February 23, 1836:
General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna reaches San Antonio with a large body of his troops, mostly cavalry. Much of his assault infantry, engineer troops and siege artillery are strung out along the road back to the Rio Grande. Of these, many of his native troops, lightly dressed for the warmth of Mexico, have suffered in a late and particularly harsh winter storm along their hasty, forced march towards the rebellious province of Tejas.
Correctly assessing the situation, Col. William B. Travis sees this as the beginning of the Mexican investiture of the fortified Alamo mission and its grounds. He sends a dispatch to the town of Gonzales seeking assistance:
“To any of the inhabitants of Texas. The enemy in large force is in sight. We want men and provisions. Send them to us. We have 150 men and are determined to defend the Alamo to the last. Give us assistance.”
Travis and Col. James “Jim” Bowie also send a dispatch to Col. Fannin in Goliad. It reads:
“We have removed all our men into the Alamo, where we will make such resistance as is due to our honour, and that of the country, until we can get assistance from you, which we expect you to forward immediately. In this extremity, we hope you will send us all the men you can spare promptly. We have one hundred and forty-six men, who are determined never to retreat. We have but little provisions, but enough to serve us till you and your men arrive. We deem it unnecessary to repeat to a brave officer, who knows his duty, that we call on him for assistance.”
Santa Anna orders the red flag of “no quarter” flown from the San Fernando church, in clear view of the Alamo defenders. A regimental band begins to play the the ancient, haunting Deguello dirge. Travis fires his 18-pound cannon in exuberant, if futile, response.
With the morrow far from certain, the first long, dark, restless night of the Alamo siege begins…