On March 6, 1836, the Alamo fell to Santa Anna’s army after a 13 day siege. Delegates from throughout Texas were meeting in Washington-on-the-Brazos. On March 2 they had signed the Declaration of Independence. Those delegates made Sam Houston commander-in-chief, and he immediately began to prepare the Texas Army for battle even as Travis held Santa Anna’s army at the Alamo.
That Texas army was an “army of the people,” fewer than four thousand total, spread across the Republic, almost entirely volunteers. They were ill disciplined and ill trained, but they knew what they were fighting for. After the slaughter of 189 at the Alamo on March 6 and the massacre of 342 prisoners of war at Goliad on March 27, they knew that LTC William Travis had been right: there were only two choices. Listen to the letter Travis wrote from the Alamo on February 24, addressed “to the people of Texas and 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.
We share that heritage. We defend that heritage. We are free men and women, who can hold our heads high, because of the sacrifice of those who went before us.