The first Europeans in the American Southwest were Spanish explorers and conquerors. They were followed by religious orders that set up missions to Christianize the Indians. One of these missions was San Antonio de Valero; it was founded in 1718 in what is now San Antonio, Texas. Later, the mission structure became known as The Alamo. In 1821, Moses Austin had persuaded the Spanish authorities to give him a charger to settle 200,000 acres in Texas. The elder Austin died shortly after this. Five weeks later, his son Stephen Austin traveled to San Antonio to have this charter confirmed by the Spanish governor. In 1822, Austin led 150 settlers into Texas. When Austin learned afterwards that Mexico was now independent of Spain, he journeyed to Mexico City to have his charter reconfirmed. The Mexicans appointed Austin regional administrator for his colony. Texas grew rapidly.
Cotton farming and cattle ranching were profitable and attracted American settlers. By 1830, there were 16,000 Americans in Texas–four times the Spanish-Mexican population. Sam Houston had been a successful soldier and politician. He was a friend and supporter of President Andrew Jackson.
However, personal problems and political difficulties led him to leave the U.S.A. for Texas. Meanwhile, the struggle for control of Mexico had been won in 1833 by Santa Ana. However, the independent thinking of the Texans infuriated Santa Ana. He had Stephen Austin thrown in jail, and sent an army into Texas. Austin was released from jail in time to organize the defense of Texas. The Mexican army was besieged inside the Alamo, and after fierce fighting, surrendered. The Mexicans were allowed to go home. Sam Houston was now elected the State’s supreme commander. Not long after this, Santa Ana approached Texas with an army of 6,000 men. Houston decided not to meet Santa Ana in open battle but to wait for an advantage. He sent frontiersman Jim Bowie to the Alamo. Bowie’s orders were to leave San Antonio and destroy the Alamo. When Bowie arrived, however, Texas volunteers were preparing the Alamo for a siege. Bowie and his men pitched in to help. Other volunteers came.
The fiery William Travis arrived with 25 men. Then, the famous frontiersman, Davy Crockett, came with a dozen Tennessee sharpshooters. When Santa Ana attacked, there were 183 Americans inside the fort. Santa Ana brought up cannon to bombard the Alamo. As the walls began to crumble, 4,000 Mexicans attacked from all four sides. The Mexicans overcame all resistance because of their large numbers, but they suffered very heavy losses. All the American defenders were killed. While the battle was raging, the Texans back at the colony declared their independence from Mexico.
Sam Houston now gathered men to fight the Mexican army. At first, he retreated while waiting for a suitable opportunity. When Santa Ana’s rapid advance left the bulk of the Mexican army behind, Houston prepared to fight. Santa Ana’s advance troops moved into swampy land by the San Jacinto River. Houston’s men attacked while the Mexicans were having their midday siesta. Their battle cry was “Remember the Alamo!” The battle was soon over. Many Mexicans were killed, but only a couple of Texans were killed. Santa Ana was a prisoner. Santa Ana readily agreed now to recognize Texas as an independent republic. Ninety years later, in 1845, Texas became the 28th State of the U.S.A.