March 5-6. 1836 Hour by Hour

Mar 5, 2018
Stephen Hardin, Ph.D.
Historical Accuracy

Thank you to Dr. Stephen Hardin for this account of the battle from the perspective of a Mexican reporter. In our app, the story of the Alamo is as engaging as the technology we use to bring it to life.

10:00 a.m., March 5, 1836: Reports confirm that Generalissimo Antonio López de Santa Anna has ordered an assault on the Texian rebels besieged inside the former mission outside town. According to His Excellency, the onslaught will take place at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning.

12:00 a.m., March 5, 1836: San Antonio de Béxar is buzzing. In compliance to orders released this morning, Mexican soldiers are busy making preparations for tomorrow’s assault. Engineers are building ladders, while NCO’s insure their men’s equipment meet exacting standards.” His Excellency was clear on this topic:  “The arms, principally the bayonets, should be in perfect order.” These actions do not bode well for the rebels inside the Alamo.

Mexican General3:00 p.m., March 5, 1836: Generalissimo Santa Anna and the four column commanders are currently conducting a reconnaissance of the attack positions and approaches. “His Excellency” insists that his commanders inspect the ground during daylight, as they will be unable to see it in the pre-dawn gloom.

4:00 p.m., March 5, 1836: The Mexican artillery fire against the Alamo’s north wall has intensified. Mexican gunners believe that their fire has weakened the obstacle, but still it stands. The rebel defenders have reportedly bolstered it with odd timbers and dirt piled up against the inside.

5:00 p.m., March 5, 1836: The Mexican artillery has suddenly halted. After such a long barrage, the silence seems eerie. The order to halt firing is perhaps in deference to the soldados, who this reporter can see taking to their bedrolls. Officers have instructed them to get plenty of rest; their day will begin early.

7:00 p.m., March 5, 1836: This reporter has learned that many influential senior officers continue to have unspoken misgivings concerning Santa Anna’s orders to take no prisoners. Even so, “His Excellency remains adamant and the red flag of no quarter continues to wave above San Fernando Church.

8:00 p.m., March 5, 1836: Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis and his men are grateful for the lull in what has been an almost constant bombardment. Travis posts a few sentries, but instructs most of the garrison to take advantage of the respite to get some much needed sleep.

10:00 p.m., March 5. 1836: A courier gallops through Mexican lines and into the fort. He reports that the enemy has cut off Texian communications and that the promised reinforcements will not be arriving—at least, not any time soon. Travis received the intelligence and retired to his quarters.

11:00 p.m., March 5, 1836: At this hour, the four column commanders meet with junior officers and NCOs. They once again go over plans for the assault that will occur in a matter of hours. Officers tell the NCO’s to let the enlisted men enjoy their last few minutes of sleep. They will be awakened soon enough.

Midnight, March 6, 1836: Mexican NCOs nudge sleeping soldados awake with the toes of their boots. Hastily—but silently—the groggy enlisted men join their units.

1:00 a.m., March 6, 1836: Mexican assault columns have formed up and are now moving toward their assembly areas. The weather is cool, but not cold.

3:00 a.m., March 6, 1836: Mexican columns are now crossing narrow wooden bridges across the San Antonio River. Engineers are marking minor obstacles so assault troops can approach the Alamo without being noticed.

4:00 a.m., March 6, 1836: At this hour each Mexican assault column has arrived at its pre-determined staging area. Officers order their men to lie in the wet grass while they await orders. No smoking or talking is allowed. While the Alamo looms ahead in the darkness, the soldados can detect no movements. Perhaps, they really can surprise the rebels.

5:00 a.m., March 6, 1836: Having lain in the wet grass for more than an hour, the Mexican assault troops are beginning to shiver. What is the cause of the delay? Santa Anna’s orders called for a four o’clock attack; the elaborate plans are already an hour behind schedule.

5:30 a.m., March 6, 1836: Santa Anna is in his command post, the artillery battery opposite the Alamo’s battered north wall. He wants to insure all is in order before ordering the attack. Yet, staff officers who have just returned from inspecting the assault columns, inform His Excellency that the troops are starting to lose their edge. These reports persuade Santa Anna and he orders the signal. A rocket streaks across the darkness. Soldados rise to their feet and surge forward. THE ASSAULT HAS BEGUN.

5:35 a.m., March 6, 1836: As they move forward, the columns maintain their silence. But the anxiety proves too much. One soldado shouts, “Viva Santa Anna!” Another replies, “Viva la Republica!” Hundreds of voices rend the air. His Excellency curses these “imprudent huzzas.” This was supposed to be a surprise attack!

5:36 a.m., March 6, 1836: The cacophony outside the walls has alerted Texian sentries who sound the alarm. Groggy rebels throw off blankets, grab rifles, and run to their posts.

5:40 a.m., March 6, 1836: Imbedded with the Texian rebels defending the Alamo, this reporter sees Adjutant John J. Baugh rush into Lieutenant Colonel Travis’s quarters to alert him that the Mexicans are attacking in force. Awake in a flash, Travis grabs his double-barreled shotgun. Joe, the colonel’s body servant, shares his master’s lodgings. Travis calls his man to follow him to the north wall artillery battery. As the pair sprint across the compound, the post commander sees his men hastening to their duty stations. “Come on, boys,” he shouts, “the Mexicans are upon us and we’ll give them Hell!”

5:45 a.m., March 6, 1836: Travis mounts the north wall battery and peers over the wall. What he sees alarms him. Mexican troops have advanced dangerously close to the wall. Some are already “under the guns”—that is to say, so close that Texian gunners can’t depress their cannon barrels enough to hit them. Travis does what he can; he unloads both barrels of his shotgun into the head of the nearest column. Almost immediately, this reporter witnesses a slug penetrate his forehead. Travis lurches backward, dead before he hits the ground. His shotgun drops from his hands and tumbles over the wall, landing among soldados crouched at the base of the wall.

6:00 a.m., March 6, 1836: This reporter is imbedded with the Toluca Battalion as it advances against the Alamo’s north wall. Some of our men are under the guns, but we remain frightfully exposed. Horrified, I watch a single cannon blast sweeps away half a company of cazadores. My professional detachment evaporates as their blood and brains soaks my face, hair, and clothing.

6:15 a.m., March 6, 1836: Seeing the attack falter, Santa Anna is committing his tactical reserves, the elite Zapadores—combat engineers. They unleash a volley toward the rebels atop the north wall. Yet, many of their rounds fall short, killing or wounding comrades jumbled at the bottom.

6:25 a.m., March 6, 1836: Finally, the sheer mass of humanity against the wall achieves the desired result. Dozens of assault troops gain a foothold on the northern barrier and drop into the compound. At the same time, soldados wielding axes and crowbars smash through the wooden doors along the west wall and pour into the fort. THE REBEL DEFENSES APPEAR TO BE CRUMBLING!

6:30 a.m., March 6, 1836: On the opposite end of the compound, this reporter witnesses cazadores of the Morales column carry the fort’s southwest corner. They have captured the 18-pounder, the rebels’ largest cannon.

6:35 a.m., March 6. 1836: As Mexican assault troops overwhelm the outer perimeter, this reporter sees Texian rebels fall back into the long row of buildings on the fort’s east side. Others, however, understand the hopelessness of their resistance and abandon the fort, running across the prairie.

6:40 a.m., March 6, 1836: The rebels have withdrawn in such haste, that they neglect to disable their guns. This reporter sees soldados roll captured cannon into the compound, employing them to blast through doors into the enemy barracks.

6:45 a.m., March 6, 1836: Mexican troops push through shattered entrances into rebel quarters. In these cramped, smoke-filled spaces the fighting is fierce and hand-to-hand. But it is also brief. I can report that the Mexican tri-color now flies atop this building.

6:50 a.m., March 6, 1836: This reporter is imbedded with the cavalry units under the command of General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma. His Excellency has placed us between the fort and the town anticipating that the rebels will attempt to flee their fort. His foresight is remarkable. I now see dozens of fugitives running in our direction. The general orders his horsemen to cut them off. Many of these absconders sell their lives dearly, but in a matter of minutes they all lie dead.

6:55 a.m., March 6, 1836: This reporter views Texian rebels retire into the old church. Soon afterward our soldados force their way in to engage the remaining defenders. Half a dozen defenders fight until our troops overwhelm them. I see General Manuel Fernández Castrillón order his men to spare these helpless men.

7:00 a.m., March 6, 1836: At this hour, chaos reigns. A pall of heavy smoke shrouds the area. And while frenzied soldados continue to fire at shadows, it appears to this reporter that all organized resistance has ended. The Mexican Republic is victorious. THE ALAMO HAS FALLEN!

7:15 a.m., March 6, 1836: His Excellency has just entered the captured fort. As he surveys the carnage, General Castrillón approaches and presents him the prisoners he has just taken. Santa Anna replies that he has expressly stated that he wanted no captives. Castrillón begs for their lives but El Presidente answers with a gesture of indignation. Officers on his staff, men who had not participated in the assault, draw their swords and spring toward the defenseless prisoners. I watch in horror as—[CENSORED BY ARMY HEADQUARTERS. SINCERE APOLOGIES TO OUR READERS].

7:30 a.m., March 6, 1836: This reporter has just learned that our troops have discovered some fourteen non-combatant women and children in the sacristy of the old church. I personally witnessed Colonel Juan Almonte (who speaks the enemy’s language) inquire if a Mrs. Dickinson was among them. At length, she stepped forward. She is the wife—now widow—of a slain rebel. She clutches to her breast her infant daughter. Colonel Almonte escorts Mrs. Dickinson and her child to the home of former Political Chief, Don Ramón Músquiz, family friends. Our army does not war against women and children; every Mexican should be proud of the chivalry displayed this day by His Excellency and his officers.

9:00 a.m., March 6. 1836: His Excellency has graciously allowed this reporter to accompany his party as he inspects the Alamo fort, which our noble soldiers took earlier this morning. Don José Francisco Ruiz—Alcalde of San Antonio de Béxar—and a slave called Joe—the rebel commander’s man servant—singled out the bodies of the Texian leaders. The fort’s commander, a man named Travis, had been shot in the head and appears to have died as a soldier. Not so for Bowie. He perished in his bed,  offering no resistance. (In fairness, many citizens claim he had been desperately ill.)

Noon, March 6, 1836: The cost of our victory is now revealed. About seventy of our  soldiers lie dead on the field. More to be pitied are the wounded. No hospital facilities have been prepared, and perhaps hundreds of these unfortunates lie moaning in the streets. Many will not survive. Veterans of the assault stumble about with shock and horror etched on their faces; they are more like ghosts than men. This reporter overheard one high-ranking officer observe: “Another such victory, and we will all go to the Devil!”

5:00 p.m., March 6, 1836:   San Antonio de Bexar has a melancholy feel to it tonight. This reporter sees a huge pillar of flame and smoke rising to the south and east of the Alamo—funeral pyres for the rebels. Sobbing women can be heard mourning the loss of their loved ones, and the inability to bury their dead. Although they are wives and lovers of an enemy, humanity demands that I feel sorrow for them and their fatherless children. How severe are the dictates of war; how cruel its demands. I wonder, will those children remember the Alamo?