My impression is that the Texians successfully endured shelling and very heavy suppressive fire, but not much well-aimed musketry. They managed to bail out of some situations where they should have been seriously cut up, either by retreating quickly or finding cover. Things like digging trenches to cross streets saved them from a heavy fire that didn't stop. They apparently got much the better of the hand-to-hand and close combat within the houses. I think they called it intense fighting because most of their advances were hard won and achieved under fire. That phenomenon is repeated at points during the Mexican-American war, where American participants describe enduring extremely heavy musketry and shelling and wondering why more of them were not hit. And there were several fights where the Mexican fire was both intense and accurate.
I was curious about this general subject after coming across a cutting affair in Houston in 1838 involving a siege of Bexar vet who'd been furloughed for an unspecified disabling wound. He had to leave Texas when the victim died and seems to have passed away himself in NOLA in 1839, with his heirs never putting in for the jumbo land grants given to disabled vets by the legislature (James Neill was another recipient). Couldn't find anything that revealed the nature of his wound, but it spared him from the Alamo battle or Goliad.
There's also a matter of perception. In ordinary life a little blood from a minor cut can go an awful long way and look a lot worse than it really is. Same in battle. Its worth remembering that most of the guys who took part in the siege weren't experienced soldiers, far less professional ones. A lot of noise and just a few casualties can go an awful long way
Its worth reading accounts of the civil war and noting how differently new troops and experienced ones viewed the same action.
STUART In battle men are apt to lose their self possession, and do very absurd things.
Post by loucapitano on Jul 14, 2017 14:04:39 GMT -5
Hi Gang, it's been a long time. Glad to see there are still good questions to ruminate and answer. The siege of Bexar seems to have been a pretty haphazard affair where Mexicans could not employ their most effective weapon of volley fire from tight formations. Individual combat, much of it room to room, was a disadvantage to their methods. The Texans might have been more prone to individual combat and sniper fighting, which would be an advantage in close quarters. I haven't found much information on the Bexar fight except to say it waxed and waned for several days before the Mexicans gave up the town, retreated to the Alamo,surrendered and were paroled. The Texans took casualties, notably Ben Milam, one of their senior officers and leader. I wouldn't think it was any less than fierce at times. Plus, the dry early December weather left both sides thirsty, waery and exhausted. Stuart is right about battle recounting by new and experienced troops. Lou from Long island
You are right in that Ben Milam was certainly killed in the battle; a grave loss for the rebels. Yet his death appears to be the ONLY death on the Texian side as far as I can see from what I have read. It just seems to be a very low death toll when they were fighting against a sizeable Mexican force...
Post by Rich Curilla on Sept 22, 2017 1:16:49 GMT -5
Sorry guys, I've been as bad as Lou with being away from the forum. But the Battle of Bexar perked my interest. If any of you get the Alamo Journal (if members of The Alamo Society), I thoroughly researched and wrote two articles on the Siege and Battle of Bexar. They are in the August 2015 edition and the April 2016, full of primary research. I tell the battle basically through the quotes of participants on both sides. Contrary to Lou's comment that there doesn't seem to be much information on the battle, I found heaps. There just doesn't seem to have been anybody willing to get into it rather than the Alamo. "Ferocious" and "intense" are indeed words that describe the battle. It lasted continually from 5am December 5 until 7am December 9. A total of 98 hours of either cannonading and bombardment or close range firefights. Why so few casualties? Contrary to popular belief, it was not a battle where Texians and Tejanos literally fought their way gradually down 700 yards north of the plazas, combatting back and forth in the streets. They hurried down Soledad and Acequia Streets in ten minutes after James Clinton Neill opened a diversionary cannonade on the north wall of the Alamo at 5am. The two columns (Col. Johnson's and Col. Milam's) took two houses, the Veramendi house with its walled yard and the Jose Antonio de la Garza house, both about 100 yards from the Plaza de las Islas. They fought from those points, making sudden advances to several forward houses, often in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, the Mexican soldiers that held the plazas (only about 150 men - the rest were ensconced in the Alamo under pressure from General Burleson 1,000 yards north at the Old Mill) were firing from loopholes in stone buildings and adobe breastworks on the roofs via firing slots. Thus, all were well protected throughout most of the battle even though under severe fire most of the time. The Veramendi house in particular. At least four cannon in the Alamo 600 yards east were firing 4- and 6-pound balls at their 6 foot high garden wall. A gun (also either a 4 or 6) fired at the south end of the house and yard from a breastwork blocking Soledad Street's entrance to the plaza 100 yards away. From 1 to 3 guns (same caliber) fired from a Mexican redoubt 220 yards west outside the north side of Plaza de Armas. There may also have been a small cannon on the roof of San Fernando Church, 200 yards to the southwest, although I have found no eye witness accounts describing it. During the last night of the battle, a 6-inch howitzer and a 4-pounder in the church cemetery bombarded Padre Refugio de la Garza's house 90 yards awy that had been captured by the Texians that evening on the north side of the plaza. They basically leveled the house with Texians still in it, but none were killed and only one wounded by a bullet through the wooden door. I could go on, but I'm out of breath and my typing fingers are cramping. LOL. I also have a 1-hour presentation on this battle that I support with 360 images in PowerPoint which I delivered at the Alamo Society Symposium in 2016 as well as several other venues since.
Post by loucapitano on Sept 26, 2017 12:29:00 GMT -5
Thanks Rich, I guess there was a lot of info on the battle, I looked in the wrong places and didn't recollect what I had already read. Anyway, it was a furious battle and seemed to pave the way for future events. I just went back to read my past issues of the Alamo Journal #176 and 177 and stand corrected. Your "Battle for Bexar" is a masterful work and highly detailed and informative. Senior moments are hitting me hard lately because I didn't give your work the attention it deserved. Please accept my apology.
I will miss the forum and historical research of the Alamo Journal. Lou from Long Island