorates the valor of the Immortal 32, as does an entire cemetery in Gonzales's Pioneer Village.



14 comments:

  1. Thank you for the post. You know how I feel about bringing the stories and the people who made this country to light. When we forget, that is the true death of those who came before. Doris

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  2. Thank you for visiting, Doris! I know exactly how you feel. We're sisters in arms in the battle to preserve history, my dear. Keep up the fight! :-)

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  3. Kathleen...what a story. And one they never teach in school. Heck, anymore, we're lucky if they even MENTION The Alamo!

    I can't imagine what it much have taken for those men to ride into the Alamo and know if they made it, they'd have another chance to die there. What a feeling. Hoping you could make it alive so you could be inside to die with the defenders, and lend a hand however you could do it. Those were some VERY brave men, and some of them were so young.

    Thanks for this great post.
    Cheryl

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  4. Everyone has heard "Remember the Alamo!" Many have heard the related battle cry "Remember Goliad!" (Santa Anna's men executed the garrison at Goliad after the men surrendered under promise of clemency. Occurring so close together, the two events really galvanized the Texians. More about that on the PRP blog this coming Friday. ;-) )

    Relatively few people outside Texas are aware of the "come and take it" episode, and hardly anyone -- even among Texans -- knows the story of the Immortal 32. That's just sad. We should celebrate our heritage, not let it die due to lack of interest. :-)

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  5. Fabulous post, Kathleen. I visited the Alamo a few years ago, and it really speaks to me today.

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  6. Kathleen--I love the Come and Take it story about the canon. True, the battle and fall of the Alamo is far more well known, but I can picture that ragtag group at Goliad defending that canon. I have read that they filled it with scrap iron and old metal canon balls, and then chained it to a post--or something. It would have bee very heavy to move away.
    As I've said, I'm a Daughter of the Republic of Texas, which means I had at least one ancestor who fought the Mexicans for our independence. The note is brief for both, made in some thick roster in a court house. I actually had two ancestors. I am a 7th generation Texan.
    I don't participate in our local chapter very much, but for our size town, it is one of the biggest and busiest. I couldn't keep up with everything they do.

    I'll write a post about the two women who began the Daughters in order to preserve the crumbling structure. They've fought many battles, themselves--their enemy? The Texas government who wants control of the Alamo. The Daughters won't go down without a fight. "Defend the Alamo!"
    Thanks so much for remembering the Immortal 32.

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  7. This was such a fascinating post, Kathleen. I wish I had known more when I lived in Texas and visited the Alamo. I see clearly why Texans stand proud and why they have one star on their flag. They could have been their own country, but I'm glad they're part of our united states.
    Until now I had not heard of the immortal 32. Some day I'd like to return to the Alamo and visit with the knowledge and reverence I have for it now.

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  8. Tanya, the Alamo has that effect on folks. :-D

    Celia, I can't wait to read your post about the founders of the Daughters. They HAVE had a battle with state government, bless their hearts. Keep fighting, ladies! If the state gets ahold of the Alamo, we're all in trouble. :-(

    My understanding is the Old Eighteen filled the cannon with scrap and pushed it in the river, where it sank. I can't really say whether that's true or just local lore. Either way, it's a good story. ;-)

    Sarah, next time you come to Texas, you'll have to let me know. I'll meet you in San Antone and give you a Texan's-eye-view tour of Gonzales and Goliad, which aren't far from the river city. My aunt and uncle lived in one of the stately old homes in Gonzales for years and years and years. My grandmother, my sister, and I served all as docents in their home when they opened it for tours as part of the annual Come and Take It celebration. Now THAT was fun!

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  9. Thank you so much for reminding me in part why I'm so proud to be a Texan. It's been years since I've actually visited these historic sites but now I'm thinking I need to journey there again soon. So much history, so much fighting spirit went into the making of Texas.

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  10. You and me both, Ciara -- on "proud to be a Texan" and "it's been years since I've visited" Gonzales or the Alamo. (We'd probably both better get our buns to The Shrine pretty quick. I'm fairly certain we're violatin' a Texas law by not visiting more often. ;-) )

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  11. Great post about a subject vital to every Texas citizen. Thanks for the excellent post, Kathleen.

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  12. I, too, enjoyed your post, Kathleen.I'm also a Daughter of the Republic of Texas and look forward with great interest to Celia's post. If we all keep talking about Texas' history, maybe we can help people to remember what was sacrificed to preserve this land they enjoy today. Thank you!

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  13. Great story indeed. But the age of Alamo Hero Charles Despallier has recently been set to 21 instead of 24. That makes him 3 years younger and increases the possibility that he was one and the same person as Carlos Espalier. Both names appear on the Alamo Monument in San Antonio though. You can check the Texas State Historical Association website or check my own website at www(.)dahlqvist(.)be - I have studied Despallier for over 15 years now and published the full history (1510-1914) of this French family.

    Rasmus Dahlqvist

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  14. Thanks, Rasmus! I always appreciate receiving updated information. :-)

    How did you come to have such a deep interest in the Despallier family? Are they ancestors of yours?

    I'll definitely check out your website.

    Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving additional information about Charles/Carlos Despallier in such a pleasant, helpful, friendly way. You are a rarity online, sir. I wish there were more polite, knowledgeable people like you who enjoy sharing their knowledge in the interest of historical accuracy, instead of using their intensive research in an attempt to discredit someone else.

    HUGS!!!!

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