My question is about the Alamo and whether the “last stand” done by the remaining Texans was a good idea or not. I’m not debating the heroism of the activity, just its effect.
I am wondering if Travis would have been better off leaving the structure and fighting a series of delaying actions while falling back towards Houston’s advancing army? Wouldn’t that better accomplish the slowing of the Mexican advance as was desired, and perhaps allow for less losses to the Texans?
My first post on Straight Dope, hopefully not a dumb one.
Travis had at most about 250 men (accounts differ). Seeing as the Mexican Army numbered about 1,500 men when it first arrived in San Antonio, the Texans would probably have been slaughtered in short order if they had left the Alamo. By the time the Mexican Army arrived, he had little choice but to stand and fight while hoping for reinforcements.
The Texians had no strategy. Command of the army was divided along political lines, the various factions had appointed Travis, Fannin, and Houston as commanders, thus when Houston ordered Travis to abandon the Alamo Travis was free to ignore him. Houston then ordered Fannin with about 600 men to the aid of Travis, but Fannin decided it was to much trouble and remained in the Goliad area where his entire force was slaughtered. Fannin and Travis together would have had enough men to hold the Alamo against the force Santa Anna commanded, forcing him to use the other armies he had marching about Texas to gain victory there. If Fannin and Travis had joined forces with Houston in a unified command? Who can tell, Santa Anna had the forces to defeat them, but it’s also true as Houston retreated toward the Louisiana border his mentor President Jackson had troops ready at the river to assist Houston’s army. Victory at San Jacinto was a combination of Houston’s luck and Santa Anna’s endless vanity. The whole history is very strange…
The net result was that Travis did the right thing. The siege of the Alamo delayed the Mexicans long enough to give Houston a chance to start building his army. Following the fall of the Alamo, Houston retreated while still building the army and training them; Santa Anna split his forces in an attempt to capture the Texas government, secure his supply lines and fight Houston. Not a smart move.
Eventually, Santa Anna’s troops and Houston’s troops came together at San Jacinto and Houston kicked Santa Anna’s ass, as we all know.
Had Travis been successful in destroying the Alamo as originally ordered, he probably would have then retreated to Gonzales and joined with Houston. The outcome would have been vastly different and the Texans would probably have lost the war.