Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Alamo Gives Up Its Historic Ghosts

The Alamo
Not everybody believes the Alamo is haunted, but most people know it's one of the most haunting places in the nation. The atmosphere that shrouds it is thick with historic significance. This was the site now recognized as one of the most significant battles that ever took place in Texas.

More than1,800 Mexican troops under the command of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had encircled and placed the fort under siege for more than two weeks. Inside the mission-turned-fort, about 200 Texan defenders, under the joint command of Lieutenant Colonel William Travis and Colonel Jim Bowie, were poised to repel them.

The Alamo may have fallen in the early morning hours of March 6, 1838, but their fate came to symbolize the courage and sacrifice that some men are willing to make for freedom and independence. Because of them, the memories of Davy Crockett, Bowie, and Travis would embolden the Texan Army under Sam Houston and its memory played an important role when it was annexed by the U.S.

The Alamo remains one of the most visited sites in Texas. 

More than 2.5 million people each year visit the 4.2-acre site located in San Antonio. Entrance into the open complex is still free. Its operation and educational programs are paid for by private donations and gift shop sales. The hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., daily with hours extended to 7 p.m. during the summer.

The newest exhibit focuses on Tejanos, which honors Tejano defenders and reminds visitors that the Texas revolution was not a fight between Texans and Mexicans but a fight for liberty over tyranny. Their letters, documents, and artifacts tell the story. They wanted freedom as much as many Texas immigrants from Ireland, England and the United States.

Two structures capture the spirit of the past, slightly altered.

This new exhibition is held in the Alamo Shrine (or church), which is what most people consider central to the site. It was the structure originally built as a Spanish mission between 1755 and 1793. Despite its longevity, evidence suggests that construction was never complete.

The Fall Of Alamo
Still, the shrine seems to be the center of reverence that people feel while visiting the Alamo, especially after they learn that the artillery position on the roof of the church was the last to fall during the battle. Only 13 men remained at the end. They died defending the church to the last man.

The building as it exists today imagines the Alamo as different than the one the defenders held. Most notably, the east wall was lower than the other walls and a ramp of earth had been piled against the inside of the wall to accommodate a cannon. Some modifications were made in the 1920s.

The second most historic building is the long barrack, which was a two-story building where many members of the garrison retreated for a last stand. The west wall of the barrack is original while two inner walls were constructed in 1913. The inner walls, however, do match the original foundation.

The other buildings, such as the Centennial Museum (Gift Shop) and Alamo Hall, were added later. They would have fallen outside of the original mission, behind the church. The historic site itself would have extended west of the modern Alamo entrance and crossed directly over Alamo Street and East Alamo Street to the Crockett Building and north to the post office on Houston Street. There is an interactive map on the site that puts this into perspective.

The Alamo In San Antonio Takes 8.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Even before the battle of the Alamo, the site was well regarded. When French naturalist Jean-Louis Berlandier visited the site in 1828, he described it as "an enormous battlement and some barracks are found there, as well as the ruins of a church which could pass for one of the loveliest monuments of the area, even if its architecture is overloaded with ornamentation."

Today, some of those ornaments include the rounded roofline of the mission, which has come to be know as a symbol of liberty unto itself. You can place reservations in San Antonio by visiting top travel deals at Expedia.com. Several other travel deals are listed across Texas. For a fictionalized account of the battle, The Alamo (1960) remains the best theatrical rendition.
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