History of The Alamo

Since 1718, the Alamo Mission in San Antonio has been witness to many of the changing times that Texas has been subject to. From its origins as a Spanish Mission to its times as a Mexican fortress to its days of heroism and infamy in the Texas Revolution, it has been an enduring American icon for centuries, and with good reason.

Today, the Alamo is history come alive. Located in downtown San Antonio, it is a tourist destination like no other, a museum and a piece of living American history that all who visit the area should visit at least once in their lives. To get to walk in the same footsteps as so many of Texas’ greatest heroes did in their final days… there is truly nothing quite like it.

However, as with many places that have such a storied history of heroism and bloodshed, there are tales of the Alamo that linger on the dark side. Of spirits still wandering the grounds, some of them still forever living in the battle that brought this old Spanish mission its greatest fame. Who knows what ghosts and specters truly still call this famed location home, but there are enough stories to go around to make even the most skeptical look over their shoulder when wandering the Alamo at night…

The Mission

In 1716, the Spanish government began setting up a series of missions across Texas, to act as way stations for travelers and work toward converting the local native tribes to Catholicism. In 1718, a crude structure of mud and straw was first established near the headwaters of the San Antonio River, dubbed San Antonio de Valero. From this location, other structures were developed into the first permanent Spanish civilian population in Texas in what would later develop into the modern city of San Antonio.

Over the next few years, storms would destroy this initial structure, and it would move around several times before settling in its current location in 1724. Over the next several decades, permanent structures were established in adobe, including quarters for the priests, barracks for local native populations, and workshops. Multiple attempts were made at constructing a permanent, onsite church, but due to construction collapses they were never finished and presumably never used.

With the nearby presidio woefully underdeveloped to repel attacks, the mission was fortified to withstand attacks from the native Apache and Comanche tribes. In 1745, 100 natives living at the mission repelled an attack from more than 300 Apache warriors, likely saving the mission, presidio and town from destruction. Over the years that followed, two-foot thick walls were built around the perimeter to better help deal with attacks.

By 1793, the mission had seen better days, with most of the native population having moved on and the mission itself becoming secularized. Not long after, it was abandoned, seemingly lost to time.

Ready for War

By the 19th century, the abandoned mission had taken on the name “the Alamo”. During the Mexican War of Independence, the mission would alternately serve as first a political prison, and later a hospital. After Mexico gained its independence in 1821, the mission was officially transferred over to Mexican control. It remained in their control until 1835, when General Martin Perfecto de Cos surrendered it to Texan forces during the Texas Revolution.

The Battle of the Alamo

Painting depicting the Battle of The Alamo (Davy Crockett center of the picture wielding a rifle)

More books, films and legends have been told about the Battle of the Alamo than perhaps any other military engagement on American soil, and to go over them all here would still not properly do the story justice, and yet it is a tale still worth telling.

With the departure of the Mexican troops at the Alamo indicating a loss of an organized Mexican garrison in Texas, many Texans believed the war to be over. Colonel James C. Neill, left in charge of the defense of the fortress with 100 men, requested more because he believed the position to be vulnerable. With the Texan government disorganized and not able to send reinforcements, Neill and engineer Green Jameson set about fortifying the installation and setting up what few cannons it had.

General Sam Houston sent Colonel James Bowie to take a handful of reinforcements to fortify the position, and when Neill left to round up more support, command was split between Bowie and William Travis.

On February 23, the Mexican army under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna arrived and laid siege to the Alamo for 13 days before engaging in a savage battle on March 6th, with nearly all the defending Texans slaughtered and between 400-600 Mexican soldiers killed, nearly a third of their attacking army.

Aftermath

Though Mexico occupied the Alamo for a few months after the battle, the end of the war and victory for Texas meant the Alamo soon changed hands yet again. Over the coming decades, it would serve as a military installation for the United States and even the Confederacy during the years that it wasn’t abandoned.

Though it had nearly been forgotten to time by the late 19th century, enough remembered its importance to organize a restoration. Legal battles and ownership disputes kept its status in limbo for some time, but by the Great Depression, funds from the WPA were used to restore the Alamo, building a wall around it and a museum immortalizing its significance as not just a Texan, but an American icon that should never be forgotten.

Alamo Ghost Stories

19th Century Spirits

With a history rife with bloodshed, it’s no wonder that the Alamo is surrounded by a myriad of ghost stories. Amazingly, though, is that many of these stories date back to the days immediately following the famed battle and massacre.

Days after the attack on the Alamo, General Santa Anna demanded that his soldiers burn the Alamo to the ground. A group of cavalry soldiers under General Andrade were sent to complete this job, yet they came back pale faced and frightened.

When questioned by Andrade, the cavalrymen claimed they had witnessed six pale spirits, each wielding a flaming sword and blocking off entrance to the grounds of the abandoned mission. Fearful of what this meant, and what would happen to them if they went through with burning the church to the ground, the men returned to their commanding officer.

Not believing these tales, Andrade himself rode out to the site with a few men, only to witness a dark spirit rise from the ashes of a ruined building, its hand consumed in fire. Believing this place to be haunted by the spirits of those killed at the Alamo, Andrade and his men fled, never to return to the site.

These spirits may very well have saved the Alamo from destruction a second time in 1871, when orders came down to demolish part of the facility. San Antonio residents witnessed what they called a “ghost army” marching in formation around the Alamo, some of which stood guard over the historic buildings. Whatever the truth of the matter, the plans to demolish the building were extinguished just as hastily as they were suggested.

The Alamo gained such a reputation for being haunted that few night watchmen would stick around toward the end of the 19th century for fear of what they’d seen on duty.

Other Spirits

With the grounds having been a cemetery for San Antonio for almost a hundred years even before the Battle of the Alamo, it’s of little wonder that other assorted tales of ghosts and hauntings surround the Alamo. There are some simple stories, like disembodied voices or a feeling of overwhelming malaise surrounding the location of the last stand, but a few specific specters are also said to walk these hallowed grounds.

A ghostly, pale guard has been reported to be seen standing on top of one of the Alamo buildings, especially on dark and stormy nights.

A ghost, widely believed to be a Mexican soldier (popularly attributed to be General Manuel Fernandez de Castrillon, an officer of Santa Anna’s who refused to lay siege to the Alamo or kill prisoners), is often seen pacing the grounds. With hands clasped behind his back and head held low, he appears to be carrying a great deal of regret and remorse even into the afterlife.

The spirits of a man and a young boy can be seen on top of one of the Alamo’s buildings, especially around sunrise. They will stand there for a time, only for the man to wrap his arm around the boys’ shoulders and for the two of them to leap off the edge. This was an incident allegedly witnessed by Santa Anna and his troops, making it possibly the oldest ghost of the Alamo.

The ghost of a small, blond-haired boy can commonly be seen in a window of the old mission, above what is now the Alamo’s gift shop. Popular belief has it that he was one of the Alamo’s few survivors who made it out, but whose parents did it, and that his spirit returns to the last place he knew them to be, forever searching and never finding.

As one of the greatest and most historically relevant tourist destinations in all of Texas, the Alamo is a must see for those who are paranormally inclined, or those just looking into the rich history of a Texas landmark. Offering regular tours, and the occasional seasonal ghost tour, the Alamo is an American icon that cannot be missed when passing through the Lone Star state, even if it might come with an unexpected spooky encounter or two…

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