Into the Valley of Death: Texas’s Immortal 32

Kathleen Rice Adams header

 

Bejar, Feby. 24th. 1836

To the People of Texas & 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.

William Barrett Travis.

Lt.  Col. comdt.

 

The Alamo, 1854

The Alamo, 1854

At dawn on March 1, 1836, the only reinforcements to respond to Travis’s urgent appeal fought their way into the Alamo. The Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers, a hastily organized cadre of boys and men ages 16 to 54, forged through a line of 4,000 to 6,000 Mexican soldados, dodging fire from their compatriots atop the mission’s walls.

All but three of the Rangers rode into history as the Immortal 32.

The story started months earlier in Gonzales, a town in DeWitt’s Colony. Established in 1825, Gonzales became known as “the Lexington of Texas” when the first shot in the Texas Revolution was fired there Oct. 2, 1835. The Battle of Gonzales began over a cannon the Mexican government had given to the Texians in 1831 so they could protect themselves from frequent Indian attacks. In September 1835, as disputes between the Texians and the Mexican government heated up, the governor of Coahuila y Tejas sent 100 Mexican soldiers to retrieve the cannon.

Gonzales_cannon_2005

This cannon, displayed at the Gonzales Memorial Museum, may be the disputed artillery. (photo by Larry D. Moore)

The men of Gonzales — all eighteen of them — refused to give up the artillery. Defiant to the core, they told the soldados  “Come and take it.” The Mexicans tried, the men of Gonzales — later known as the Old Eighteen — held their ground until reinforcements arrived, and the resulting skirmish went to the Texians.

The Mexican Army did not take the defeat well.

Four months later, when Travis, already besieged, sent his final appeal, the men of Gonzales and the surrounding area felt honor-bound to go to the defense of the Alamo defenders. Twenty-five men left Gonzales on the evening of February 27. More joined the group as it traveled. When they reached San Antonio de Béxar, they spent two days trying to figure a way past the sea of Mexican troops. At 3 a.m. on March 1 — knowing their chances of survival were slim — the Rangers made a mad dash for the mission gates, braving the fire of Alamo sentries who mistook them for enemy combatants.

Alamo Defenders Ashes

the crypt

The Immortal 32 fell with the Alamo on March 6. They composed about 20 percent of the Anglo casualties. Mexican troops burned the bodies of all the Alamo defenders, whom they considered traitors.

A crypt in the San Fernando Cathedral purports to hold the ashes of the Alamo defenders. Historians believe it is more likely the ashes were buried near the Alamo.

The majority of the Immortal 32 were husbands, fathers, and landowners. Five had been among the Old Eighteen, and one was the younger brother of an Old Eighteen member.

 

The Immortal 32:

Isaac G. Baker, 21

John Cain, 34

George Washington “Wash” Cottle, 25 (brother of an Old Eighteen)

David P. Cummins, 27

Jacob C. Darst (Old Eighteen), 42

John Davis

Squire Daymon, 28

William Dearduff , 25

Charles Despallier, 24

Almaron Dickinson (Old Eighteen)

William Fishbaugh

John Flanders, 36

Dolphin Ward Floyd, 32

Galba Fuqua, 16

John E. Garvin, about 40

John E. Gaston, 17

James George, 34

Thomas Jackson (Old Eighteen)

John Benjamin Kellogg II, 19

Andrew Kent, 44

George C. Kimble, 33

William Philip King, 16

Jonathan L. Lindley, 22

Albert Martin (Old Eighteen), 28

Jesse McCoy, 32

Thomas R. Miller (Old Eighteen), 40

Isaac Millsaps, 41

George Neggan, 28

William E. Summers, 24

George W. Tumlinson, 22

Robert White, 30

Claiborne Wright, 26

Three men who rode in with the Immortal 32 survived because they were sent out March 3 as couriers or foragers. All three were attempting to return to the Alamo when it fell.

Byrd Lockhart, 54, later served in the Texas army.

John William Smith, 44, became the first mayor of San Antonio.

Andrew Jackson Sowell, 21, became a Texas Ranger.

A monument in the Alamo Shrine commemorates the valor of the Immortal 32, as does an entire cemetery in Gonzales’s Pioneer Village.

Commemorative_monument,_the_Alamo,_San_Antonio,_Texas,_June_4,_2007

A stone memorial on the Alamo grounds honors the Immortal 32. (photo by TheConduqtor)

“Remember the Alamo.”

 

Kathleen Rice Adams
A Texan to the bone, award-winning author Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen's tales, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her at the Hole in the Web Gang's hideout, KathleenRiceAdams.com. Or, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Her Amazon author page is here.

25 Comments

  1. Great post this morning and very educational.

    1. Thank you, Janine! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  2. The Alamo holds a special place in my heart even though I am not Texan. Juan Seguin and his life has always fascinated me…

    1. I’ve always been fascinated by Seguin, too. More than a few Mexicans joined their Anglo Texian brothers in the battle for Texas independence, but Seguin was one of the most notable. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping in, filly sister!

  3. As a 6th generation Texan, I am very proud of the men (and women) in our long and very interesting history. Oh the stories to be told……

    1. Me, too, Nancy. Texas is a big, bold state. We have every right to take pride in our forefathers and foremothers.

      Maybe you’d consider writing a guest post about one of your favorite bits of Texas history some day? 🙂

  4. How young they all were! Why is it the young men go to war? Because they think they’re indestructible? Sad, but interesting bit of history. Thanks!

    1. You know, Di, I think that’s true, in large part: They DO think they’re indestructible. Young men look for glory, excitement, and immortality. I’m sure the men and boys who tried to hold the Alamo never considered they might lose the battle until it was too late to retreat. Travis was full of bravado, and they followed his lead. Texans don’t condemn the Alamo defenders for their decision, but I’m sure some outsiders look at the event and ask, “What were they thinking?”

      Thanks for stopping by, sister Rose! 🙂

  5. History has so many such stories, we only have to look, and sometimes dig for the details. These men, deserve to be remembered. Much like you and your love of Texas history, which I also love, I am that way about Colorado and its early women and men. Thank you for sharing such a great heroic and sad story. Doris

    1. Doris, I’m so glad you’re devoted to uncovering and preserving the legacy of the women of Colorado, in particular. People labor under a bizarre notion that women did little besides cook, clean, and raise the young’uns…unless they were “that kind” of woman. You show us time and time again what a remarkable — and remarkably diverse — bunch women in the old west were. I, for one, thank you for that. 🙂

      I also thank you for stopping by today, dear friend!

  6. Wonderful post. We love to visit the Alamo.

    1. Thank you, Susan! I haven’t been to the Alamo in too many years. I need to visit again soon.

      Thanks for coming by! 🙂

  7. Wonderful bit of history, Kathleen. I don’t recall ever seeing a list of the 32 who fought to the death. You sure do love Texas. It’s a terrific place to live with a grand history.
    I visited the Alamo back when I lived in Texas. There was a feeling of courage there, almost palpable. Maybe it was just me allowing my imagination to run loose, but I could feel the history of that place. If I still lived in Texas I would have to revisit the Alamo often.
    Loved this post.

    1. Sarah, I don’t think you were alone in feeling something special about the Alamo. I honestly believe the energy of events and people attaches to places, and Lord knows the Alamo saw some dramatic events and people. I’ve always felt strength and determination there — like the few original walls that remain absorbed the spirit of the defenders. It’s kind of an odd feeling, but comforting, in a way.

      Thanks for coming by, dear friend. I’m always so happy to see you. 🙂

  8. Excellent post, Kathleen. I did not know about these heroic men.

    Clay

    1. Why thank you, Keith/Clay! At one time Texas was full of heroes. I’m lucky to have them for inspiration.

      Hugs across the pond, dear doctor! 🙂

  9. What a lovely, poignant tribute, Kathleen. I visited the Alamo not long ago, and since my hotel was so close by, I visited it a couple times a day. The gardens were so peaceful, the interior, so spiritual. Great post.

    1. Thank you, Tanya. My family has been in Texas for so long, the Lone Star State runs through my veins. 😀

      The Alamo is a sacred place to Texans. I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit. In which hotel did you stay? Lee and I stayed in the Emily Morgan once, in a room with a view of the Alamo. The place was striking from way up there.

      Hugs to you, filly sister!

  10. I know Travis has the reputation of being brash, but by golly, that letter of his brings a tear to my eye every time I read it. So many good men lost, and many of them were so young. Truly, the Alamo was one of the most heroic efforts in history, any time, any place. Great post, Kathleen.

    1. Even in Texas, Travis is considered brash, pigheaded, and defiant. We honor his memory anyway. 😀

      The Alamo was a heroic effort. Though it’s ultimately very sad, at least the sacrifice galvanized the rest of the Texians enough to overcome Santa Anna a little more than a month later. If the Texians hadn’t won, y’all Okies would have no one to fight with. 😉

  11. I always get cold chills when I read the letter by Col. Travis..and I’ve read it many times. The Old 32–I’m awed by these men, most very young–that their loyalty and bravery is a touchstone for succeeding generations of Texans. I’m also reminded of how many Texas towns are named after some of these men–such as Lockhart (which is about 20 miles from my house–and Millsap.
    Thanks, Kathleen. Your post is wonderful and you “did this Texan proud!”

    1. Celia, I still have that response to the Travis Letter, too. Something about reading the words of a man who would die only a few days later is disturbing, but nonetheless the letter is a monument to the enormous will of our ancestors, isn’t it?

      Rumor has it my mother’s family is related to Albert Martin, though I’ve never been able to confirm that. Records weren’t kept as well then as they are now.

      Hugs to your, dear friend!

  12. Kathleen, What a wonderful, interesting and informative post. Yet so very sad. I may not be a Texan or have even visited the Alamo, but can appreciate those young men’s bravery for what they believed in and valued. I salute them all.

    1. The Alamo is sort of a bittersweet thing for Texans. We take a great deal of pride in the Shrine of Texas Liberty, but Texas independence came at such an awful cost. I’m always especially sad when I realize how young some of the men who fought and died were.

      I know they’d appreciate your salute. 🙂

  13. One of the Immortal 32 you listed was even younger than previously mentioned in history books and on many websites. Alamo defender Charles Despallier was not born in 1812 but in 1815, which makes him 21 instead of 24. You can check the Handbook of Texas on the Texas State Historical Association website (or read the full family history in “From Martin to Despallier – The Story of a French Colonial Family”).

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