Tour of Tragedies - The Alamo

The Alamo, Dealey Plaza, Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

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map2222.jpg We travelled from St.Paul, Minnesota to San Antonio, Texas over the 4th of July 2004. Our purpose was to visit my step-son who is learning to be a National Guard medic at Fort Sam Houston. Here is a map of our route. We the trip was approximately 1250 miles each way. We made the trip in a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country mini van, always going about 5 miles over the speed limit. The speed limit was 70 MPH in Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Iowa, for some reason, has an interstate speed limit of 65.

From:To:~Mileage: ~Duration:
St. Paul, MNDes Moines, IA240 miles 3 hours 20 min
Des Moines, IAKansas City, MO175 miles 2 hours 30 min
Kansas City, MOWichita, KA200 miles 2 hours 40 min
Wichita, KAOklahoma City, OK150 miles 2 hours
Oklahoma City, OKDallas, TX175 miles 2 hours 20 min
Dallas, TXWaco, TX100 miles 1 hour 20 min
Waco, TXAustin, TX100 miles 1 hour 20 min
Austin, TXSan Antonio, TX100 miles 1 hour 20 min
  ========== =============
  1240 miles 16 hours 50 min

1a_1.jpg We left after work on Wednesday, July 1st. We drove to Des Moines and spent the night. Margaret and I walked to the Iowa State Capitol building, which was about 5 blocks away from our hotel. This picture is not very good - I really need to spend time practicing taking pictures of objects at night...
1b_2.jpg 1c_3.jpg Here we are at a rest stop on the Kansas turnpike during what was a very very long day of driving. The landscape is flat and wide open. The flag is at half staff because we are at the tail end of the official morning period for ex-president Ronald Reagan.
1d_4.jpg My travel companions, upon being told we are in Oklahoma. Their reactions run the emotional range. We all noted the deep red color of the soil. Even the rivers were this color. I have to record my observations upon reaching Texas. First of all, the first building you see upon crossing the border on I35 is a porno store with a huge sign. Everywhere in Texas there are porno shops everywhere, with huge signs. By comparison, every other state seems to hide their porno shops in seedy out-of-the-way places where they blend into the background. Not Texas. Texas porn is loud and proud - right next to the freeways with giant signs unabashedly announcing exactly what is to be found. The other thing I noticed right away was, by comparison, there were far more state troopers on the road than in any other state. So beware. And I swear to God they do have roadside signs that proclaim, "Don't mess with Texas".
1e_5.jpg Here we are in downtown San Antonio on our way to visit the Alamo, that symbol of Texas. It is very easy to reach the Alamo - it's right off the freeway. The modern city of San Antonio grew up and in some sense eclipsed the Alamo. Their's hotels and other modern buildings right across the street. The Alamo is just ahead, in the green clump of trees.

The Alamo in 1836 occupied the grounds and buildings of former Mission San Antonio de Valero. Used as a military post since the early 1800s, the Texans had barricaded openings and mounted at least nineteen cannon before the 13-day siege.

1  The North Wall (Travis' position)
2  The Palisade (Crockett's position)
3  The Long Barrack (Infantry and
    Artillery quarters)
4  The Low Barrack (Bowie's quarters)
5  Position of the 18-pound cannon
6  Alamo Headquarters
7  Church (Powder magazine, quarters,
    artillery position)
8  South Redoubt (earthworks)
9  North Redoubt (earthworks)

A The Shrine. The Shrine is dedicated
   to the memory of the men who fell in
   defense of the Alamo.
B Long Barrack Museum. Built using the
   remains of the original Long Barrack,
   the museum opened in 1968 and houses
   exhibits on the Alamo's historic past
   as well as the Clara Driscoll Theater.
C The DRT Library. Dedicated in 1950,
   the DRT Library contains books and
   documents on Texas History.
D Sales Museum. Built in 1936, the Sales
   Museum contains both the gift shop and
   exhibits on Texas History.
E Alamo Hall. A former San Antonio city
   fire station, the building now serves
   as a meeting hall.
F Cavalry Courtyard. This area was used
   as a stock pen during the siege.
G Acequia. The waterway marks the remains
   of the irrigation system that served
   the Spanish communities along the
   San Antonio River.
H Stone Walls and Arcade. The stone walls
   and arches that surround the Alamo have
   been erected since the 1920s.
I Comfort Area. Restrooms, vending machines
   and benches are located at the rear of
   the Alamo grounds.
J Convento Courtyard. The well dates back
   to the Mission Period.
K Wall of History. Dedicated in 1997, this
   outdoor exhibit tells the history of
   the Alamo from mission to modem times.
Originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years. Construction began on the present site in 1724. In 1793, Spanish officials secularized San Antonio's five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents. These men and women continued to farm the fields that had once been the mission's but were now their own, and thus participated in the growing community of San Antonio.

In the early 1800s, the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission. The soldiers referred to the old mission as the Alamo (the Spanish word for "cottonwood") in honor of their hometown Alamo de Pan-as, Coahuila. The post's commander established the first recorded hospital in Texas in the Long Barrack. The Alamo was home to both Revolutionaries and Royalists during Mexico's ten-year struggle for independence. The military - Spanish, Rebel, Mexican - continued to occupy the Alamo until the Texas Revolution. San Antonio and the Alamo played a critical role in the Texas Revolution. In December 1835, Ben Milam led Texan and Tejano volunteers against Mexican troops quartered in the city After five days of house-to-house fighting, they forced General Martin Perfecto de Cos and his soldiers to surrender. Cos was the brother-in-law of the ruler of Mexico, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The victorious volunteers then occupied the Alamo which was already fortified prior to the battle by Cos' men and further strengthened its' defenses. Meanwhile, Santa Anna felt the surrender to be a personal affront to his family name.

On February 23, 1836, the arrival of General Santa Anna's army outside San Antonio nearly caught the defenders by surprise. Undaunted, the Texans and Tejanos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held out for 13 days against Santa Anna's army. William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo, sent forth couriers carrying pleas for help to communities in Texas. On the eighth day of the siege, a band of 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived, bringing the number of defenders to nearly two hundred. Legend holds that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over - all except one did. As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. Among the Alamo's garrison were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter, and David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee.

The final assault came before daybreak on the morning of March 6, 1836, as columns of Mexican soldiers emerged from the predawn darkness and headed for the Alamo's walls. Cannon and small arms fire from inside the Alamo beat back several attacks. Regrouping, the Mexicans scaled the walls and rushed into the compound. Once inside, they turned captured cannon on the Long Barrack and church, blasting open the barricaded doors. The desperate struggle continued until the defenders were overwhelmed. By sunrise the battle had ended and Santa Anna entered the Alamo compound to survey the scene of his victory. While the facts surrounding the siege of the Alamo continue to be debated, there is no doubt about what the battle has come to symbolize. People worldwide continue to remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds- a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.

1f_6.jpg 1g_7.jpg We approached the Church from the rear entrance.
1i_9.jpg 1j_10.jpg Looking out from the Long Barracks to the Convento Courtyard, where this huge, old live oak resides.
1n_14.jpg 1l_12.jpg
   Above left: Here is a plaque giving the contents of a letter sent from the Alamo to
               solicit help.

    Top right: Here is the front of the church, the view of the Alamo that you always see.
               The enlargement is the tablet seen in the foreground.

 Middle right: View from near the church looking outward.

 Bottom right: Another view of the church from farther away.


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