Located near San Antonio, the fort known as the Alamo was built in the early 1700s as a Franciscan mission. Later abandoned, the mission was occupied by Spanish troops at various times after 1800; as it stood in a cottonwood grove, the fort was called “El Alamo” after the Spanish word for that tree. In December 1835, the Texan volunteers who captured San Antonio occupied the Alamo. Though Sam Houston, the newly appointed commander of the Texan forces, argued that San Antonio should be abandoned due to the lack of sufficient troops to defend it, the Alamo’s defenders dug in nonetheless, prepared to defend the fort to the last.
When Mexican troops arrived in San Antonio in February 1836, Almaron Dickinson moved his wife and daughter into the Alamo. On February 23, a Mexican force numbering somewhere between 1,800 and 6,000 men (according to various estimates) commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began a siege of the fort. In the days that followed, the Alamo’s defenders received reinforcements, but still numbered less than 200 men. Commanded by Colonels James Bowie and William B. Travis, the Texans–including the famous frontiersman and folk hero Davy Crockett–held out for 13 days, but on the morning of March 6 Mexican forces broke through a breach in the outer wall of the courtyard and overpowered them. Santa Anna ordered his men to take no prisoners, and all of the defenders, including Almaron Dickinson, were killed. The Mexican forces suffered heavy casualties as well, losing between 600 and 1,600 men.