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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

Recalling the lesser-known heroes of the Alamo

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
When Mexican troops stormed over the walls of the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836, they put to death a small band of heroes who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom on that mesquite prairie near old San Antonio.

In a battle that lasted only a matter of minutes, the names Bowie, Travis, and Crockett would forever become known around the world - indeed, these brave men would become martyrs.

Over the years, there have been those who, perhaps in an effort to be “politically correct,” have tried to diminish the significance of the event that happened on that bloody March morning. I have heard folks say that if there had been a back door to the Alamo, that there would have been no heroes. Really? Perhaps these naysayers could use a little lesson in Texas history.
Battle of the Alamo, a painting
Photo courtesy Texas State Library & Archives
Battle of the Alamo
As a matter of fact, people were coming and going from the Alamo up until the last day of the battle. The men inside could have left the place at any time but instead they chose to die there in the name of liberty. It is very important; that word “chose.” It is something that you do of your own accord - no one makes you do it - the heroes of the Alamo chose that decision by staying within those stone walls, in the face of certain death.

On March 1, 1836, some 32 men from Gonzales and the surrounding area, including what would later become Lavaca County, fought their way into the Alamo - knowing they would soon die there. Back door, you say? Not hardly! The Immortal 32 came in the front door, and gave their lives so other Texans could be free - they chose to do so.

Texas history contains much information about the famous men who died at the Alamo, but what about the others; the messengers? Men who would continually put their lives in danger to carry dispatches to Gen. Sam Houston and others - including Alamo commander Travis’ famous letter and plea for reinforcements.
Travis letter
Travis letter
Photo courtesy Texas State Library & Archives
Travis' Letter
According to the Handbook of Texas, several individuals were given the title of “last messenger” from the Alamo. One of these men was John William Smith. He has been included as the last messenger from the Alamo - it has been said that many of the Mexican folks around San Antonio called him “El Colorado.” Smith was part of Green DeWitt’s colony. He lived in Gonzales, La Bahia, and San Antonio.

He was married to Maria de Jesus Delgado Curbelo and the couple had six children. Smith was fluent in Spanish and was able to communicate well with the citizens of San Antonio, making him very valuable as a messenger for the Texas army. He was sent by Col. William B. Travis as the final messenger to the Convention of 1836. After the fall of the Alamo, Smith participated in the Battle of San Jacinto. When independence was secured he returned to San Antonio and became an influential citizen. He served as mayor of San Antonio for three years.

Another man who has been included as the last messenger from the Alamo is James L. Allen. He was born in Kentucky, the eldest of seven children. When hostilities broke out in Texas, Allen was a student at Marion College, Missouri - he joined other students and volunteered for military service with the Texas army.

Chances are that Allen was indeed the last courier to leave the Alamo. He was sent with dispatches on the night of March 5, 1836; just hours before the final battle took place. Allen went on to serve at the Battle of San Jacinto where he was a scout under Erastus (Deaf) Smith and helped burned bridges behind Mexican lines to cut off their retreat.

In 1865, Allen moved to Hochheim where he owned a farm. He died at his home, five miles west of Yoakum on April 25, 1901. Perhaps when we remember the Alamo, we should honor the lesser-known men in both armies. Just like the famous ones, these individuals also chose to fight for a cause they believed in.

© Murray Montgomery

Lone Star Diary
April 11, 2011 column
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