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In many books about of the Alamo all said, The phrase "Remember the Alamo", an often misquoted reference to the 1836 battle, actually does very little to help us remember the real Alamo. Largely ignored are the years following the 1793 secularization of Mission San Antonio de Valero. Until recently, this period of the Alamo's history seemed doomed to remain hidden forever. The history of the Alamo begins long before 1836. It is the story of a thriving community whose citizens lived and died within the shadow of the mission's walls. Built by Spanish priests and their Indian converts, the mission San Antonio de Valero later became the home to the Spanish soldiers whose company name, Alamo de Parras, would forever be a part of that place.
In the early 1800 's, expansionists, like Aaron Burr, called for the invasion of Spanish territory causing Spain to look toward the United States with great anxiety. With the purchase of the Louisiana territory in 1803, the Spanish made plans to repel any possible foreign invasion by concentrating Spanish troops on the Texas frontier. As the first of several reinforcement efforts, the Alamo de Parras Company marched under orders from Chihuahua to Texas to San Antonio de Bjar to bolster the existing Bjar Presidio. Most of the soldiers arrived on the Rio San Antonio by January 1803 with their families following that spring. The existing soldiers of the Bjar Presidial Company had already established their own residences in the area and so readily relinquished their quarters to the new arrivals. What the company found was less than satisfactory as Francisco Amangual, the commander of the Alamo de Parras Company, found the barracks on Plaza de Arms in poor condition.
Evaluating his options, he moved his men and their families across the San Antonio River and into the partially abandoned mission of San Antonio de Valero that had been secularized in 1793. The old mission's convent and rooms along the West Side of the plaza were in better condition and offered more room and protection. The courtyard was converted to a corral and the sacristy of the partially completed church became the chapel. There were more than two hundred men, women and children in the Alamo de Parras community living together within the mission's walls. The lower floor of the derelict convent, or the Long Barracks, housed the unmarried soldiers.
Soldiers with families lived in adobe shelters adjoining the exterior wall of the compound's enclosure. Others lived in crude huts called Jackals Eventually, Indian raids forced them to move inside the enclosure. In the years that followed, the Alamo de Parras Company slowly rebuilt and reinforced the mission compound. By 1805, they founded the first military hospital in San Fernando de Bjar that was situated in the upper level of the mission's convent. It served both the military and civilian populations. In 1809, rumors of an invasion by the United States spread across the province.
The Alamo de Parras Company promptly ordered materials to add 834 varas of battlement to the existing walls of the enclosure. Part of this construction included the southernmost wall with a large gate separating a barrack from a guardhouse. The Alamo de Parras company continued to occupy their "fort" until 1830, when the mission compound again was abandoned for a two-year period during the company's occupation of Fort Tenoxtitlan in Southeast Texas. The failure of that endeavor returned the company to the fort in 1832 where they remained until December 10, 1835 when General Cos surrendered at the "Battle of Bjar", evacuating his Mexican garrison of 1, 105 men. A Texas garrison of about 104 men took possession of the Alamo. As the war with Mexico escalated, there were complaints that the Alamo had been stripped of cannons and supplies to reinforce efforts in Matamoros.
General Sam Houston sent Jim Bowie with about 20 men to the Alamo to inspect it, assuming that he would recommend evacuation. He remained with others to defend the mission and in the March of 1836 the Alamo forever took its place in history as a El Fuerte del Alamo. Bibliography:
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