Most of the people in San Antonio
were asleep when the dripping figure of a half unconscious
boy on a great horse galloped toward them in that
momentous dawn. He was without hat or serape.
He was bareheaded and his rifle was gone. He
was shouting “Up! Up! Santa Anna and
the Mexican army are at hand!” But his voice
was so choked and hoarse that he could not be heard
a hundred feet away.
Davy Crockett, James Bowie and a third
man were standing in the Main Plaza. The third
man, like the other two, was of commanding proportions.
He was a full six feet in height, very erect and muscular,
and with full face and red hair. He was younger
than the others, not more than twenty-eight, but he
was Colonel William Barrett Travis, a North Carolina
lawyer, who was now in command of the few Texans in
The three men were talking very anxiously.
Crockett had brought word that the army of Santa Anna
was on the Texan side of the Rio Grande, but it had
seemed impossible to rouse the Texans to a full sense
of the impending danger. Many remained at their
homes following their usu vocations. Mr. Austin
was away in the states trying to raise money.
Dissensions were numerous in the councils of the new
government, and the leaders could agree upon nothing.
Travis, Bowie and Crockett were aware
of the great danger, but even they did not believe
it was so near. Nevertheless they were full of
anxiety. Crockett, just come to Texas, took no
command and sought to keep in the background, but
he was too famous and experienced a man not to be
taken at once by Travis and Bowie into their councils.
They were discussing now the possibility of getting
“We might send messengers to
the towns further east,” said Travis, “and
at least get a few men here in time.”
“We need a good many,”
said Bowie. “According to Mr. Crockett the
Mexican army is large, and the population here is unfriendly.”
“That is so,” said Travis,
“and we have women and children of our own to
It was when he spoke the last words
that they heard the clatter of hoofs and saw Ned dashing
down the narrow street toward the Main Plaza.
They heard him trying to shout, but his voice was
now so hoarse that he could not be understood.
But Ned, though growing weaker fast,
knew two of the men. He could never forget the
fair-haired Bowie nor the swarthy Crockett, and he
galloped straight toward them. Then he pulled
up his horse and half fell, half leaped to the ground.
Holding by Old Jack’s mane he pulled himself
into an erect position. He was a singular sight
The water still fell from his wet hair and dripped
from his clothing. His face was plastered with
“Santa Anna’s army, five
thousand strong, is not two miles away!” he
said. “I tell you because I have seen it!”
“Good God!” cried Bowie.
“It’s the boy, Ned Fulton. I know
him well. What he says must be truth.”
“It is every word truth!”
croaked Ned. “I was pursued by their vanguard!
My horse swam the river with me! Up! Up!
Then he fainted dead away. Bowie
seized him in his powerful arms and carried him into
one of the houses occupied by the Texans, where men
stripped him of his wet clothing and gave him restoratives.
But Bowie himself hurried out into the Main Plaza.
He had the most unlimited confidence in Ned’s
word and so had Crockett. They and Travis at once
began to arrange the little garrison for defence.
Many of the Texans even yet would
not believe. So great had been their confidence
that they had sent out no scouting parties. Only
a day or two before they had been enjoying themselves
at a great dance. The boy who had come with the
news that Santa Anna was at hand must be distraught.
Certainly he had looked like a maniac.
A loud cry suddenly came from the
roof of the church of San Fernando. Two sentinels
posted there had seen the edge of a great army appear
upon the plain and then spread rapidly over it.
Santa Anna’s army had come. The mad boy
was right. Two horsemen sent out to reconnoiter
had to race back for their lives. The flooded
stream was now subsiding and only the depth of the
water in the night had kept the Mexicans from taking
cannon across and attacking.
Ned’s faint was short.
He remembered putting on clothing, securing a rifle
and ammunition, and then he ran out into the square.
From many windows he saw the triumphant faces of Mexicans
looking out, but he paid no attention to them.
He thought alone of the Texans, who were now displaying
the greatest energy. In the face of the imminent
and deadly peril Travis, Crockett, Bowie and the others
were cool and were acting with rapidity. The
order was swiftly given to cross to the Alamo, the
old mission built like a fortress, and the Texans were
gathering in a body. Ned saw a young lieutenant
named Dickinson catch up his wife and child on a horse,
and join the group of men. All the Texans had
their long rifles, and there were also cannon.
As Ned took his place with the others
a kindly hand fell upon his shoulder and a voice spoke
in his ear.
“I was going to send for you,
Ned,” said Bowie, “but you’ve come.
Perhaps it would have been better for you, though,
if you had been left in San Antonio.”
“Oh, no, Mr. Bowie!” cried
Ned. “Don’t say that. We can
beat off any number of Mexicans!”
Bowie said nothing more. Much
of Ned’s courage and spirit returned, but he
saw how pitifully small their numbers were. The
little band that defiled across the plain toward the
Alamo numbered less than one hundred and fifty men,
and many of them were without experience.
They were not far upon the plain when
Ned saw a great figure coming toward him. It
was Old Jack, who had been forgotten in the haste and
excitement. The saddle was still on his back and
his bridle trailed on the ground. Ned met him
and patted his faithful head. Already he had
taken his resolution. There would be no place
for Old Jack in the Alamo, but this good friend of
his should not fall into the hands of the Mexicans.
He slipped off saddle and bridle,
struck him smartly on the shoulder and exclaimed:
“Good-by, Old Jack, good-by!
Keep away from our enemies and wait for me.”
The horse looked a moment at his master,
and, to Ned’s excited eyes, it seemed for a
moment that he wished to speak. Old Jack had never
before been dismissed in this manner. Ned struck
him again and yet more sharply.
“Go, old friend!” he cried.
The good horse trotted away across
the plain. Once he looked back as if in reproach,
but as Ned did not call him he kept on and disappeared
over a swell. It was to Ned like the passing
of a friend, but he knew that Old Jack would not allow
the Mexicans to take him. He would fight with
both teeth and hoofs against any such ignominious capture.
Then Ned turned his attention to the
retreat. It was a little band that went toward
the Alamo, and there were three women and three children
in it, but since they knew definitely that Santa Anna
and his great army had come there was not a Texan
who shrank from his duty. They had been lax in
their watch and careless of the future, faults frequent
in irregular troops, but in the presence of overwhelming
danger they showed not the least fear of death.
They reached the Alamo side of the
river. Before them they saw the hewn stone walls
of the mission rising up in the form of a cross and
facing the river and the town. It certainly seemed
welcome to a little band of desperate men who were
going to fight against overwhelming odds. Ned
also saw not far away the Mexican cavalry advancing
in masses. The foremost groups were lancers,
and the sun glittered on the blades of their long
Ned believed that Urrea was somewhere
in one of these leading groups. Urrea he knew
was full of skill and enterprise, but his heart filled
with bitterness against him. He had tasted the
Texan salt, he had broken bread with those faithful
friends of his, the Panther and Obed White, and now
he was at Santa Anna’s right hand, seeking to
destroy the Texans utterly.
“Looks as if I’d have
a lot of use for Old Betsy,” said a whimsical
voice beside him. “Somebody said when I
started away from Tennessee that I’d have nothing
to do with it, might as well leave my rifle at home.
But I ’low that Old Betsy is the most useful
friend I could have just now.”
It was, of course, Davy Crockett who
spoke. He was as cool as a cake of ice.
Old Betsy rested in the hollow of his arm, the long
barrel projecting several feet. His raccoon skin
cap was on the back of his head. His whole manner
was that of one who was in the first stage of a most
interesting event. But as Ned was looking at him
a light suddenly leaped in the calm eye.
“Look there! look there!”
said Davy Crockett, pointing a long finger. “We’ll
need food in that Alamo place, an’ behold it
on the hoof!”
About forty cattle had been grazing
on the plain. They had suddenly gathered in a
bunch, startled by the appearance of so many people,
and of galloping horsemen.
“We’ll take ’em
with us! We’ll need ’em! Say
we can do it, Colonel!” shouted Crockett to
“Come on, Ned,” cried
Crockett, “an’ come on the rest of you
fleet-footed fellows! Every mother’s son
of you has driv’ the cows home before in his
time, an’ now you kin do it again!”
A dozen swift Texans ran forward with
shouts, Ned and Davy Crockett at their head.
Crockett was right. This was work that every one
of them knew how to do. In a flash they were
driving the whole frightened herd in a run toward
the gate that led into the great plaza of the Alamo.
The swift motion, the sense of success in a sudden
maneuver, thrilled Ned. He shouted at the cattle
as he would have done when he was a small boy.
They were near the gate when he heard
an ominous sound by his side. It was the cocking
of Davy Crockett’s rifle, and when he looked
around he saw that Old Betsy was leveled, and that
the sure eye of the Tennessean was looking down the
Some of the Mexican skirmishers seeing
the capture of the herd by the daring Texans were
galloping forward to check it. Crockett’s
finger pressed the trigger. Old Betsy flashed
and the foremost rider fell to the ground.
“I told that Mexican to come
down off his horse, and he came down,” chuckled
The Mexicans drew back, because other
Texan rifles, weapons that they had learned to dread,
were raised. A second body of horsemen charged
from a different angle, and Ned distinctly saw Urrea
at their head. He fired, but the bullet missed
the partisan leader and brought down another man behind
“There are good pickings here,”
said Davy Crockett, “but they’ll soon be
too many for us. Come on, Ned, boy! Our place
is behind them walls!”
“Yes,” repeated Bowie,
who was near. “It’s the Alamo or nothing.
No matter how fast we fired our rifles we’d
soon be trod under foot by the Mexicans.”
They passed in, Bowie, Crockett and
Ned forming the rear guard. The great gates of
the Alamo were closed behind them and barred.
For the moment they were safe, because these doors
were made of very heavy oak, and it would require
immense force to batter them in. It was evident
that the Mexican horsemen on the plain did not intend
to make any such attempt, as they drew off hastily,
knowing that the deadly Texan rifles would man the
walls at once.
“Well, here we are, Ned,”
said the cheerful voice of Davy Crockett, “an’
if we want to win glory in fightin’ it seems
that we’ve got the biggest chance that was ever
offered to anybody. I guess when old Santa Anna
comes up he’ll say: ‘By nations right
wheel; forward march the world.’ Still
these walls will help a little to make up the difference
between fifty to one.”
As he spoke he tapped the outer wall.
“No Mexican on earth,”
he said, “has got a tough enough head to butt
through that. At least I think so. Now what
do you think, Ned?”
His tone was so whimsical that Ned
was compelled to laugh despite their terrible situation.
“It’s a pity, though,”
continued Crockett, “that we’ve got such
a big place here to defend. Sometimes you’re
the stronger the less ground you spread over.”
Ned glanced around. He had paid
the Alamo one hasty visit just after the capture of
San Antonio by the Texans, but he took only a vague
look then. Now it was to make upon his brain
a photograph which nothing could remove as long as
He saw in a few minutes all the details
of the Alamo. He knew already its history.
This mission of deathless fame was even then more than
a century old. Its name, the Alamo, signified
“the Cottonwood tree,” but that has long
since been lost in another of imperishable grandeur.
The buildings of the mission were
numerous, the whole arranged, according to custom,
in the form of a cross. The church, which was
now without a roof, faced town and river, but it contained
arched rooms, and the sacristy had a solid roof of
masonry. The windows, cut for the needs of an
earlier time, were high and narrow, in order that attacking
Indians might not pour in flights of arrows upon those
who should be worshipping there. Over the heavy
oaken doors were images and carvings in stone worn
To the left of the church, beside
the wing of the cross, was the plaza of the convent,
about thirty yards square, with its separate walls
more than fifteen feet high and nearly four feet thick.
Ned noted all these things rapidly
and ineffaceably, as he and Crockett took a swift
but complete survey of their fortress. He saw
that the convent and hospital, each two stories in
height, were made of adobe bricks, and he also noticed
a sallyport, protected by a little redoubt, at the
southeastern corner of the yard.
They saw beyond the convent yard the
great plaza into which they had driven the cattle,
a parallelogram covering nearly three acres, inclosed
by a wall eight feet in height and three feet thick.
Prisons, barracks and other buildings were scattered
about. Beyond the walls was a small group of
wretched jacals or huts in which some Mexicans lived.
Water from the San Antonio flowed in ditches through
It was almost a town that they were
called upon to defend, and Ned and Crockett, after
their hasty look, came back to the church, the strongest
of all the buildings, with walls of hewn stone five
feet thick and nearly twenty-five feet high.
They opened the heavy oaken doors, entered the building
and looked up through the open roof at the sky.
Then Crockett’s eyes came back to the arched
rooms and the covered sacristy.
“This is the real fort,”
he said, “an’ we’ll put our gunpowder
in that sacristy. It looks like sacrilege to
use a church for such a purpose, but, Ned, times are
goin’ to be very hot here, the hottest we ever
saw, an’ we must protect our powder.”
He carried his suggestion to Travis,
who adopted it at once, and the powder was quickly
taken into the rooms. They also had fourteen pieces
of cannon which they mounted on the walls of the church,
at the stockade at the entrance to the plaza and at
the redoubt. But the Texans, frontiersmen and
not regular soldiers, did not place much reliance upon
the cannon. Their favorite weapon was the rifle,
with which they rarely missed even at long range.
It took the Texans but little time
to arrange the defence, and then came a pause.
Ned did not have any particular duty assigned to him,
and went back to the church, which now bore so little
resemblance to a house of worship. He gazed curiously
at the battered carvings and images over the door.
They looked almost grotesque to him now, and some of
He went inside the church and looked
around once more. It was old, very old.
The grayness of age showed everywhere, and the silence
of the defenders on the walls deepened its ancient
aspect. But the Norther had ceased to blow, and
the sun came down, bright and unclouded, through the
Ned climbed upon the wall. Bowie,
who was behind one of the cannon, beckoned to him.
Ned joined him and leaned upon the gun as Bowie pointed
toward San Antonio.
“See the Mexican masses,”
he said. “Ned, you were a most timely herald.
If it had not been for you our surprise would have
been total. Look how they defile upon the plain.”
The army of Santa Anna was entering
San Antonio and it was spread out far and wide.
The sun glittered on lances and rifles, and brightened
the bronze barrels of cannon. The triumphant
notes of a bugle came across the intervening space,
and when the bugle ceased a Mexican band began to
It was fine music. The Mexicans
had the Latin ear, the gift for melody, and the air
they played was martial and inspiring. One could
march readily to its beat. Bowie frowned.
“They think it nothing more
than a parade,” he said. “But when
Santa Anna has taken us he will need a new census
of his army.”
He looked around at the strong stone
walls, and then at the resolute faces of the men near
him. But the garrison was small, pitifully small.
Ned left the walls and ate a little
food that was cooked over a fire lighted in the convent
plaza. Then he wandered about the place looking
at the buildings and inclosures. The Alamo was
so extensive that he knew Travis would be compelled
to concentrate his defense about the church, but he
wanted to examine all these places anyhow.
He wandered into one building that
looked like a storehouse. The interior was dry
and dusty. Cobwebs hung from the walls, and it
was empty save for many old barrels that stood in
the corner. Ned looked casually into the barrels
and then he uttered a shout of joy. A score of
so of them were full of shelled Indian corn in perfect
condition, a hundred bushels at least. This was
truly treasure trove, more valuable than if the barrels
had been filled with coined gold.
He ran out of the house and the first
man he met was Davy Crockett.
“Now what has disturbed you?”
asked Crockett, in his drawling tone. “Haven’t
you seen Mexicans enough for one day? This ain’t
the time to see double.”
“I wish I could see double in
this case, Mr. Crockett,” replied Ned, “because
then the twenty barrels of corn that I’ve found
would be forty.”
He took Crockett triumphantly into
the building and showed him the treasure, which was
soon transferred to one of the arched rooms beside
the entrance of the church. It was in truth one
of the luckiest finds ever made. The cattle in
the plaza would furnish meat for a long time, but
they would need bread also. Again Ned felt that
pleasant glow of triumph. It seemed that fortune
was aiding them.
He went outside and stood by the ditch
which led a shallow stream of water along the eastern
side of the church. It was greenish in tint, but
it was water, water which would keep the life in their
bodies while they fought off the hosts of Santa Anna.
The sun was now past the zenith, and
since the Norther had ceased to blow there was a spring
warmth in the air. Ned, conscious now that he
was stained with the dirt and dust of flight and haste,
bathed his face and hands in the water of the ditch
and combed his thick brown hair as well as he could
with his fingers.
“Good work, my lad,” said
a hearty voice beside him. “It shows that
you have a cool brain and an orderly mind.”
Davy Crockett, who was always neat,
also bathed his own face and hands in the ditch.
“Now I feel a lot better,”
he said, “and I want to tell you, Ned, that
it’s lucky the Spanish built so massively.
Look at this church. It’s got walls of
hewn stone, five feet through, an’ back in Tennessee
we build ’em of planks a quarter of an inch
thick. Why, these walls would turn the biggest
“It surely is mighty lucky,”
said Ned. “What are you going to do next,
“I don’t know. I
guess we’ll wait on the Mexicans to open the
battle. Thar, do you hear that trumpet blowin’
ag’in? I reckon it means that they’re
up to somethin’.”
“I think so, too,” said
Ned. “Let’s go back upon the church
walls, Mr. Crockett, and see for ourselves just what
The two climbed upon the great stone
wall, which was in reality a parapet. Travis
and Bowie, who was second in command, were there already.
Ned looked toward San Antonio, and he saw Mexicans
everywhere. Mexican flags hoisted by the people
were floating from the flat roofs of the houses, signs
of their exultation at the coming of Santa Anna and
the expulsion of the Texans.
The trumpet sounded again and they
saw three officers detach themselves from the Mexican
lines and ride forward under a white flag. Ned
knew that one of them was the young Urrea.
“Now what in thunder can they
want?” growled Davy Crockett. “There
can be no talk or truce between us an’ Santa
Anna. If all that I’ve heard of him is
true I’d never believe a word he says.”
Travis called two of his officers,
Major Morris and Captain Martin, and directed them
to go out and see what the Mexicans wanted. Then,
meeting Ned’s eye, he recalled something.
“Ah, you speak Spanish and Mexican
Spanish perfectly,” he said. “Will
you go along, too?”
“Gladly,” said Ned.
“An’, Ned,” said
Davy Crockett, in his whimsical tone, “if you
don’t tell me every word they said when you
come back I’ll keep you on bread an’ water
for a week. There are to be no secrets here from
“I promise, Mr. Crockett,” said Ned.
The heavy oaken doors were thrown
open and the three went out on foot to meet the Mexican
officers who were riding slowly forward. The
afternoon air was now soft and pleasant, and a light,
soothing wind was blowing from the south. The
sky was a vast dome of brilliant blue and gold.
It was a picture that remained indelibly on Ned’s
mind like many others that were to come. They
were etched in so deeply that neither the colors nor
the order of their occurrence ever changed. An
odor, a touch, or anything suggestive would make them
return to his mind, unfaded and in proper sequence
like the passing of moving pictures.
The Mexicans halted in the middle
of the plain and the three Texans met them. The
Mexicans did not dismount. Urrea was slightly
in advance of the other two, who were older men in
brilliant uniforms, generals at least. Ned saw
at once that they meant to be haughty and arrogant
to the last degree. They showed it in the first
instance by not dismounting. It was evident that
Urrea would be the chief spokesman, and his manner
indicated that it was a part he liked. He, too,
was in a fine uniform, irreproachably neat, and his
handsome olive face was flushed.
“And so,” he said, in
an undertone and in Spanish to Ned, “we are here
face to face again. You have chosen your own trap,
the Alamo, and it is not in human power for you to
escape it now.”
His taunt stung, but Ned merely replied:
“We shall see.”
Then Urrea said aloud, speaking in
English, and addressing himself to the two officers:
“We have come by order of General
Santa Anna, President of Mexico and Commander-in-Chief
of her officers, to make a demand of you.”
“A conference must proceed on
the assumption that the two parties to it are on equal
terms,” said Major Morris, in civil tones.
“Under ordinary circumstances,
yes,” said Urrea, without abating his haughty
manner one whit, “but this is a demand by a paramount
authority upon rebels and traitors.”
He paused that his words might sink
home. All three of the Texans felt anger leap
in their hearts, but they put restraint upon their
“What is it that you wish to
say to us?” continued Major Morris. “If
it is anything we should hear we are listening.”
Urrea could not subdue his love of
the grandiose and theatrical.
“As you may see for yourselves,”
he said, “General Santa Anna has returned to
Texas with an overpowering force of brave Mexican troops.
San Antonio has fallen into his hands without a struggle.
He can take the Alamo in a day. In a month not
a man will be left in Texas able to dispute his authority.”
“These are statements most of
which can be disputed,” said Major Morris.
“What does General Santa Anna demand of us?”
His quiet manner had its effect upon Urrea.
“He demands your unconditional surrender,”
“And does he say nothing about
our lives and good treatment?” continued the
Major, in the same quiet tones.
“He does not,” replied
Urrea emphatically. “If you receive mercy
it will be due solely to the clemency of General Santa
Anna toward rebels.”
Hot anger again made Ned’s heart
leap. The tone of Urrea was almost insufferable,
but Major Morris, not he, was spokesman.
“I am not empowered to accept
or reject anything,” continued Major Morris.
“Colonel Travis is the commander of our force,
but I am quite positive in my belief that he will
“We must carry back our answer
in either the affirmative or the negative,”
“You can do neither,”
said Major Morris, “but I promise you that if
the answer is a refusal to surrender and
I know it will be such a single cannon
shot will be fired from the wall of the church.”
“Very well,” said Urrea,
“and since that is your arrangement I see nothing
more to be said.”
“Nor do I,” said Major Morris.
The Mexicans saluted in a perfunctory
manner and rode toward San Antonio. The three
Texans went slowly back to the Alamo. Ned walked
behind the two men. He hoped that the confidence
of Major Morris was justified. He knew Santa
Anna too well. He believed that the Texans had
more to fear from surrender than from defence.
They entered the Alamo and once more
the great door was shut and barred heavily. They
climbed upon the wall, and Major Morris and Captain
Martin went toward Travis, Bowie and Crockett, who
stood together waiting. Ned paused a little distance
away. He saw them talking together earnestly,
but he could not hear what they said. Far away
he saw the three Mexicans riding slowly toward San
Ned’s eyes came back to the
wall. He saw Bowie detach himself from the other
two and advance toward the cannon. A moment later
a flash came from its muzzle, a heavy report rolled
over the plain, and then came back in faint echoes.
The Alamo had sent its answer.
A deep cheer came from the Texans. Ned’s
heart thrilled. He had his wish.
The boy looked back toward San Antonio
and his eyes were caught by something red on the tower
of the Church of San Fernando. It rose, expanded
swiftly, and then burst out in great folds. It
was a blood-red flag, flying now in the wind, the
flag of no quarter. No Texan would be spared,
and Ned knew it. Nevertheless his heart thrilled