The Archers & The Alamo

Today, I thought I’d have a little fun and introduce you to the Archer clan–the men who reside at the heart of my story in Short-Straw Bride.

Now the first thing you need to know is that their mother, Susanna, was a fierce Texas patriot. She took great pride in her Texas heritage. Born the year the Alamo fell, she was named in honor of Susanna Dickinson, one of only two survivors of that bloody siege. The original Susanna’s husband, Captain Almaron Dickinson died in battle along with 182 other Texian soldiers.

Taking to heart the charge, Remember the Alamo, Susanna named each of her four sons for heroic men associated with fort.


Her oldest son, Travis, was named for Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis, the highest ranking officer, and therefore, commander at the Alamo when Santa Anna and the Mexican army attacked. In his famous letter, he begs for reinforcements, but stoutly proclaims that he will never surrender or retreat, and ends with the foreshadowing words, “Victory or Death.”


Next came Crockett, named (of course) for the famous frontiersman, David “Davy” Crockett.  Crockett left his home and political career in Tennessee in order to fight with the volunteers in the Texas Revolution. He arrived at the Alamo two weeks before Santa Anna initiated his siege. A former American slave who worked as cook for one of Santa Anna’s officers later claimed that Crockett’s body was found in the barracks surrounded by no less than 16 Mexican corpses with his knife buried in one of the fallen soldiers.


Susanna’s third son was given the name Bowie (pronounced Boo-ee). However, the poor boy refused to answer to anything but Jim. His namesake, James Bowie served as the commander of the volunteers at the Alamo while Travis commanded the regular troops. He is well known for the large knife he carried, and Jim Archer got his start in carpentry by whittling a replica of this long-bladed weapon. Having grown up in Spanish Louisiana, Bowie was fluent in both written and spoken Spanish which allowed him to gather key information during the Texas Revolution. Unfortunately, Bowie has been ill and confined to bed during the time of the Alamo attack. Crockett attested, however, that every day at noon during the siege, Bowie would crawl from his bed in order to address and encourage his volunteers.


The youngest of the Archer brothers was Neill. Lieutenant Colonel James C. Neill had been stationed at the Alamo Mission from December 21, 1835. On February 11, 1836, Neill transitioned leadership of the garrison over to William Travis in order that he might tend his family who had been overcome with a grave illness. He was heading back to the Alamo with medical supplies on the day the fort fell. His family’s sickness saved his life. Perhaps that is why Susanna chose that name for her last son, wanting to instill life and hope into her boys when she, herself was dying as a complication of childbirth.


Once the Archer boys were grown, Travis continued his mother’s tradition, at least as far as naming his horse. His chestnut gelding, Bexar, was named after San Antonio de Bexar, the name of the settlement that was home to the Alamo at the time of the revolution. Today we know it better as San Antonio, but the county it resides in is still known as Bexar.


So do you have any interesting names in your family tree?

My maiden name is Gaskin, and growing up I always thought it was cool to be named after part of a horse. (Rear leg, between the stifle and the hock according to the dictionary.) Of course, being called “Gas Can” wasn’t nearly as fun.