The events that led to the 1836 Battle of the Alamo began decades earlier.

With the lure of free land, settlers poured in, but their U.S. ties remained. Following Mexico independence in 1821, settlers grew increasingly upset with repressive measures imposed by Generalissimo Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the ruler of Mexico. In 1835, the “Texians” revolted and captured San Antonio.

Incensed, Santa Anna attempted to crush the rebellion.

Santa Anna’s force, numbering in the thousands, arrived at the Alamo on February 23rd, 1836. The regular Texian army was led by Colonel William Travis, while James Bowie, famous for his legendary Bowie knife, commanded the militia.

For 13 days, the estimated 189 Texians held up under constant attacks.

On the 8th day, 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived to reinforce the desperate defenders. With hope fading, Travis reportedly offered the men a chance to escape. According to legend, all but one chose to stay and fight. Travis understood that while he was faced with certain death, he could delay the Mexicans long enough for General Sam Houston to raise an army. Travis’ famous “victory or death” letter remains one of the most stirring documents in U.S. history.

The final assault came on the predawn morning of March 6.

Mexican forces attacked in overwhelming numbers. The battle was fierce and one Mexican officer described the Texian defenders as devils. Facing the assault with cannon, musket, sabre and bare hands, the Texans repelled two charges at heavy loss to the attackers.

Regrouping, the Mexicans bravely rushed again and scaled the walls.

The desperate struggle raged until all defenders were slaughtered. Suddenly, the battle had ended and while the Mexicans won the day, their losses were horrific.