Alamo Day takes place on the anniversary of the final day of the Battle of the Alamo. The Alamo, originally known as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, was built by Spanish settlers around 1718, near what is now San Antonio. It housed missionaries and Native American converts until 1793, when the Spanish missions were secularized. Spanish troops began being stationed in the chapel of the empty mission in the early 1800s. Since it was located in a grove of cottonwood trees, the Spanish troops began calling it "El Alamo," the Spanish word for cottonwood; they also gave it this name in honor of their hometown in Mexico—Alamo de Parras. After being used by the Spanish, it was used by rebels and then Mexican troops; Mexico gained independence in 1821. It was also this year that Stephen Austin moved to Texas with 300 families from the United States—the influx of settlers into the area eventually helped to spark war in the 1830s.
Texas's war for independence from Mexico began in 1835. Texas sought independence for multiple reasons, some not without controversy today. In December 1835, the Alamo was captured and occupied by volunteer Texas soldiers, led by George Collinsworth and Benjamin Milan. They also controlled nearby San Antonio. In mid-February, James Bowie and William Travis took over at the Alamo and were joined by famed frontiersman and former Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett. On February 23, 1836, Mexican forces, led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, began a siege on the Alamo. The 200 or so Texans dug in and held on for 13 days. Ultimately, they could not hold off Santa Anna and his troops, which numbered 1,800 (by some accounts as many as 6,000), and the Mexicans broke through a breach in the outer wall of the courtyard on March 6. Almost all of the Texans were killed. Mexican forces also suffered great losses, losing somewhere between 600 and 1,600 men.
Mexican forces occupied the fort from March until May, but on April 21, Sam Houston and his troops defeated Santa Anna's forces at San Jacinto. As they fought, they shouted "Remember the Alamo," and with Houston's victory, Texas independence was assured. The United States annexed Texas in 1845. "Remember the Alamo" once again began a rallying cry, as America took on Mexico in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). For many years following, the U.S. Army quartered troops and the supplies at the fort. In 1883, the state of Texas bought the Alamo and later got the property rights to the surrounding grounds—making up over four acres. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas began managing the site in 1905, doing so until the 2010s, when it was taken over by the Texas General Land Office. Two-and-a-half million people visit the Alamo each year, and it remains a symbol of resilience and resistance.
How to Observe Alamo Day
The best way to celebrate the day is to visit the Alamo! If you can't make it there today, you could watch a film or read a book about the Alamo and the battle. If there ever was a day to use the phrase "Remember the Alamo," it is today.