A Largely-Forgotten Commander’s Efforts for the “Troops at Bexar”
A small piece of paper in the library’s archives dated February 28, 1836 helps document the contributions of James C. Neill, a relatively obscure Alamo hero.
J. C. Neill Lt Col of Artilery
Neill was a key participant in the Siege of Béxar and became the commander of San Antonio and the Alamo in December 1835. With the garrison stripped of provisions and manpower to supply the Matamoros expedition, Neill was left to hold the town with fewer than 100 men. He constantly called upon the divided government for reinforcements and supplies, requests that went unanswered. Neill also improved the defenses of the former mission and maintained the morale of his men, a feat Jim Bowie praised and historian Stephen Hardin described as “remarkable.”
Neill left the Alamo in mid-February 1836 after receiving word that his family was seriously ill. In Alamo Traces, Thomas Ricks Lindley surmises that Neill probably also went to “confront Governor Smith and Sam Houston about the lack of support for the Béxar garrison” (310). Leaving William Barret Travis in command, Neill stated that he would return within twenty days.
Santa Anna’s army arrived in San Antonio and besieged the Alamo before Neill could return. However, the receipt in the DRT Library’s collections provides evidence that he never stopped working on behalf of his command. Indeed, in Gonzales on March 6, the day of the final assault on the Alamo, Neill spent ninety dollars of his own money buying medical supplies for his men. He had also mustered 200 volunteers to reinforce the garrison before learning of its fall; this group became the nucleus of Houston’s army at the Battle of San Jacinto.
References and Further Reading
“J. C. Neill: The Forgotten Alamo Commander” by Stephen L. Hardin
Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution by Stephen L. Hardin
Alamo Traces: New Evidence and New Conclusions by Thomas Ricks Lindley
Sacrificed at the Alamo: Tragedy and Triumph in the Texas Revolution by Richard Bruce Winders