For the Liberty of Texas/Chapter 29
THE FALL OF THE ALAMO.
"The enemy are upon us!"
This cry, ringing clearly throughout the Alamo, aroused everybody to action, and hither and thither ran the soldiers to their various points of duty,—some in uniform, and others just as they had leaped up from their couches.
"Are they really coming?" demanded Henry Parker, who had been sleeping beside Dan, in one of the rooms of the convent.
"I reckon they are, Henry," was the quick response, and up leaped the youth, and ran, gun in hand, to where Poke Stover was doing guard duty.
"Are they coming, Poke?"
"Yes, Dan, and plenty of 'em, too. They are divided into several divisions."
There was no time to say more, for already one of the divisions, commanded by Colonel Duque, was attacking the northern wall. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Travis commanded in person. The commander was bareheaded, and carried a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other.
"Now, boys, give it to them hot!" he shouted. "Don't let them get over the wall. Fire to kill! Fire to save your own lives!" And then the cannon belched forth, followed by a crack-cracking of the smaller firearms. The aim of the Texans was so deadly that the column was repulsed for the moment, and Colonel Duque was seriously wounded.
By this time the divisions to attack the other sides of the mission had come up. As one column tried to raise their scaling-ladders, Davy Crockett threw his coonskin cap at them in defiance, and laid one of the officers low with a shot from his trusty "Betsy." Fifty other shots rang out, and the morning air became heavy with the smoke of rifles and cannon.
"We must beat 'em back!" cried Stover, who was close to Crockett, and as the old hunter blazed away so did the frontiersman and Dan, and the youth had the satisfaction of seeing the Mexican he had aimed at go down, rope and gun in hand, shot through the ankle.
The fighting was now incessant on all sides, but gradually the Mexicans concentrated on the northern wall. They were yelling like so many demons, and their officers urged them forward by threats and sword blows, until the first rank was fairly wedged against the stone wall of the mission. A cannon belched forth, doing fearful havoc, but those in front could not retreat because of those pushing behind them, and in a twinkle one Mexican soldier was piled above another, until the top of the wall was gained, and, as one authority states, they came "tumbling over it like sheep," falling, in some cases, directly on the bodies of the Texans below.
"The convent yard is taken!" was the cry. "To the convent! To the hospital!" And as quickly as it could be done the Texans left the yard.
In the crowd were Dan, Stover, and Henry Parker. As the latter turned, a Mexican under-officer aimed his pistol at the young man.
"Down, Henry!" yelled Dan, but, before Parker could drop, the pistol was discharged and Henry Parker fell like a lump of lead, shot through the brain.
The sudden death of his friend made Dan spell bound, and he gazed at the corpse in horror. Then he felt his arm seized by Poke Stover, and in a minute more found himself being hurried toward the church.
"We can't do anything more," exclaimed the old frontiersman. "They number ten to one, and more. We are doomed, unless we can manage to escape!"
"Poor Henry!" murmured Dan, when he could speak. "What will his mother—"
"Yes, yes, lad, I know; but we can't talk about it now. Come on."
"Anywhere, away from that howling, raging mob of greasers. They'll show us no quarter."
"Travis is dead!" said somebody who was passing them. "They fairly hacked him to pieces!"
As Stover and Dan ran into the church building, there was a loud report in the courtyard. The Mexicans had captured one of the cannon, and turned it upon the long ward of the hospital building, and the grape-shot laid fifteen Texans low. The Texans were now fighting from room to room of the convent, and the whole place looked like a slaughter-pen.
"To the church!" came the cry. "To the church! Let the last stand be in the church!" The cry was taken up on all sides, and every Texan who could do so ran for the church with all possible speed. In the meantime, the stockade had been carried, and fresh Mexican soldiers were pouring over this in droves.
At the entrance to the church stood Davy Crockett, clubbed rifle in hand, and with the blood pouring from a wound in the head.
"Rally around me, boys!" he shouted. "Don't give up! We are bound to whip em yet!" And as the first of the Mexicans came on, he laid two of them low with one mighty blow of his favourite "Betsy," that cracked the rifle in half. And, as the rifle fell, so did lion-hearted Davy Crockett, to rise no more.
With the fall of Crockett, the other Texans, especially those who had emigrated from Tennes see, fought like demons, and soon the whole church was so thick with smoke that scarcely one man could be told from another. In a side apartment lay Bowie, suffering from a fall from a platform, where he had been directing operations. As the Mexicans swarmed into the room, Bowie raised himself up and fired his pistols. Seeing this, the Mexicans retreated, and fired on him from behind the door, killing him almost instantly.
It had been decided that, should the worst come to the worst, the Texans must fire the powder-magazine located in one part of the church. It was now seen that further resistance would be useless.
"The magazine!" came from half a dozen. "Blow the Mexicans up!"
"I will!" shouted back Major T. C. Evans, commander of the artillery, and started forward with a firebrand for the purpose. The Mexicans, however, saw the movement, and before Evans could go a dozen paces, a score of guns were aimed at him, and he went down fairly riddled with bullets.
"I'm shot!" cried Poke Stover, in the midst of the din and confusion, and clapped his hand to his left shoulder. He had been leading Dan to a rear apartment of the church, between overturned benches and sacks of wheat and rice.
"Shot?" gasped the boy. "Where? Oh, I hope it isn't serious!"
"It's in the shoulder," and the old frontiersman gave a suppressed groan.
"Can I do anything for you?"
"No! no! not now, Dan. Come, before it is too late."
"Let us see if we can't hide from these blood thirsty greasers. It is worse than useless to stand up ag'in 'em longer!"
Again Stover caught hold of Dan, and the two pushed on through the smoke and dust. Rifle shots still cracked out, and yells, screams, and curses filled the air. The Alamo had fallen and now the Mexicans were bent upon butchering every Texan who still remained alive. Out of the whole gallant garrison not one man was spared!
Presently Dan and his companion entered a small room but a short distance away from the powder-magazine. Here all was pitch-dark, as the room contained no window. There were boxes and barrels stored here, but for what purpose neither knew. Behind several of the boxes was a niche about three feet square, and almost as deep.
"It's not much of a hidin'-place," said Stover, "but I reckon as how it's better nor nothin'. Anyway, we can't do no more than try it. If they root us out, we'll die game."
They squeezed themselves into the opening, Stover with many a supressed groan over his wounded shoulder, which pained him not a little. Dan had been struck in the side with a flying bit of masonry, and had an ugly scratch under his arm in consequence, but just now he counted this as little or nothing. The one thing was to escape with their lives. To fight further would indeed have been sheer foolishness.
The din was gradually subsiding, and only the occasional yell of a Texan being massacred in cold blood reached their ears. Dan could not keep himself from shuddering. What a terrible Sunday morning! He thought of the ranch home, and of his father and Ralph. Would he ever see those loved ones again?
"Hush!" The warning came from Stover, and he placed his hand over Ralph's mouth. Footsteps were approaching the little room.
"Hunt the rats out!" came in a rough Spanish voice. "Hunt them out! Don't let one of them escape your bayonets!" And then several Mexican soldiers entered the room and began to rummage among the boxes and barrels.