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Newspaper Accounts of the Battle of the Alamo

March 11, 2009

Last Friday, March 6, marked the 173rd anniversary of the final assault on the Alamo garrison. In 1836, those living in Texas and beyond learned about this event (and the general course of the Texas Revolution) through published newspaper accounts. The information contained in these articles was gathered from named and unnamed sources such as Almaron Dickinson’s wife, Susanna; William Barret Travis’s slave, Joe; Ben, the servant to the Mexican officer Colonel Almonte; and Andres Barsena and Anselmo Bergara, Tejanos who based their statements on testimony given by Antonio Pérez, who was in San Antonio on March 6.

The second page of the Telegraph and Texas Register from March 24, 1836. The article about the Alamo begins on the right-hand column under the heading "More Particulars Respecting the Fall of the Alamo."

The second page of the Telegraph and Texas Register from March 24, 1836. The article about the Alamo begins on the right-hand column under the heading "More Particulars Respecting the Fall of the Alamo."

The DRT Library’s newspaper collection includes papers published in the spring of 1836 containing “news from Texas.” While the majority of these materials were published in American cities, also included is a photocopy of the Telegraph and Texas Register published in San Felipe, Texas, on March 24, 1836. According to Todd Hansen, editor of The Alamo Reader, this document “is probably the most influential single account of the fall of the Alamo by virtue of being the first in print, its access to authoritative sources, and its near universal dissemination” (551). Indeed, argues Hansen, this account “would be the picture of the fall for Texans (and the United States) and the starting point for all later secondhand accounts” (565).

According to Todd Hansen, the casualty list included in the Telegraph and Texas Register account is "particularly valuable" because it was "based on the most authoritative sources known in Washington-on-the-Brazos" at the time (565).

According to Todd Hansen, the casualty list included in the Telegraph and Texas Register account is "particularly valuable" because it was "based on the most authoritative sources known in Washington-on-the-Brazos" at the time (565).

Another important newspaper account of the fall of the Alamo in the library’s collections can be found in the Diario del Gobierno de la Republica Mexicana published on March 21, 1836. The draft of a 1968 press release announcing the library’s acquisition of the document states that it is “a rare copy of a Mexican newspaper containing the earliest known official announcement of the fall of the Alamo.”

Front page of the Diario del Gobierno de la Republica Mexicana from March 21, 1836.

Front page of the Diario del Gobierno de la Republica Mexicana from March 21, 1836.

As the official newspaper of the Mexican government, the Diario celebrated the bravery and success of Mexican officers and soldiers in achieving what is described as a complete and brilliant victory. “Long Live the Mexican Republic!” proclaimed the headline of this article, “Long live General Santa Anna and the brave army, victors of the Fort of the Alamo in Texas!”

The report on the fall of the Alamo appears on the fourth page of the March 24th Diario.

The report on the fall of the Alamo appears on the fourth page of the March 24th Diario.

A supplement to this edition of the newspaper contained additional details about the Alamo, specifically General Santa Anna’s report about the battle, his March 5th General Order outlining the plan for the assault, and a March 3rd letter from General Urrea to Santa Anna describing the former’s victory over James Grant’s men at San Patricio. The article also includes a Spanish translation of Robert McAlpin Williamson’s March 1st letter to Travis. Taken from Travis’s body or his quarters, the letter concludes with Williamson’s impassioned statement, “For God’s sake hold out until we can assist you.” The Diario supplement may be the first printing of the text of the letter; since the original manuscript of this letter has never been found, the publication is significant for revealing its existence.

First page of the "Suplemento al Diario del Gobierno de la Republica Mexicana" for March 24, 1836.

First page of the "Suplemento al Diario del Gobierno de la Republica Mexicana" for March 24, 1836.

Like other primary sources describing the siege and battle of the Alamo, newspaper accounts contain some confusing, problematic, and contradictory statements that researchers are still exploring, analyzing, and debating. For example, the report published in the Diario del Gobierno de la Republica Mexicana claimed that more than 600 Texans were killed, an estimation three times the actual number. Additionally, while only seventy deaths are attributed to the Mexican force, actual losses are estimated to be up to 600 soldiers.

Click here for a full citation of documents and images included in this entry.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2009 4:03 pm

    The Diario pages would make a delightful work if translated and dropped into a booklet form. Somebody might annotate it at interesting points. It could emerge as a maybe 28 – 36 page book. Guess I’m just wishing I had one already.

  2. cheryle permalink
    December 20, 2011 11:39 am

    can anyone help me with a Newspaper on the ALAMO SANANTONIO with all accounts of the Alamo as my Husband is so interested and studies the Alamo he went there 4 years ago but I would like to get him a Newspaper of the Alamo IS THERE ONE i CAN GET FOR HIM OR SUBSCRIBE TO WITH ALL THE 1836 NEWS AND EVENTS THAT HAPPENED.

  3. drtlibrary permalink*
    February 9, 2012 4:02 pm

    Cheryle, I can recommend several potential sources to you.

    Todd Hansen’s book The Alamo Reader: A Study in History (2003) is an excellent resource, as it is “as complete a compilation as possible of primary, secondary, and subsequent sources on the actual events of the siege and fall of the Alamo.” Included are eight accounts of the battle that appeared in newspapers in New Orleans and other American cities.

    The DRT Library has a photocopy of the Telegraph and Texas Register from March 24, 1836. According to Todd Hansen, “this is probably the most influential single account of the fall of the Alamo by virtue of being the first in print, its access to authoritative sources, and its near universal dissemination.” The Telegraph was published in San Felipe de Austin, not San Antonio, but was the only newspaper in operation in Texas during the Revolution.

    Your husband may be interested in subscribing to The Alamo Journal, which is the official publication of The Alamo Society (http://www.alamosociety.org/the_alamo_journal.htm). This is not a newspaper that would cover the events of 1836 per se, but it does include articles by historians, scholars, and other Alamo experts that examine various aspects of the battle and site.

  4. September 22, 2012 1:29 pm

    I would very much like to receive Santa Anna’s papers on the fall of the Alamo, if anyone know where I can receive them please let me know

  5. drtlibrary permalink*
    September 28, 2012 4:58 pm

    Hi Sonja, I assume that Santa Anna’s original records pertaining to the Battle of the Alamo are held at government archives in Mexico. However, some of his writings on the topic have been translated into English and published. “The Alamo Reader: A Study in History” (2003), edited by Todd Hansen, contains Santa Anna’s correspondence and orders. It also includes the section of his “Manifesto Relative to His Operations in the Texas Campaign and His Capture” (1837) that pertains to the Alamo. “The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution” (1970), translated with notes by Carlos E. Castaneda, contains the full “Manifesto,” including the documents that Santa Anna published with his account. The full “Manifesto” is also online at http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/santaannaman1.htm.

  6. Thomas James Shutt permalink
    November 20, 2013 11:01 am

    The Alamo was visited by me in the late seventies, during medical training at the Academy of health sciences, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio Texas. I also got to stay near by on a business trip and visited several times in the eighties and nineties. Always loved going there and felt a special aura every time. You could just feel the courage of the men whom fought tyranny for freedom, may God bless all of the defenders that fought there.

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