Texans (or “Texians,” according to some sources) began fighting for independence from Mexico in 1835. By December of that year, the small Texas army captured the important crossroads town of San Antonio de Bexar and seized the garrison known as the Alamo. Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna recaptured the town on March 6, 1836, after a thirteen-day siege; the Mexican army suffered an estimated 600 casualties. Everyone on the the official list of 189 Texan defenders was killed, but historians continue to debate the number of defenders inside the Alamo.
The defense of the Alamo is well-known to those who fought for Texas. David Crockett, James (Jim) Bowie, and William Barret Travis were among those remembered by the cry of “Remember the Alamo,” reported to be yelled at the victory at San Jacinto.
The cost entailed in regaining San Antonio contributed to General Santa Anna’s defeat less than two months later at the Battle of San Jacinto. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston, commander of the Texas army, led 800 troops, inspired by the sacrifice of their comrades at the Alamo, in a surprise attack on Santa Anna’s 1,600 men. Houston’s decisive victory at San Jacinto secured Texas independence from Mexico.
Texas remained independent from 1836 until 1845 when the legislature voted for annexation to the United States. The annexation was soon followed by the Mexican-American War, a two-year conflict resolved by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Houston immigrated to Texas in 1833 and became a leader in the Texas rebellion beginning in 1835. He was president of the Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1838 and from 1841 to 1844, and U.S. senator from Texas from 1846 to 1859. Prior to his career in Texas, Houston served as a congressman from Tennessee from 1823 to 1826.
- See the Today in History features on Victory at Palo Alto and the Gadsden Purchase to learn more about the history of the Mexico-U.S. border.
- A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1875 holds numerous Congressional documents about Sam Houston, David Crockett, and the independence of Texas.
- For drawings and photographs of the Alamo, search the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey collection for San Antonio de Valero.
- Numerous images of the Alamo and San Antonio can be accessed in the collections of the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- The Panoramic Maps collection includes several maps of Texas towns, most of which were drawn in the late-nineteenth century. They provide a glimpse of the conditions encountered and the communities established by the many Americans who immigrated to Texas in the decades after 1845.
- Search on Texas, or your favorite Texas locale, in Panoramic Photographs to locate more images of the state.
- For music, dance, and theater pieces related to the Lone Star State, search on the term Texas in the Performing Arts collections.