In the southern part of Texas
In the town of San Antone
There's a fortress all in ruins
That the weeds have overgrown.
You may look in vain for crosses
And you'll never see a one.
But sometime between the setting
And the rising of the sun
You can hear a ghostly bugle
As the men go marching by.
You can hear them as they answer
To that roll call in the sky.
Colonel William Barrett Travis, Davy Crockett
And 180 more.
Captain Dickinson, Jim Bowie
They're all present and accounted for.
Mr. Speaker, these are the lyrics to Marty Robbins' ``Ballad of the Alamo.''
It was there in an old beat up Spanish mission in south Texas called the Alamo on March 6, 1836, 171 years ago today, that 187 men stood defiant against oppression and tyranny. They were an odd looking bunch. They were dressed in buckskin. They had large knives, tomahawks and long rifles. They were of all races, of all States, and 13 foreign countries, including Mexico. They were facing a professional army over 20 times their size.
They were there because of the new dictator of Mexico, Santa Anna. He had abolished the democratic Mexican constitution and made himself dictator of all of Mexico.
Hispanics and Anglos living in the Texas part of Mexico wanted the Mexican constitution restored, or independence from Mexico.
Santa Anna then invaded Texas with three armies to put down the dissenters. The men at the Alamo were led by a 27-year-old lawyer from South Carolina and Alabama named William Barrett Travis.
There is a lot of legend, lore and tradition about the defense of the Alamo. But what is true, Mr. Speaker, is that the Alamo defenders believed that some things were worth living for and dying for. One of those being the word, liberty.
Being surrounded, Travis knew he could not hold off Santa Anna's army and he sent out numerous dispatches for help. I have a copy of one of those letters on my office wall. It reads, ``Fellow citizens and compatriots, I am besieged by 1,000 or more of the enemy under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannon fire for over 24 hours, but I have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at its discretion, otherwise this fort will be put to the sword. I have answered that demand with a cannon shot and the flag still waves proudly over the north wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. I call upon you in the name of liberty and patriotism and everything dear to our character to come to my aid with all dispatch. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible and die like a soldier that never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country. Victory or death, William Barrett Travis, commander of the Alamo.''
Travis held out for 5 days and 6 days and up to 13 days. But no troops ever came to help the Alamo defenders except the 32 men from Gonzales, Texas.
Eventually Travis and the boys were overwhelmed, and not one was spared by Santa Anna. But victory was expensive for the dictator Santa Anna. Travis, in his last letter from the Alamo said, ``Victory will be more costly for Santa Anna than defeat.'' He was right. Santa Anna's losses were staggering. He also had a crippled army and lost the moral victory to the Texans in the war of independence.
Then on April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston routed Santa Anna's larger army at the marshes of San Jacinto. Texas became an independent nation and was so for 9 years. And Mr. Speaker, the rest, they say, is Texas history.
William Barrett Travis is my favorite person in all of history. My grandson is named Barrett Houston in his honor.
I conclude these remarks about the Alamo with Marty Robbins' closing lines:
The bugles are silent.
There's rust on every sword.
There's a small band of soldiers
That lie asleep in the arms of the Lord.
And like a statue on his pinto
Rides a cowboy all alone.
And he sees the cattle grazing
Where just a century before
Santa Anna's guns were blazing
And the cannons used to roar.
His eyes turn sort of misty
And his heart begins to glow
And then he takes his hat off slowly
To the men of that Alamo.
To the 13 days of glory
At the siege of the Alamo.
Mr. Speaker, that's just the way it is.