New York's Defenders of the Alamo
The Alamo. Its name alone paints broads brush strokes of liberty
and sacrifice across the canvas of the imagination. If one was asked to make a
list of important engagements in military history where New Yorkers played a significant
role, the Alamo would probably rank at the bottom, if mentioned at all. A number
of New Yorkers, however, did step across William Travis' legendary line in the
dust, thus entering their names into the annals of one of the most important events
in American history.
The Alamo is a powerful place that emits a
feeling of veneration even before entering the narrow doors that
lead inside the Shrine. A sign reads "No photography allowed.
Gentlemen will remove hats before entering!". A shrine is where
one worships fallen heroes. The Alamo chapel is such a place.
As you first enter the chapel,
a small room on the left contains a semi-circle of State flags standing in silent
sentinel. Representing the home state of each Alamo defender, a red battle honor
style ribbon with the number of patriots from each state further adorns each
standard. The number "six" is affixed to the New York State flag.
Who were these men and what brought them to Texas? What was it
that they were fighting for that persuaded them to stay when
given the opportunity to escape or surrender?
Many Americans came to the Mexican state of Texas after they had lost everything
in the Panic of 1819. The land was cheap and all the Mexican government required
was that the settlers, called Texans, support and defend the independence and
liberty of the Mexican Nation. Empresarios, or Land Agents like Stephen F. Austin,
brought many of the settlers to the western most reaches of Texas at San Antonio
de Bexar. Outside the city of Bexar stood the old Spanish mission of San Antonio
de Valero, now simply called the Alamo, after the Mexican cavalry company from
San Carlos de Alamo de Parras that had once occupied it.
In the beginning, the American settlers seemed content with
their new Mexican citizenship. They had a state constitution that
gave them representation in the Mexican Government and had
elected their own American governor, Henry Smith. The Mexican
government soon became uncomfortable with the large influx of
American immigrants. To keep them in check, Mexico ratified a new
constitution that stripped Texas of her independent status of
statehood, took away her right of representation, and combined
Texas with the neighboring State of Coahuila. In 1830 the Mexican
banned any further U.S. immigration to Texas. This didn't stop
the flow of eager settlers, and only transformed the existing
settlers into illegals.
The political gap widened when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became dictator
of Mexico in 1833. Military conflicts between the soldiers of Santa Anna and
the Texans and Tejanos, now considered rebels by the Mexico, escalated in size
and number. By the time of the first shot in the siege of the Alamo on February
23, 1836, it was clearly evident that if Texas was to continue to exist, a stand
must be made to halt Santa Anna's advance through their territory.
The defenders of the
Alamo were an assemblage of Americans, native Texans called Tejanos,
and European immigrants. The diversity of this group brings to light a lesser
know but just as important non military fact. The Battle of the Alamo was not
only an important historically as a military engagement, but also that it bridged
the cultural and political gaps that existed between Old World Mexico and the
new Texas. Six Alamo defenders are listed officially as being from New York.
Five others had resided in the State before making their way to the Texas frontier.
This brings the total number of New York Alamo defenders to eleven.
William Blazeby, 41 years old, was born in England and had moved to New York
to make his fortune. At the Alamo, he held the rank of captain and commanded
an infantry company. Blazeby was a veteran of the battle of Bexar where he served
as lieutenant in the New Orleans Greys, a Texan Volunteer regiment from Louisiana.
page 2 of "New York's Defenders of the Alamo."
Image of modern Alamo used with permission from Alamo
de Parras Web Site. [Link will open new window.] All rights reserved.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History
March 19, 2008