Alamo Mission in San Antonio

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The Alamo
The Alamo

The Alamo (formally: San Antonio de Valero Mission) is the name of former mission and fortress compound, now a museum, in San Antonio, Texas, United States. The compound, which originally comprised a church and surrounding buildings, was built by the Spanish Empire in the 18th century for the education of local Native Americans after their conversion to Christianity. After its later abandonment as a mission, it was used as a fortress in the 19th century and was the scene of several military actions, including most notably the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, one of the pivotal battles between the forces of the Republic of Texas and Mexico during the Texas Revolution.

The mission was authorized in 1716 by the viceroy of New Spain. It was established two years later in 1718 by Fray Antonio de Olivares, who brought Indian converts and records with him from the San Francisco Solano Mission near San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande. Olivares named the mission after St. Anthony of Padua and the viceroy of New Spain, Baltasar de Zúñiga y Guzmán Sotomayor y Sarmiento, Marquess of Valero and second son of the Duke of Béxar (or Béjar). The present site was selected in 1724 and the cornerstone was laid on May 8, 1744.

The Alamo was the first in a chain of missions established nearby along the San Antonio River. Several of these other missions have been preserved as part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

After 1765, the missionary activity began to wane and in 1793 the mission was abandoned, with the archives being removed to nearby San Fernando Church. In 1803, the abandoned compound was occupied by the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, a company of Spanish soldiers from Álamo de Parras (in the modern-day Mexican state of Coahuila). It is believed by some historians that the name "Alamo" derives from this. An alternate theory of the origin of the name is that it derives from the Spanish word álamo (cottonwood), after the grove of nearby trees. In Arabic, which provided many loanwords into Spanish, alamut means "fortress."

The building was occupied by Mexican forces almost continuously until December 1835, when it was surrendered to Texan forces by General Martín Perfecto de Cos. Two months later, on February 23, 1836, Colonel William B. Travis entered the Alamo with a force that later totaled approximately 187 men. Approximately 5,000 Mexican soldiers under the command of General Antonio López de Santa Anna laid siege to the fortress for 13 days. The siege climaxed on March 6 and resulted in the death of most Texan defenders.

A restored church at the Alamo in San Antonio
A restored church at the Alamo in San Antonio
See Battle of the Alamo for the full article

After the siege, the building was nearly in ruins. Little attempt was made to restore it, and on January 13, 1841, the Republic of Texas passed an act returning the church of the Alamo to the Roman Catholic Church. After the annexation of Texas, the United States claimed the ruined building, which was used for quartermaster purposes by the Army until the Civil War. During the Civil War the Confederacy used the building, but after the war, the United States government reclaimed the building and used it until 1876.

The ownership of the building was in dispute for much of the later half of the 19th century. In April 23, 1883, the State of Texas officially purchased the church building from the Catholic Church and gave to the city of San Antonio with the provision that the city should pay for the care of the building. From the 1890s through 1905 two women made themselves responsible for the preservation of the site: historian and teacher Adina De Zavala, and philanthropist Clara Driscoll, who acquired the site with her own personal funds. The two women later clashed over the treatment of the convent. Driscoll wanted it torn down.

On January 25, 1905, the Texas State Legislature passed a resolution purchasing a part of the mission occupied by a business concern, with the further instruction that the purchased property and the church be given to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who are currently in custody of the buildings. Disputes over the ownership of the compound persisted throughout the 20th century. In 1908 De Zavala barracaded herself in the building for three days in a successful attempt to prevent commercial exploitation. The building has been restored on several occasions, most notably for the Texas Centennial in 1936.

See also

External links


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